Why Is the Mayflower Compact Important?

The Mayflower Compact was the first formal framework of government established in what is now the United States. The Mayflower Compact was created to prevent dissent amongst Puritans and non-separatist Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth a few days prior to the drafting.

The Mayflower Compact was signed on Nov. 11th, 1620. The document was signed on board the Mayflower shortly after it came to anchor off Provincetown Harbor. The document was crafted by the Pilgrims who obtained permission from English authorities to settle in what is now the Hudson River Valley of New York. The Pilgrims intended to settle near the mouth of the Hudson river; however, dangerous weather forced them to make landfall far north of their permitted destination.

An argument broke out among the 102 passengers when the Mayflower dropped anchor. Several of the Pilgrims on board argued that since the Cape Cod area was outside the agreed-upon jurisdiction, the agreed-upon rules and regulations laid forth by the English no longer applied. The Pilgrim leaders thus drafted the Mayflower Compact to establish an authority on their new land. The document was a formal attempt to establish a legally binding self-governing body.

The Mayflower Compact designated how male adult members of each church would worship God and elect church officers. The drafting also established John Carver, a Pilgrim leader, as governor of the newly established colony.