The Mayflower Compact
The “Mayflower Compact” was signed on 11 November 1620 onboard the Mayflower shortly after she came to anchor off Provincetown Harbor. The Pilgrims had obtained permission from English authorities to settle in Virginia, whose northern border at the time extended up to what is now New York. The Pilgrims had originally intended to settle near the mouth of the Hudson River, but due to dangerous shoals and a near shipwreck on their attempt to head south, they decided instead to plant themselves outside the bounds of the Virginia Company patent–which caused some “mutinous speeches” amongst some of the passengers. The Mayflower Compact was an attempt to establish a temporary, legally-binding form of self-government until such time as the Company could get formal permission from the Council of New England. This formal permission came in the form of the Pierce Patent of 1621.
The original Mayflower Compact has been lost, perhaps falling victim to Revolutionary War looting. The text was first published in London in 1622 in A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceeding of the English Plantation Settled at Plymouth in New England. A copy of it is found in William Bradford’s handwritten history, Of Plymouth Plantation, made about 1630. And Nathaniel Morton, secretary for Plymouth Colony, published it, along with the earliest known list of the signers, in his history, New England’s Memorial, published in 1669. A list of signers is also found in Thomas Prince’s 1736 book, Chronological History of New England; and Thomas Hutchinson published a list of signers in 1767 as well. It is uncertain if they had access to the original, or were basing their list of signers off Nathaniel Morton’s.
The following is an image of the original handwritten page of Governor William Bradford’s history Of Plymouth Plantation. This is followed by an exact, line-by-line transcription. Spelling and punctuation have not been modernized.
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·|
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