Mayflower Compact - Explanation of Terms
Why was it called the Mayflower Compact? A compact is a word used to describe a signed written agreement, contract or covenant between two or more parties. The word 'compact', in this sense of the word, is rarely used in modern terms. Separatists were a group of Puritans who advocated total withdrawal from the Church of England. The Separatists wanted the freedom to worship independently from English authority. The Separatists who undertook the journey on the Mayflower were later called Pilgrims. For additional facts and information about religious differences refer to the Pilgrim and the Puritan.
Mayflower Compact 1620 - Background Information
The 102 passengers who undertook the long, perilous journey on the Mayflower were not all Separatists (later called Pilgrims). The pilgrims had organised the voyage. They wanted to separate from the Anglican Church (the Church of England). These Separatists had originally left England for the Netherlands to escape religious persecution but believed the New World was a better option. The Separatists had obtained a land patent from the London Virginia Company allowing them to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River. To raise money for the voyage they were financed by the Merchant Adventurers who were looking to make a profit. The Pilgrims agreed to repay their backers. The Pilgrims originally boarded a ship called the Speedwell, but the ship needed repairs so they joined together with other passengers and travelled to the New World on the Mayflower.
Mayflower Compact - Signing the Mayflower Compact
In order for the document to be a 'binding agreement' it had to be signed by the majority of the new colonists. The Mayflower Compact was signed by nearly all the adult male colonists (41), including two of the indentured servants. The Mayflower Compact bound the signers into a "Civil Body Politic" for the purpose of passing
"just and equal Laws . . . for the general good of the Colony."
The notion, or idea, of self-government had been established in the American colonies by the signing of the Mayflower Compact. The signers of the Mayflower Compact served as the initial government of the colony by electing a governor, enacting laws and admitting others to membership.