Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Constitution Day 2008 at Bunker Hill Community College

The State Library will have a table at Bunker Hill Community College's Constitution Day celebration on Wednesday September 17. We will be handing out magnets and bookmarks, and also displaying a new poster we've created featuring the Mayflower Compact as it appears in its earliest existing form: the Bradford Manuscript held by the library. Click at left to see the poster, and read more about the Mayflower Compact below:

On November 21, 1620, before they came ashore at Cape Cod, passengers on the Mayflower made an agreement to join togethers as a "civil body politic." They also agreed to submit to the government that would be chosen by common consent and to obey all laws made for the common good of the colony. It included the names of all male heads of families, free single men, and three of the male servants. The earliest surviving copy of the text is included in Governor WIlliam Bradford's "Of Plimouth Plantation,"written between 1630 and 1646 and held by the State Library of Massachusetts. Bradford did not list the signers nor did he refer to the document as "Compact" or "Mayflower Compact."

The English Magna Carta, written more than 400 years before the Mayflower Compact, established the principle of the rule of law. The Mayflower Compact expanded the concept of rule of law to include government by the people: the idea that lies at the heart of democracy. From its beginning in Plymouth, Massachusetts, self-government evolved into the town meetings of New England and larger local governments in Colonial America. By the time of the Constitutional Convention in the 1780's, the Mayflower Compact had been nearly forgotten, but the notion of self-government had not.

- Katie Chase, Special Collections Librarian, and Paige Roberts, Head of Special Collections