Mayflower Compact Day: The Foundation of American Liberty
By Carole Hornsby Haynes November 11, 2020
It was 400 years ago today, November 11, 1620, that 41 Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact on board the Mayflower as it lay anchored in the harbor of what is now Provincetown. With the change in the calendar in 1752, the date now corresponds to November 21.
A compact is a covenant for which the Pilgrims as children of the Protestant Reformation held a Biblical view. The American Bar Association noted in 1978:
“The document represents the application to the affairs of civil government of the philosophy of the church covenant which was the basis of Puritan theology. This theology found in the Scriptures the right of men to associate and covenant to form a church and civil government and to choose their own officers to administer both religious and civil affairs.”
Later editions of Pilgrim laws identified the Compact as a preamble, which would indicate they functioned under a covenant of self-rule. A precursor to the U.S. Constitution, the Compact was essentially the cornerstone of self-government under God which has made America unique among nations. It was the signing of this document that brought unity in the midst of discontent and mutiny aboard the ship.
Calvin Coolidge said in 1920:
“The compact which they signed was an event of the greatest importance. It was the foundation of liberty based on law and order, and that tradition has been steadily upheld…. It was democratic, an acknowledgment of liberty under law and order and the giving to each person the right to participate in the government, while they promised to be obedient to the laws.”
Mayflower Compact Day was once a calendar event, remembered by school children across the land. Even though it is no longer remembered, its legacy lives on in our nation.
It is significant that this momentous day coincides with the national honoring of our veterans. Shouldn’t we also celebrate the birth of self-governance in America?
With the attempted coup that is threatening the very existence of this “Great Experiment” in self-government, it is altogether befitting to remember the roots of our Constitutional Republic and once again to place it on our national calendar of important dates.