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Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620, Artist: Percy Moran

When the Mayflower landed in New England and not Virginia, the Strangers (non-Pilgrims, soldiers, workers, indentured servants) felt they were no longer under obligation to the Pilgrims and started talking about forming their own settlement. Why would this have been a bad idea to the Pilgrims?

Before they left the ship, Governor Bradford held a meeting with all the men. They agreed to work together to establish one colony and govern themselves. Every man would have a say in the new government. The document they signed was the Mayflower Compact. Why was the Mayflower Compact important? Learn more about the Mayflower Compact.


This is how William Bradford described why the compact was formed in his book, Of Plimoth Plantation. The spelling has been modernized.

“The Remainder of Anno 1620

I shall a little return back, and begin with a combination made by them before they came ashore; being the first foundation of their government in this place. Occasioned partly by the discontented and mutinous speeches that some of the strangers amongst them had let fall from them in the ship: That when they had came ashore they would use their own liberty, for none had power to command them, the patent they had being for Virginia and not for New England, which belonged to another government, with which the Virginia Company had nothing to do. And partly that such an act by them done, this their condition considered might be as firm as any patent, and in some respects more sure."

What do you think would have happened to the Pilgrims if the Strangers hadn't agreed to the compact?

Kathleen Martell, Instructional Technology Specialist
Needham Public Schools, Needham MA
July 2007