The mayflower compact



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THE MAYFLOWER COMPACT

The Mayflower Compact was signed on 11 November 1620 on board the Mayflower, which was at anchor in Provincetown Harbor.  The document was drawn up in response to "mutinous speeches" that had come about because the Pilgrims had intended to settle in Northern Virginia, but the decision was made after arrival to instead settle in New England.  Since there was no government in place, some felt they had no legal obligation to remain within the colony and supply their labor.  The Mayflower Compact attempted to temporarily establish that government until a more official one could be drawn up in England that would give them the right to self-govern themselves in New England.

Although the Compact in practical terms had little influence on subsequent American documents, John Quincy Adams, does call the Mayflower Compact the foundation of the U.S. Constitution in a speech given in 1802 (but this was in principle more than in substance). He described the agreement as “the only instance in human history of that positive, original, social compact.”

The Mayflower Compact was first published in 1622. William Bradford wrote a copy of the Mayflower Compact down in his History Of Plymouth Plantation which he wrote from 1630-1654 (that is the version provided below). Neither version gave the names of the signers. Nathaniel Morton in his New England's Memorial, published in 1669, was the first to record and publish the names of the signers.

The original Mayflower Compact has never been found, and is assumed destroyed. If it indeed survived, it was likely a victim of Revolutionary War looting, along with other such Pilgrim valuables as Bradford's now lost Register of Births and Deaths, his partially recovered Letterbook, and his entirely recovered History Of Plymouth Plantation.

The term "Mayflower Compact" was not assigned to this document until 1793. Previously it had been called "an association and agreement" (William Bradford), "combination" (Plymouth Colony Records), "solemn contract" (Thomas Prince, 1738), and "the covenant" (Rev. Charles Turner, 1774).



Original Version



Transcribed Version

In ye name of God Amen· We whose names are vnderwriten,
the loyall subjects of our dread soueraigne Lord King James
by ye grace of God, of great Britaine, franc, & Ireland king,
defender of ye faith, &c

Haueing vndertaken, for ye glorie of God, and aduancemente


of ye christian ^faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to
plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia· doe
by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and
one of another, couenant, & combine our selues togeather into a
ciuill body politick; for ye our better ordering, & preseruation & fur=
therance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte,
constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances,
Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought
most meete & conuenient for ye generall good of ye colonie:  vnto
which we promise all due submission and obedience.  In witnes
wherof we haue herevnder subscribed our names at Cap=
Codd ye ·11· of Nouember, in ye year of ye raigne of our soueraigne
Lord king James of England, france, & Ireland ye eighteenth
and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom ·1620·|


Modern Translation
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 advancements 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 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 hereunto 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, 1620.

Type your thoughts to the following on a separate sheet of paper: Why might have John Quincy Adams referred to the Mayflower Compact as the foundation of the U. S. Constitution?


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