American Plymouth

The Pilgrims who settled the Plymouth Colony were a varied people bound together by a common religion. The Pilgrims sought religious freedom from the Anglican Church. They objected to the corruption of the Anglican Church and separated from it, forming their own church. This strain of separatism was strongest in Scrooby, England, where a church was begun under Richard Clyfton. The original members of the Scrooby group included William Brewster and William Bradford.

In 1607, the Scrooby separatists departed England and fled to Holland to avoid persecution by the English government. The government viewed the separatists as treasonous and was aggressive in its efforts to destroy the movement. The Scrooby separatists eventually settled in Leyden, Holland, which appealed to the fledgling church because of the country’s policy of religious toleration. While safe from persecution in Leyden, church members became dissatisfied with their exile and, by 1617, had resolved to journey to the English colonies in the New World. Limited economic and social opportunities as well as the difference in languages prohibited Leyden from becoming a permanent home to the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims decided to settle near the colony of Virginia, close enough to settled territory for protection yet distant enough for them to exercise religious freedom. In 1617, the church sent two agents to London to negotiate with the Virginia Company. Their agents were successful in securing approval of their statement of religious beliefs from the King and the Privy Council, but they failed to secure a land patent in Virginia.

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