How was the Mayflower Compact and important step in the development of American democracy?How was the Mayflower Compact and important step in the development of American democracy?

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hi1954 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Mayflower Compact is an important document for the reasons cited by the previous posters, but we should see this document in its historical context.  Its most truly important point was that it was actually written down and then signed by every adult male, thus affirming that they had agreed to it voluntarily, not because of any existing legal or political issue or pressure.  It is the first document of its kind in North America, but it is based firmly on the central contexts of British law, and was not seen by the authors as any kind of revolutionary statement.  It did, however, firmly set the principle of equality among all citizens (or at least adult male citizens), simply because they all signed it.  The document actually says nothing about what laws they would live under, or majority rule, or anything else of the kind.  The document reads:

"IN THE name of God, Amen.

We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the 11 of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domine 1620."

The type of local government the Pilgrims had in mind already existed de facto and de jure in Virginia since 1607, so Massachusetts was not the first colony to opt for a democratic style of government in the New World.  Nor would the Compact infringe on the British Crown's rights under the charter the colonists brought with them from England, which unfortunately for Massachusetts included the right to revoke the charter later.  And although we were probably all told in school that the Compact includes the power of majority rule, in actuality the Pilgrims lived under the general ideals of the Puritans. Puritans did not believe in the rule of the majority.  Community decisions had to be reached by concensus, which meant that all issues had to be thrashed out until a decision was reached that everyone could live with.  Of course, this did mean that sometimes people were forced to leave the colony voluntarily or were exiled if they could not bring themselves to put up with the group concensus, and that sometimes the concensus was essentially "we agree to disagree", but majority rule was officially frowned upon by the government of Massachusetts colony until well past the time of the Salem and Andover trials, in other words until the beginning of the 18th century.

So to summarize, the Compact made plain the equality of all in the group who could vote; their agreement to govern themselves; and the group itself as the source of political power locally, under the authority of the King.

lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Mayflower Compact is frequently cited as the beginning of American democracy, as it involved the people of the Mayflower (the ones that survived the ocean voyage that is) coming together and agreeing in written form on norms that would govern their community as they began their new lives in the North American wilderness.  It was signed by the 41 males who were present, and determined the distribution of authority and the provision of governance by fair laws, the absence of which had caused previous English settlements to fail. 

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most important aspect of the Mayflower Compact was that in theory it recognized the people as the sole source of power. It also stated that 'the just and equal laws for the general good... of the colony' would be decided upon among the group. The elements of majority rule are founded in this statement. It must be noted that only men were included in this process, however the Mayflower Compact planted the seed of the democratic process in the new world.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The advent of the town meeting as a democratic principle was the most important thing about the Mayflower Compact in my opinion.  The idea, now established very early in our history, that majority rule in local votes taken by the citizens at large (OK, the male, white, landowning citizens).  Majority rule is now a fixture of our democracy and others.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The Mayflower Compact is important because in law, everything is about precedent. When the constitution was written, the founders looked at all precedents, and the Mayflower was one of the first steps toward the United States constitution.
onefreedom1 | Student

The most significant point made by the signers of the Mayflower Compact is the following:

" Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith".

The government (public schools) have for decades removed the emphasis of GOD in all our founding documents. God is the foundation for this country regardless of how government employees (teachers) attempt to remove God from every aspect of learning.

Government employees (teachers and their bosses) have effectively dumbed down students. Most students have never read the Constitution nor been required to take a semester class on America's political Bible. Is it any wonder why we are at the bottom of every area of study vis a vis the rest of the civilized one, self esteem. What that says is teachers and students feel good about being stupid.

Read the Mayflower Compact again and what is the core of this document.....GOD....He is the one who gives us our freedom and liberty.

May God have mercy on us for how far we have drifted from Him and the priniciples articulated in all our Founding Documents....may He have mercy indeed.

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