The “Agreement between the Settlers at New Plymouth” (the Mayflower Compact), November 11, 1620, is the oldest political covenant in the New World. It is considered a covenant because it invokes God as witness to the agreement. The Salem Covenant (1629) and Enlarged Salem Covenant (1636) articulate beliefs that informed developing civil and church communities. The Dedham Covenant (1636) founded a town government. The Cambridge Platform (1648) established the congregational system of covenanted churches in New England, setting the pattern for later civil and church federations. The Declaration of Independence (1776) follows the covenant form and, when linked to the frame of government supplied by either the Articles of Confederation (1781) or the U.S. Constitution (1787), established a national covenant in the federal tradition. All of these agreements were decided by men, as women in America did not get the right to vote until 1920.
Salem Covenant of 1629 &1636
We Covenant with the Lord and one with another; and do bind our selves in the presence of God, to walk together in all his waies, according as he is pleased to reveale himselfe unto us in his Blessed word of truth.
Gather my Saints together
Unto me that have made a Covenant
With me by sacrifyce.
Wee whose names are here under written, members of the present Church of Christ in Salem, having found by said experience how dangerous it is to sitt loose to the Covenant wee make with our God: and how apt wee are to wander into by pathes, even to the looseing of our first aimes in entring into church fellowship: Doe therefore solemnly in the presence of the Eternall God, both for our own comforts, and those which shall or maybe joyned unto us, renewe that Church Covenant we find this Church bound unto at theire first beginning, viz: That We Covenant with the Lord and one with another; and doe bynd our selves in the presence of God, to walke together in all his waies, according as he is pleased to reveale himself unto us in his Blessed word of truth. And doe more explicitely in the name and feare of God, profess and protest to walke as followeth through the power and grace of our Lord Jesus.
first wee avowe the Lord to be our God, and our selves his people in the truth and simplicitie of our spirits.
Wee give our selves to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the word of his grace fore the teaching ruleing and sanctifyeing of us in matters of worship, and Conversation, resolveing to cleave to him alone for life and glorie; and oppose all contrarie wayes, cannons and constitutions of men in his worship.
We promise to walk with our brethren and sisters in this Congregation with all watchfullnes and tendernes, avoyding all jelousies, suspitions, backbyteings, censurings, provoakings, secrete risings of spirite against them; but in all offences to follow the rule of the Lord Jesus, and to beare and forbeare, give and forgive as he hath taught us.
In publick or in private, we will willingly doe nothing to the ofence of the Church but will be willing to take advise for our selves and ours as acasion shalbe presented.
Wee will not in the Congregation be forward eyther to shew our gifts or parts in speaking or scrupling, or there discover the fayling of oure brethren or sisters butt atend an orderly cale there unto; knowing how much the Lord may be dishonoured, and his Gospell in the profession of it, sleighted, by our distempers, and weaknesses in publyck.
Wee bynd our selves to studdy the advancement of the Gospell in all truth and peace, borth in regard of those that are within, or without, noe war sleighting our sister Churches, but useing theire Counsell as need shalbe: nor laying a stumbling block before any, noe not the Indians, whose good we desire to promote, and soe to converse, as we may avoyd the varrye appearance of evill.
We hearbye promise to carre our selves in all lawfull obedience, to those that are over us, in Church of Commonweale, knowing how well pleasing it will be to the Lord, that they should have incouragement in theire places, by our not greiveing theyre spirites through our Irregularities.
Wee resolve to approve our selves to the Lord in our perticular calings, shunning ydlesness as the bane of any state, nor will we deale hardly, or oppressingly with any, wherein we are the Lord’s stewards.
alsoe promyseing to our best abilitie to teach our children and servants, the knowledg of God and his will, that they may serve him also; and all this, not by any strength of our owne, but by the Lord Christ, whose bloud we desire may sprinckle this our Covenant in his name.