tv Mayflower Compact Religious Liberty CSPAN December 23, 2020 6:10pm-7:09pm EST
tonight. good luck with this. good night everybody. you are watching american history tv every weekend on cspan 3. today we are brought to you by -- to provide tv tv was as a public service. up next, the heritage foundation hosts a discussion about the mayflower contact. it is the document signed by the mayflower passenger shortly before their arrival to north america 400 years ago. they talk about its role as a political agreement and its inspiration for later documents and arguments for religious liberty. they provided this video. hello and welcome to the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the mayflower
compact. the plymouth colony was not the first english colony in the new world. it was not even the first successful english colony in the new world but it may have been the most important particularly for the presidency established and the leg and see it left. there is a strong case to be made that november 11th, the day that a battered's where rigor hall called the mayflower the a in a place dear what is called today at massachusetts it should be one of the greatest moments in our national history comparable to the fourth of july, independence day and september 17th constitution day. that may qualify the statement a little bit. you think of the pilgrims as our forebears and the rights to do so but it is important to
remember that the other puritans settling new england at the time did not imagine they were saving america. nothing could have been further from their minds. they were doing something entirely different. they were about the business of establishing a place where they could endure a pure and uncorrupted church. they had been motivated primarily by material considerations. they wanted with the spaniards wanted from their colonies. gold, wealth, material wealth. the settlers of new england were driven and almost entirely by a religious seal. most of them were puritans and men and women of a calvinist religious end who believed that the church of england had not gone far enough to purge itself of the corrupt aspects. hence
the decision to emigrate to a new world for a new beginning. the plymouth colonists in particular were not only calvinists but also separatists. they separated themselves from the church of england as a hopelessly corrupted body and they preferred to worship an independent congregational meeting self-governing churches. after 11 years of living in increasingly difficult exile they secured a patent from the virginia company and permitted them to establish an english colony where they could practice their faith freely. that was their dream. across the ocean they came aboard the mayflower and made landfall at what is today cape cod. it is a place outside the
virginia companies jurisdiction. indeed, outside of the jurisdiction of any known government. that was a problem. there were clear and present dangers in these circumstances which were unexpected it. group leaders knew that. they were especially worried that the colony would name not be able to hold it together i have a law-abiding community and have some larger authority. about half of those on board were not members of the separatist group. they strangers. non-separating passengers who had various motives mostly nonreligious motive for making the trip but whose skills and labor were going to be essential to the success of the colony. some among the strangers
indicated once it was known where the landing would be taking place that because the colony would be outside the ambit of the royal charter they may feel free to go wherever they wanted. use their own liberty for power to command them. this was a frightening process to leaders. what were they going to do about it? well, what they did in response is they drafted and signed on november 11th a short documents. they will come to call the plymouth combination. we call it the mayflower compact. although, that is a name that was not apply to the document until the 1790s. in that document they committed themselves to covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic and
committed themselves to obey any and all our policies. this would turn out to be one of the most primal constitutional moments in history. it would be the heartbeat of the american republic and its three institutions. over two centuries before they expressed the idea these programs settlers were living it. they grasped that freedom means not lawlessness but living in accordance with the law you dictate to yourself. of the time it was taking place so far away from the known world the centers of power and influence in population and
civilization. it proved to be a crucial milestone in the development of self-governing political institutions. the signatories were following the same pattern of self- government. they would use this in organizing their churches. ordinary believers came together to create self- governing churches. with the mayflower compact the group of ordinary people came together to create their own government. in doing so it asserted their right to do so. what made these developments even more astonishing was they amounted to a real-world dramatization of civil society based on social contract. here is a case where a group had actually done it. they did it years before they had gotten around to formulating the idea. not to mention doing it in a
century and a half before the declaration of independence which proclaimed the governments terai of the just powers. it is the right of the people to institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely for happiness. now, having made this amazing connection, let me qualify it in some ways. first, and most importantly, this agreement aboard the mayflower was not something being fashioned in a pre- political, pre-cultural state of nature such as the social culture contract theorists would mention. all we have to do is look closely to a document and see that very closely.
