Cambridge Agreement

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CAMBRIDGE AGREEMENT. In Cambridge, England, on 26 August 1629, twelve Puritan members of the Massachusetts Bay Company led by John Winthrop signed an agreement in which they pledged to emigrate with their families to New England. The signers of the Cambridge Agreement insisted that the company charter be transferred to the New World and that it serve as the new colony's constitution. This was an unprecedented demand since, traditionally, a board in England governed chartered colonies. A few days later, the company's general court passed a motion to transfer the company and the charter to New England, thus making the Massachusetts Bay Company the only English colonizing company without a governing board in England. Subsequently, all stockholders who were unwilling to settle in America sold their shares to those who were willing to make the voyage. By taking the charter with them, the Puritans shifted the focus of the company from trade to religion, and they guaranteed that the Crown would not compromise their religious freedom in America.

In spring 1630, Winthrop and approximately one hundred followers set sail for the New World in the Arbella. The group arrived in Massachusetts in June 1630 and soon was joined by other English emigrants. By the end of the year, two thousand English-born colonists lived in Massachusetts. The voyage of the Arbella marked the beginning of a ten-year period of massive emigration from England known as the Great Migration. By the end of the decade, approximately eighty thousand men, women, and children had left England, and twenty thousand of them had settled in Massachusetts.


Pomfret, John E., with Floyd M. Shumway. Founding the American Colonies, 1583–1660. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

Jennifer L.Bertolet

See alsoGreat Migration ; Massachusetts Bay Colony ; Puritans and Puritanism .

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Cambridge Agreement

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