On December 21, 1620 the first Pilgrim landing party arrived in Plymouth Harbor to found the settlement of Plymouth, after failing to secure a site at Provincetown. The Pilgrims were Puritan Separatists, who had fled England because of religious persecution. In the 1500s, the Anglican Church had been created by the English monarch; all citizens were required to belong to this church. Some members desired a simpler Christian faith within this structure, and were called Puritans. They wanted to purify the Anglican Church and return to a Christianity focused on the bible, without the affluent trappings of the Church of England. Some of these Puritans wanted to break away from the Church of England, feeling that it was beyond saving, and were called Separatists. The separatists were persecuted by other Puritans as well as by the Anglican Church and government.
The Pilgrim/Puritan Separatists fled to Holland first, where they were free to practice their religion. However, after a number of years there, they felt that society there was too licentious as well as having poor economic opportunities for themselves and their families. That, combined with the threat of an imminent war between the Dutch and Spanish, caused the Pilgrims to leave Holland to try to make their way in the New World.
Shortly before landing in Plymouth, the Pilgrim colonists drafted and signed the Mayflower Compact, a covenant that they would form a civil body politic and enact such just laws as necessary and agree to be obedient to those same rules and laws.
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.