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Mayflower Compact

1620. With the Virginia Assembly of 1619, this stands as the foundation stone of American institutions. The Mayflower passengers, before disembarking on Cape Cod, signed a compact which provided a “civil body politic” for their full protection. Some of these original Massachusetts settlers had been exiled in Leyden for ten years because of religious intolerance in England, and their English instinct for self-government demanded “equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices.” While remaining loyal subjects of the king, their freedom was assured by this compact, which remained Plymouth Colony's principal governmental charter until 1691, when that colony was absorbed by Massachusetts.