The Pilgrims: Voyage to Freedom
Above all, the Pilgrims wanted to be free.
They disagreed with the religious teachings of the Church of England. In fact, the Pilgrims were members of a group of people called Separatists. These people had different beliefs than the rest of the English people. In 1606, they formed their own church in a small village called Scrooby.
At this time, the Church of England was the same as the Government of England. In other words, King James I was the head of both the country and the church. Not belonging to the church meant not obeying the king. This was treason.
So the Pilgrims left England, in search of a safe place to practice their religion. They chose to go to Holland and found a home in Leiden. For 12 years, they worshipped under their pastor, John Robinson.
But the Pilgrims were also poor. Many of them were forced to work difficult jobs all day long, for little money. They had found religious peace in Holland, but they were making barely enough money to survive.
What to do?
They finally decided to sail to North America. They didn't want to join the Jamestown colony, founded in 1607, because they feared that the English people there would treat them badly because of their religious beliefs. So the Pilgrims settled on the northern part of the Virginia Territory, at the mouth of the Hudson River (near what is now New York).
Happily, the Pilgrims found businesspeople who were willing to give them money in exchange for a share of the profits made in America. The Pilgrims bought a small ship called the Speedwell and sailed back to England. They stayed long enough to get more colonists and a larger ship, the Mayflower. They set sail from Southampton on August 5, 1620.
The Speedwell wasn't in shape to make the journey, and the Pilgrims returned to Plymouth, England. They crowded all 102 people onboard the Mayflower and set sail again, on September 16. This time, they kept going.