Primary Source: The Mayflower Compact

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Perhaps the most famous ship in American history, the Mayflower delivered Puritan English settlers to the eastern coast of Massachusetts in 1620. This began the first colonization of New England. Updated: 09/30/2020

The Mayflower Compact

In the year 1620, English society was torn between religious disputes. Conflict between Catholicism and Anglicism (the Church of England) would, in a short time, push the nation into full civil war, while disputes within Anglicism itself also ruptured the social order. Some religious groups, unhappy with English political and moral law, chose to sail across the Atlantic in search of a new home in where they could maintain their own laws and norms as they saw fit. The first and most famous of these were known as the Pilgrims, who traveled in a ship named the Mayflower and planned to make a new home in northern Virginia.

Travel conditions for the Mayflower were extremely harsh. There was no guarantee that passengers would survive the weeks-long voyage, as problems such as poor navigation, sickness, storms, or running out of supplies had the potential to doom the expedition. What's more, the voyagers were ill-equipped to survive a passage in late autumn, when the weather turned cold and the seas became rough.

Upon sighting land (farther north than they had planned), the Pilgrims were so overjoyed at having completed their voyage that they gave praise to God and wrote out a compact, a covenant between members who would be the leaders of the new community. The signatories to the Mayflower Compact are all men. While they brought along wives, sisters, and daughters on the voyage, these women had no political rights to vote or make decisions, and no American woman would be able to vote for another three centuries. Let's look at it now.

Text of the Mayflower Compact

At Sea

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

November, 1620

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 England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&.

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