“scarcely able to keep her from sinking” — Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin

Today, the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when the brave emigrants had to abandon their first ship, the leaky Speedwell on August 21, 1620.

From An Historical Memoir of the Colony of New Plymouth, Vol. I, from 1620 to 1641 by Francis Baylies, published in 1830:


On the 21st of July, the emigrants quitted Leyden to embark at Delfthaven.

They were accompanied by many of their friends, and by some who came from Amsterdam. The next day they embarked for England in a vessel called the Speedwell.

At the moment of their going on board, Robinson who had accompanied them “fell on his knees,” and with tearful eyes “in a most ardent and affectionate prayer, committed them to their divine Protector.”

So great was the grief of this little church, all the members of which had been endeared to each other from so many circumstances, and united by so many ties, that when they finally separated, the agonizing expression of it drew tears even from the Dutch, who had assembled on the quay to see them depart, insensible as they usually were to sorrowful emotion.

The Speedwell arrived safely at South Hampton.

Another vessel of one hundred and eighty tons called the May Flower was chartered in London, by Cushman, and Carver went to superintend her equipment.

Thomas Weston a merchant of London, who had adventured deeply in this enterprise, went to South Hampton to see that they were dispatched.

After the arrival of the Speedwell both vessels were provisioned and fitted for the voyage, and a trading stock of £1700 was put on board.

It was intended that the Speedwell should remain with the colonists, and that the May Flower after landing her passengers in America should return to England.

On the 5th of August 1620, both ships with one hundred and twenty passengers sailed from South Hampton for America.

The company were distributed between the ships and a governor and two or three assistants chosen for each, to attend to the distribution of the provisions, and to all things respecting the welfare of the company.

Reynolds, the master of the Speedwell, before they left the British Channel found his vessel too leaky to proceed.

Both ships put into Dartmouth, and the Speedwell was overhauled, and repaired, and was supposed to have been made sea-worthy.

They sailed again on the 21st of August.

The Speedwell soon began to leak again, and when they had sailed about an hundred leagues, the master declared that with constant pumping he was scarcely able to keep her from sinking, and the ships put into Plymouth.

On searching, no defect appearing, the leakiness of the Speedwell was attributed to general weakness, and she was judged unseaworthy.

It was supposed that the bad condition of that vessel was exaggerated by the master to relieve himself from an engagement which he was anxious to avoid.

About twenty of the passengers were discouraged and would not re-embark.

The remainder being one hundred and one, went on board the May Flower, and the provisions of the Speedwell being shifted to the May Flower, she sailed on the 6th of September, and the Pilgrims bade an everlasting farewell to England!

Little did these adventurers and humble wanderers think when they at last commenced this memorable voyage, that they were destined to be amongst the principal founders of the mightiest republic on earth, – little did they think that their posterity would become as numerous as the sands on the sea shore.

Little did they think that the spirit of religious freedom which glowed in their hearts would expand into those proud notions of personal independence which in the course of a century and a half would burst the ties of allegiance, defy the omnipotence of Parliament, the power of the crown, and the terrors of prerogative.

The origin of American independence may be clearly traced to the bold and uncompromising spirit of the puritans of New England.


The Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s portrayal of the departure from Delft Haven.

Pilgrim Tercentenary Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin