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conformists aimed to purify the Anglican church from within, the Sepa-ratists were determined to break away and worship as they pleased intheir own congregations. Before leaving Europe, they had tried and failedto secure a guarantee of religious freedom from James I; but they learned‘‘that he would . . . not molest them, provided they carried themselvespeaceably.’’ By virtue of this historic concession on the part of the mon-arch, British America was opened to settlement by all dissenting Protes-tants.Before leaving ship, they entered into a solemn agreement for the for-mation of a government upon reaching land. This became the famousMayflower Compact, by which ‘‘in the presence of God and one another’’they agreed to ‘‘covenant and combine ourselves together into a civilBody Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation’’ and to ‘‘enact,constitute, and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Con-stitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meetand convenient for the general Good of the Colony; into which we prom-ise all due Submission and Obedience.’’ What the founders of the Massa-chusetts Bay Colony agreed to, in other words, was to form a government
Colonial Governments97for self-rule based on popular consent and rule of law. The MayflowerCompact was like the church covenant by which Separatists formed con-gregations, except that it bound its signers to observe the ordinances of acivil rather than a religious society, and professed allegiance to the Kingas well as God. It marks the introduction into the American colonies of acompact theory of government which would later serve as the basis forboth popularly based State constitutions and the United States Consti-tution, the latter being viewed as a compact among the States as well asthe people in the States.Generally speaking, the Puritans subscribed to the view that a cove-nant was the necessary basis for both the church and the state. These twoclasses of covenants were known respectively as the ‘‘church covenant’’and the ‘‘plantation covenant’’—and there was a close relation betweenthe democratic method of forming a congregation or church and the dem-ocratic method of forming a state, both emphasizing the importance of theindividual. In time, the early tendencies in New England toward aristoc-racy and theocracy disappeared and there was a democratization of itssocial and political institutions. Perhaps the most significant aspect of thisdemocratic spirit was the emphasis on local self-government, which foundexpression in the New England town meeting. Puritan democracy, how-ever, was reserved primarily for church members. The Puritans readilyembraced English common law and the English constitutional tradition;and they accepted in principle equality of civil rights. But they did notendorse the idea of political equality, and they did not believe that allmembers of society should participate in the political process. In these