From "The Pierce's and their Posterity", pp. 5-6 John was Richard Pierce's second son and was apparently a very active London merchant. On February 12, 1621, according to Bernard Colby, John procured the patent for New England. This patent conveyed, with self-governing powers, a tract of land to be selected by the planters near the mouth of the Hudson. It gave 100 acres of land to each planter, but confined them within no boundaries. Rent of two shillings per hundred acres was to be paid after seven years, but 1500 acres were guaranteed for support of schools, churches and hospitals. John, no doubt, was the owner of the Mayflower, and his group, the Merchant Adventurers, outfitted it for its first voyage. He also would prefer that his brother William be its skipper. William apparently was unavailable for the trip, and John settled on Captain Jones.
John Pierce's group had made two earlier attempts to reach America: In December 1612, he equipped the ship Paragon and set sail, along with many passengers and much freight, for America. After fourteen days of severe and adverse winds and weather, however, they were forced to turn back to London for repairs. The Paragon sailed a second time the following February with yet more passengers and freight. A tempest fell upon the ship in mid-ocean, felled her mast, washed away all of her super structure, and almost sank her. Again, she limped back to England.
Following this disaster, John was busily engaged with his project for the Pilgrims. In fact, so little was actually known about the Pilgrims that for years they were known as "Mr. Pierce's Company". The original patent under which the Pilgrims sailed expired in 1622. John Pierce applied for a new patent. Governor Bradford, in his History of Plymouth Plantation, accuses John of attempting to secure the patent for his own personal benefit and of excluding the original company members and the colonists from any consideration (Thirty-one Generations, p. 19). This accusation is probably true, but it must be remembered that all of the trading companies and all of the London businessmen who engaged in colonizing efforts were motivated by the desire for profit. John Pierce had undoubtedly incurred enormous expenses in financing the ill-fated Paragon and in buying and equipping the Mayflower and he probably had his side of this story. Indeed, his losses had been so great that he was forced to make a deal "whereby he assigned his patent to the Plymouth Colony" (Thirty-one Generations, p. 20).
From B. L. Colby, "Thirty-one generations, a thousand years of Percy and Pierce":
"...citizen and clothworker of London, never came to America. He was a leader of the Merchant Adventurers and owned the Plymouth Colony patent. So little was known of the Pilgrims that for years they were known only as "Mr. Pierce's Company." John procured the patent for New England, superceding the Wincob patent, on Feb. 12, 1620. It conveyed with self-governing powers a tract of land to be selected by the planters near the mouth of the Hudson. It gave 100 acres of land to each planter but confined them within no boundaries. Rent, to be paid after seven years, was set at two shillings per hundred acres, but 1,500 acres were guaranteed to each "undertaker" for support of schools, churches, and hospitals."
"John, it appears, was something of a knave. His original patent had effect for only a year and in April of 1622 he surreptitiously supplemented it with another granting him additional powers with which he attempted to make the Pilgrims his vassals, but without success. He planned to have no associates but to make himself sole proprietor of the country, making the settlers his tenants and himself their lord, subject to his laws and courts. Other adventurers sought to buy his claim, which had cost him only 50 pounds, but he held out for 500 and the deal fell through."
"In December of 1622 he equipped the ship Paragon and set sail to take possession of his kingdom, taking along many passengers and much freight. As if in retribution, wind and waves attacked the vessel and 14 days later she was back at London for repairs. She started a second time the following February with yet more freight and passengers crowded aboard to help cover the losses. A tempest fell upon the ship in mid-ocean, felled her mainmast, washed away her upper works and nearly sank her. Again the Paragon limped back to port. She was repaired a second time and set sail under command of Capt. William Pierce, John's brother. John's losses had been so great he was obliged to make a deal whereby he assigned his patent to the Plymouth Colony."
"Bradford's History of Plimouth Plantation (by William Bradford, governor of the Colony from 1621 to shortly before his death in 1657, with the exception of five years) chronicles the Colony's history in detail up to 1646 and is studded with references to both John and William Pierce. Regarding the Paragon's ill-fated voyages, he wrote: "This ship was brought by Mr. John Pierce, and sent out at his own charge, upon hope of great maters. These passengers, & ye goods the company sent in her, he tooke in for fraught, for which they agreed with him to be delivered hear. This was he in whose name their first patente was taken, by reason of acquaintance, and some aliance that some of their friends had with him. But his name was only used in trust. But when he saw they were hear hopefully thus seated, and by ye success God gave them had obtained ye favour of ye Counsell of New England, he goes and sues to them for another patente of much larger extente (in their names), which was easily obtained. But he mente to keep it to himselfe and alow them what he pleased, to hold of him as tenants, and sue to his courts as cheefe lord, as will appear by that which follows."
