Plymouth Colony's Mayflower Compact

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Dissatisfied with the Church of England, the Pilgrims, a group of poor, largely uneducated English religious separatists, had already relocated to Amsterdam and Leiden in Holland before deciding in 1617 to emigrate to the New World. On 16 September 1620, having secured an essential patent from the London Company, 102 passengers began their historic sixty-five-day voyage aboard a single ship, the 180-ton Mayflower. They were headed for Virginia but got blown off course and instead decided to found their colony in Cape Cod in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They called the colony Plymouth after the harbor in England from which they departed for the New World.

Since the new location for their colony was outside the areas claimed by the two chartered joint-stock companies, they considered themselves technically independent and created their own government under the Mayflower Compact. It was a legal instrument that bound the Pilgrims together when they arrived in New England. The core members of the Pilgrims' immigrant group were Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, the only legal church in England at that time. Others in the group, however, had remained part of the Church of England, so not all of the Pilgrims shared the same religion. On November 11, 1620, needing to maintain order and establish a civil society while they waited for this new patent, the male passengers signed the Mayflower Compact, a church covenant modified for civic use, represents an early attempt to establish written laws in an American colony.

The Mayflower Compact is in essence a social contract because of its principle that a government's authority derives from the consent of the governed. The signers of the Compact stated that the authority to make laws in the colony was also based on the fact that the inhabitants consented to follow the compact's rules and regulations for the sake of survival. The settlers would subordinate...
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