Old England was not well. One man invested all the powers of government in a single branch and usurped the rule of law and the ancient liberties of the English people. A brutal civil war raged in which the tyrant’s forces slaughtered women and ministers who preached a different creed. Religious minorities were forced to go into hiding, smuggling their sacred books to safe-havens on the continent.
But the continent could only offer temporary shelter. These colonists were Englishmen, and they naturally desired to live as Englishmen. They could not wait indefinitely for the tumult in England to end. Naturally, many began to look to the new world as a land of hope.
The colonizing and founding of our great country were no small feats. Settlers risked a long journey across the Atlantic and faced perils in the wilderness, proving their dedication to a cause greater than themselves.
They brought with them their peculiar religion, which emphasized quiet devotion and stoic resolve. They brought their virtues of hard work, agrarianism, and loyalty to the land. But maybe most importantly, they brought their piety: a piety imbued with respect for the rule of law, family, country, bishop, and king.
Yes, you read those last two right: Bishop and King. These two things that are foreign to modern America, and yet they're the very things that many English men and women came to our shores to preserve. You see, this particular story is not about the pilgrims and Puritans of Plymouth Rock or Massachusetts Bay. It's about the Virginia Cavaliers. Their persecutors were Puritans. The tyrant they fled from was Oliver Cromwell. The branch of government that usurped all authority was Parliament. The persecuted religion was Anglicanism. The sacred book smuggled to foreign shores was the Book of Common Prayer.
Those settlers came to this country not hoping to build a new world, but rather hoping that they might restore the old world. The sad fact that their story is no longer told in our history books is evidence of their failure.
On January 30, the Anglican Church remembers the martyrdom of Charles I of England, whose unlawful execution sealed Parliament’s—and eventually Cromwell’s—grip on England. What better occasion than the death of a king to remember the legacy of our founding fathers?