"Bradford then quotes from another letter written April 9, 1623: "Now with great trouble & loss, we have got Mr. John Pierce to assigne over ye grand patente to ye companie, which he had taken in his owne name, and made quite voyd our former grante. I am sorie to writ how many hear think ye hand of God was justly against him, both ye first & 2. time of his returne; in regarde he whom you and we so confidently trusted, but only to use his name for ye company, should aspire to be lord over us all, and so make you & us tenants at his will and pleasure, our assurances or patente being quite voyd & disanuled by his means..."
"Some sources indicate that John Pierce owned the famous Mayflower. A newspaper clipping of a recent year pictures Sally Pierce of Seattle and describes her as a lineal descendant of "Capt. John Pierce who owned the Mayflower." William Ensign Lincoln states flatly and unequivocally that John Pierce was the owner of the vessel. Other sources add that Thomas Weston was his agent, suggesting that it may not have been known even at that time that Pierce was the real owner."
"John Pierce certainly was the "recognized representative" of the Merchant Adventurers and Weston just as certainly acted as agent for Pierce and his company in engaging Capt. Christopher Jones to make the voyage and in procuring Pierce's patent. Thus a statement that Weston was his agent insofar as the ship herself was concerned is certainly not illogical."
"Ames in The May-Flower and Her Log, presents a good circumstantial case to support his statement that the owner of the Mayflower was "probably" Thomas Goffe, Esq., a shipowner and one of the adventurers. He makes a convincing argument, but it still remains that the ownership of the famous vessel is one of those vexing questions which history has not settled. It apparently would be just as difficult to prove that John Pierce was not the "silent" owner of the Mayflower as it would be to prove he was.
http://members.aol.com/mayflo1620/peircepatent.html: The Pierce Patent, 1621 -------------------------------------------------------------------------
When the Pilgrims created the Mayflower Compact, it lacked one important thing--authorization by the English government. The Mayflower Compact was a "quick fix", but even the Pilgrims knew they would need the authority of the English government behind them if they wanted to continue living at Plymouth. When news from Plymouth returned to England in May, 1620 along with the Mayflower, the Merchant Adventurers (stockholders in the Plymouth Plantation) led by John Peirce went to the Council of New England to get the Pilgrims the rights to live and establish a government of their own at Plymouth. The result was the 1621 Pierce Patent, which in a sense superceeds the Mayflower Compact.
This Indenture made the First Day of June 1621 And in the yeeres of the raigne of our soveraigne 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 undertaken to transporte at their cost and chardges themselves and dyvers persons into New England and there to erect and build a Towne and settle dyvers Inhabitantes for the advancemt 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 incoragemt of the said Undertakers have agreed to graunt assigne allott and appoynt to the said John Peirce and his associates and every of them his and their heires and assignes one hundred acres of grownd for every person so to be transported besides dyvers other pryviledges Liberties and commodyties hereafter menconed. And to that intent they have graunted allotted assigned and confirmed, And by theis prentes doe graunt allott assigne and confirme unto the said John Peirce and his Associates his and their heirs and assignes and the heires and assignes of every of them severally and respectivelie one hundred severall acres of grownd in New England for every person so transported or to be transported, If the said John Peirce or his Associates contynue there three whole yeeres either at one or severall tymes or dye in the meane season after he or they are shipped with intent there to inhabit. The same Land to be taken and chosen by them their deputies or assignes in any place or plaes wheresoever not already inhabited by any English and where no English person or persons are already placed or settled or have by order of the said President and Councell made choyce of, nor within Tenne myles of the same, unles it be the opposite syde of some great or Navigable Ryver to the former particuler plantacon, together with the one half of the Ryver or Ryvers, that is to say to the middest thereof, as shall adjoyne to such landes as they shall make choyce of together with all such Liberties pryviledges proffittes and commodyties as the said Land and Ryvers which they shall make choyce of shall yeild together with free libertie to fishe in and upon the Coast of New England and in all havens portes and creekes Thereunto belonging and that no person or persons whatsoever shall take any benefitt or libertie of or to any of the grownds or the one half of the Ryvers aforesaid, excepting the free use of highwayes by land and Navigable Ryvers, but that the said undertakers and planters their heirs and assignes shall have the sole right and use of the said grownds and the one half of the said Ryvers with all their proffittes and appurtennces. And forasmuch as the said John Peirce and his associates intend to have undertaken to build Churches, Schooles, Hospitalls Towne howses, Bridges and such like workes of Charytie As also for the maynteyning of Magistrates and other inferior Officers, In regard whereof and to the end that the said John Peirce and his Associates his and their heires and assignes may have