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Information Connection: The Mayflower Compact

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THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT

"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. 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."

There followed the signatures of 41 of the 102 passengers, 37 of whom were members of the "Separatists" who were fleeing religious persecution in Europe. This compact established the first basis in the new world for written laws. Half the colony failed to survive the first winter, but the remainder lived on and prospered.

 

Comments on the Mayflower Compact

This was not, as some people believe, a precursor to the United States Constitution. It was the governing document for the Plymouth Colony. And, unlike the United States Constitution (which sets forth the enumerated powers of, and constraints upon, the federal government of the agreeing states), it was a document governing the people. It was signed in 1620.

We now celebrate the winter survival of Plymouth Colony with Thanksgiving Day every November. The Plymouth Colony was named such for the port from which the Pilgrims departed, in Plymouth, England.

The Compact was created to resolve a conflict, namely the Mayflower arrived at the wrong destination (by choice) and some of the Pilgrims decided that gave them the right of using "their own liberty," while others said that was not at all the case.

What about those 41 signatures? According to Nathaniel Morton in his 1669 New England's Memorial, they were as follows below. Note that Nathaniel Morton was William Bradford's nephew and that William originally wrote out the list by hand. William was a leader of the Pilgrims, and lived from 1590 to 1657.

Note also that these are 41 men. It was a vastly different time then, and women didn't sign such things. They were essentially chattel. Among the 102 passengers were 18 adult women. There were 50 men on the Mayflower, and the 41 below signed the Compact:

  • John Carver
  • William Bradford
  • Edward Winslow
  • William Brewster
  • Isaac Allerton
  • Miles Standish
  • John Alden
  • Samuel Fuller
  • Christopher Martin
  • William Mullins
  • William White
  • Richard Warren
  • John Howland
  • Stephen Hopkins
  • Edward Tilly
  • John Tilly
  • Francis Cooke (sic)
  • Thomas Rogers
  • Thomas Tinker
  • John Ridgdale
  • Edward Fuller
  • John Turner
  • Francis Eaton
  • James Chilton
  • John Craxton (sic)
  • John Billington
  • Joses Fletcher (sic)
  • John Goodman
  • Digery Priest (sic)
  • Thomas Williams
  • Gilbert Winslow
  • Edmund Margeson
  • Peter Brown
  • Richard Bitteridge (sic)
  • George Soule
  • Richard Clark (sic)
  • Richard Gardiner
  • John Allerton
  • Thomas English
  • Edward Doten (sic)
  • Edward Leister

 



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