Previous attempts at colonization in America (1606, 1607–8) by the Plymouth Company, chartered in 1606 along with the London Company (see Virginia Company), were unsuccessful and resulted in the company's inactivation for a number of years. In 1620 the Plymouth Company, reorganized as the Council for New England, secured a new charter from King James I, granting it all the territory from lat. 40° N to lat. 48° N and from sea to sea. Also in 1620 the Pilgrims, having secured a patent granting them colonization privileges in the territory of the London Company, left Leiden and proceeded to Southampton, where the Mayflower was fitting out for Virginia.
The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, England, and in Nov., 1620, sighted the coast of Cape Cod instead of Virginia. In December, after five weeks spent in exploring the coast, the ship finally anchored in Plymouth harbor, and the Pilgrims established a settlement. As the patent from the London Company was invalid in New England, the Pilgrims drew up an agreement called the Mayflower Compact, which pledged allegiance to the English king but established a form of government by the will of the majority. Patents were obtained from the Council for New England in 1621 and in 1630, but the Mayflower Compact remained the basis of the colony's government until union with Massachusetts Bay colony in 1691.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.