May Flowers

Reprinted from

April showers bring May flowers.

The Epigaea repens is a delicate flowering plant that was prevalent at Plymouth Rock, especially in the early 1600’s.   It was so prevalent that the 100 or so religious separatists who made Massachusetts home named it the Mayflower, after the ship that brought them to America.

Mayflower was not an uncommon name for a sailing vessel at the time. There had been a Mayflower to sailed against the Spanish Armada when the Catholic power tried to instill its will on a newly Protestant English Monarch.

The Mayflower that sailed to America in 1620 was a well-traveled vessel, and it wasn’t altogether clear that it would survive the journey across the Atlantic.

It’s probably not much of a surprise that the mayflower is the official flower of the state that initially started as the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that it is now a protected species of plants, put on the endangered species list in several states in America.

Progress has its price.  It is not clear that original inhabitants who greeted those Pilgrims were altogether aware that they would be the ones who would ultimately pay that price.

Tisquantum, better known to history as Squantum, was one of the few original inhabitants who had made the trip to Europe. He had been captured by an English privateer and sold as a slave in Spain.  He somehow migrated to England, and then made his way to back to North America in time to greet the Pilgrims when they arrived in that first bitter winter in 1621. He taught the new arrivals how to farm in the new land and how to fish, and he is credited in history with keeping them alive.

He was lucky that he had been taken against his will to Europe, because when he returned he discovered that most of his family and tribe had been wiped out by diseases brought by the Europeans.

Unfortunately for him, those Indians who did survive didn’t appreciate his efforts to keep the White Man alive, and historians are pretty sure that Squanto was poisoned for betraying his people.

The original Pilgrims faced privation in their new home and were not immune to the turmoil that engulfed their old home.  England in the Stuart Era was not an easy place to live for those who wanted to practice their religion as they saw fit.  There was persistent fear that the Catholics would somehow seize the throne, and the many forms of Protestantism clashed with one another.  That religious foment helped to inspire thousands of people to follow those who boarded the Mayflower, and similarly established their own sanctuaries.

John Winthrop, the preacher, would later lead the Massachusetts Bay Colony, spoke about his vision of America, as he sailed on the Arbutus in 1630.

“Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake; wee shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are going.”

Winthrop’s sentiment that America is considered a “city upon a Hill,” would later inspire both Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan in later speeches that helped to make the case of American exceptionalism.

Today, we celebrate the sacrifices of those first American settlers by overindulging in turkey and preparing for Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Editor’s Note: John Feehery worked for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republicans in Congress. Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at