Monday, December 19, 2005

From Cape Cod Today - Mayflower Compact

Anchored in Provincetown Harbor 385 years ago this week, after 66 harrowing days at sea in a leaking former wine vessel, the "Pilgrims", "Saints" or "Separatists " a they were variously called, signed the Mayflower Compact.

The Compact is often described as America's first constitution, but it is not a constitution in the sense of being a fundamental framework of government. Its importance lies in the signers' belief that government is a form of covenant between elected leaders and those governed, and that for government to be legitimate, it must derive from the consent of the governed. That was an original and astonishing idea at the time.

The Pilgrims, on their first day in Provincetown, recognized that individually they might not agree with all of the actions of the government they were creating, but they understood that government could be legitimate only if it originated with the consent of those it claimed to govern. Therefore they wrote what we call The Mayflower Compact.

Here is the short, simple beginning of America's democracy on November 21, 1620:

"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 England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&.

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 of 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 to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, 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."

The Compact was signed by 41 of the Mayflower's 102 passengers (women, children and the 30 crewmen didn't get to vote). 37 of the signers were "Separatists" fleeing religious persecution in Europe. The compact established the first basis for written laws in the New World. Half of the passengers did not survive the first winter, but the remainder lived on and prospered.
Cape Cod Today

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