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As the Mayflower sailed, it was forced to change course so that when it landed in Massachusetts in 1620, the new settlers found themselves outside the area granted by their charter and thus, outside England's legal jurisdiction. As a result, there was an obvious and immediate need for the settlers to organize and to form some sort of government which would define how they lived and worked together. Their answer to this problem was the Mayflower Compact, a document which created a 'civil body politic' to enact 'just and equal laws' at the Plimouth Plantation. This document was relatively short, at around 200 words, and took for the form a Puritan-style covenant. It also established the principle of majority rule: that laws would only be made if a majority of eligible voters agreed to them.
To make sure that everybody abided by this new system, all male settlers were asked to sign the document and John Carver, one of the organizers of the expedition, was made governor. His job was to make sure that the authority of the Mayflower Compact was recognized and respected. The Compact remained the foundation of life at the Plimouth Plantation until it was absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.
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