Agreement between the Settlers at New Plymouth

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The Agreement between the Settlers at New Plymouth: Understanding its Historical Importance

The Mayflower Compact is a well-known document that reflects the first successful democratic governance in colonial America. However, fewer people are aware of another significant document that was crafted by the same Plymouth settlers just a few years later – the Agreement between the Settlers at New Plymouth.

In November 1620, a group of English Separatists – commonly known as Pilgrims – arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, after a long and perilous journey across the Atlantic. They were fleeing England`s religious persecution and seeking a new home where they could practice their faith freely.

The first winter was brutal, and many settlers died due to starvation and exposure. However, thanks to some assistance from the local Wampanoag tribe, the survivors managed to establish a viable settlement. As they prepared for their first harvest in the fall of 1621, the settlers faced a dilemma – how to distribute the land and resources among themselves fairly.

To resolve the issue, the settlers gathered in a meeting in June 1621 and created the Agreement between the Settlers at New Plymouth. The document contained several provisions that would guide the colony`s governance and distribution of resources.

The most critical provision of the Agreement was the commitment to a communal system of property ownership. All land, buildings, and stored goods would belong to the colony as a whole, and each settler would receive an equal share of the produce and goods produced by the community. The Agreement also established a system of labor allocation, where each family would work for the community`s benefit for a set number of days.

The communal system was a radical departure from the prevailing land ownership model in Europe, where the wealthy elites controlled most of the resources and the poor had limited opportunities to improve their lives. The settlers at Plymouth believed that the communal system would foster cooperation, mutual assistance, and a sense of shared purpose among the colonists.

The Agreement also established a framework for governing the colony. The settlers would elect two governors each year, who would be responsible for enforcing the colony`s laws and managing its affairs. The Agreement required the governors to act in the best interest of the community, and their authority was limited by the consent of the governed.

The Agreement between the Settlers at New Plymouth was a groundbreaking document that prefigured the principles of democratic governance, social equality, and communalism that would later inspire the American Revolution and other progressive movements. The settlers at Plymouth recognized that their survival and prosperity depended on their ability to work together as a community and that the pursuit of individual interests could undermine the common good.

The Agreement also reflected the settlers` deep religious convictions, which emphasized the importance of sharing and caring for one another as a manifestation of divine love. The settlers believed that their communal system was a way of creating a «Shining City on a Hill,» as their leader John Winthrop would later put it, that would inspire others to follow their example.

In conclusion, the Agreement between the Settlers at New Plymouth is an essential document in American history that deserves more attention and recognition. Its principles of communal ownership, democratic governance, and social cooperation are as relevant today as they were over 400 years ago. The Plymouth settlers showed that a better world is possible when people work together for the common good, with mutual respect and a sense of shared purpose. May their example inspire us to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable future.