The Pilgrims arrive in New England

An evening pause: Three hundred and ninety one years ago on this day the Pilgrims first sighted the shore of New England. Knowing that they soon would disembark and attempt to create a new society in this New World, they gathered and signed what we today call the Mayflower Compact, what might be called the first ever consciously written social contract in human history.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor 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 our selves together into a civil body politic, 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.

This idea, that society is formed from the consent of its members, still forms the bedrock idea of America. And woe to us if we ever forget it.