Hartford Connecticut Church Networks

spiritual history of connecticut

Mayflower Compact – What is it?

The Mayflower Compact is a written agreement composed by a consensus of the new Settlers arriving at New Plymouth in November of 1620. They had traveled across the ocean on the ship Mayflower which was anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Mayflower Compact was drawn up with fair and equal laws, for the general good of the settlement and with the will of the majority. The Mayflower’s passengers knew that the New World’s earlier settlers failed due to a lack of government. They hashed out the content and eventually composed the Compact for the sake of their own survival.

All 41 of the adult male members on the Mayflower signed the Compact. Being the first written laws for the new land, the Compact determined authority within the settlement and was the observed as such until 1691. This established that the colony (mostly persecuted Separatists), was to be free of English law. It was devised to set up a government from within themselves and was written by those to be governed.

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The Fundamental Orders

In the spring of 1638 three Connecticut towns, Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield, chose representatives and held a general court at Hartford. At its opening session the Reverend Thomas Hooker preached a powerful sermon on the text that "the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people." On January 14 following, by the Julian calendar in use at the time, which would January 24, 1639, by today's Gregorian calendar, the constitution given here was adopted by the freemen of the three towns assembled at Hartford, and is usually named The Fundamental Orders. Nowhere in this great document is there a reference to "our dread Sovereign" or "our gracious Lord the King," — nor to any government or power outside of Connecticut itself. It did not even limit the vote to members of Puritan congregations. This appears to be the first written constitution in the Western tradition which created a government, and it is easily seen to be the prototype of our Federal Constitution, adopted exactly one hundred and fifty years later. However, see also the Iroquois Constitution and the Mayflower Compact of earlier times.

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The Connecticut Coat Arms

The seal of the Old Saybrook Colony in what is now Connecticut, introduced in 1639, depicted 15 grapevines, with a hand issuing from clouds in the upper left corner holding a scroll inscribed "Sustinet qui transtulit (He who transplanted sustains).