Before the Pilgrims got off of the Mayflower they had to agree upon how they would live together in the land they were about to enter.
‘How can we live together?’ is basic question which underlies every community’s government. The answer which the people agree upon becomes the fabric which holds a society together, that which allows it to endure over time.
Before the group of over one hundred people we now know as the Pilgrims departed the Mayflower, on November 21, 1620, all of the men signed an agreement which we now know as the Mayflower Compact. This varied group of people had a variety of motives for crossing the ocean to establish a new England colony. When they arrived and were required to choose some way of governing themselves, they notably chose a government of the people, by the people.
The Pilgrims agreed to form a “civil body politic” which would “enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices…as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” It would be a community governed by laws, not by the preferences of one or a few men. That which was enacted into law by the community would govern everyone in the community. No one was to be above nor beyond the law.
Our social compact rests on this idea: that in order for us to live together we all must submit and obey to the agreed upon laws of the land, even, or especially when we do not like how those laws affect us. Those who disagree with the law do not disobey it. Rather, they seek to change it as the laws permit. Thus the fabric bends but does not break.
Thanksgiving 2020 celebrates that we are still able to live together because we remain a ‘civil body politic’, in which the idea of a government of laws is stronger than the idea of ‘getting my own way.’ Maintaining a ‘civil body politic’ requires good Pilgrims to rise up against those who would tear the social fabric which binds us. Be a good Pilgrim, Pilgrim.