The British American colonies were created through the use of royal charters granted to companies. Individual companies could be formed in order to sell stocks and gather volunteers to travel to North America and found a settlement. These companies would attempt to obtain a royal charter granting them a specific area within North America for their colonial endeavor. The companies would be expected to turn an economic profit, which could be repaid to their investors after a certain amount of time. However, some colonies (namely Pennsylvania and Rhode Island) were founded to provide a specific purpose rather than to seek profits.
One colony, Massachusetts, was initially founded without a royal charter since the Pilgrims initially set out for the Virginia colony before landing at Plymouth Rock. They created the Mayflower Compact to govern their small settlement, though it was later incorporated into the charter granted to the Massachusetts Bay company.