Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of Plymouth Colony. It was written by the male passengers of the Mayflower, consisting of separatist Puritans, adventurers, and tradesmen. The Puritans were fleeing from religious persecution by King James of England.

The Mayflower Compact was signed aboard ship on November 11, 1620. They used the Julian Calendar, also known as Old Style dates, which was ten days behind the Gregorian Calendar. Signing the covenant were 41 of the ship's 101 passengers[1][2] while the Mayflower was anchored in Provincetown Harbor within the hook at the northern tip of Cape Cod.[3]

The Mayflower Compact 1620 cph.3g07155
Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899

Reasons for the Compact

The Mayflower was originally bound for the Colony of Virginia, financed by the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London. Storms forced them to anchor at the hook of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, however, as it was unwise to continue with provisions running short. This inspired some of the non-Puritan passengers (whom the Puritans referred to as "Strangers") to proclaim that they "would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them" since they would not be settling in the agreed-upon Virginia territory.[4] To prevent this, the Pilgrims determined to establish their own government, while still affirming their allegiance to the Crown of England. Thus, the Mayflower Compact was based simultaneously upon a majoritarian model and the settlers' allegiance to the king. It was in essence a social contract in which the settlers consented to follow the community's rules and regulations for the sake of order and survival.[5]

The Pilgrims had lived for some years in Leiden, a city in the Dutch Republic. Historian Nathaniel Philbrick states, "Just as a spiritual covenant had marked the beginning of their congregation in Leiden, a civil covenant would provide the basis for a secular government in America."[6]


Mayflower Compact Bradford
Bradford's transcription of the Compact

The original document has been lost,[7] but three versions exist from the 17th century: printed in Mourt's Relation (1622),[8][9] which was reprinted in Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625);[10] hand-written by William Bradford in his journal Of Plimoth Plantation (1646);[11] and printed by Bradford's nephew Nathaniel Morton in New-Englands Memorial (1669).[7] The three versions differ slightly in wording and significantly in spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.[9] William Bradford wrote the first part of Mourt's Relation, including its version of the compact, so he wrote two of the three versions. The wording of those two versions is quite similar, unlike that of Morton. Bradford's handwritten manuscript is kept in a vault at the State Library of Massachusetts.[12]

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, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour 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 Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, 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 hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.[13]

The document was signed under the Old Style Julian calendar, since England did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752. The Gregorian date would be November 21.


1920 U.S. postage stamp depicting the signing of the compact

A list of 41 male passengers who signed the document was supplied by Bradford's nephew Nathaniel Morton in his 1669 New England's Memorial. Thomas Prince first numbered the names in his 1736 A Chronological History of New-England in the form of Annals.[1] The original document has been lost, so Morton is the sole source for the signers. He probably had access to the original document, but he could not have known the actual order in which it was signed simply by inspecting it. Morton's arrangement of names might not have been the arrangement on the original document, and the names on the original may not have been arranged in any orderly fashion. Prince's numbers are based solely on Morton, as he himself stated.[7]

Morton's list of names was unnumbered and untitled in all six editions (1669–1855), although their order changed with successive editions. In his original 1669 edition, the names were placed on two successive pages forming six short columns, three per page.[7] In subsequent editions, these six short columns were combined into three long columns on a single page in two different ways, producing two different orders in unnumbered lists of signers. The second (1721) and third (1772) editions changed the order of the first edition by combining the first and fourth columns into the first long column, and similarly for the other columns. The fifth (1826) and sixth (1855) editions returned the names to their original first edition order by combining the first and second short columns into the first long column, and similarly for the other columns. Prince numbered the names in their original 1669 Morton order. He added titles (Mr. or Capt.) to 11 names that were given those titles by William Bradford in the list of passengers at the end of his manuscript.[1][11]

The following list of signers is organized into the six short columns of Morton (1669) with the numbers and titles of Prince. The names are given their modern spelling according to Morison.[14] Use the numbers for the order used by genealogists and half of unnumbered lists (Samuel Fuller will be the eighth name), but merge the half columns vertically into full columns for the order used by the other half of unnumbered lists (John Turner will be the eighth name).

