The compact is as follows:
|The 7th Day of the First Month, 1638.||145 kb full image|
We whose names are underwritten do hereby solemnly
|Exodus, 24c., 3:4.
II Cron., 11c., 3.
II Kings, 11:17.
Neither was a Constitution nor a Bill of Rights for a Colony. Boston called the compact an act of incorporation. Plymouth called theirs a covenant, Boston did the act in "the presence of Jehovah," Plymouth wrote "in the presence of God." Boston formed a "Bodie Politick," Plymouth called theirs a "Civill Bodie Politick." Boston submitted their "persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ." * * * ** "And to all those perfect and most absolute lawes of His given us in His Holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby." Plymouth promised submission and obedience to such "just and equal lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices" as might be enacted, constituted and framed. Each compact had for its purpose the formation of a civil state under an orderly government. The Boston paper was probably written by Dr. John Clarke, whose piety and purpose lent a strongly religious sentiment to the document, so much so that some historians have called it theocratic. But Dr. Clarke did not classify The Christ as a theocrat, for all his writings make the great Teacher the interpreter of a new Democracy in which soul-liberty is established and enforced.
Samuel G. Arnold, our Rhode Island historian, has given a very clear and just interpretation of the Portsmouth Compact. He says, "So prominent indeed is the religious character of this instrument, that it has by some been considered, although erroneously, as being itself 'a church covenant, which also embodied a civil compact.' Their plans were more matured than those of the Providence settlers. To establish a Colony independent of every other was their avowed intention, and the organization of a regular government was their initial step. That their object was to lay the foundation of a Christian state, where all who bore the name might worship God according to the dictates of conscience, untrammelled by written articles of faith, and unawed by the civil power, is proved by their declarations and by their subsequent conduct." * * * *
Picture of the plaque of the 1638 Portsmouth Compact Memorial
in Founders Park, Portsmouth taken in May of 1997 by
Elliot J. Wilcox (98 kb)