it begins with the words in the name of god. they haven't been undertaken for the glory of god and advancement of the christian faith and in the honor of our king and country. it identifies the signatories of endorsing the agreement in the presence of god and one another. it proposes the goal of framing just and equal laws that promotes the general good of the colony. in other words, this agreement was borrowing at every turn from the religious political legal, cultural and moral
practices. it wasn't starting fresh, not at all. it was building on deep foundations. even when the declaration of independence appeared on the scene it was not only on the theories of john locke which it most certainly did but also on that. not to make one other point. we should not forget in the telling of this story the sheer daring and courage of the pilgrims. the courage they showed in the
undertaking this astonishing journey. they may as well for all practical purposes have been landing on the surfaces of the moon. surely, there were those among them. i don't just a few who must have quaked a bit silently. they wondered for a moment or more than a moment if it had not been all an act of madness. away from everything that was familiar to tears and uncertainty for a strange and very forbidding land. some of what they must have been feeling was very well expressed by william bradford, their leader when they arrived at cape cod. let me quote from him.
being now pass to the vast ocean in a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they have now no friends to welcome them. what could they see for the hideous and desolate wilderness for wild beasts and wildman. they would have solace in respect. they would have all countries full of words and thickets representing the wild and savage hue.
bradford continues so they looked. there was a mighty ocean which they have passed and barber goals to separate them from all of the parts of the world. what could now sustain but the spirit of god in his grace? what indeed but the religious faith they possess so strongly could have sustained them just as it propelled them across the seas. yes, we should not forget the mayflower compact it did not establish a bureaucracy, a gold by religion. yes, it's linguists who -- language was ringed about. they are of central importance to the full story. yes, the pilgrims religious
faith was the thing that drove them across the seas in search of a better and more faithful way of life. the mayflower compact -- in the mayflower compact the pilgrims wisely chose a government based on civil agreement not on compulsory divine or biblical already. such an arrangement was designed . it is whose contributions was understood for success. colletta pragmatic, call it inclusive. whatever we call it, it is essential to our understanding of what happened with the mayflower compact. which would be learned in the nearly 2 centuries of british american colonial life and much
of what was learned came out of this same interplay between high hopes and heart pragmatic realities. above all else, what was being learned in the english colonies was the habit of self-rule. dissolved in the lives of her colonists who were to distanced from their colonial masters to be governable afar. an example of the mayflower compact and does serve as a model for all that was to come including the american revolution. a free people coming together under god and by their own initiative establishing the institutions by which they will world themselves. may we continue to look to that model and that example. thank you. thank you so much. that was incredible. as always, we think you are the
best qualified to have given us the spectacular presentation. america was the first nation in history founded on a specific creed. the fundamental belief in liberty and equality for every human soul. it is a creed rooted in natural law and natural rights. its political expression is in limited government, popular sovereignty, the separation of powers and a vibrant civil society animated by private associations and communities of every kind. these ideas are essential to america's identity and over time have entered into america's distinct local, social and economic culture as a nation. dr. jeffrey morrison is here with us today to discuss the mayflower compact and religious liberty in the united states. he will reaffirm the importance of the american institution
particularly religious freedom and the freedom of speech as well as civil society. we believe it is necessary to response to the emerging narrative that aims to deconstruct american institutions and the working civil society. dr. jeffrey morrison is professor of american studies at christopher newport university in newport, virginia and director of academics at the james madison foundation in alexandria, virginia. he has held faculty positions from princeton university to the u.s. air force academy. he has published as an author or editor five books on american political culture including the political philosophy of george washington. ladies and gentlemen, let's give dr. jeffrey morrison a
warm welcome. thank you for that introduction. in the next 12 minutes i will talk about the mayflower compact and its relation to religious liberty. that is un-american innovation. it begins with the people we call the pilgrims in 1620. people continue in the subsequent decades of the 17th century and then in the 18th century especially in virginia. thomas jefferson and james madison, and george washington, and others will continue to affect that innovation of religious liberty. it is the pilgrims, the people we call the pilgrims who began it in 1620. we call them the pilgrims because that is what one of the leaders call them. much of what we know of them comes from bradford's book.
