The English ship the Mayflower carried the Separatist Puritans, later known as pilgrims, to Plymouth, Mass., in 1620. The 180-ton vessel was about 12 years old and had been in the wine trade. It was chartered by John Carver, a leader of the Separatist congregation at Leiden, Holland, who had gone to London to make arrangements for the voyage to America. The ship was made ready at Southampton with a passenger list that included English Separatists, hired help (among them Myles Standish, a professional soldier, and John Alden, a cooper), and other colonists who were to be taken along at the insistence of the London businessmen who were helping to finance the expedition.
In the meantime the Leiden Separatists, who had initiated the venture, sailed for Southampton on July 22, 1620, with 35 members of the congregation and their leaders William Bradford and William Brewster aboard the 60-ton Speedwell. Both the Speedwell and the Mayflower, carrying a total of about 120 passengers, sailed from Southampton on August 15, but they were twice forced back by dangerous leaks on the Speedwell. At the English port of Plymouth some of the Speedwell's passengers were regrouped on the Mayflower, and on September 16, the historic voyage began.

Embarkation of the Pilgrims
at Delft Haven, Holland, July 22, 1620
by Robert W. Weir
Oil on canvas, 12' x 18'
Located in the Capitol Rotunda
Placed December 21, 1843

This time the Mayflower carried 102 passengers, only 37 of whom were from the Leiden congregation, in addition to the crew. The voyage took 65 days, during which two persons died. A boy, Oceanus Hopkins, was born at sea, and another, Peregrine White, was born as the ship lay at anchor off Cape Cod. The ship came in sight of Cape Cod on November 19 and sailed south. The colonists had been granted territory in Virginia but probably headed for a planned destination near the mouth of the Hudson River. The Mayflower turned back, however, and dropped anchor at Provincetown on November 21.
That day 41 men signed the so-called Mayflower Compact, a "plantation covenant" modeled after a Separatist church covenant, by which they agreed to establish a "Civil Body Politic" (a temporary government) and to be bound by its laws. This agreement was thought necessary because there were rumors that some of the non-Separatists, called "Strangers," among the passengers would defy the Pilgrims if they landed in a place other than that specified in the land grant they had received from the London Company. The compact became the basis of government in the Plymouth Colony. After it was signed, the Pilgrims elected John Carver their first governor.
After weeks of scouting for a suitable settlement area, the Mayflower's passengers finally landed at Plymouth on Dec. 26, 1620. Although the Mayflower's captain and part-owner, Christopher Jones, had threatened to leave the Pilgrims unless they quickly found a place to land, the ship remained at Plymouth during the first terrible winter of 1620-21, when half of the colonists died. The Mayflower left Plymouth on Apr. 15, 1621, and arrived back in England on May 16.

Cross-Sections of the Mayflower

Forecastle: Where the crew's meals were cooked, and where the crew's food and supplies were kept.
Poop House:  Nothing to do with a bathroom, the poop house was the living quarters for the ship's master (Christopher Jones) and some of the higher ranking crew, perhaps master's mates John Clarke and Robert Coppin.
Cabin:  The general sleeping quarters for the Mayflower's twenty or thirty other crewmembers.  The crew slept in shifts.
Steerage Room: This is where the pilot steered the Mayflower.  Steering was done by a stick called a whip-staff that was moved back and forth to move the tiller, which in turn moves the rudder.
Gun Room:  This is where the powder, shot, and other supplies were stored for the ship's guns and cannons.
Gun Deck:  The gun deck is where the cannon were located.  On merchant ships, this deck was used to hold additional cargo.  In the Mayflower's case, the gun deck is where the passengers lived on the voyage to America.
Capstan and Windlass:  Large apparatus which were used to lift and lower heavy cargo between the decks.
Cargo Hold:  This is where the Pilgrims would have stored their cargo of food, tools, and supplies during the voyage.
The Gun Deck, sometimes referred to by the Pilgrims as "betwixt the decks" or the "tween deck," is where the Pilgrims lived for most of the voyage.  They occasionally ventured to the upper deck, especially during calmer weather when they would be less likely to get in the way of the seamen and there was less danger of being swept overboard.  The gun deck had about four gun ports on either side of the ship for cannon.  Even though the Mayflower was a merchant ship, it needed to be able to defend itself from pirates, and needed to be prepared for the possibility of conscription (when England was at war, the King or Queen could turn merchant ships into military vessels.)  The height of the gun deck was around five and a half feet.

