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First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 7, No. 1   September 2006

The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United

America’s First Illegal Immigrants

A highly respected standard reference for American church history summarizes the Mayflower Compact with these words:

The Mayflower Pilgrims landed at Cape Cod, which was too far north for their Virginia Company patent to be of any value to them. . . . they came to rest in a region for which they had no legal authority.  It was this unanticipated predicament, plus the 'mutinous speeche' of some of the London 'strangers' that prompted the colonists to enter into the so-called Mayflower Compact. This document was nothing more than a church covenant, such as bound together the Leyden church, put to civic use.

 Smith, Handy & Loetscher, American Christianity: An Historical Interpretation With Representative Documents, Vol. 1 1607-1820, p. 92.

Sixty-one of the passengers aboard the Mayflower were "strangers" picked up around London by the merchant adventurers. Only forty-one of the passengers came from the Leyden church. The "mutinous speeches" were statements by the strangers, "That when they came a shore they would use their own libertie; for none had power to command them."

Whether the Pilgrims were legal depends on the validity of “social compact” views of government.  Had the Pilgrims not signed the Compact, creating a government and authorize the use force against the “strangers” aboard the Mayflower, their chances for survival would have been slim.


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