IN the same year of 1606 in which the London Company had been founded, the Plymouth Company was chartered with rights to the north of its contemporary holdings. It at once made the unsuccessful attempt to found a colony at the mouth of the Kennebec river in New England. The company did not abandon its interest in the New World. In 1614 Captain John Smith explored and mapped the New England coast and two years later the Plymouth Company made him Admiral of New England. But Smith's attempt to found a settlement also failed. Meanwhile, Sir Ferdinando Gorges, a prominent member of the Plymouth Company, sent fishing and trading voyages into the company's domain. Gorges retained an interest in America when many of his fellow members in the Plymouth enterprise lost heart at the failure of their company to establish a colony. On November 13, 1620, a new organization, the Council of New England, fathered by Gorges, was incorporated to take the place of the older company. In the autumn of the following year the Council sent out to America by the ship Fortune a patent for a little body of Separatists that had the year before settled without legal right at Plymouth in New England.
But the Council of New England proved to be not without rivals. It was but eight years old when an association of men in Lincolnshire and London procured, through the assistance of the Earl of Warwick, a patent to lands in the very heart of the domain already granted to the Council of New England. In the same year, 1628, John Endicott led about fifty settlers to Massachusetts. The Gorges interest fought the new enterprise but failed. In 1629 a royal charter confirmed the grant to Endicott and his followers and established a new corporation known as the "Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England." The Massachusetts Bay Company was a trading company of the same general type as the old London Company, but it met with quite a different fate. Within a year of its founding English Puritans, anxious to escape the growing opposition of Charles I to their movement, bought up the Massachusetts Bay Company, took the charter across the sea and established the headquarters of the company in the New World. Thus the charter of a commercial company became the frame of government for a colony organized as a refuge for a persecuted sect. The Puritans were a group within the Church of England who wished to modify the church service and who stood for a more strict moral code. They were also a political party fighting for the rights of Parliament as opposed to those of the sovereign. They became numerous enough to win the great Civil War.
There was also in England in the early years of the seventeenth century a very small and inconspicuous group of religious radicals who, unlike the Puritans, believed that the reformers should come out of the Church of England and also that Church and State should be separated. These people were known as Brownists or Separatists. One small band of this sect won fame because of its part in the founding of America.