The Gun Deck Floor Plan

During the voyage, the 102 Mayflower passengers lived primarily on the gun deck, or the 'tween deck.  The length of the deck from stem to stern was about 80 feet, of which about 12 feet at the back belonged to the gun room and was probably off-limits to the passengers.  The width at the widest part was about 24 feet.  Various hatches provided access to the cargo hold below.  The windlass and capstan, both used to haul heavy items by rope between the decks, also took up floor-space, as did the main mast in the middle, and the sprit sail mast in the front.  Many of the families built themselves small little "cabins," simple wooden dividers nailed together, to provide a small amount of privacy.  Others, especially the young single men, just took up any old spot--many found shelter within a shallop, a 30-foot sailing vessel that the Pilgrims brought with them, and which they had dismantled and stowed on the gun deck.  The two month voyage, with many young men living inside of it, caused considerable damage to the shallop, and cost the Pilgrims several weeks of time to fix after they arrived.

For More on the Mayflower and other resources go to


Farewell Letter of Pastor John Robinson
(Read onboard the Mayflower to the passengers prior to departure from England)

Loving and Christian Friends,

I do heartily and in the Lord salute you all as being they with whom I am present in my best affection, and most earnest longings after you. Though I be constrained for a while to be bodily absent from you. I say constrained, God knowing how willingly and much rather than otherwise, I would have borne my part with you in this first brunt, where I not by strong necessity held back for the present. Make account of me in the meanwhile as of a man divided in myself with great pain, and as (natural bonds set aside) having my better part with you. And though I doubt not but in your godly wisdoms you both foresee and resolve upon that which concerneth your present state and condition, both severally and jointly, yet have I thought it but my duty to add some further spur of provocation unto them who run already; if not because you need it, yet because I owe it in love and duty. And first, as we are daily to renew our repentance with our God, especially for our sins known, and generally for our unknown trespasses; so doth the Lord call us in a singular manner upon occasions of such difficulty and danger sa lieth upon you, to a both more narrow search and careful reformation of your ways in His sight; let He, calling to remembrance our sins forgotten by us or unrepented of, take advantage against us, and in judgment leave us for the same to be swallowed up in one danger or other. Whereas, on the contrary, sin being taken away by earnest repentance and the pardon thereof from the Lord, sealed up unto a man's conscience by His Spirit, great shall be his security and peace in all dangers, sweet his comforts in all distresses, with happy deliverance from all evil, whether in live or in death.

Now, next after this heavenly peace with God and our own consciences, we are carefully to provide for peace with all men what in us lieth, especially with our associates. And for that, watchfulness must be had that we neither at all in ourselves do give, no, nor easily take offense being given by others. Woe be unto the world for offenses, for though it be necessary (considering the malice of Satan and man's corruption) that offenses come, yet woe unto the man, or woman either, by whom the offense cometh, saith Christ, Matthew 18:7. And if offenses in the unseasonable use of things, in themselves indifferent, be more to the feared than death itself (as the Apostle teacheth, 1 Corinthians 9:15) how much more in things simply evil, in which neither honor of God nor love of man is thought worthy to be regarded. Neither yet is it sufficient that we keep ourselves by the grace of God from giving offense, except withal we be armed against the taking of them when they be given by others. For how unperfect and lame is the work of grace in that person who wants charity to cover a multitude of offenses, as the Scriptures speak!

Neither are you to be exhorted to this grace only upon the common grounds of Christianity, which are, that persons ready to take offense either want charity to cover offenses, or wisdom duly to weigh human frailty; or lastly, are gross, though close hypocrites as Christ our Lord teacheth (Matthew 7:1,2,3), as indeed in my own experience few or none have been found which sooner give offense than such as easily take it. Neither have they ever proved sound and profitable members in societies, which have nourished this touchy humor.

