The Mayflower and Plymouth Colony

Not all the English Separatists set out for the New World. The first group to leave England headed for the Dutch Netherlands in 1608. They were uncomfortable in their new land as their children started speaking Dutch and abandoning English traditions. They became disgusted with the attention paid to worldly goods, and the presence of many “unholy” faiths.

They began to look for a purer place to build their society. Some headed for English islands in the Caribbean. Those who would be forever known to future Americans as the pilgrims set their sights on the New World in late 1620.

Over a hundred travelers embarked on the voyage of the Mayflower in September 1620. Less than one third were Separatists. The rest were immigrants, adventurers, and speculators.

Their voyage took about two months, and the passengers enjoyed a happier experience than most trans-Atlantic trips.

One of the greatest twists of fate in human history occurred on that historic voyage. The Pilgrims were originally bound for Virginia to live north of Jamestown under the same charter granted to citizens of Jamestown. But they were off course and they landed on a piece of land that would become known as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After surveying the land, they set up camp not too far from Plymouth Rock. They feared venturing south because winter was fast approaching.

Since the Pilgrims had landed outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, they had no charter to govern them. In the landmark Mayflower Compact of 1620, the pilgrims decided that they would rule themselves, based on majority rule of the townsmen. This independent attitude set up a tradition of self-rule that would later lead to town meetings and elected legislatures in new England.

Like the Virginia House of Burgesses established the previous year, Plymouth colony began to lay the foundation for democracy in the American colonies.

Source: The Mayflower and Plymouth Colony
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