Both Jamestown, founded in 1607 by the Virginia Company of London, and Plymouth, founded in 1620 by English religious separatists, were products of the English drive for New World colonization as were those of Spain and other major powers.
Three personages associated with Jamestown also ended up being major figures in the sailing of the Mayflower. First was Captain John Smith. Second was Captain Samuel Argall, employed by the Virginia Company to transport colonists to Jamestown. In 1613, he led an expedition that wiped out French colonies in Nova Scotia and Maine, thus securing the Atlantic seaboard for English speaking Protestants.
Smith returned to the New World in 1614, explored the New England coast and went home to publish A Description of New England, in which he described how it was ripe for colonization. The religious separatists then living in Holland must have seen the book. They had decided they needed to relocate and would try colonization.
The third figure, and ultimately most important, was Sir Edwin Sandys. He was a principal in the Virginia Company and deeply committed to successful English colonization in the New World. He played a major role in keeping Jamestown going, including calling for the first elected representative body in Jamestown and conceiving the sending of 100 "maidens" to Jamestown to help stabilize the colony.
Sandys was the son of the Bishop of Yorkshire; whose ecclesiastic seat was Scrooby. The Bishop’s manor was rented by the family of William Brewster, who would become one of the leading figures in the separatist community in Holland. In 1617, Brewster wrote to his old friend, Sandys, for help in transporting the separatists to the New World.
Sandys played a huge role in the negotiations, going as far as lending the separatists £300. He also helped to arrange an agreement between the separatists, antagonistic to the Church of England, and King James I, which enabled the grant of a patent for colonization. That patent allowed them to found a colony as far north as New York, but they ended up at Cape Cod in mid-November, as their captain was not willing to take them any farther.
The ship's passengers, however, included both separatists and secular colonists, and there was a question as to
who had authority to govern. In the end, all the men who were going to stay in the new colony agreed to a written accord of self-government, which we call the Mayflower Compact. It recognized that they were loyal subjects of King James and, being about to engage in a democratic form of government, is certainly reflective of Sandys’s influence on the language and content of the Compact.
By Erica Hahn; a First California Company member and past Governor of the Orange County Colony of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants