The Mayflower Compact
November 11, 1620
The following is a very careful letter-for-letter and line-by-line transcription made by me of the Mayflower Compact, as it is found in the original page of William Bradford's History Of Plymouth Plantation. Keep in mind this is exactly as it was written by Bradford, as best as can be represented by modern-day computer characters. Most readers will be more familiar with one of the modernized versions of the Mayflower Compact, which can be found in just about any encyclopedia or almanac. If you wish to see a high resolution scan of Bradford's original, along with scans of known Pilgrim signatures, you can go to my extremely graphics-intensive Mayflower Compact page to view them.
In ye name of God Amen· We whose names are vnderwriten, the loyall subjects of our dread soueraigne Lord King James by ye grace of God, of great Britaine, franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c
Haueing vndertaken, for ye glorie of God, and aduancemente of ye christian ^faith and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia· doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, couenant, & combine our selues togeather into a ciuill body politick; for ye our better ordering, & preseruation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & conuenient for ye generall good of ye colonie: vnto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnes wherof we haue herevnder subscribed our names at Cape Codd ye ·11· of Nouember, in ye year of ye raigne of our soueraigne Lord king James of England, france, & Ireland ye eighteenth and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom ·1620·|
The Names of the Subscribers of the Mayflower Compact
As given by Nathaniel Morton (1669) and Thomas Prince (1736)
John Carver Edward Tilly Digery Priest
William Bradford John Tilly Thomas Williams
Edward Winslow Francis Cooke Gilbert Winslow
William Brewster Thomas Rogers Edmund Margeson
Isaac Allerton Thomas Tinker Peter Brown
Miles Standish John Ridgdale Richard Britteridge
John Alden Edward Fuller George Soule
Samuel Fuller John Turner Richard Clarke
Christopher Martin Francis Eaton Richard Gardiner
William Mullins James Chilton John Allerton
William White John Crackstone Thomas English
Richard Warren John Billington Edward Doten
John Howland Moses Fletcher Edward Leister
Stephen Hopkins John Goodman
History behind the Mayflower Compact
The Mayflower Compact was signed on 11 November 1620 on board the Mayflower which was at anchor in Provincetown Harbor. The Mayflower Compact was drawn up after the London and Leyden contingents started factionalizing, and there were worries of a possible mutiny by some of the passengers.
The primary argument was over the fact the Pilgrims were supposed to have settled in Northern Virginia, near present-day Long Island, New York. Northern Virginia was governed by the English. But if the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth, there would be no government in place there. The Mayflower Compact established that government, by creating a "civil body politic". In a way, this was the first American Constitution, though the Compact in practical terms had little influence on subsequent American documents. John Quincy Adams, a descendant of Mayflower passenger John Alden, does call the Mayflower Compact the foundation of the U.S. Constitution in a speech given in 1802, but he meant in principle more than in substance. In reality, the Mayflower Compact was superseded in authority by the 1621 Peirce Patent, which not only gave the Pilgrims the right to self-government at Plymouth, but had the significant advantage of being authorized by the King of England.
The Mayflower Compact was first published in 1622 in Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. William Bradford wrote a copy of the Mayflower Compact down in his History Of Plymouth Plantation which he wrote from 1630-1654, and that is the version given above. Neither version gave the names of the signers. Nathaniel Morton in his New England's Memorial, published in 1669, was the first to record and publish the names of the signers, and Thomas Prince in his Chronological History of New England in the form of Annals (1736) recorded the signers names as well, as did Thomas Hutchinson in 1767. It is unknown whether the later two authors had access to the original document, or whether they were simply copying Nathaniel Morton's list of signers.
The original Mayflower Compact has never been found, and is assumed destroyed. Thomas Prince may have had access to the original in 1736, and possibly Thomas Hutchinson did in 1767. William Bradford's History, Letter-book, Register, and possibly the Mayflower Compact may have all fallen victim to Revolutionary War looting. Bradford's History was found in 1854 in London, England; his Letter-book in 1796 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Register and Mayflower Compact have never been located.
The term "Mayflower Compact" was not assigned to this document until 1793, when for the first time it is called the Compact in Alden Bradford's A Topographical Description of Duxborough, in the County of Plymouth. Previously it had been called "an association and agreement" (William Bradford), "combination" (Plymouth Colony Records), "solemn contract" (Thomas Prince, 1738), and "the covenant" (Rev. Charles Turner, 1774).
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