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Bradford's transcription of the compact
The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of Plymouth Colony. It was written by the colonists, later together known to history as the Pilgrims, who crossed the Atlanticmarker aboard the Mayflower. Almost half of the colonists were part of a separatist group seeking the freedom to practice Christianity according to their own determination and not the will of the English Church. It was signed on November 11, 1620 (OS) by 41 of the ship's more than one hundred passengers, in what is now Provincetown Harbormarker near Cape Codmarker.

Reasons for the Compact

The Mayflower was originally bound for the mouth of the Hudson River, in land granted in a patent from the Crown to the London Virginia Company. The decision was made instead to land farther north, in what is now Massachusettsmarker. This inspired some of the "strangers" (colonists who were not members of the congregation of religious dissenters leading the expedition) to proclaim that since the settlement would not be made in the agreed-upon Virginia territory, they "would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them...." To prevent this, many of the other colonists decided to establish a government. The Mayflower landed at Plymouthmarker (so named by Captain John Smith earlier) in November 1620. The settlers named their settlement "Plimouth" (also historically known as "Plimoth", an old English spelling of the name) after the major port city in Devon, England from which the Mayflower sailed.

The Mayflower Compact was based simultaneously upon a majoritarian model (even though the signers were not in the majority) and the settlers' allegiance to the king. It was in essence a social contract in which the settlers consented to follow the compact's rules and regulations for the sake of survival.

Text of the Mayflower Compact

The original document was lost, but the transcriptions in Mourt's Relation and William Bradford's journal Of Plymouth Plantation are in agreement and accepted as accurate. Bradford's hand written manuscript is kept in a special vault at the State Library of Massachusetts. Bradford's transcription is as follows:

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 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 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 11th 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.


The 'dread sovereign' referred to in the document used the archaic definition of dread—meaning awe and reverence (for the King), not fear.

Signers

The following list of 41 male passengers who signed was supplied by Bradford's nephew Nathaniel Morton in his 1669 New England's Memorial. There are no surviving first-hand accounts of this information.

The same list in the same order but with some corrections was provided by Thomas Prince in his 1736 A Chronological History of New-England in the form of Annals. Prince added the title Mr. to ten names, which he found in a list at the end of Governor Bradford's folio manuscript: Carver, Winslow, Brewster, Isaac Allerton, Samuel Fuller, Martin, Mullins, White, Warren, and Hopkins. He attributed the lack of Mr. Bradford to Bradford's modesty. He also added Capt. to Standish. He corrected the spelling of five names: John Crackston, Moses Fletcher, Degory Priest, Richard Briterige, and Ed Dotey. In addition, he spelled Francis Cook and Richard Clarke. However William Bradford's journal Of Plymouth Plantation is definitive that both Francis Cooke and Richard Clarke had an "e" at the end of their last names.

See also



References

  1. The Pilgrims used the Julian Calendar, also known as Old Style dates, which, at that time, was ten days behind the Gregorian Calendar, signing the covenant "ye .11. of November" [literal])
  2. State Library of Massachusetts Online catalog
  3. The Mayflower Compact (1620)
  4. The 1772 reprint of Morton has a totally different order.
  5. Thomas Prince, A Chronological History of New-England in the form of Annals (1736), pp. 83-85.


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