English colonists to the New World wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620 (according to the “Old Style” Julian calendar). This brief document, signed by forty-one adult males, in effect established a framework for the first European government in the New World. The original document was lost, but William Bradford, Plymouth Colony’s second governor, included a transcription in his journal, Of Plymouth Plantation (1646), that is regarded as authoritative.
The arrival of the Mayflower on the eastern shore of America in 1620 has endured as a symbol of the desire for religious freedom that caused many early colonists to undertake the arduous voyage from Europe to the New World. Many of the Mayflower’s passengers were English Separatists, often called Puritans because they wanted to “purify” the Church of England. Another term applied to the Separatists was “nonconforming,” meaning that they refused to conform to the organization, traditions, and forms of...
Signing of the Mayflower Compact (Library of Congress)View Full Size