Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist, Dr. Carol Swain, to the studio to celebrate and discuss the historical significance of the Mayflower Compact and the importance of its covenants.
Leahy: A lot of our listeners are cheering today because it’s Thursday. And Thursday means at 6:30 All-Star panelist, former Vanderbilt professor, former Nashville Mayoral candidate, and a good friend. Carol Swain is in the studio. Good morning, Carol.
Swain: Good morning to you Michael and good morning to all the listeners.
Leahy: See Thursday’s are highlights from many of our listeners. They think what Carol is going to say today.
Swain: I never know what I’m going to say.
Leahy: But it’s always interesting. We’ll talk about your travel schedule in a bit. But you came in with something extraordinarily interesting to me.
Swain: I’m very excited about it.
Leahy: Yes, and I think our listeners will be excited because I doubt that any of them right now understand the significance of the day. It’s today is November 12th and this is the 400 year anniversary of the signing of the Mayflower Compact.
Swain: And since it’s short enough and you had that great radio voice, I’m going to ask you to read it.
Leahy: Here we go. It was signed on board the Mayflower ship in the Bay of Provincetown Harbor. Depending on the calendar, November 11th or November 21st.
Swain: November 12 is the day that we’ve decided to celebrate it.
Leahy: So it’s being celebrated today. 400 years ago. Let me read it. This is the modern version. 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 having undertaken for the glory of God in the advancement of the Christian faith.
And the 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 another covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic for our better ordering and preservation. And furtherance of the ends aforesaid.
And by The Virtue hereof do enact constitute and frame such just and equal laws ordinance axed constitutions and officers 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 hereto subscribe to our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November in the reign of our Sovereign Lord James of England, France, and Ireland the 18th and of Scotland the 54th in the year of our Lord 1620.
Swain: And the significant thing about that is that not only does it form the basis of the rule of law in the United States, but it should lay to rest any questions about whether or not the people that founded America were Christians. To me, that’s among the evidence of our Judeo-Christian roots. But also the 13 colonies, they all had constitutions that acknowledged God. And I think that that is important for people to remember at this point in history where we have so much lawlessness.
Leahy: Yeah, boy, do we have lawlessness all over the place. By the way, this was signed by 41 men.
Swain: And I’m sure that all 41 did not agree, but they were not self-interested people. They thought beyond themselves and so they looked at what was good for the whole. And today with identity politics and multiculturalism everyone’s interested in what’s good for me and what’s good for my group rather than looking at what’s good for the whole.
Leahy: Here is an interesting statement made 100 years ago by one of my favorite presidents Calvin Coolidge and it was on the 300th anniversary of the Mayflower Landing. Governor Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts at the time who would become president a few years later. This is what he said about it. He said the ‘the compact which they signed was an event of the greatest importance.
It was the foundation of liberty based on law and order and that tradition has been steadily upheld. They drew up a form of government that has been designated as the first real constitution of modern times. It was Democratic in the acknowledgment of liberty under law and order and the giving to each person the right to participate in the government while they promise to be obedient to the laws.
But the really wonderful thing was that they had the power and strength of character to abide by it and live by it from that day to this. Some governments are better than others. But any form of government is better than anarchy and any attempt to tear down government is an attempt to wreck civilization.
Swain: It is a timely compact for us to reflect on. And if you also think about these 41 men sought to make a covenant with God. And if you study covenants are stronger than contracts.
Leahy: Well, you know, I wrote a book back in 2012 called Covenant of Liberty.
Swain: You certainly did.
Leahy: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.
Swain: A very fine book I might add.
Leahy: And I use the word covenant for that very reason a covenant is a stronger agreement than a contract because it is signed in the presence of God. Really that’s why a covenant matters.
Swain: And we have a broken covenant. It’s been broken for a long time. And if you think about those 41 men you think about the pilgrims and the Puritans they saw it, you know for America to be the new Israel. It was going to be the shining city on a hill. and Jonathan Edwards, you know warned them of the consequences of the broken covenant. What would happen if they broke the covenant. If you look at Massachusetts today and New England is, you know among the most liberal parts of the nation with the exception of California, you can never top California.
Leahy: Yeah, and it’s interesting because you know this is perhaps providential I guess you could say. They intended to go to Virginia and they didn’t make it to Virginia.
Swain: No, they didn’t make it to my home state.
Leahy: They ended up in the Cape Cod area in Plymouth and it was a separate colony from Massachusetts. It was the Plymouth Colony.
Leahy: It’s interesting because the pilgrims were separatists, but they were also very many individualists. In 1630 when the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts in the Bay Colony on the Arabella. You know, John Winthrop wrote that famous city on a hill speech, which was their covenant. And it wasn’t until much later in that the 17th century where the Plymouth Colony combined with the Massachusetts colony to become the colony of Massachusetts.
Swain: But they certainly sought to become the new Israel. And when I ponder about all of that, I think that these were men and women because they certainly had wives otherwise the colony wouldn’t have grown. They had the entire Bible when they were making that decision to covenant with God and so they knew God’s dealings with Israel. And I think that it’s significant that they knew that there would be consequences for breaking Covenant and yet they sought to have one with the God.
Leahy: It’s interesting to contrast that colony, Massachusetts which had these strong Christian elements in the founding with Virginia. Virginia was much more of a capitalism exercise.
Swain: Well going back, I didn’t finish when I said with the God. They saw the Covenant with the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. And so they knew the whole entire Bible. With Virginia, it was more capitalistic and we know that the first Blacks that came to America in bondage you know, that was Virginian 1619.
Swain: And yet America had enough of a Christian influence that they were only held seven years as indentured servants. They were let free and they became the backbone of free Blacks in Virginia. And once they started keeping Blacks in permanent bondage if they converted to Christianity, they were set free up until 1661.
Leahy: Yes. You know your history very well.
Swain: I know that part of it.
Leahy: That’s a very good point. And of course, this is in contrast to the false history of the 1690 project. And again indentured servitude was the practice in that period of time in England and in Virginia and there were many Scots. Many Irish and many Scotts-Irish who came as indentured servants as well in 1619. And they would serve seven years and then they would be free to go about their business. Many Blacks in that period got their freedom after the seven years. And it wasn’t, and you know we talked about this before, it wasn’t until 1661 when a freed Black former indentured servant…
Swain: Was his name John Punch?
Leahy: I think so. When he filed a lawsuit against one of his indentured servants who ran away. And it was the court of Virginia then based upon that lawsuit that established the principle of chattel slavery. Different from the indentured servitude that had preceded it.
Swain: Well, maybe we should acknowledge him when we talk about Black history because he’s responsible for slavery.
Leahy: Well, you know, it’s like there were a lot of other forces going on the time. But at the time it was a British colony and it was British law and not American law that established that.
Listen to the second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Mayflower” by GmaJoli. CC BY-SA 4.0.