Shortly before their disembarkation in the Massachusetts Bay on November 21, 1620, the passengers of the Mayflower made a compact that was meant to promote a sense of unity. The document asserted the signers’ commitment to establish a colony, set up a basic framework for its government, and created an important precedent for the new colony's autonomy.

A Change of Plans

The need for the compact arose after some unexpected changes in the Mayflower's itinerary. Its passengers had a patent from the Virginia Company to settle near the mouth of the Hudson River, where their voyage was ...

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