Wednesday 21 November 2018

mayflower compact

On this day in 1620, adjusted for the late-adoption of the Gregorian calendar by England, whilst anchored in Provincetown Harbor—on the spit of Cape Cod which was most likely initially settled and abandoned by Viking Thorvald Eiriksson six centuries earlier—a congress of religious separatists and tradesmen signed a covenant drafted at sea before traveling on to establish Plymouth Colony.
The vessel, the Mayflower, was originally bound for the Colony of Virginia but bad weather and dwindling supplies forced the ship to divert to Massachusetts territory and disagreement soon erupted among the mixed manifest of pilgrims and non-pilgrims (whom the Puritans, styling themselves “Saints,” referred to as “Strangers”)—with the traders interested in conducting business and not overly concerned with theological liberties which bordered on contempt for the English crown. A governing document would help promote civility and establish norms for the sake of the community and for all the settlers. The original Mayflower Compact was lost but contemporary transcriptions capture what forty-one of the hundred and one passengers assented to and ratified:

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 Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour 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 another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, 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 hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.