THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT

There were 104 people that boarded the ship Mayflower to head for the New World. The Mayflower journey is historically very important. It was the beginning of the second Colony, the Plymouth Plantation, and our country’s foundation as a Christian Nation. We will see our form of government taking place here, albeit a seed in the form of a signed agreement called the Mayflower Compact.

The people, known as the Pilgrims (English Separatist) [1], had escaped religious persecution in England. They fled to Holland for religious freedom, but after a while (about 12 years) decided to leave due to ungodly influences on their children. They charted the Mayflower, a cargo ship that sailed between the ports of Europe, to be transported to the Hudson River, what is now New York City. The ship was under the command of Christopher Jones. It was approximately 100 feet in length, and 25 feet in breadth and was a typical vessel of the time. There were about 30 crew members. Another important fact is that not all the 104 passengers were Pilgrims. Some were ‘strangers’ [1], simply meaning they were not English Separatists. What is important about this voyage is the fact the passengers had received permission to set up a colony in Virginia by the London Company. They spent 66 days sailing to reach the New World from the English port. Two people died while on the voyage, one passenger and one crew member, leaving 102 passengers arriving in the New World.

Land was sighted on November 9, 1620. On November 11, 1620, while in the cabin of the Mayflower, in what is now Provincetown Harbor near Cape Cod, The Mayflower Compact was written and signed. Some of the passengers had begun to question the authority of the group’s leaders now that they had arrived in the New World. Before the Pilgrims sailed, they were granted a charter that authorized them to start a settlement in the northern part of the Virginia Colony. However, since they were in Massachusetts instead of Virginia, the charter was no longer considered valid, and leaders worried about a possible mutiny. The Mayflower Document was originally drawn up to be an interim governing document between charters. The Pilgrims eventually requested a new charter, and in 1621 they were granted the Second Peirce Patent. However, the Mayflower Compact remained in effect until 1691. [2]

Governor William Bradford said this about The Mayflower Compact,

“This day, before we came to harbour, observing some not well affected to unity and concord, but gave some appearance of faction, it was thought good there should be an association and agreement, that we should combine together in one body and to submit to such government and governors as we should by common consent agree to make and choose, and set our hands to this that follows, word for word.” [2]

The original Mayflower Compact document has been lost. Governor William Bradford, however, wrote a history of Plymouth Colony, and we have his version of the document. Originally written in King’s English, the version below is from the National Constitution Center website at: http://constitutioncenter.org/ncc_edu_Mayflower_Compact.aspx

Composed by William Bradford
Adopted November 11, 1620

[This Compact, drawn up in the cabin of the Mayflower, was not a constitution, a document defining and limiting the functions of government. It was, however, the germ of popular government in America.

“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 Great Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor 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 politic, 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 hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the 11 of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.” [3]

We’ll follow this accounting with the foundation of the Plymouth Plantation in our next blog.

[1] Bradford, William (1898) [1651]. Hildebrandt, Ted. ed (PDF). Bradford’s History “Of Plimoth Plantation”. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co.; Publication is online at:
http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/NEReligiousHistory/Bradford-Plimoth/Bradford-PlymouthPlantation.pdf
[2] Various compiled history accounts
[3] Journal of the Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford, as reprinted in 1864 (The Old English is translated into modern English for this article).

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