The 1621 Peirce Patent
Patents were charters to large areas of land. In 1620, the Virginia Company issued the (First) Peirce Patent to the company of merchant adventurers. The patent gave the merchant adventurers permission to start a new settlement (to be inhabited by the Pilgrims) in the Virginia territory. The First Peirce Patent was never effective, because the Mayflower landed outside the bounds of the Virginia Company.
When the Mayflower returned to England in April 1621, the merchant adventurers learned that the Pilgrims had settled at Plymouth. They then obtained a patent from the Council for New England; the Council had the authority to plant and govern land in the Plymouth area. This Second Peirce Patent confirmed the Pilgrims’ settlement and governance of Plymouth.
The text of the 1621 Peirce Patent begins:
"This Indenture made the First Day of June 1621 And in the yeeres of the raigne of our soueraigne Lord James by the grace of god King of England Scotland Fraunce and Ireland defendor of the faith etc. That is to say of England Fraunce and Ireland the Nynetenth and of Scotland the fowre and fiftith. Betwene the President and Counsell of New England of the one partie And John Peirce Citizen and Clothworker of London and his Associates of the other partie Witnesseth that whereas the said John Peirce and his Associates have already transported and vndertaken to transporte at their cost and chardges themselves and dyvers persons into New England and there to erect and built a Towne and settle dyvers Inhabitantes for the advancem[en]t of the generall plantacon of that Country of New England Now the sayde President and Counsell in consideracon thereof and for the furtherance of the said plantacon and incoragem[en]t of the said Vndertakers haue agreed to graunt assigne allott and appoynt to the said John Peirce and his associates and euery of them his and their heires and assignes one hundred acres of grownd for euery person so to be transported...
In witnes whereof the said President and Counsell haue to the one part of this p[rese]nte Indenture sett their seales And to th’other part hereof the said John Peirce in the name of himself and his said Associates haue sett to his seale geven the day and yeeres first aboue written.
[signed] LENOX HAMILTON WARWICK SHEFFIELD FERD: GORGES
The 1630 Bradford Patent
The Pilgrims had a contract with the company of merchant adventurers: all land and profits accrued to the company for 7 years, at which time the assets would be divided among the shareholders. Most of the Pilgrims held stock.
In 1626, the Pilgrims negotiated a more favorable contract. 53 Plymouth freemen, known as "The Purchasers," agreed to buy out the company over a period of years. In turn, 12 "Undertakers" (8 from Plymouth and 4 from London) agreed to pay off Plymouth’s debts in return for trade benefits.
Renegotiating the contract necessitated a new patent. The Council for New England granted the "Bradford Patent" jointly to Bradford and his associates, The Purchasers, in 1630.
The text of the 1630 Bradford Patent begins:
To all to whom these present shall come greetinge: - Whereas our late sovereigne lord King James for the advancemente of a colonie and plantacon in the cuntry called or knowne by the name of New-Englande in America, by his highnes letters pattents under the greate seale of Englande bearinge date att Westminster the third day of November in the eighteenth yeare of his highnes raigne of England &c. did give graunte and confirme unto the right honorble Lodowicke late lord duek of Lenox, George late lord marques of Buckingham, James Marques Hamilton, Thomas earle of Arundell, Robert earle of Warwicke and Ferdinando Gorges, knight, and divers others whose names are expressed in the said letters pattents and their successors that they should bee one bodie pollitique and corporate perpetually consistinge of forty persons, and that they should have perpetuall succession and one common seale to serve for the said body and that they and their successors should be incorporated called and knowne by the name of the Councell established at Plymouth in the county of Devon for the plantinge ruelinge orderinge and governinge of New Englande in America, and alsoe of his spetiall grace certaine knowledge and meere motion did give graunte and confirme unto the said presidente and councell and their successors forever under the reservations limitations and declaracons in the said letters pattents expressed, all that part and portion of the said cuntry now called New-England in America scituate, lyinge and beinge in breadth from ffourty degrees of northerly latitude from the aquinoctiall line to ffourty eight degrees of the said northerly latitude inclusively, and in length of and in all the breadth aforesaide throughout the maine lande from sea to sea, together alsoe with all the firme landes soyles grounds creeks inletts havens portes seas rivers islands waters fishinges mynes and mineralls...
In witness whereof, the said councell established att Plimouth in the county of Devon for the plantinge ruleinge orderinge and governinge of New England in America have hereunto putt their seale the thirteenth day of January in fifte yeare of the raigne of our Soveraigne Lord Charles by the grace of God, Kinge of Englande Scotland Fraunce and Ireland defender of the ffaithe &c Anno Domi 1629.
[signed] R. WARWICKE