Official documents

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Primary Source: The Mayflower Compact
About Official Documents:
Official documents take many forms, including the text of a law or proclamation, government reports, and the minutes from a legislative meeting. Such documents are generally made public so the average citizen can read, analyze, and discuss them. In this way, citizens can become informed about actions that affect them and their communities.

As you read an official document, ask yourself these questions:
1. Who wrote this document, and what is the document's main purpose?
2. What situation gave rise to the creation of the document?

Inside the Mayflower
See a cut-away showing the passengers and crew of the Mayflower as they may have been during the 1620 voyage.

Old English
Spelling and usage in English have changed since 1620. The original Mayflower Compact has disappeared, but the version below shows the spelling and punctuation given in Of Plimoth Plantation, by William Bradford, second governor of Plymouth colony.

"In ye name of God Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James, by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c. Haveing undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente 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, covenant, & combine ourselves togeather into a Civill body politick; for our better ordering, & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hereof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just & equall Lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & convenient for ye generall good of ye colonie: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd ye -11- of November, in ye year of ye raigne of our soveraigne Lord King James of England, France, & Ireland ye eighteenth, and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano Dom. 1620."

The Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower reached what is now Provincetown Harbor, off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1620. Before the landing, 41 male passengers on the ship signed a binding agreement that set up a basis for self-government. This document became known as the Mayflower Compact.


Dread: awesome

Presents: this very document

Covenant: a binding agreement

Constitute: establish

Subscribed: signed
n the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal
subjects of the 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 afore said;
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 here under 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.


  1. What are the three reasons the colonists give for their voyage to the eastern seaboard of North America?

  1. What did the signers promise to do?

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