  1. Degory Priest
  2. Thomas Williams
  3. Gilbert Winslow
  4. Edmund Margeson
  5. Peter Browne
  6. Richard Britteridge
  7. George Soule
  1. Richard Clarke
  2. Richard Gardiner
  3. John Allerton
  4. Thomas English
  5. Edward Doty
  6. Edward Leister

See also


  1. ^ a b c Thomas Prince, A chronological history of New England in the form of annals (1736) Chronology 73, 84–86. Internet Archive.
  2. ^ Bradford listed 104 passengers, including: William Button, a servant of Samuel Fuller who died five days before landfall; Oceanus Hopkins, born at sea; Perigrine White, born two weeks after landfall; and seamen William Trevor and someone named Ely, both hired for one year. If the two seamen and Perigrine White are ignored (William Button's death is offset by Oceanus Hopkins' birth), one is left with the "101 who sail'd from Plimouth in England, and just as many arriv'd in Cape Cod Harbour" as listed by Prince.
  3. ^ Young, Alexander (1841). Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers of the Colony of Plymouth from 1602 to 1625. pp. 117–124.
  4. ^ Bradford, William (1898). "Book 2, Anno 1620". In Hildebrandt, Ted (ed.). Bradford's History "Of Plimoth Plantation" (PDF). Boston: Wright & Potter. Retrieved 2006-06-01.
  5. ^ Young 1841, p. 120.
  6. ^ Nathaniel Philbrick (2006), Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, Penguin Book, New York, N.Y., ISBN 978-0-14-311197-9, p. 41
  7. ^ a b c d George Ernest Bowman, The Mayflower Compact and its signers (Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1920). Photocopies of the 1622, 1646 and 1669 versions of the document.
  8. ^ William Bradford, Edward Winslow (printer G. Mourt [George Morton], Relation or Iournall of the beginning and proceedings of the English Plantation setled at Plimoth in New England, Early English Books Online, p.4
  9. ^ a b Henry Martyn Dexter, [G. Mourt = George Morton], Mourt's Relation or Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth, 1865, pp.6–7, a reprint using original typeface, paragraphs, punctuation, spelling and embellishments, but not pagination.
  10. ^ Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes, Vol. XIX (Glasgow:James Maclehose, 1906) 313–314. Reprint of 1625 edition except that letters i, j, u, and v are used according to modern custom, contracted letters extended, printers' errors corrected, and repaginated from original four volumes to twenty volumes (I.xxvi).
  11. ^ a b William Bradford, Bradford's History "Of Plimoth Plantation" from the original manuscript (Boston: 1901) page 110 (photocopy of manuscript page follows). Passengers listed on pages 530–540. No annotations. Official printing by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This printing of the compact is identical to the 1856 version by the Massachusetts Historical Society. Spelling and contractions follow manuscript except for modern usage of u and v. Capitalization and punctuation differ from manuscript. A faithful transcription is at Mayflower Compact (1620) Archived 2009-03-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ History of Plimoth Plantation: manuscript, 1630–1650. State Library of Massachusetts Catalog
  13. ^ "Mayflower Compact : 1620. Agreement Between the Settlers at New Plymouth : 1620". Avalon Project, Yale Law School. Retrieved 18 February 2018. Source: The Federal and State Constitutions Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories, and Colonies Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America Compiled and Edited Under the Act of Congress of June 30, 1906 by Francis Newton Thorpe Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909.
  14. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620–1647 by William Bradford (New York: Alfed A. Knopf, 1966) 441–3.
Christopher Martin (Mayflower passenger)

Christopher Martin (c. 1582-1621). He and his family embarked on the historic 1620 voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower on its journey to the New World. He was initially the governor of passengers on the ship Speedwell until that ship was found to be unseaworthy, and later on the Mayflower, until replaced by John Carver. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact. He and his family all perished in the first winter at Plymouth Colony.


Compact as used in politics may refer broadly to a pact or treaty; in more specific cases it may refer to:

The Compact, the agreement between the government and the voluntary and community sector in England

Interstate compact

Blood compact, an ancient ritual of the Philippines

Compact government, a type of colonial rule utilized in British North America

Compact of Free Association whereby the sovereign states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau have entered into as associated states with the United States.

Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of Plymouth Colony

United Nations Global Compact

Global Compact for Migration, a UN non-binding intergovernmental agreement

Edward Doty

Edward Doty (c. 1599 – August 23, 1655) was a passenger on the 1620 voyage of the Mayflower to North America; he was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact.

Edward Fuller (Mayflower passenger)

Edward Fuller (1575 – winter of 1620/21) was a passenger on the historic 1620 voyage of the ship Mayflower. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact and perished with his wife soon after the passengers came ashore to their new settlement at Plymouth.

