American Documents: The Mayflower Compact
Judith Lloyd Yero
Ages 8 to 10
National Geographic, 2006, 0-7922-5891-6
The passengers who traveled across the Atlantic on the Mayflower were planning on living in the Virginia colony, a land under the control of the King of England. Instead, thanks to strong winds and ill fate, the Mayflower made landfall is Massachusetts, a land with no European settlements and therefore with no laws and no rules. It was a wild place and life was going to be hard there, so it was decided that for the good of all the soon-to-be settlers, a compact should be drawn up outlining the laws and rules that they would all live under. Both those who were “Separatists” and those who were “Strangers” would have to abide by the laws. Everyone would have to work together for the good of all and the men would choose one of their number who would make sure that all the settlers did their part and obeyed the rules.
This is a fascinating account not just of that familiar Mayflower story, but it also helps the reader understand how complicated it could be to found a colony. One could not just set up camp and hope for the best. Planning and organization was essential if the settlers were to survive. The author describes history in terms that her readers will understand occasionally giving them present day examples to help her readers grasp the points being made in the text.
At the back of the book readers will find the complete text of the Compact and a portion of “Mourt’s Relation,” a document which was written by two of the settlers and which describes their experiences and adventures. The author has also included the text of the “Charter of the Colony of New Plymouth.”
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