The Mayflower Compact

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone in need. Acts 2:44-45

My wife’s cousin, Jim Davis, has spent the last two years establishing a family tree using DNA and ancestry resources that are now available online. He traced her family history all the way back to Richard Warren who was a passenger on the Mayflower which landed in Plymouth and established a colony. 

Jim kept researching and he believes that there are three other family members, along with Warren who signed the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620. The 400th anniversary was just a few days ago. The Compact is often obscured by later documents such as the Declaration of Independence.  

It is significant this time of year for its relationship with the first Thanksgiving. For many, the year 2020 has been an odyssey. My wife jokes that on New Year’s Eve, instead of celebrating a New Year, she wants to stay up and celebrate that 2020 is over. But we are still thankful for our blessings during this special holiday. 

The Compact established rules for self-government signed by 41 Pilgrims seeking separation from the Church of England. The rest of the 102 passengers were “common folk” who were tradesmen, indentured servants and orphaned children. 

Unlike the 1619 Project, what happened in 1620 is more representative of our cultural history. The people we know as the Pilgrims were fleeing religious persecution. King James had given them permission to set up a colony in Virginia, but they landed in Massachusetts. The King later gave them permission (the “Peirce Patent”) to form their colony in 1621 which gave them legal authority. 

The Compact established concepts of religious liberty, the rule of law, but it had some flaws.  The Pilgrims brought with them economic assumptions from their own religious community which in conflict with the hierarchical English society.  The signers all signed on voluntarily as peers and equals based on their view that each were made in the image of God.

Most Americans have an idea of the Thanksgiving story.  What many do not know is that the original Pilgrims suffered through their first year in Plymouth. Food and shelter were inadequate in the winter of 1620-21 causing most in the small group to get sick and half of them to die. 

They might have starved to death using the seeds they brought from Europe had not the native Indians taught them to plant corn.  The lived off the small harvest from the summer of 1621 which was supplemented by the abundance of fish and game. 

William Bradford, the first Governor, decided to invite Massassoit and 90 of his Wampanoag warriors to have a celebratory feast of venison and wild fowl.

That was the first Thanksgiving. But the celebration wore off quickly, not because of bad weather or the stony soil of Massachusetts. 

Neal Bunker states that they had to change their system of communal living where all members shared everything in common. For the first seven years, no individual Pilgrim could own a plot of land. “The [land] slices were rotated each year, but that was counterproductive. No one had any reason to put in extra hours of effort to improve a plot if next season another family received the benefit.”

In other words, no private ownership. It was a form of communism in 17th Century Massachusetts; it didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now. 

In Of Plymouth PlantationBradford wrote that the system “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment.” It didn’t take long for the Pilgrims to understand the disincentives of their system. The lack of private property was squelching productivity.

In the spring of 1623, they replaced communism with capitalism by assigning to every family a plot of land. It was a success. From the original 26 acres planted in 1621 and 60 acres in 1622, a total of 184 acres were planted in 1623. Bradford later wrote that “instead of famine, now God gave them plenty….for which they blessed God.”

The Mayflower Compact is one of the most important and foundational documents in American history. It is an untaught civics and history lesson, particularly in a progressive “woke” rewrite which emphasizes critical race theory to the next generation that favors socialism.

The real history shows the Pilgrims at Plymouth struggled to survive in a new land.  Racial inequality was not an issue nor part of their founding values. The initial attempt at a communal socialist system was changed when they realized it didn’t work.

Our challenge is that the next generation is woefully ignorant of our real history and civics, and this blind spot is likely to only worsen as many schools are teaching a false historical narrative based on the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory and Social Justice.  This is where mentors can help.  

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your mentee is likely to have been indoctrinated with a false narrative. One important function is for mentors to provide an accurate and truthful history of our country, 

FURTHER STUDY: The Mayflower Compact and the Foundations of Religious Liberty

How the Mayflower Compact Influenced the American Concept of the Rule of Law

Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World – Bunker

Why the Pilgrims Abandoned Common Ownership for Private Property – Reed

Of Plymouth Plantation – William Bradford

WORSHIP: Thank You – Ray Bolz 

MentorLink: For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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