Edward Tilley

Edward Tilley (c.1588-c. winter of 1620/1621) traveled in 1620 on the historic voyage of the ship Mayflower as a Separatist member of the Leiden, Holland contingent. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact, and died with his wife in the first Pilgrim winter in the New World.

Francis Cooke

Francis Cooke (c.1583 – April 7, 1663, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony) was a Leiden Separatist who came to America in 1620 on the Pilgrim ship Mayflower and a signer of the Mayflower Compact.

John Alden

Capt. John Alden Sr. (c. 1598–1687) was a crew member on the historic 1620 voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower. Rather than return to England with the ship, he stayed at what became Plymouth Colony. He was hired in Southampton, England, as the ship's cooper, responsible for maintaining the ship's barrels. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact. He married fellow Mayflower passenger Priscilla Mullins, whose entire family perished in the first winter.

He served in a number of important government positions such as Assistant Governor, Duxbury Deputy to the General Court of Plymouth, Captain Myles Standish's Duxbury militia company, a member of the Council of War, Treasurer of Plymouth Colony, and Commissioner to Dartmouth.

John Billington

John Billington (also spelled as Billinton) (c. 1580 – September 30, 1630) was an Englishman who travelled to the New World on the Mayflower and was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact.

John Crackston

Surname also spelled as Craxston or Crakstone

John Crackston (c.1575 – c.1620/21) was an English Separatist from Holland who came with his son John on the historic 1620 voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact, but perished with the first Pilgrims to die the winter of 1620, exact date unknown. His son John later died in his twenties.

John Howland

John Howland (c. 1592 – February 23, 1673) accompanied the English Separatists and other passengers when they left England on the Mayflower to settle in Plymouth. He was an indentured servant and in later years an executive assistant and personal secretary to Governor John Carver.He signed the Mayflower Compact and helped found colony. During his service to Governor Carver, Howland assisted in the making of a treaty with the Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag. In 1626, he was a freeman and one of eight settlers who agreed to assume the colony's debt to its investors in exchange for a monopoly on fur trade. He was elected deputy to the Plymouth General Court in 1641 and held the position until 1655, and again in 1658.

John Tilley (Mayflower passenger)

John Tilley (c.1571- winter of 1620/21) and his family were passengers on the historic 1620 voyage of the Mayflower. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact, and died with his wife in the first Pilgrim winter in the New World.

Mayflower Compact signatories

The Mayflower Compact was the iconic document in the earliest history of America. It was ratified by forty-one men on board the Pilgrim ship Mayflower on November 11, 1620 while anchored at Cape Cod, now Provincetown Harbor in Massachusetts. The Compact was originally drafted as an instrument to maintain unity and discipline in this new land called Plymouth Colony but, over time, it has become one of the most historic documents in American History.

It was later published in London in Mourt's Relation in 1622, and the authors had added a preamble to clarify its meaning: "it was thought good there should be an association and agreement, that we should combine together in one body, and to submit to such government and governors as we should by common consent agree to make and choose."

On November 11, it was the intention of the Pilgrim leadership that each man must sign the Compact before anyone set foot on land—or mark with an X if he could not write.

The passengers probably assembled in the ship’s great cabin, about thirteen by seventeen feet, with two windows on the stern and one window on either side. Forty-one men signed the Compact, beginning with Governor John Carver and ending with Edward Lester. Nine adult males on board did not sign the document; some had been hired as seamen only for one year and others were probably too ill to write. No women signed it, in accordance with cultural and legal custom of the times.What is known today of the wording of the Mayflower Compact comes from William Bradford’s manuscript, apparently copied from the original document. The original of the Mayflower Compact has long been lost, possibly stolen during American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) looting. The text was first published in 1622 and then in Bradford’s journal from about 1630. But Bradford did not have a list or even gave a suggestion of the names of the signers. Plymouth Colony secretary Nathaniel Morton provides both the Compact and a list of signers in his 1669 New Englands Memoriall, and many persons have thought that this list was an actual transcript of the names of all the signers and in the sequence of their signing.

The list of signers was published at least twice in the 18th century, but each time based apparently on Morton’s 1669 list and not the original. Consequently, there has been confusion for many years about the actual list of signers, with some suggesting that there would be names besides those Morton had provided if all adult male passengers had signed the compact=. Morton apparently copied from Bradford, and not from the original written and signed compact.