But besides these, there are divers motives provoking you above others to great care and conscience this way: As first, you are many of you strangers, as to the persons so to the infirmities one of another, and so stand in need of more watchfulness this way, lest when such things fall out in men and women as you suspected not, you be inordinately affected with them; which doth require at your hands much wisdom and charity for the covering and preventing of incident offenses that way. And, lastly, your intended course of civil community will minister continual occasion of offense, and will be as fuel for that fire, except you diligently quench it with brotherly forbearance. And if taking of offense causelessly or easily at men's doings be so carefully to be avoided, how much more heed is to be taken that we take not offense at God Himself, which yet we certainly do so oft as we do murmur at His providence in our crosses, or bear impatiently such afflictions as wherewith He pleaseth to visit us. Store up, therefore, patience against that evil day, without which we take offense at the Lord Himself in His holy and just works.

A fourth thing there is carefully to be provided for, to wit, that with your common employments you join common affections truly bent upon the general good, avoiding deadly plague of your both common and special comfort all retiredness of mind for proper advantage, and all singularly affected any manner of way. Let ever man repress in himself and the whole body in each person, as so many rebels against the common good, all private respects of men's selves, not sorting with the general conveniency. And as men are careful not to have a new house shaken with any violence before it be well settled and the parts firmly knit, so be you, I beseech you, brethren, much more careful that the house of God, which you are and are to be, be not shaken with unnecessary novelties or other oppositions at the first settling thereof.

Lastly, whereas you are become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons of special eminency above the rest, to be chosen by you into office of government; let your wisdom and godliness appear, not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love and will promote the common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honor and obedience in their lawful administrations, not beholding in them the ordinariness of their persons, but God's ordinance for your good; not being like the foolish multitude who more honor the gay coat than either the virtuous mind of the man, or glorious ordinance of the Lord. But you know better things, and that the image of the Lord's power and authority which the magistrate beareth, is honorable, in how means persons soever. And this duty you both may the more willingly and ought the more conscionably to perform, because you are at least for the present to have only them for your ordinary governors, which yourselves shall make choice of for that work.

Sundry other things of importance I could put you in mind of, and of those before mentioned in more words, but I will not so far wrong your godly minds as to think you heedless of these things, there being also divers among you so well able to admonish both themselves and others of what concerneth them. These few things therefore, and the same in few words I do earnestly commend unto your care and conscience, joining therewith my daily incessant prayers unto the Lord, that He who hath made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all rivers of water, and whose providence is over all His works, espeically over all His dear children for good, would so guide and guard you in your ways, as inwardly by His Spirit, so outwardly by the hand of His power, as that both you and we also, for and with you, may have after matter of praising His name all the days of your and our lives. Fare you well in Him in whom you trust, and in whom I rest.

An unfeigned wellwiller of your happy success in this hopeful voyage,
John Robinson


Passenger List of the Mayflower 1620

John Alden
Issac Allerton
Mary Allerton(wife)
Bartholomew Allerton(son)
 Mary Allerton(daughter)
Remember Allerton(daughter)
Don Allerton(no relation to other Allertons)
Don Billington
Eleanor Billington(wife)
 Frances Billington (relation unknown)
John Billington (son)
William Bradford
Dorothy May Bradford (wife)
William Brewster
Mary Brewster (wife)
Love Brewster(son)
Wrestling Brewster (son)
 Richard Britteridge
Peter Brown
William Butten
Robert Cartier
John Carver
Katherine Carver(wife)
James Chilton
Susanna Chilton(wife)
Mary Chilton (unknown relation)
Richard Clarke
Francis Cooke
John Cooke (son)
Humility Cooper
John Crackston
John Crackston (son)
 Edward Doty
Francis Eaton
Sarah Eaton (wife)
Samuel Eaton (son)
(first name unkown) Ely (sailor)
Thomas English
Moses Fletcher
Edward Fuller
Ann Fuller (wife)
Samuel Fuller(son)
Samuel Fuller(not related)Physician)
Richard Gardiner
John Goodman
William Holbeck
John Hooke
Steven Hopkins
Elizabeth Hopkins(wife)
Giles Hopkins(son)
Constance Hopkins(daughter)
Damaris Hopkins(daughter )

Oceanis Hopkins(son)(born during voyage)

