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In 1620, the small sailing vessel Mayflower set out across the stormy waters of the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, England with a patent for the northern part of the Colony of Virginia. Blown off course, it finally dropped anchor off Provincetown on Cape Cod early in November.  Most of the 102 passengers were of English origin, Pilgrims seeking a new home free from religious persecution where they might retain their English identity and customs. Some, however, had been hired to supply much needed expertise essential for founding a new community in a new land. 
When the Mayflower was safely anchored at Cape Cod, the Pilgrims drew up a civil document which established the democratic system by which they wished to govern themselves. This document has come to be known as the Mayflower Compact. It was signed in the cabin of the Mayflower by all 41 of the adult male passengers on the 21st of November, 1620 (November 11, Old Style). 
John Quincy Adams described the Mayflower Compact as the "first example in modern times of a social compact or system of government instituted by voluntary agreement conformable to the laws of nature, by men of equal rights and about to establish their community in a new country."

 
 

"IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c., Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.  IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reigne of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini 1620."

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