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Pilgrims, Principles, and Politics


When the Pilgrims set off for North America, they understood that no European society existed there for them to join. They would be responsible for beginning a new community, one which they hoped could start fresh away from what they believed to be the corrupt Church of England. On November 11, 1620, these so-called “Puritans” believed that they had reached their destination, northern Virginia; in reality, they were off the Massachusetts coast. While still onboard their ship, the Mayflower, the group signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement concerning their commitment and intentions for the community they were about to create.


Handout A: Principles and Virtues Handout B: The Mayflower Compact Directions: Have students read Handout A: Principles and Virtues and lead a class discussion with the following questions.

  1. What principles and virtues do you think are the most important to a society? Why?
  2. What vices do you think are the most dangerous to a society? Why?
  3. If you were to create a new community, what purpose would it serve?
  4. What, if any, of the principles and virtues would you use as a foundation in your community? Why?

Next, have your students read Handout B: The Mayflower Compact and answer the following questions.

  1. According to the document, why did the Pilgrims establish a colony?
  2. For what ends does the document state a “civil Body Politick” is created?
  3. What do you think a “just and equal” law would be? What would be an unjust law?
  4. What aspects, if any, of the society that you created are similar to the society laid out in the Mayflower Compact?
  5. Does the document explain how laws will be made? If yes, how? If no, why do you think this was not outlined?