wherewithall to beare and support such like charges. Therefore the said President and Councell aforesaid to graunt unto the said Undertakers their heires and assignes Fifteene hundred acres of Land more over and above the aforesaid proporcon of one hundred the person for every undertaker and Planter to be imployed upon such publique uses and the said Undertakers and Planters shall thinck fitt. And they do further graunt unto the said John Peirce and his Associates their heires and assignes, that for every person that they or any of them shall transport at their owne proper costes and charges into New England either unto the Lands hereby graunted or adjoyninge to them within Seaven Yeeres after the feast of St. John Baptist next comming If the said person transported contynue there three whole yeeres either at one or severall tymes or dye in the mean season after he is shipped with intent there to inhabit that the said person or persons that shall so at his or their owne charges transport any other shall have graunted and allowed to him and them and his and their heires respectyvelie for every person so transported or dyeing after he is shipped one hundred acres of Land, and also that every person or persons who by contract and agreamt to be had and made with the said Undertakers shall at his and their owne charge transport him and themselves or any other and setle and plant themselves in New England within the said Seaven Yeeres for three yeeres space as aforesaid or dye in the mean tyme shall have graunted and allowed unto every person so transporting or transported and their heires and assignes respectyvely the like nomber of one hundred acres of Land as aforesaid the same to be by him and them or their heires and assignes chosen in any entyre place together and adjoyning to the aforesaid Landes and not straglingly not before the type of such choyce made possessed or inhabited by any English Company or within tenne myles of the same, except it be on the opposite side of some great Navigable Ryver as aforesaid Yeilding and paying unto the said President and Counsell for every hundred acres so obteyned and possessed by the said John Peirce and his said Associates and by those said other persons and their heires and assignes who by Contract as aforesaid shall at their owne charges transport themselves or others the Yerely rent of Two shillings at the feast of St. Michaell Tharchaungell to the hand of the Rentgatherer of the said President and Counsell and their successors forever, the first payment to begyn after the expiracon of the first seaven Yeeres next after the date hereof And further it shal be lawfull to and for the said John Peirce and his Associates and such as contract with them as aforesaid their Tennantes and servantes upon dislike of or in the Country to returne for England or elsewhere with all their goodes and chattells at their will and pleasure without lett or disturbaunce of any paying all debtes that justly shalbe demaunded And likewise it shalbe lawfull and is graunted to and for the said John Peirce and his Associates and Planters their heires and assignes their Tennantes and servantes and such as they or any of them shall contract with as aforesaid and send and imploy for the said plantacon to goe and returne trade traffique inport or transport their goodes and merchaundize at their will and pleasure into England or elswhere paying onely such dueties to the Kinges matie his heires and succesors as the President and Counsell of New England doe pay without any other taxes Imposicons burthens or restraintes whatsoever upon them to be imposed (the rent hereby reserved being onely excepted) And it shalbe lawfull for the said Undertakers and Planters, their heires and successors freely to truck trade and traffique with the Salvages in New England or neighboring thereabouts at their wills and pleasures without lett or disturbaunce. As also to have libertie to hunt hauke fish or fowle in any place or places not now or hereafter by the English inhabited. And the said President and Counsell do covenant and promyse to and with the said John Peirce and his Associates and others contracted with as aforesaid his and their heires and assignes, That upon lawfull survey to be had and made at the charge of the said Undertakers and Planters and lawfull informacon geven of the bowndes, meetes, and quantytie of Land so as aforesaid to be by them chosen and possessed they the said President and Counsell upon surrender of this pnte graunt and Indenture and upon reasonable request to be made by the said Undertakers and Planters their heires and assignes within seaven Yeeres now next coming, shall and will by their Deede Indented and under their Common seale graunt infeorre and confirme all and every the said landes so sett out and bownded as aforesaid to the firme all and every the said landes so sett out and bownded as afiresaid to the said John Peirce and his Associates and such as contract with them their heires and assignes in as large and beneficiall manner as the same are in theis pntes graunted or intended to be graunted to all intentes and purposes with all and every particular pryviledge and freedome reservacon and condicon with all dependances herein specyfied and graunted. And shall also at any tyme within the said terme of Seaven Yeeres upon request unto the said President and Counsell made, graunt unto them the said John Peirce and his Associates Undertakers and Planters their heires and assignes, Letters and Grauntes of Incorporacon by some usuall and fitt name and tytle with Liberty to them and their successors from tyme to tyme to make orders Lawes Ordynaunces and Constitucons for the rule governement ordering and