The Mayflower Compact is signed in what is now Provincetown Harbor near Cape Cod.
The Mayflower Compact was a document signed by the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower ship on November 21, 1620, before they disembarked at Plymouth, in what is now Massachusetts. The Pilgrims were English Separatists who had fled religious persecution in England and sought religious freedom in the New World.
The Mayflower Compact was essentially a social contract among the Pilgrims, establishing a form of self-government for their new colony. It recognized the authority of King James I of England but asserted the Pilgrims’ intention to form a “civil body politic” and to enact just and equal laws for the general good of the colony. The compact was an early expression of the democratic principles that would later influence the development of the United States.
The Mayflower Compact is considered a significant historical document because it represents one of the earliest instances of self-governance in what would become the United States. It laid the groundwork for the development of democratic traditions in the American colonies and is often seen as a precursor to the more formal structures of government that would emerge in the years that followed.
The Mayflower departs from Southampton, England, carrying would-be settlers, on its first attempt to reach North America; it is forced to dock in Dartmouth when its companion ship, the Speedwell, springs a leak.
Pilgrims set sail on the Mayflower from England.
The Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists–half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs–had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November 21 the “Pilgrims” reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December.
Thirty-five of the Pilgrims were members of the radical English Separatist Church, who traveled to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, which they found corrupt. Ten years earlier, English persecution had led a group of Separatists to flee to Holland in search of religious freedom. However, many were dissatisfied with economic opportunities in the Netherlands, and under the direction of William Bradford they decided to immigrate to Virginia, where an English colony had been founded at Jamestown in 1607.
The Separatists won financial backing from a group of investors called the London Adventurers, who were promised a sizable share of the colony’s profits. Three dozen church members made their way back to England, where they were joined by about 70 entrepreneurs–enlisted by the London stock company to ensure the success of the enterprise. In August 1620, the Mayflower left Southampton with a smaller vessel–the Speedwell–but the latter proved unseaworthy and twice was forced to return to port. On September 16, the Mayflower left for America alone from Plymouth.
In a difficult Atlantic crossing, the 90-foot Mayflower encountered rough seas and storms and was blown more than 500 miles off course. Along the way, the settlers formulated and signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that bound the signatories into a “civil body politic.” Because it established constitutional law and the rule of the majority, the compact is regarded as an important precursor to American democracy. After a 66-day voyage, the ship landed on November 21 on the tip of Cape Cod at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The Mayflower sets sail from Southampton, England on its first attempt to reach North America.
The Mayflower was hired in London, and sailed from London to Southampton in July 1620 to begin loading food and supplies for the voyage–much of which was purchased at Southampton. The Pilgrims were mostly still living in the city of Leiden, in the Netherlands. They hired a ship called the Speedwell to take them from Delfshaven, the Netherlands, to Southampton, England, to meet up with the Mayflower. The two ships planned to sail together to Northern Virginia. The Speedwell departed Delfthaven on July 22, and arrived at Southampton, where they found the Mayflower waiting for them. The Speedwell had been leaking on her voyage from the Netherlands to England, though, so they spent the next week patching her up.
On August 5, the two ships finally set sail for America. But the Speedwell began leaking again, so they pulled into the town of Dartmouth for repairs, arriving there about August 12. The Speedwell was patched up again, and the two ships again set sail for America about August 21. After the two ships had sailed about 300 miles out to sea, the Speedwell again began to leak. Frustrated with the enormous amount of time lost, and their inability to fix the Speedwell so that it could be sea-worthy, they returned to Plymouth, England, and made the decision to leave the Speedwell behind. The Mayflower would go to America alone. The cargo on the Speedwell was transferred over to the Mayflower; some of the passengers were so tired and disappointed with all the problems that they quit and went home. Others crammed themselves onto the already very crowded Mayflower.
The Mayflower departs from Southampton, England on its first try to reach North America.
The Mayflower departs from Southampton for its first attempt to reach North America.
The Mayflower departs from Southampton, England for its first attempt to get to North America.