Massachusetts was explored in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, but was not permanently settled until the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth in 1620. The Pilgrims were Puritan Separatists. They broke away from the Church of England early in the 17th century because they felt that it had not completed the work of the Reformation. They were committed to a life based on the Word of God. The Separatists left England to escape religious persecution to seek freedom. Their historic voyage began on September 16, 1620, with about 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower. Their first landfall was Cape Cod rather than their original destination of Virginia. Because they had no legal right to settle in the region, they drew up the Mayflower Compact, creating their own government. The settlers soon discovered Plymouth Harbor, on the western side of Cape Cod Bay and made their historic landing on December 21; the main body of settlers followed on December 26. The Mayflower Compact is the foundational document of Free America. This document was signed be 41 men on November 11, 1620. It reads:
"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&.
Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the 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 another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof do 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 hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620"