A Brief History of The Mayflower

The Mayflower brought the first group of Pilgrims to North America in 1620. As originally conceived, the expedition included another vessel, the Speedwell, but the latter proved unseaworthy. The Mayflower, about 180 gross tons and carrying 102 passengers, finally got under way from Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists had been authorized to settle. As a result of stormy weather and navigational errors, the vessel failed to make good its course, and on November 21 the Mayflower rounded the end of Cape Cod and dropped anchor off the site of present-day Provincetown, Massachusetts. No one knows exactly what the ship looked like, but it was probably about 27 m (90 ft) long, had three masts and two decks, and probably weighed about 180 tons.

The Mayflower remained anchored for the next few weeks while a party from the ship explored Cape Cod and its environs in search of a satisfactory site for the colony. On December 21, an area having been selected, the Pilgrims disembarked from the Mayflower near the head of Cape Cod and founded Plymouth Colony the first permanent settlement in New England.

The Pilgrims were probably more than 800 km (500 mi) northeast of their intended destination in Virginia. The patent for their settlement in the New World, issued by the London Company, was no longer binding, and some among the passengers desired

total independence from their shipmates. To prevent this, 41 of the adult male passengers, including John Alden, William Bradford, William Brewster, John Carver, Miles Standish, and Edward Winslow, gathered in the cabin of the Mayflower and formulated and signed the Mayflower Compact; all adult males were required to sign. The Mayflower Compact was the first constitution written in America. It consolidated the passengers into a "civil body politic," which had the power to frame and enact laws appropriate to the general good of the planned settlement. All colonists were bound to obey the ordinances so enacted. This compact established rule of the majority, which remained a primary principle of government in Plymouth Colony until its absorption by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. Plymouth Colony, in full The Colony of New Plymouth, colony founded in the New World by the Pilgrims.

The foundation of this colony was one of the major events in the early history of the American colonies. In the reign of Elizabeth I, queen of England, one of the sects of Puritans known as Brownists separated from the new Protestant Church of England and after much persecution took refuge in the Netherlands. They finally determined to immigrate to America. A group of London investors financed them in exchange for most of their produce from America during their first six years.

First Sermon at Plymouth
After some exploration they settled on the site of what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Plymouth Colony later united with other New England colonies to form the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

"Mayflower (vessel)," Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved

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