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Many of the passengers aboard the Mayflower were members of the Puritan sect who left England to avoid religious persecution.  These Separatists (later referred to as Pilgrims)  had obtained permission from the King of England to settle on land further south in America.   When they decided to remain where they landed in Massachusetts, they had to request permission (known as a patent) to settle there.

With the need to maintain order while they waited for this new patent, the male passengers signed the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620.   The Pilgrims pledged themselves into a “civil body politick for our better ordering and preservation … 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 into which we promise all due submission and obedience.”

Thus, the Mayflower Compact was an agreement that bound the signers to obey the government and legal system established in Plymouth Colony.   The Mayflower Compact remained in effect until Plymouth Colony became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

Although the original Mayflower Compact no longer exists, there are three early copies with slightly different wording.  The first version was printed in a booklet written by Edward Winslow in 1622 entitled “Mourt’s Relations.”  The second version was published in William Bradford’s journal “Of Plimoth Plantation” in 1646.  The third version by Nathaniel Morton in 1669 contained the names of 41 men who may have signed the Mayflower Compact.

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