POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
To America and Freedom
by David Trumbull
August 13, 2010
Commercial Street in Provincetown is the scene, throughout summer, of a daily procession of the most outlandish characters—so much so that I greeted the news that the Pilgrim Monument Centennial Parade would pass where we were staying with the response “How can you tell?” Still, I was there, and can report that “P’town” did itself proud with this celebration of local and national history—the 1620 landing of the Pilgrims and the 1910 completion of the monument to that event.
According to Wikipedia, the Provincetown Pilgrim Monument was designed by Willard T. Sears and based on the Torre del Mangie in Siena, Italy (of 1309). The 252-foot tall tower is the tallest all-granite structure in the United States.
On the way back to Boston we passed through Plymouth and saw the eponymous rock where the Pilgrims first tread on the mainland of Massachusetts. In November the Pilgrims will be in the news again. The vast majority of us will celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a nod to that First Thanksgiving at Plimoth Plantation. While—appropriate for a nation that enshrines freedom to speak one’s mind and to dissent from the majority—some will mourn the decline in Native America culture that followed European colonization.
Those who detract from the Pilgrim do, in my opinion, miss the point. We don’t celebrate the Pilgrims as model characters. We celebrate the hardships they endured founding one of the first permanent settlements in English North America. Later many immigrants from many lands came here and made America the great country it is now, but someone had be first and that little band from 1620 were the forefathers of all Americans of whatever our personal family history.
The Pilgrims gave us something else—the first (quasi)democratic written constitution in North America—the Mayflower Compact, wherein, before setting foot on land, they covenanted:
Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
They came here for freedom. But then, didn’t all of our immigrants? That’s why we lined the streets of Provincetown to cheer the parade.