While the original document is lost,  Mourt's Relation published two years later in 1622 contains the earliest copy..  Governor William Bradford's Of Plimoth Plantation, written between 1630 and 1646, is the first handwritten copy. He did not record the signers nor refer to the document as the Mayflower Compact.   In Amsterdam and Leyden the Pilgrims had absorbed the importance of civil government and guarantees of freedom.

First Landing paintingDuring the Mayflower's journey, tensions arose among the three factions: the Separatists seeking religious freedom, the Merchant-Adventurers seeking their fortune, and the crew seeking their livelihood. Some type of governing document became essential when they discovered that they were no longer in Virginia with its structure and statutes. The passengers developed The Mayflower Compact and all adult males signed it in November, 1620.

The Mayflower CompactCompact Signing painting
"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.""Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and obedience. In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620."