The Mayflower Compact: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Philip McMurry

Philip has taught college history, English, and political science, and he has a doctorate in American history.

In this lesson, we'll examine the reasons for the Pilgrims move to Plymouth in 1620, and their establishment of the Mayflower Compact as the governing document of their colony.

Getting a Fresh Start

Imagine what it would be like to leave your home and move to a completely different country. How would it feel to have new neighbors who spoke a different language, had different customs, and ate different food? How would you react? Well, the document called the Mayflower Compact came from a very similar set of events. It was a document that united a group of English colonists in the New World under a single representative government.

A Difficult Time

In the early 1600s, there was great religious confusion in England because Catholics and Protestants were both struggling to dominate, or take over, the religious and political life of the country. Stuck in the middle was the Church of England (or the Anglican Church), which attempted to maintain some Catholic practices, but separated from the Catholic leadership in Rome.

The creators of the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrims, were a group of English dissenters, which meant that they disagreed with some of the practices of the Church of England, specifically the practices that were similar to Catholicism. However, the king of England, James I, supported the Anglican Church and sometimes dealt harshly with dissenters. Believing that they would never be free from persecution, or punishment, at the hands of the English government, the Pilgrims decided to find a new place to live. They fled to Holland in 1608, planning to find ships to take them to the New World.

A New Home

After several mishaps, the Pilgrims set sail for the New World aboard a ship called the Mayflower in September 1620. Numbering just 102 individuals, they arrived off the coast of what is today Massachusetts in November so it was very cold. They were tired after the long journey of 66 days across the Atlantic Ocean. They were able to establish friendly relations with the Native Americans in the area and began to make plans to establish their new colony.

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