Don’t criticise the Mayflower settlers. They were against slavery and lived in harmony with their neighbours

The voyage of the Mayflower was not a colonialist expedition but a trading one sent by City of London merchants (“Pilgrim fathers: harsh truth amid the myths of nationhood”, Focus). Its aim was acquisition of timber and furs. Its success depended on friendly relations with the local Indians. The Pilgrims were ideal settlers because their radicalism strongly opposed mistreatment of native populations, a crime they associated with the Spanish empire. Indeed, pastor John Robinson explicitly instructed them never to take anything from the Indians without paying for it (including land) and urged them passionately not to take Indian lives. That’s why there was peace with the Wampanoag for more than 50 years. Colonies are not the same thing as colonialism.

The Pilgrims were victims of injustice. They were refugees, first from England and then from Holland, where Spanish invasion was imminent. How is it possible that in 2020 anti-slavery, pro-Indian, quasi-democratic refugees should suddenly become the butt of criticism?
Graham Taylor
London SE16

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