How The Mayflower Compact Changed History Forever 400 Years Ago

How The Mayflower Compact Changed History Forever 400 Years Ago


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The following essay is part of The Federalist’s 1620 Project, a symposium exploring the connections and contributions of the early Pilgrim and Puritan settlers in New England to the uniquely American synthesis of faith, family, freedom, and self-government.

The Plymouth colony was not the first English colony in the New World. It was not even the first successful English colony. But it may have been the single most important one: important both for the precedents it established, and the legacies it left.

Indeed, there is a strong case that we should celebrate Nov. 11 — the day that the rugged square-rigger called the Mayflower made safe harbor near what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts — as one of the greatest moments in our national story, comparable in its way to July 4, Independence Day, and Sept. 17, Constitution Day. But let me qualify that statement a little.

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We think of the Pilgrims as our forebears, and it is legitimate to

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