The Pilgrims, including the Separatists, who settled Plymouth Colony did so without a royal proclamation from the King of England therefore they created their own government. Before they disembarked from the ship, the freemen aboard the Mayflower participated in a meeting in which they drew up the rules and ordinances that would govern life in their new land. This document, known as the Mayflower Compact of 1620, served as the framework for the government for forty years. It allowed for a governance by a civil body, the ”Civil Body Politic” which established and enforced the rules for a civil society. All 41 freemen agreed to live by the tenets of this document and signed it on behalf of themselves and their families before leaving the ship to start life in their new land. The Separatists who were outnumbered on the trip formed the core of the new government. William Bradford, a leader of the Separatists became the governor of the colony, a job he held for close to thirty years.
In the early years laws a General Court was held once a year. The duties of the freemen in the General Court included electing a governor, setting taxes rates, and ensuring that the laws were enacted and enforced. As the colony grew to include seven towns, the responsibilities of the general court also grew but the principles remained the same. The people were governed by a civil body of men who agreed to live by the laws that were set forth.