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Mayflower Compact

Page history last edited by Andrea Brownstein 12 years, 1 month ago


The Mayflower Compact, signed aboard the May-flower on 11 November 1620 by the ship's forty-one free adult men, served as the basis for Plymouth Colony's government throughout its history. As the Mayflower's passengers had settled in New England, their patent for establishing a colony in Virginia was useless. The Pilgrim colony thus had no legal foundation, and some non-Pilgrim passengers talked of striking out on their own, ignoring Governor John Carver's now ambiguous authority. If the Pilgrims were to have a colony at all, they needed to establish a government based on some sort of consensus, and they turned to the model of their own congregational churches for guidance. The colonists would form a "body politic," which would select and wholly submit to leaders chosen by the majority, just as members of Pilgrim congregations each elected their own ministers and governed themselves. Thus, in the name of King James I, did the settlers "Covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation." The compact was put into practice when John Carver was confirmed as the colony's first governor.

"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620."



Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647. Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison. 2 vols. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968




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