|The Mayflower Compact ....||Bob Moore|
When the Pilgrims decided to sail to the New World, they negotiated permission to build a plantation. Various countries claimed portions of America. The lands claimed were owned by the king in whose name the explores had discovered them. Investors anxious to develop the new wilderness purchased rights to colonize a part of the land in America owned by the king. The Virginia company had arranged a contract for much of the eastern seaboard. They promised to pay part of their profits to the king and he promised to defend the colonies the company financed.
The Pilgrims negotiated permission to build a colony with the Virginia Company. Their charter offered them the protection of the king. However, the Virginia Company was in too difficult financial straights to provide further funding for the Pilgrims. Without money of their own the pilgrims entered an agreement with the East India Tea Company. Under its provisions each person sixteen years and older agreed to work seven years for the company developing their plantation in the New World. The planters, as they were called, agreed to work five days each week for the company. The other two days were their own. In addition, each adult received one share in the company, while the investors received one share for each ten pounds sterling they invested. At the end of the indenture period all lands and profits were to be divided up according to the number of shares. All personal property including homes, lots, and gardens would remain the property of the colonists. This agreement provided the Pilgrims with sufficient finances to brave the New World.
Before they left, the pilgrims chose the site of their proposed plantation. It was in the northern part of the Virginia Company's allotment at the mouth of the Hudson River, where New York City now stands. Storms, however, forced the Mayflower so far north that when they reached land they were off Cape Cod instead of Manhattan. At first they tried to travel along the coast, but head winds and riptides prevented any progress. They had two alternatives: head back out to sea and try to land at their intended site, or land where they were.
Landing on Cape Cod presented problems. It was outside the domain of the Virginia Company. Such an act might violate their charter. It might even be construed as acting outside the permission of their king. The Pilgrims were already considered traitors by some Englishmen. They not only advocated purifying the Church of England, of which the king was head, but they encouraged separating from that church because they believed it could not be purified with its current leadership. To question the leadership of the church was to question the king, something that was often considered treasonous. Their indirect criticism of the king could make their settlement outside the domain of the Virginia Company look like an act of defiance.
Most of the Pilgrims had left England a decade earlier and fled to Holland where they escaped the persecution aimed at the Separatists. When news reached England that a plantation was being proposed for America, some speculators who had no money or means there wanted to brave the effort in hopes of financial success in the New World. This meant that a few on the Mayflower were not Separatists. They were not motivated by religion, but by money. These few were most anxious to show that they were not critical of the king. Their objections made a solution to the dilemma more difficult.
As they often did when faced with a problem, the Pilgrims prayed. They believed that the God who both made and ruled the earth had arranged the storms, winds, and riptides to lead them to the place they had sighted. Prayer confirmed their thinking. God had led them to a land ruled by no king but Jesus. There they could organize a political government like they had organized their church. Its people would rule by majority vote. Neither prayer nor reason was enough for the few speculators. To reinforce their position, some speculators threatened to abide no law if the Pilgrims settled outside the jurisdiction of the king.
The Separatists and speculators compromised by drafting a document in which they defined the foundation for law and order in a plantation outside the jurisdiction they had received. The speculators won the provision that their agreement would only remain valid until another company patent or royal charter could be arranged. The Separatists won the provision that all law would generate from the sanction of the colonists themselves.
The provision of self government or self-determination lay at the heart of the Pilgrims' church activities. They had already bound themselves with a sacred oath to submit their personal wills in religious matters to the will of the majority. Now that they were ready to enter a new land in which they hoped to build up a holy city, search for the pristine church, and spread the gospel, they were willing to submit their personal wills in political matters to the will of the majority. Their ready submission laid the foundation for the democracy that later united the states.
Today, individuality has captured the attention of most Americans. Everybody wants to do their own thing. Many suppose liberty should guarantee personal preferences and 1Teedom should indulge minority opinions. The Pilgrims never considered such a thought. They understood that the order and power of self-government lies in the willingness of the minority to submit to the will of the majority, not the requirement that the majority accommodate the will of the minority. For self-government to succeed, Americans must return to the concept first articulated in the Mayflower Compact. Like the Pilgrims, we must pledge "all due submission and obedience" to the will of and for the benefit of the colony.