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According to William Bradford's History of Plymouth Planation, love and ultimately marriage, was a civil matter. This belief most likely dated to the Pilgrims' days in Leiden, where the Archbishop taught that marriage was not a Church matter. The Separatists could not find any examples of marriage in the Bible. While in Leiden, Bradford married his first wife Dorothy May in a civil ceremony before they boarded the Mayflower, only to have her drown shortly after their arrival in Plymouth.

Gov. Bradford in his history, Of Plymouth Plantation, in writing about the first marriage (Edward Winslow) states that it took place according to the custom since 1590 of the Low Countries (The Netherlands) where the Pilgrims had spent a dozen years after fleeing England. Their magistrates performed the wedding ceremony because marriage was not a religious matter, but instead a civil matter.

People married young, and often had a number of spouses throughout their lives as their spouses often faced early deaths due to life's difficulties. In Bradford's case he took a second wife, Alice Southworth whom he married in a civil service in Plymouth shortly after she arrived.

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