netbook he describes why they went where they went, why they did what they did and why they took ship eventually in the mayflower and came to the new world. incidentally it was not the first time those programs left england. we call them pilgrims and we also call them separatist's. they were a subset of the puritans who had become convinced that the church of england can -- england was acceptable of corruption and become overly coptic catholic and its practice. they hoped to for your fight purify them to a more christian christianity.
they could no longer stay in the anglican church. had to leave the first place they went was to holland toward a bustling community overlay in. for the most part they were tolerated and not persecuted as is commonly believed. they did become concerned. they were losing some of the first left. they made the decision to go back to england. we will apply to a charter to go to the new world. we will hire a ship to take us there. it did apply for a charter. in efforts to make their venture they a settled
eventually on jamestown island and thus planted the first if you look at a charter that is eventually given to the settlers in massachusetts, the first charter of 1629. you look at the first charter of virginia. for instance, there are commercial purposes mentioned there but, there are religious services one can see these parallel missions that work in virginia as well as in new
we have no legal controlling authority. they overhear some of the rougher customers they are struggling once they hear without law. on-the-fly, under the pressure is the first written contract in the colonies. they will be writing about a social contract theorizing about individuals in a so- called state of nature we see
keen to get on this document and the social contract. sometimes refer to the mayflower compact as a constitution but it isn't a constitution. it is at best a proto- constitution. is a political community consciously of equals we are going to abide by the laws that we ourselves will write they compressed themselves loyal subjects. the same came james lent himself for the bible. is the version authorized by him. a group of puritans had been agitating him for a cleaner the
faith we are taking this voyage to plant a call of virginia. here is the language in this is for better ordering and preservation and furtherance. is kind of a lovely image. it is and intermittent image of civil days this is a corporate endeavor upon which they are engaged one signature is it more lengthy than another
signature. they are individuals before signing this. they are now a community. that is one of the great legacies and their actions in leaving england of religious independence but by crafting the civil body politic they create the space for religious liberty and laws in the future. we are going to march back to november 11th 1620. settlers arrived in the new world seeking religious freedom. let's remember when the pilgrims landed in cape cod, massachusetts they realized they needed something more. they needed a document that would make possible if self-
governing. oftentimes overlooked at how the christian beliefs of these pilgrims, especially their commitment to freedom consciously laid the groundwork about religious freedom in american colonies. i would like you to join us now for our panel discussion about the origins of religious liberty in america and its enduring importance to our democracy. has worked on behalf
of victims of religious freedom violations in east asia, the middle east, europe, and south asia as this -- at the state departments of religious freedom and law. emily is a member of the supreme court bar and the bar associations of california and the district of columbia. ladies and gentlemen please welcome emily. thank you very much to dr. morrison for that excellent lecture. now, i would like to introduce dr. eric patterson. dr. patterson served as the president of your religious
freedom institute. dr. patterson is informed by two -- and works throughout africa and central asia. he has served in the government for more than 20 years but as an officer and commander in the air national guard and a white house fellow working as director of the u.s. office of personnel management. he is the author and editor over a dozen books. he published extensively pick he received his phd in political science from the university of science and in california and a masters degree from the university of was. i am delighted to introduce dr. patterson and dr. morrison for
this conversation. >> we want to pick up from where dr. morrison picked off in his lecture where he said the mayflower compact was a declaration of religious independence and that by crafting a civil body politic, the community created the space for religious freedom and law in the future. dr. morrison, would you like to elaborate on the statement? >> it creates the social contract, this civil body politic as they refer to themselves the lovely and intimate and organic metaphor for political community. in extremis the promise. they promised they are going to abide by those laws that they will make themselves whether
they be religious laws, civil laws but there aren't any laws laid down. there aren't any institutions of government created by the compact. it creates a space in the future to religious liberty. they are very active leaving england and leading the church of england which is headed by the king and it is indeed an act of independence. it is the declaration of religious independence. that is what i meant by that. i fully agree with this as an act of religious independence. it goes back to covenant theology in the 1500s. there are performers who say they have two separate ourselves from state churches and by the 1580s in england the