The Morton signer list from 1669 is what most Mayflower scholars have used when compiling a list of those who signed the Mayflower Compact. That list, basically, is used in the Stratton book on page 413 and is what is used here. There are variations in the spelling of some names between Stratton’s list and Morton’s 1669 list, and those 13 instances are also noted here.

Moses Fletcher

Moses Fletcher (c.1564-1620/1). In Pilgrim records written by William Bradford his name is given as "Moyses Fletcher." He came to America on the historic 1620 voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact and perished shortly thereafter in the Pilgrims first winter in the New World.

Peter Browne (Mayflower passenger)

Peter Browne (c.1594 – 1633), was a passenger on the historic 1620 voyage of the Mayflower and was a signatory of the Mayflower Compact.

Pilgrim Monument

The Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, Massachusetts, was built between 1907 and 1910 to commemorate the first landfall of the Pilgrims in 1620 and the signing of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor. This 252-foot-7 1⁄2-inch-tall (77.0 m) campanile is the tallest all-granite structure in the United States and is part of the Provincetown Historic District.

In 1620, the Pilgrims spent five weeks exploring Cape Cod before they sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts. After spending weeks at sea, the Pilgrims resolved not to set foot on land until the Mayflower Compact was written and signed. A contest was held to design a structure to commemorate the Pilgrims' landing, and over 150 entries were submitted. The winning design, by Boston architect Willard T. Sears, was based upon the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy, designed by Agostino and Agnolo da Siena in 1309.

In a ceremony on August 20, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt officiated at the laying of the cornerstone. After the monument's completion, President William H. Taft dedicated it at a ceremony held on August 5, 1910.The design was controversial because of its lack of any obvious relevance to the Pilgrim Fathers. One Boston architect derided it, saying "If all they want is an architectural curiosity, then why not select the Leaning Tower of Pisa and be done with it?" It was also noted that Boston itself already had a copy of the same tower; Boston's fire tower. The fire tower is made of brick like the Italian original, was built in 1892 by Edmund March Wheelwright, is 156 feet (48 m) tall, was originally designed as part of the central fire station and used as a fire lookout, and later became part of the Pine Street Inn, a shelter for Boston's homeless.However, The Boston Globe noted that "The people of Provincetown are not at all enthusiastic about the design, but are glad enough to get almost any sort of monument," and quoted "an old sea captain" as saying: "I don't sympathize with all the kicking about the monument. It's good enough, and it has this in its favor, that it resembles many lighthouses on the coast of Portugal and on Portuguese Islands, and Provincetown, you know, is full of Portuguese."Tourists from around the world visit Provincetown to climb the monument and view the Provincetown Museum at its base. The monument commemorates the Pilgrims, and the museum pays tribute to Provincetown's vibrant and historic maritime past. Provincetown residents take great pride in the structure. Christmas lights are strung from the top of the monument to its base annually and are lit in November to much fanfare. It remains lit nightly into January.

According to Edmund J. Carpenter in his book The Pilgrims and their Monument (self-published in 1911), the total expenditures in the planning and construction of the monument were $91,252.82, equivalent to $2,454,000 in 2018.

Richard Warren

Richard Warren (c. 1578 – c.1628) was one of the passengers on the Pilgrim ship Mayflower and a signer of the Mayflower Compact.

Thomas Rogers (Mayflower passenger)

Thomas Rogers (c.1571 – January 11, 1621) was a Leiden Separatist who traveled in 1620 with his eldest son Joseph as passengers on the historic voyage of the Pilgrim ship Mayflower.

Thomas Rogers was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact, but perished in the winter of 1620/21. His son Joseph, who traveled with Thomas on the Mayflower, but was too young, at age 17, to sign the Mayflower Compact, survived to live a long life.

Thomas Tinker

Thomas Tinker (c.1581–1620/21) and his family, comprising his wife and son, came in 1620 as English Separatists from Holland on the historic voyage of the Pilgrim Ship Mayflower. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact but he and his family all perished in the winter of 1620/1621, described by Bradford as having died in "the first sickness."

William White (Mayflower passenger)

William White (c.1580 – February 21, 1621) was a passenger on the Mayflower. Accompanied by his wife Susanna, son Resolved and two servants, he travelled in 1620 on the historic voyage. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact and perished early in the history of Plymouth Colony.

Other passengers
Native American associates
American colonial documents
Richard Hakluyt
Plymouth Colony
Connecticut Colony

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