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The Important, Powerful Message of America’s Little Known National Monument to the Forefathers

Author’s Note: During a recent visit to Plymouth, Massachusetts, I viewed the National Monument to the Forefathers, completed in 1889 and sitting on a relatively remote site in the town due to ensuing housing developments and other factors. It is a safe bet that most Americans, especially the youth of today, have never heard about this very special national monument honoring and symbolizing the labors, sacrifices, and sufferings of America’s 102 forefathers (Pilgrim men, women, and children) who landed at Plymouth in 1620. Unlike their fellow Englishmen who landed at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 with an economic motivation, the Pilgrims came to the New World for civil and religious liberty. History tells us that nearly half of these people died from sickness and exposure during their first year in the New World. The National Monument to the Forefathers is the largest solid granite monument in the United States standing 81 feet in total height. By studying the monument, much can be learned by young and old alike about the principles and virtues of the Pilgrim settlers. These principles and virtues were ultimately carried over into the writing of America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Due to the tremendous political divide in America today, I believe that America needs a resurgence of these early principles and virtues to enable the nation to continue as a thriving constitutional republic. To help enable this resurgence, a program is suggested to allow Americans of all ages living in each of the 50 states to view, study, and learn from suitable replicas of this important national monument.

Dedicated in 1889, The National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, (hereinafter referred to as “the monument”), is truly one of America’s most beautiful and meaningful monuments. The below photograph showing people viewing the monument indicates the size and general appearance of the monument:

In 1974, the monument was added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service as having “—exceptional value in commemorating and illustrating the history of the United States.” The monument is maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation with additional funding provided by Friends of the Forefathers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity. Due to its relatively remote location in Plymouth, however, literature describing the monument states that it is “—Plymouth’s best kept secret” and that “—everyone visits Plymouth Rock, but most people miss the statue erected in honor of those 102 brave souls who boarded the Mayflower with hopes for a better life in the New World.”

As described below, the five virtues symbolized on the monument that were highly valued and practiced by the early Pilgrim settlers can serve as a strategy or roadmap for modern day Americans to emulate in order to preserve a vibrant constitutional republic.  Consequently, exposure to and study of the monument is very highly recommended.

The basic message symbolized by the monument is that the ultimate success of the Pilgrims’ settlement was mainly due to their unwavering, deep Christian faith in God and His provision for them. Thus, the tallest figure on the monument (see below photograph) is the personification of faith who symbolizes the virtue which most inspired the Pilgrims’ journey to the New World.  The right arm and hand of the faith figure is pointing upward toward God, and the left hand holds an open Christian Bible:

Surrounding and located below the faith figure are figures personifying four additional Pilgrim virtues which all stem from their overarching virtue of faith:  morality, law, education of youth, and civil and religious liberty.  The virtue of liberty, for example, is personified by a sitting figure of a warrior (see below photograph) who has overcome the tyrant King of England who persecuted the Pilgrims for their deep religious beliefs:

The virtue of morality is personified as a woman holding a tablet of the 10 Commandments in her left hand and the scroll of Revelation in her right. The virtue of law is personified by a seated draped male figure holding a book (the Bible) with his chair supported by justice and mercy. The virtue of education is personified by a seated draped female figure pointing to a book (the Bible) in her lap with her chair supported by wisdom and youth.

In 2012, actor Kirk Cameron produced and released a 90-minute documentary movie entitled “Monumental” describing the hardships and faith of the early Pilgrim settlers both in Europe and at Plymouth. Additionally, the documentary describes the monument in detail, including the five   Pilgrim virtues— see here for a short 15-minute video about the monument.

Cameron then discusses how emulation of these virtues can enable Americans today to return to the successful “virtue strategy” of the early Pilgrims. Such a course of action is deemed essential to the survival of the American republic.

To enable millions of Americans, especially school age children and young adults, to view and learn from the symbols of Pilgrim virtues depicted on the National Monument to the Forefathers, it is suggested that state governments and/or private organizations in each of the 50 states develop plans to fund and build suitable replicas of the monument. Replicas might be half the scale, for example, of the original monument and made of materials other than granite stone. Descriptive literature about the monument and each of the five important Pilgrim virtues also needs to be made available to the viewing public, especially school children. Funding from the federal government for this important and edifying project should also be pursued.

About the author: Paul S. Gardiner is an avid lover of America and a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel living in Hoschton, Georgia.

by Paul Gardiner

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Pat Tracy

Sorry, but your fine article has fallen victim to a lack of complete research: “Unlike their fellow Englishmen who landed at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 with an economic motivation,…” Please take a look at the original Virginia Charter of 1606, and you’ll find that Jamestown was *not* founded to foster economic enterprise, but it was a missional outreach “for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness….” ***Full disclosure: I, too, held similar views, sadly shaped by post-Civil-War historians [“the victor (re)writes the history”] until the Navy transferred us to Virginia, where every student is required to read the Virginia Charters.*** You describe a wonderful monument — but you should be able to do so without casting aspersions on others.

Bonnie J Nelson

Did not know this existed. Thank you.

Gary

I pray this didn’t turn the monument into a target for the evil anti-American liberals to attack and topple. I just completed another Historic Trails program for a Boy Scout Troop, and on a questionnaire I asked (for the first time) what the Scouts thought of all the statues and monuments from the Civil War being taken down and streets renamed. All comments I received said this was wrong. Basically, our history is what it is, and can’t be changed for better of for worse. One Scout added a question of why we are deleting the Civil War from our past when black peoples are still keeping slavery alive as an excuse of modern day repression (not his exact words). What a great question that was! Can anyone help with a good answer?

Marsha Leeper

Was blessed to take a tour of Plymouth Ma. And see the monument. It is truly thought provoking. We also saw the documentary “Monumental”. Every American should see it. The God of the Bible led the Pilgrims to come to this land.

Margaret Boyer

Had never heard of this monument ever and I am 67. Thank you for sharing things like this.

Gloria P. Sterling

Keep it far away from New Orleans, even though that is part of my territory when growing up (born in Mississippi in 1931). I’m still angry with the mayor of that city for his removal of those monuments (during the night and paying for it with money that should have been used to repair streets and other needs of the city). He would probably not even allow it to be erected there. Thumbs down to him and I hope he loses his position as mayor or any other office of a supposed “public servant”.

Wayne Hudson

This is great information

Glenn Scott (Socialist state of NJ)

Just learned something about the Pilgrims.

Harry ward

I first heard about this statue on pbs I believe what a great and honorable story one that should must be remembered throughout the ages.

James Monaco

It is important to reflect upon the question “What does it mean to be an American?” Once upon a time … that was nearly a rhetorical question.

Billie M

Gov. Wm. Bradford III was my 10th great grandfather. I did not know this monument existed.