Three hundred and ninety-one years ago the Virginia Company of London gave a patent for a settlement to some London merchants headed by Thomas Weston. Over twenty-four families were sent over to America on a small, leaky ship, called The Mayflower. These colonists promised to send lumbers, furs, and fish back to the Weston for seven years. After these seven years, they would own the tract. The leaders of the expedition and half the members were Separatist Puritans that had withdrawn from the Church of England. In November of 1620, this ship landed at Plymouth bay in present-day Massachusetts. They had no legal right to be there, thus the leaders had all the adult males in the group sign a document known as the Mayflower Compact. This document constituted themselves as a “civil body politic” or government, thus establishing the Plymouth colony. The Mayflower Compact is commonly referred to as the beginning of American democracy and one the foundations of the US Constitution. The people of the expedition came together and agreed in a written document, rules that would govern their community as they began their new lives in America. It determined the distribution of authority and governed by fair laws. The Compact showed the equality of all in the group and allowed everyone to vote on decisions and be the source of the power locally. This type of government had already existed in Virginia, so the Pilgrims were not the first to use a democratic style of government in the new world, but they were one of the first groups to use this government and had a written document to go by. These occurrences influenced the American government today, as well as in the years to come.
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