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The Mayflower Compact

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The Mayflower Compact was signed on November 11, 1620 in what is now

Provincetown Harbor near Cape Cod. The Mayflower Compact was the first governing

document of Plymouth Colony. It was drafted by the Pilgrims who crossed the

Atlantic aboard the Mayflower, seeking religious freedom. The settlers who came to

the New World brought with them a great deal of ideas and beliefs. Many of them,

such as the Puritans, came to America so they could live in "stricter accord" with

their beliefs.

After landing in Plymouth, many of the Pilgrims aboard realized that they were in

land uncharted by the London Company. For this reason the Mayflower Compact was

written and adopted, based upon a "majoritarian model and the settlers' allegiance to

the king." The Pilgrims knew that the English settlement founded a few years earlier

at Jamestown, Virginia had practically fallen because of the lack of a strong

government and leadership. They agreed they would not make that mistake, and

stated that once a government had been established, they would obey the

commands of its leaders. "The government, in return, would derive its power from

the consent of the Governed."

While making this compact, the Pilgrims drew upon two strong traditions. One was

the notion of a social contract, the other was the belief in covenants. Puritans

believed that covenants existed not only between God and man, but also between

man and man. The Pilgrims used covenants in establishing their congregations in

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the Old World. The Mayflower Compact is such a covenant in that the settlers agreed

to form a government and be bound by its rules. The Compact is often described as

America's first constitution, but it is not a Constitution. Its importance lies in the

belief that government is a form of covenant, and that for the government to be

legitimate, it must derive from the consent of the governed.

The original Mayflower Compact has never been found, and is assumed destroyed.

If it survived through the years, it was likely to be a victim of Revolutionary War

looting,

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