The Puritans were not discouraged. With or without permission, protected or not protected by the terms of a charter which might at best be violated, they would seek asylum and rest in the Western wilderness. Out of their own resources, and with the help of a few faithful friends, they provided the scanty means of departure and set their faces toward the sea.
The Speedwell, a small vessel of sixty tons, was purchased at Amsterdam, and the Mayflower, a larger and more substantial ship was hired for the voyage. The former was to carry the emigrants from Leyden to Southampton, where they were to be joined by the Mayflower,with another company from London. Assembling at the harbor of Delft, on the River Meuse. fifteen miles south of Leyden as many of the Pilgrams as could be accommodated went on board the Speedwell. The whole congregation accompanied them to the shore. There Robinson gave them a consoling farewell address, and the blessings and prayers of those who were left followed the vessel out of sight.
Both ships came safely to Southhampton, and within two weeks the emigrants were ready for the voyage. On the 5th of August 1620 the vessels left the harbor; but after a few days' sailing the Speedwell was found to be shattered, old and leaky. On this account both ships anchored in the port of Dartmouth , and eight days were spent in making the needed repairs. Again the sails were set.but scarcely had the land receded from sight before the captain of the Speedwell declared his vessel unfit to breast the ocean, and then, to the great grief and discouragement of the emigrants, put back to Plymouth. Here the bad ship was abandoned ; but the Pilgrims were encouraged and feasted by the citizens, and the more zealous went on board the Mayflower, ready and anxious for a final effort. On the 6th day of September the first colony of New England, numbering one hundred and two souls, saw the shores of Old England grow dim and sink behind the sea.
The voyage was long and perilous. For sixty-three days the ship was buffeted by storms and driven. It had been the intention of the Pilgrims to found their colony in the beautiful country of the Hudson;but the tempest carried them out of their course, and the first land seen was the desolate Cape Cod.
On the ninth of November the vessel was anchored in the bay; then a meeting was held on board and the colony organized under a solemn compact. In the charter which they there made for themselves the emigrants declared their loyalty to the English Crown, and covenanted together to live in peace and harmony, with equal rights to all, obedient to just laws made for the common good.
Such was the simple but sublime constitution of the oldest New England State. A nobler document is not to be found among the records of the world.* To this instrument all the heads of families, forty-one in number, solemnly set their names. An election was held in which all had an equal voice,and John Carver was unanimously chosen governor of the colony. After two days the boat was lowered, but was found to be half rotten and useless and eight days were spent in making the needed repairs. Again the sails were set. More than a fortnight of precious time was required to make the needed repairs. ....
“Photograph of a painting signed Percy Moran, showing Myles Standish, William Bradford, William Brewster and John Carver signing the Mayflower Compact in a cabin aboard the Mayflower while other Pilgrims look on.” ca.1910-1930. From the collection of the Library of Congress and in the public domain: