Conformists aimed to purify the anglican church from

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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 in their own congregations. Before leaving Europe, they had tried and failed to secure a guarantee of religious freedom from James I; but they learned ‘‘that he would . . . not molest them, provided they carried themselves peaceably.’’ 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 famous Mayflower Compact, by which ‘‘in the presence of God and one another’’ they agreed to ‘‘covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body 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 meet and 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 Governments 97 for self-rule based on popular consent and rule of law. The Mayflower Compact was like the church covenant by which Separatists formed con- gregations, except that it bound its signers to observe the ordinances of a civil rather than a religious society, and professed allegiance to the King as well as God. It marks the introduction into the American colonies of a compact theory of government which would later serve as the basis for both popularly based State constitutions and the United States Consti- tution, the latter being viewed as a compact among the States as well as the 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 two classes of covenants were known respectively as the ‘‘church covenant’’ and the ‘‘plantation covenant’’—and there was a close relation between the democratic method of forming a congregation or church and the dem- ocratic method of forming a state, both emphasizing the importance of the individual. In time, the early tendencies in New England toward aristoc- racy and theocracy disappeared and there was a democratization of its social and political institutions. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this democratic spirit was the emphasis on local self-government, which found expression in the New England town meeting. Puritan democracy, how- ever, was reserved primarily for church members. The Puritans readily embraced English common law and the English constitutional tradition; and they accepted in principle equality of civil rights. But they did not endorse the idea of political equality, and they did not believe that all members of society should participate in the political process. In these

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