The Mayflower Compact was signed on November 11, 1620. It was the first written framework of government established in what is now the United States. The Mayflower, however, was a small ship that set sail from England in July 1620. It had to turn back twice because of a leak that the Speedwell, a ship the Mayflower was sailing with, produced.
After more than two months, the Mayflower finally arrived in Cape Cod on November 11. The 1620 agreement (first called the Mayflower Compact in 1793) 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.
When the Pilgrims left England, they obtained permission from the King of England to settle on land further to the south near the mouth of the Hudson River (in present-day New York). Because they chose to remain where they landed in New England, they needed a new permission (called a patent) to settle there. 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.
In 1802, John Quincy Adams described the agreement as “the only instance in human history of that positive, original, social compact” and it is popularly believed to have influenced the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.