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Holland was a haven for the fleeing English Separatist families. The Dutch were unusually tolerant, having themselves suffered religious persecution by Spain.

After first settling in Amsterdam, the Scrooby congregation moved to the Dutch city of Leiden in 1609. Leiden was a university town, vibrant and cosmopolitan. There, the refugees found jobs, sometimes as textile workers.

Describing the Pilgrims’ move to the city of Leiden in Holland in 1609:

"For these & some other reasons they removed to Leyden, a fair & bewtifull citie, and of a sweete situation, but made more famous by ye universitie wherwith it is adorned, in which of late had been so many learned man. But wanting that traffike by sea which Amerstdam injoyes, it was not so beneficiall for their outward means of living & estats. But being now hear pitchet they fell to such trads & imployments as they best could; valewing peace & their spirituall comforte above any other riches whatsoever. And at lenght they came to raise a competente & comforteable living, but with hard and continuall labor.
"Being thus settled (after many difficulties) they continued many years in a comfortable condition, injoying much sweete & delightefull societies & spirituall comforte togeather in ye wayes of God, under ye able ministrie, and prudente governmente of Mr. John Robinson, & Mr. William Brewster, who was an assistante unto him in ye place of an Elder, unto which he was now called & chosen by the church. So as they grew in knowledge & other gifts & graces of ye spirite of God, & lived togeather in peace, & love, and holiness; and many came unto them from diverse parts of England, so as they grew a great congregation. And if at any time any differences arose, or offences broak out (as it cannot be, but some time ther will, even amongst ye best of men) they were ever so mete with, and nipt in ye head betims, or otherwise so well composed, as still love, peace, and communion was continued; or else ye church purged ot those that were incurable & incorrigible, when, after much patience used, no other means would serve, which seldom came to pass."

- William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation

Click here for information about historic Leiden as the Pilgrims knew it!

Map of 17th century Leiden

"Seeing themselves thus molested... by a joint consent they resolved to go into the Low Countries [Holland], where they heard was freedom of religion for all." - William Bradford

After a decade in Leiden, the low wages, the danger of renewed war with Spain, and concern for their children's future led them to seek another solution. The Leiden Separatist community decided to relocate to America.

The Pilgrims decide to emigrate to America despite the perils and dangers:
"all great & honourable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and must be both enterprised and overcome with answerable courages. It was granted ye dangers were great, but not desperate; the difficulties were many, but not invincible. For though their were many of them likely, yet they were not cartaine; it might be sundrie of ye things feared might never befale; others by providente care & ye use of good means, might in a great measure be prevented; and all of them, through ye help of God, by fortitude and patience, might either be borne, or overcome. True it was, that such atempts were not to be made and undertaken without good ground & reason; not rashly or lightly as many have done for curiositie or hope of gaine, &c. But their condition was not ordinarie; their ends were good & honourable; their calling lawfull, & urgente; and therfore they might expecte ye blessing of god in their proceding. Yea, though they should loose their lives in this action, yet might they have comforte in the same, and their endeavors would be honourable. They lived hear but as men in exile, & in a poore condition; and as great miseries might possibly befale them in this place, for ye 12. years of truce [the truce between Holland and Spain] were now out, & ther was nothing but beating of drumes, and preparing for warr, the events wherof are allway uncertaine."

- William Bradford. Of Plymouth Plantation

Dutch seascape by Verwer.

The ships painted here are the size of the Speedwell, the small ship in which some of the Pilgrims sailed from Holland to England. Both the Speedwell and the Mayflower were meant to sail to America, but the Speedwell developed leaks. The Pilgrims decided she could not survive the voyage.

It took ten years to transfer most of the community to Plymouth. Many ships after the Mayflower carried members of the congregation. Some, including pastor John Robinson, died before they could arrange passage.

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Pilgrim Hall Museum
75 Court St, Plymouth, MA 02360 | Phone (508) 746-1620