dyrecting of all persons to be transported and settled upon the landes hereby graunted, intended to be graunted or hereafter to be granted and of the said Landes and proffittes thereby arrysing. And in the meane tyme untill such graunt made, It shalbe lawfull for the said John Peirce his Associates Undertakers and Planters their heires and assignes by consent of the greater part of them to establish such lawes and ordynaunces as are for their better governemt, and the same by such Officer or Officers as they shall by most voyces elect and choose to put in execucon And lastly the said President and Counsell do graunt and agree to and with the said John Peirce and his Associates and others contracted with and imployed as aforesaid their heires and assignes, That when they have planted the Landes hereby to them assigned and appoynted, That then it shalbe lawfull for them with the pryvitie and allowaunce of the President and Counsell as aforesaid to make choyce of and to enter into and have an addition of fiftie acres more for every person transported into New England wiht like reservacons condicons and pryviledges as are above granted to be had and chosen in such place or places where no English shalbe then setled or inhabiting or have made choyce of and the same entered into a booke of Actes at the tyme of such choyce so to be made or within thenne Myles of the same, excepting on the opposite side of some great Navigable Ryver as aforesaid. And that it shall and may be lawfull for the said John Peirce and his Associates their heires and assignes from tyme to tyme and at all tymes hereafter for their severall defence and savetie to encounter expulse repell and resist by force of Armes aswell by Sea as by Land and by all wayes and meanes whatsoever all such person or persons as without the especiall lycense of the said President or Counsell and their successors or the greater part of them shall attempt to inhabit within the severall presinctes and lymmyttes of their said Plantacon, Or shall enterpryse or attempt at any tyme hereafter distruccon, Invation, detryment or annoyaunce to the said Plantacon. And the said John Peirce and his associates and their heires and assignes do covennant and promyse to and with the said President and Counsell and their successors, That they the said John Peirce and his Associates from tyme to tyme during the said Seaven Yeeres shall make a true Certificat to the said President and Counsell and their successors from the chief Officers and the places respectyvely of every person transported and landed in New England or shipped as aforesaid to be entered by the Secretary of the said President and Counsell into a Register book for that purpose to be kept And the said John Peirce and his Associates Jointly and severally for them their heires and assignes do covennant promyse and graunt to and with the said President and Counsell and their successors That the persons transported to this their particuler Plantacon shall apply themselves and their Labors in a large and competent manner to the planting setting making and procuring of good and staple commodyties in and upon the said Land hereby graunted unto them as Corne and silkgrasse hemp flaxe pitch and tarre sopeashes and potashes Iron Clapbord and other the like materialls. In witnes whereof the said President and Counsell have to the one part of this pnte Indenture sett their seales And to th'other part hereof the said John Peirce in the name of himself and his said Associates have sett to his seale geven the day and yeeres first above written.
Lenox Hamilton Warwick Sheffield Ferd: Gorges
The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth Colony in the fall of 1620. The legal basis for the colony was a series of patents: (1) the patent of 2 February 1619/20 issued by the Virginia Company to John PEIRCE, who was acting on behalf of the Adventurers; (2) the patent of 1 June 1621 issued by the Council for New England to John PEIRCE and his associates; and (3) the patent of 13 January 1629/30 issued by the Council for New England to William BRADFORD and "his heirs, associates, and assigns" (sometimes referred to as the Bradford Patent, or the Warwick Patent, after the Earl of Warwick). The 1620 PEIRCE Patent was lost, its provisions unknown, but became invalid once the colonists settled outside the Virginia territory. PEIRCE was the principal financial backer of the Paragon, whose voyages to bring new settlers to New England were aborted at least twice in 1622 and 1623 by tempestuous storms, and PEIRCE suffered great losses as a result. This appears to be the reason why, as one of the Adventurers wrote to BRADFORD on 9 April 1623, that at great cost "we have got Mr. John PEIRCE to assigne over the grand patente to the companie," he charging them £500 for what had cost him £50.1 (Stratton…)
John the Patentee, (who may have been an uncle instead of a brother to the others.) was a merchant of London. He was the owner of the historic Mayflower. An association of merchants, with John Pierce at their head, secured a patent in 1620 from the Virginia Company for the use of the Mayflower colonists, who then expected to settle in Virginia. When the Mayflower returned in the spring of 1621, with the news of the change of base, John Pierce obtained a new grant or patent to Plymouth Colony, dated June 1, 1621. He himself started for the new world in the shop Paragon, but it proved unseaworthy and put back. He then sent the patent on the ship Good Fortune, which reached Plymouth Nov. 11, 1621. In remained in London, ** 16 footnote follows **So say all authorities but one, I find no trace of him in America.]} but used his means and ships in building up the colony.