In William Bradford's telling, the Pilgrims indeed experienced expectation, suffering, success, and disappointment in the long journey that took them to the Netherlands, back to England, and then to New England. In History of Plymouth Plantation , Bradford explains each of these experiences as united by a central theme....
In William Bradford's telling, the Pilgrims indeed experienced expectation, suffering, success, and disappointment in the long journey that took them to the Netherlands, back to England, and then to New England. In History of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford explains each of these experiences as united by a central theme. Each is, according to Bradford, part of God's plan for the Pilgrims. Bradford describes the sense of expectation the Pilgrims felt when they landed in New England:
Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.
They believed that they had arrived in a land where they could live independently of the Church of England as a free community of believers. Once they arrived, however, they experienced considerable hardships, as most of their number died from disease just a few months after arrival:
In two or three months time half of their company died . . . being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases which this long voyage and their inaccommodate condition had brought upon them. So as there died some times two or three of a day . . . that of 100 and odd persons, scarce fifty remained.
In 1621, having survived the worst of what Bradford calls the "starving time," the Pilgrims experienced a great success, famously celebrating a Thanksgiving feast that extended over several days with the Wampanoag people. The alliance was an important factor in their survival as a colony, and they experienced, for the first time, "all things in good plenty."
This success made up for the disappointment the Pilgrims received after living in the Netherlands, which they had believed to be a place of "freedom of religion for all men." However, they lived in poverty there, in a situation far removed from their relative economic (if not social and religious) comfort in England. It was this disappointment that caused them to leave Leiden and ultimately seek refuge overseas.
The point is that each of these successes, failures, trials, and tribulations are interpreted by Bradford (and indeed most of his companions) as the workings of Providence. Suffering and disappointments were sent by God to chastise or challenge the Pilgrims. Successes were only achieved with God's help and divine will: they were celebrated as such during the Thanksgiving feast in 1621.