PILGRIM AND PURITAN : A DELICATE DISTINCTION
by Richard Howland Maxwell
Near the end of his term as president of the United States, Ronald Reagan delivered an address in which he sought to call the American people back to the values of - in his words - "that old Pilgrim, John Winthrop." Reagan's successor in office, George Bush - who, according to some, ought to have known better because he is a descendant of Mayflower passenger John Howland - compounded the historical error in his 1992 Thanksgiving proclamation by saying, "This Thanksgiving… let us renew the solemn commitment that John Winthrop and his fellow Pilgrims made more than 100 years ago." Mr. Bush not only had the Pilgrims and Puritans confused; he missed their dates by more than two centuries! And a bit more recently, the November 1994 issue of the Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine suggested that we include in our Thanksgiving that year "the Puritans in Plymouth, Massachusetts from whom most of our traditions come." The same article later described the "first Thanksgiving" as "the 1621 feast to celebrate the first long winter the Puritans survived in the New World."