November 11, 2020


Resisting the Leviathan: The Mayflower Compact (JOSEPH LOCONTE, November 11, 2020, National Review)

The Mayflower Pilgrims, as they came to be called, were committed to "the advancement of the Christian faith" and designed and signed their compact "in the presence of God." But no one seemed to have a theocracy in mind; rather, they sought to form "a civil body politic." Importantly, their new political community would be framed by "just and equal laws" -- laws that would apply without discrimination to all their members. Here, at the very beginning of the American story, one can discern the concepts of equal justice and government by consent of the governed.

We need not romanticize the Pilgrims. These Puritans were seeking religious freedom for themselves, and for themselves alone. Moreover, not everyone signed the compact: Only the adult male passengers, including two indentured servants, were invited. The women, who would do so much to help the company survive, were excluded.

Nevertheless, they all participated in the civic affairs of the colony. After the Mayflower anchored again at Plymouth Rock, the survivors created a largely self-sustaining economy. Their faith gave them a raw determination to succeed, and the political consensus held: Plymouth became the first permanent European settlement in New England. More importantly, the Pilgrims introduced into the West an unprecedented experiment in consensual government, involving not a monarch but individuals acting on their own initiative.

The architects of the problematic 1619 Project have suggested that the year 1619, when enslaved Africans were first brought to America's shores, should be viewed as the authentic date for the American Founding. We should hold fast to 1776. Yet the seeds of that Revolution were indeed planted in 1620: the year when a rugged group of men and women, in a moment of existential crisis, resisted the Leviathan and gambled on self-government.

Posted by at November 11, 2020 12:00 AM


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