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Transcript of Mayflower Compact
The Mayflower Compact, signed by 41 English colonists on the ship Mayflower on November 11, 1620, was the first written framework of government established in what is now the United States. The compact was drafted to prevent dissent amongst Puritans and non-separatist Pilgrims who had landed at Plymouth a few days earlier.
In basic terms, the Mayflower Compact was a social contract whereby the forty-one men who signed it agreed to abide by the new government's laws in exchange for shared protection. Unfortunately, the original document has been lost. William Bradford included a transcription of the document in his book, Of Plymouth Plantation.
The Mayflower Compact was the foundational document for the Plymouth Colony. The fact that it was a covenant whereby the settlers would subordinate their rights to follow laws passed by the government to ensure protection and survival made it a unique document. As previously stated, it set a precedent and was indeed an influential document for the founding fathers as they created the US Constitution.
What is it?
Where is it?
The original Mayflower Compact has been lost, perhaps falling victim to Revolutionary War looting. The text was first published in London in 1622 in A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceeding of the English Plantation Settled at Plymouth in New England. A copy of it is found in William Bradford's handwritten history, Of Plymouth Plantation, made about 1630. And Nathaniel Morton, secretary for Plymouth Colony, published it, along with the earliest known list of the signers, in his history, New England's Memorial, published in 1669. A list of signers is also found in Thomas Prince's 1736 book, Chronological History of New England; and Thomas Hutchinson published a list of signers in 1767 as well. It is uncertain if they had access to the original, or were basing their list of signers off Nathaniel Morton's.
An agreement reached by the Pilgrims on the ship the Mayflower in 1620, just before they landed at Plymouth Rock. The Mayflower Compact bound them to live in a civil society according to their own laws. It remained the fundamental law of their colony of Plymouth until the colony was absorbed into Massachusetts in the late seventeenth century.
The Mayflower Compact created a belief that self-government could indeed work, so when representatives came together at the Constitutional Convention to create the document that would govern a young nation, the concepts outlined in 1620 were obviously in mind. The democratic government that would shape and govern the United States was created by the first English settlers in the “New World” when they watched their settlement grow. As leaders were elected to represent segments of the population in various townships, the idea took shape.
Historians often credit the creation of the Mayflower Compact as the first steps toward creating a free nation. Certain phrases citing “for the general good of the Colony” and “just and equal laws” ensured that the monarchy that so many had endured would not reach to the newfound settlements. However, this wasn’t the full intention. Instead, the authors mentioned loyalty to King James in the document, and only sought to ensure cohesiveness and order. Though unaware of the impact at the time, these phrases would inspire an entire nation, leading to a Republic government and a revolt against the king of England.