predecessors of america's pilgrims or separatists set up independent congregations first in england and then into the netherlands. programs were talking about the mayflower compact and they are a part of the separatist movement. what they do is make a commitment among themselves and before i got to set up a religious community where they hold one another accountable and they covenant together as a religious body. it is rooted in that commitment. >> in your lecture you got to the point of equality. it is equality between passengers on the mayflower and then those who were not actually from the pilgrim community and how they were treated with a remarkable level of equality. could you both elaborate on
that further? would you like to go first? >> yes. i would be happy to. >> it is a remarkable thing that when you look through the signatories of that and every adult male signed either for himself or head of household you see either names. some cs choir. there are various classes represented among the passengers. i mentioned in my remarks that many of the so-called strangers, the non-pilgrims were noncustomer. they are all treated as equals in this civil body politic. there is some subtle acknowledgment that they may choose not to come under the
laws that would be written in the future. i think there is an implication that if not, they can themselves separate from that community. it is a remarkable thing. and 1620 one most of the world was having rigid class systems and may be even the lawbreakers among them, the criminals fleeing the status civilly in the body politic they are creating. >> i agree the level of equality is very important. this comes from ideas from the reformation. these people took very seriously the idea of the equality or the priesthood which the principle of equality. . these are people who are
seeking liberty so they can -- their lives based on their commitments do not impose that on the fellowmen. it is rooted in the theological commitments but also a document so there is none anarchy when they land in new england. they do this in a way where they are not imposing a fake tradition of nomination. they are not imposing their belief on the others. they recognize a principle of citizenship equality with their fellow passengers. >> i would like to add one thing quickly if i may. this is not -- plymouth is not philadelphia. it is not pennsylvania.
still as dr. patterson has mentioned the civil equality we don't want to make too much of it but it is a remarkable thing in an age where again there is this fairly rigid class structure certainly throughout europe. >> yes. he also make the point in your lecture that religious freedom is an american innovation. do you wants to elaborate on that and how the mayflower compact led to that? >> i will elaborate on it for certain. i think there is a very rich legacy of the compact and american constitutionalism. there certainly isn't explicit religious liberty laid in it. the difference between religious liberty and toleration is the difference between the kind of rights we believe people have.
religious liberty means they have a natural human right to freely exercise first to freely believe or not to believe and then to freely exercise that as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. that is what is around the globe pretty much the most liberal policy. toleration means the government will tolerate you so long as it sees fit. if you -- it often implies an established church or a state church. it is all over western europe and elsewhere. if there is a state church you will most certainly pay some kind of a penalty. you will suffer some kind of civil disability if you are not a part of the national or state church. for an example if you were jewish in england, no matter
how bright you are, you couldn't go to the two great universities. you have to either convert and profess to be or perhaps the an anglican or you had to come to some dissenting academy. the government will tolerate you. it is more like a civil right. it is almost like a driver's license or something the government issues and they can take. religious liberty is the natural human right that no government can take away from you. i do think the compact and documents that follow in its train do create a space for that but the compact certainly does not explicitly guarantee that natural rights terms. we may even think of the declaration of independence as an inherited or of this space for freedom that the mayflower compact begins to sketch out. >> excellent. dr. patterson do you want to
comment on the uniqueness of religious liberty as an american innovation? >> yes. just two points that relate to the mayflower compact and its arab. they both have to deal with the statements earlier in the compact that are some of the language of the day that this is happening in the name of god and to advance the gospel. these are important points from a religious liberty standpoint. the first one is this. the other type of colonies that were being placed in the new world whether portuguese or's peschel spanish in post christianity by the edge of the sword. what is so different in the english colonies but especially here in southern virginia is that there is not the imposition of christianity. the programs in particular and people who come after attempts to share the gospel with the
native americans that they do not at the point of the sword. whether it is an plymouth plantation or pennsylvania, virginia, or elsewhere, most of these religious communities that are set up in the colonial era have a right to exit. people come into the community. they have to follow the covenant, the religious covenant of the community but they can freely leave. no one forces them to stay there. they can go back to england. they can go someplace else. that is a big principle in this era where toleration, as dr. morrison said was considered a very literal idea. the rights to exit is a huge innovation that really is rooted in what these programs did. >> thank you. both of you have written about religious pluralism as well and commented on it.