John Howland
John Langmore
 William Latham
 Edward Leister
Edmund Margeson
Christopher Martin
Marie Martin
Desire Minter
Elinor More
Jasper More
Richard More
Mary More
William Mullins
 Alice Mullins(wife)
 Joseph Mullins (son)
Priscilla Mullins(daughter)
Degory Priest
Solomon Prower
John Rigdale
Alice Rigdale
Thomas Rogers
Joseph Rogers(son)
Henry Sampson
George Soule
Miles Standish
Rose Standish(wife)
Elias Story
Edward Thompson
Edward Tilley
Agnes Tilley(wife)
John Tilley
Joan Tilley(John's wife)
Elizabeth Tilley (daughter)
Thomas Tinker
(The wife Thomas tinker, name unknown)
 (The son Thomas tinker, name unknown)
 William Trevore
 John Turner
 (two sons of John Turner, unknown)
 Master Richard Warren
William White
Susana White (wife)
Peregrine White(son)
Resolved White(son)
Roger Wilder
Thomas Williams
Edward Winslow
Elizabeth Winslow(wife)

Gilbert Winslow (Brother

The Mayflower Compact

The following is an exact letter-for-letter transcription of the Mayflower Compact made by me from a photo-scan of the original page of William Bradford's History Of Plymouth Plantation, written in Bradford's own handwriting.

            In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwriten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James by ye grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, & Ireland king, defender of ye faith, &c.
            Haveing undertaken, for ye glorie of God, and advancemente of ye Christian faith, and honour of our king & countrie, a voyage to plant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutualy in ye presence of God, and one of another, covenant & combine our selves togeather into a civill body politick; for our better ordering & preservation & furtherance of ye ends aforesaid; and by vertue hearof, to enacte, constitute, and frame shuch just & equall lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete & convenient for ye generall good of ye Colonie:  unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.  In witnes wherof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cap-Codd ye .11. of November, in ye year of the raigne of our soveraigne lord King James of England, France, & Ireland ye eighteenth, and of Scotland ye fiftie fourth. Ano: Dom .1620.

The Names of the Subscribers of the Mayflower Compact

John Carver
Edward Tilly
Digery Priest
William Bradford
John Tilly
Thomas Williams
Edward Winslow
Francis Cooke
Gilbert Winslow
William Brewster
Thomas Rogers
Edmund Margeson
Isaac Allerton
Thomas Tinker
Peter Brown
Miles Standish
John Ridgdale
Richard Britteridge
John Alden
Edward Fuller
George Soule Samuel Fuller

John Turner
Richard Clarke
Christopher Martin
Francis Eaton
Richard Gardiner
William Mullins
James Chilton
John Allerton
William White
John Crackstone
Thomas English
Richard Warren
John Billington
Edward Doten
John Howland
Moses Fletcher
Edward Leister
Stephen Hopkins John Goodman


History behind the Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower Compact was signed on 11 November 1620 on board the Mayflower which was at anchor in Provincetown Harbor.  The Mayflower Compact was drawn up after the London and Leyden contingents started factionalizing, and there were worries of a possible mutiny by some of the passengers.  The primary argument was over the fact the Pilgrims were supposed to have settled in Northern Virginia, near present-day Long Island, New York.  

The English governed Northern Virginia.  But if the Pilgrims settled at Plymouth, there would be no government in place there.  The Mayflower Compact established that government, by creating a "civil-body politic".  In a way, this was the first American Constitution, though the Compact in practical terms had little influence on subsequent American documents.  In reality, the Mayflower Compact was superceded in authority by the 1621 Peirce Patent, which not only gave the Pilgrims the right to self-government at Plymouth, but also had the significant advantage of being authorized by the English government.

The Mayflower Compact was first published in 1622 in Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.  William Bradford wrote a copy of the Mayflower Compact down in his History Of Plymouth Plantation, which he wrote from 1630-1654.  Neither version gave the names of the signers.  Nathaniel Morton in his New England's Memorial, published in 1669, was the first to record and publish the names of the signers, and Thomas Prince in his Chronological History of New England in the form of Annals (1736) recorded the signer’s names as well.  

The original Mayflower Compact has never been found, and is assumed destroyed.  Thomas Prince may have had access to the original in 1736.  William Branford’s Journal, Letter-book, Register, and possibly the Mayflower Compact may have all fallen victim to Revolutionary War looting.  His journal was found in 1854 in London, England; his Letter-book in 1796 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The Register and Mayflower Compact were never found. 

Embarkation of the Pilgrims
By Edgar Parker after Robert Weir - 1875
Material : Oil on canvas.