Great American Documents: The Mayflower Compact

Thanksgiving. Pilgrims. The Mayflower.  Elementary school history.  Even Charles Shultz created a Peanut’s TV show for Thanksgiving based on the Mayflower.  A few of facts that missed over the past 50 years of celebrating this group of colonists are that they were originally chartered as part of the Virginia Company, but ocean winds directed them north to Cape Code where the landed erroneously.  In addition to be Puritans they were also Separatists, which essentially made them a splinter group of a splinter group.  Only a couple of them would die enroute (pretty good, in an era in which 30% – 40% of passengaers died at sea), but half died the first winter (Novermber is a losy time to set up camp on the New England coast).  Their ranks would be scattered into the Massecheusettes Company (remember John Winthrop ?), regardless of what the Mayflower Society would like us to think.  And, the leaders doubted the loyalty of the group, and therefore drafted the Mayflower Compact while at sea on November 21, 1620.

Our American political dialogue likes to wave the flags of liberty and rugged individualism.  We hold strong beliefs, and at times, even guide our behavior with these beliefs.  However, a little pragmatism with the Mayflower passengers might have been wiser than fervent values.  One passenger brought 126 pairs of shoes and 13 pairs of boots.  No one brought a plow, horse, cow, or fishing line, which would have been more useful that extra food wear.

While multiple clause preambles were the rhetorical style of the day, the Mayflower Compact basically boils down to “we promise all due submission and obedience”.  So much for liberty.  But, this was not a reality TV show in which at the end one survivor remain.  For a group to survive, all much set aside personal position and gain.  However, somehow, when reading the Compact, I am reminded of the 185 page Open Enrolement information that I am wading through currently to try to decide which package of health insurance to have for next year.  I doubt that this will be a covetted document 400 years from now, but it is a Compact which may determine my survival rate should I have health issues in the next year.  It, too, is full of clauses and preambles, which boil down to “get your health screenings, follow your doctor’s advice, obtain pre-authorization, pay your deductables and co-pays, and it will cost you more if you get health care out of network”.

Thus has been and is our challenge: have liberty and fend for yourself, or submit to authority and trust that society will be there for you.  In either case, you still have lots of clauses and preambles.

I’m going to transcribe the Mayflower Compact in Olde English.  Remember that “v’s” and “u’s” are interchangable, and spelling is about as consistent at texting spelling. 🙂

The Mayflower Compact

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 & mutually in ye presence of God, and one another, couenant, and combine our selues togeather intoa ciuill body politick; for our better ordering, & preseruation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordiancees, Acts, and constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and conuentient fro ye generall good of ye colonie: vnto which we promise all due submission and obedience.  In witnes wherof we haue hereunder subscribed our names as Cap-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 of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano Dom 1620.

Great American Dococuments


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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