can you describe how the mayflower compact and the creation of the body politics is informative to those interested in religious pluralism today? >> the pilgrims were separatists from the church of england as dr. morrison said. amazingly in 1620 they wrote this document that organizes a body politic. it is a social compact. it is a social compact decades before lock or russo. it is rooted in a set of commitments that create the social compact theory that we teach. that is because they had this notion rooted in covenant theology that individual believers in a community could make decisions about the faith but there should not be a level
of interference in the conscientious religious commitments that someone makes or that a community makes. this becomes the congregational churches and similarly the presbyterian church is a high level of decision-making at the local community level rooted in these types of commitments. >> do you want to comment about religious pluralism? >> is. certainly today we may have been a very religiously plural society. plymouth plantation is not a nationstate. it is not a state. it is not even formally a colony of england. they do not have a charter when they leave. like william penn we will bring them for example. all they have is a patent. that is a legal document which
they get from the virginia company and it just gives them title to certain lands. they are on their own hook, if you will. they are forced, as dr. pattison mentioned, they are forced to be liberal and egalitarian through that circumstances. that is one thing that makes the document so remarkable. it was done on the fly. it was written literally in the galley of the mayflower before they set foot perhaps on plymouth rock. is there plurality among them? is there is. there is a great deal of urology in pennsylvania as well. i think we can learn something about them about how to get along with holding our deepest differences religiously. i believe to this day 90% of us
still believe in some kind of supreme being or higher power. among the industrialized nations in rural america it is still uniquely religious and can we learn something from this experiment in plymouth? i think we can. i think it has a legacy of constitutionalism that is passed down in the subsequent documents. even hundreds of years later. again, i think it is a remarkable production for this time and its circumstances. >> could you also comment on how signing of the mayflower compact and creation of the social contract influenced the community itself? its behaviors, its conduct, the treatment of the members of the community and others? >> i will attend that to dr. patterson first. >> i think that is -- that this
sets the groundwork for a level of cooperation that has to happen. this is only about 100 people facing winter off of cape cod. they just had this long voyage. they have missed the harvesting things. about half of them died that winter. we have to recognize the mayflower compact is rooted in a set of assumptions and at the same time it is a desperate commitment we have to work together or we are not going to survive this. that is a place where it is not the type of religious restrictions that we have seen in massachusetts bay. it is a place where roger williams goes when he needs to have a place to get away from the massachusetts bay colony. we know there are efforts to share the gospel.
said. i will only add very briefly that once again, we have to keep in mind, that the plymouth colony is different from the massachusetts colony. the different leadership. it's a slightly different eat those. they have different ends and goals. boston, what becomes the city of boston and the massachusetts bay colony that is sort of the powerhouse and what becomes the state, the colony of massachusetts and later the state of massachusetts. so, that is led by john winthrop. a different sort of man than elder brewster. a different sort of man than william bradford. he is a lawyer, for one thing.
he has a rather checkered career there in massachusetts bay. being elected governor and then being deposed and elected again. as his literal fortunes go up and down in england. so, massachusetts bay is, and the city of boston, they are the kind of powerhouse and literally tens of thousands of people come in waves from old england to new england. but they tend to settle there. the plymouth colony is a smaller enterprise. it's first, and i think that document, the compact, is very dispositive for things that come later. but, we should remember that. and when we think the pequot war, we speak of things like that. there are different communities engaging with native americans and engaging themselves and the strangers among them in slightly different ways.
