Wednesday, November 21, 2012

America Began With The Mayflower Compact

Our country began as a nation of laws.  With The Mayflower Compact in 1620, the framework of the new experiment in freedom was cobbled together by grassroots activists with a desire for religious freedom in their native England.  The document is not long or windy.  It begins with acknowledgement of God and ends after laying out intentions to govern for the good of all.

The Mayflower Compact is a written agreement composed by a consensus of the new Settlers arriving at New Plymouth in November of 1620. They had traveled across the ocean on the ship Mayflower which was anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Mayflower Compact was drawn up with fair and equal laws, for the general good of the settlement and with the will of the majority. The Mayflower’s passengers knew that the New World’s earlier settlers failed due to a lack of government. They hashed out the content and eventually composed the Compact for the sake of their own survival. All 41 of the adult male members on the Mayflower signed the Compact. Being the first written laws for the new land, the Compact determined authority within the settlement and was the observed as such until 1691. This established that the colony (mostly persecuted Separatists), was to be free of English law. It was devised to set up a government from within themselves and was written by those to be governed.
This is it:
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereigne Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britaine, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc. having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honour of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civill body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just and equall laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the generall good of the Colonie unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Codd the 11. of November, in the year of the raigne of our sovereigne lord, King James, of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fiftie-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.
John Carver, Edward Tilley, Degory Priest, William Bradford, John Tilley, Thomas Williams, Edward Winslow, Francis Cooke, Gilbert Winslow, William Brewster, Thomas Rogers, Edmund Margeson, Issac Allerton, Thomas Tinker, Peter Browne, Myles Standish, John Rigdale, Richard Britteridge, John Alden, Edward Fuller, George Soule, Samuel Fuller, John Turner, Richard Clarke, Christopher Martin, Francis Eaton, Richard Gardiner, William Mullins, James Chilton, John Allerton, William White, John Crackston, Thomas English, Richard Warren, John Billington, Edward Dotey, John Howland, Moses Fletcher, Edward Leister, Stephen Hopkins, and  John Goodman signed the document.

My ancestors trace back to names on this document.  During some reading about individuals listed above, I was struck by the fact that some were men of indeterminable religious affiliation.  Though supportive of the Christian faith, in general, one of my ancestors has provided fodder for debate from the beginning.  He was specifically hired by those fleeing England for his expertise in a specific area and thus was not expected to pass any litmus test on his faith. 

Sound familiar? After centuries, we are still squabbling over faith and leadership.  Just recently, a future potential presidential candidate, Senator Marco Rubio, has been the subject of ridicule from some in the Democratic party who seek to eliminate any religious reference in government.  These folks will ridicule people of faith if beliefs rival political ideology.  This is particularly ironic in the case of Senator Rubio.  His parents fled Cuba for personal freedom, too. 

Some on the Republican side demand leaders of expressed religious faith.  Some even go a step further and demand that leaders are of their faith.  Some real examination of such rigid expectations of politicians is long overdue. 


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