Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Demise of the Plymouth Company

In our continuing historical diversion . . .

After the failure of the Plymouth groups first settlement in Maine, it attempted another colonization venture near the location of the Pilgrims. It issued a land grant to a Dorchester company led by Puritan minister John White out of Dorchester, England. This Dorchester investors funded the establishment of a small fishing village at Cape Anne. But this, too, never took off. The investors stopped their financial support after only two years. The small group of adventurers moved to another settlement a little closer to the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth.

Back in England, the Plymouth Company reorganized with new investors as the Plymouth Council for New England. They made another land grant, this time to a group of inventors styled as the New England Company for a Plantation in Massachusetts Bay, or, the Massachusetts Bay Company for short. (Plantation simply meant colony or settlement.) Investors included minister John White.It sponsored another settlement at a site later called Salem, Massachusetts. The settlement experience similar hardships to those at Plymouth—starvation and disease killed off nearly half the settlers. Additional settlers with supplies, however, kept the settlement going. It proved to be the first successful settlement of the Plymouth reorganized Plymouth group.

Investors in the Massachusetts Bay Company harbored concerns about the legality of their land grants. The original London and Plymouth groups of the Virginia Company possessed overlapping grants, the London group charter had been revoked by the Crown, and the Plymouth groups had subsequently reorganized under new leadership with a new named. Consequently, they went directly to the Crown and secured a charter for themselves that superseded all previous grants. This provoked some lawsuits, but the old Plymouth Council for New England eventually lost its legal status in 1635.

The Massachusetts Bay Company possessed the freedom to move ahead with plans for a massive migration of Puritan dissenters to the New World.

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