>> in our closing section, would you like to comment on anything else that we can learn as americans today, from the mayflower compact that perhaps has been overlooked? >> if i may go first, i will try to be very brief. as-the leader to this mayflower compact legacy. i don't want to make too much of it. the women look even at the structure of this document. with a preamble, if you will. they are not exactly we the people, but you know, we the undersigned. and then, a statement of purposes of their journey. and then the creation of that civil body politic. and then a kind of pledge at the end that sort of pledges mutuality. and then the signatories. that should look familiar to americans, even today. right? that looks like the declaration
of independence, in a sense, that looks like the federal constitution, in a sense. and it might be a bit of a stretch to go from we, the undersigned, to we, the people. but the sections of the document, again, with the self identification with a preamble, a statement of purposes, then and allusion to the political community, and then a pledge of mutuality and signatories. that is part of our dna, like you say. i think that very first chromosome or whatever we want to call it, is planted there at plymouth. and like physical dna in families, you know, traits are inherited, are they? and sometimes they lie dormant for a generation or two and then resurface. sometimes a grandchild is remarkably similar to a grandparent. you know, in features and things. so, that would be my parting remark about the mayflower compact. i think it is that sort of a thing.
it is our political dna. and even though they were just a very small, kind of self- funded and self generated community, religious and political community, that document has far-reaching implications, vast implications for a future in american constitutional history. >> emily, i agree with dr. marson. we have to remember as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the mayflower compact, that the people who wrote the declaration of independence were about as far removed historically from the mayflower compact as you and i are from the u.s. civil war. it is a century and a half. so, this cd, early on, and the framers of the declaration of independence and the constitution that they cite as important in the genealogy of ideas in the west. it really can't be overstated. and is important for americans, by the way, great americans like abraham lincoln, martin
luther king jr., ronald reagan have done this. they look back at history and they recognize how important the mayflower compact and these decisions are early colonists made in setting the united states on a course that over time, becomes the expanded notion of rights, liberty, citizenship and the free exercise of religion. and think about how different, again, 1620 with the mayflower compact was, then the spanish colonies or portuguese colonies with high levels of slavery. think about how different the experience was in plymouth. but also, shortly in rhode island. in the dutch colonies that become new york and new jersey. that times in massachusetts, virginia. think about how different the 1620s, 30s and 40s are from what is going on from europe at the same time. whether it is the english civil war which is about to commence, or the 30 years war. and there is a religious
component to all of that violence. what a difference that the mayflower compact can have on these individuals, who out of their theological commitments, decide to set up a civil body politic, and to freely express their religion without coercion. it is a very, very important scene in u.s. and in world history. >> thank you both very much for helping us to understand the origins of the mayflower compact. and, it's continuing influence on our body politic today. as americans continue to discuss what is happening in our country, it is important for us to look at historical documents like the mayflower compact. and to see the legacy of equality, a legacy of covenant that we have with one another as we work forward. thank you both very much. >> thank you.
weeknights this month, we are featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what is available every weekend on c-span 3. tonight, we continue to mark the mayflower's 400th anniversary in a conversation with robert stone, director of the virtual mayflower project, who shows us how they used virtual reality to re-create the ship, and the plymouth england harbor, from which it set sail. watch tonight, beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern. and, enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. you are watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span 3. explore our nation's past. american history tv on c-span 3, created by america's table television countries. they were brought to you by these television countries who provide american history tv viewers as a public service.
you are watching c-span 3. your unfiltered view of government. c-span 3 was created by america's cable television companies. today they were brought to you by these television companies who provide c-span 3 to viewers at the as a public service. at an event hosted by the heritage foundation, participants examine the mayflower compact and other new laws the settlers agreed upon when they arrived in 1620. the panelists discussed the basis for these laws and their relationship to americans founding documents. the heritage foundation provided the video for this event. in today's event, we and our distinguished guests will talk about the mayflower compact and the foundations of the rule
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