Depiction of Plymouth colony governor William Bradford.

William Bradford

(1590 - 1657)

An organizer of the exodus of one hundred-odd pilgrims from England and Holland to “those vast and unpeopled countries of America,” and a framer of the social compact signed aboard the Mayflower, Bradford was elected governor of the Plymouth Colony in 1621. Reelected to the office thirty times before he died in 1657, he kept journals from 1620 to 1647—History of Plymouth Plantation—that form the definitive account of the American pilgrimage. The name pilgrims is, in fact, derived from his journals, as he wrote that he and his fellow travelers “knew they were pilgrims,” who lifted “up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.”

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