The Pilgrims and Pocahontas: Rival Myths of American Origin
Following the American Revolution, citizens of the United States began to write a history of their new nation starting with the first English settlements, Jamestown and Plymouth. Virginians embellished the saga of Jamestown and Pocahontas, the Indian woman who, by popular accounts, saved the colony. Similarly, New Englanders sanctified the Pilgrims and their mythical first step on Plymouth Rock.By comparing these two origin myths, investigating them in art, literature, and popular memory, Ann Uhry Abrams uncovers surprising similarities in traditions of remembrance as well as striking differences in the character of the myths and the messages they convey. During these heated debates of antebellum America, the escalating rivalry between North and South prompted an array of artists, authors, and politicians to refashion the legends to their needs, with Massachusetts turning the settlers of Plymouth into pious and industrious saints, Virginians portraying Pocahontas as the savior of English civilization in North America. As these images were codified, tales of Jamestown and Plymouth bolstered debates over immigration, women’s rights, abolition, Indian removal, and a host of other issues of national import. And when sectional rifts exploded into the Civil War, the stories fueled the flames that pitted North against South.
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Prelude to Battle
Courtship ofMiks Standish 1859
The Pilgrims Versus Pocahontas
The Pilgrims Triumphant
oil on canvas 1867
The Myths Triumphant
Vanishing Indians and Noble Women
oil on canvas 18371840
Compact with Destiny
Saints and Sinners
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Page 158 - 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 politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid...
Page 177 - Round the stake with fiendish cry Wheel and dance the savage crowd, Cold the victim's mien, and proud. And his breast is bared to die. Who will shield the fearless heart? Who avert the murderous blade? From the throng, with sudden start, See there springs an Indian maid. Quick she stands before the knight, "Loose the chain, unbind the ring, I am daughter of the king, And I claim the Indian right!
Page 73 - The breaking waves dashed high On a stern and rock-bound coast, And the woods against a stormy sky Their giant branches tossed; And the heavy night hung dark The hills and waters o'er, When a band of exiles moored their bark On the wild New England shore.
Page 76 - Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.
Page 104 - ... efforts, gain the shore. We listen to the chiefs in council ; we see the unexampled exhibition of female fortitude and resignation ; we hear the whisperings of youthful impatience, and we see, what a painter of our own has also represented by his pencil,! chilled and shivering childhood, houseless, but for a mother's arms, couchless, but for a mother's breast, till our own blood almost freezes.
Page 55 - You did promise Powhatan what was yours should bee his, and he the like to you; you called him father being in his land a stranger, and by the same reason so must I doe you...
Page 76 - Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by that which went before), they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no houses or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succour.
Page 55 - Were you not afraid to come into my father's country and cause fear in him and all his people but me, and fear you here I should call you father? I tell you, then, I will, and you shall call me child, and so I will be for ever and ever your countryman.
Page 74 - What sought they thus afar ? Bright jewels of the mine ? The wealth of seas, the spoils of war ? They sought a faith's pure shrine ! Ay, call it holy ground, The soil where first they trod; They have left unstained what there they found — Freedom to worship God.
Page 104 - ... to extirpate and destroy it. It is not fit that the land of the Pilgrims should bear the shame longer. I hear the sound of the hammer, I see the smoke of the furnaces, where manacles and fetters are still forged for human limbs.