Trouble arose on the Mayflower as the passengers prepared to step on land in the New World. They were about to settle outside the jurisdiction of the King. Some of the Strangers argued that this meant they were no longer obligated to remain with the Saints and honor their seven-year labor contracts. Indeed, there would be no laws in place to make sure they did.
The Strangers wanted to strike out on their own. Others recognized that if the group broke apart and scattered, they might all die in the wilderness. The Saints were determined to stop the brewing rebellion. Rather than struggle ashore in lawlessness, they suggested governing themselves until the King could issue an official charter.
They wrote an agreement called the Mayflower Compact, which the 41 male passengers signed. It was to serve as a temporary government until the King could issue an official charter. It merely bound both Saints and Strangers to join together to create, enforce, and obey laws by majority rule for the common good. The signers then elected a governor.
Although written in haste and desperation, the Mayflower Compact set a historical precedent in the New World. It created a government of the people, rather than between the people and a monarch. It eventually served as the foundation for the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
In ye name of God Amen· We whose names
are underwriten, the loyall subjects of our dread
soveraigne Lord King James by ye grace of God,
of great Britaine, franc, & Ireland king, defender
of ye faith, &c
Haveing undertaken, for ye glorie of God,
and advancemente 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;
covenant, & combine our selves togeather into
a civill body politick; for our better ordering,
& preservation & furtherance of ye ends
aforesaid; and by vertue hearof to enacte,
constitute, and frame such just & equall Lawes,
ordinances, Acts, constitutions, & offices, from
time to time, as shall be thought most meete
and convenient for ye generall good of ye
Colonie: unto which we promise all due
submission and obedience.
In witnes wherof we have hereunder subscribed
our names at Cap= Codd ye ·11· of November,
in ye year of ye raigne of ye soveraigne Lord
King James of England, france, & Ireland ye
eighteenth and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth.
Ano: Dom ·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 Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King defender
of the faith, etc.:
Having undertaken, for the glory of God,
and advancement of the Christian faith and the
honor 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 another;
covenant and combine ourselves together into
a civil body politic; 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 hereunder subscribed
our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November
in the year of the reign of the sovereign Lord
King James of England, France, and Ireland the
eighteenth and of Scotland the fifty-fourth
Ano: Dom ·1620·
"Ye" is the word the. In Old English, the TH sound was spelled with the letter thorn (þ). German-made printing presses did not have a þ, so printers substituted with a "y." The "y" eventually replaced þ in handwriting, as well.
There were no English spelling rules at the time. Writers spelled words (even names) phonetically, with great variation.
The original Mayflower Compact was lost, but William Bradford saved a rewritten copy and a list of the signers.
Ano Dom [anno Domini, A.D.] is Latin for "in the year of our Lord."
At the time of the signing, John Carver was elected first governor. He had negotiated the land charter and financial backing.
Plymouth never succeeded in getting a formal charter from the King.
The "temporary" Mayflower Compact remained in effect until 1691, when Plymouth merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony.