William Brewster, b. 1567, d. Apr. 10, 1644, was a leader of the Pilgrims, who established Plymouth Colony. In England he studied briefly at Cambridge, the only Pilgrim Father to have some university training. A member of the local gentry in Scrooby, Yorkshire, he helped organize a separatist religious congregation in 1606 and financed its move to Holland in 1608. His influence with the Crown was instrumental in winning the approval of the Virginia Company for the proposal to resettle the congregation in America, and he was one of the few original Scrooby separatists who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. As the church's ruling elder in Leyden and then in Plymouth, Brewster shared with William Bradford and Edward Winslow in the leadership of the Pilgrim enterprise.
As the ruling elder and only university trained passenger on the Mayflower, it is likely that William Brewster drafted the Mayflower Compact, the first constitution written and adopted in North America. The following is the text of the Compact:
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereigne Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britaine, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c.
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 Northerne Parts of Virginia; doe, by these Presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civill Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equall Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the Generall Good of the Colonie; 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 Raigne of our Sovereigne Lord, King James of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland, the fiftie-fourth, Anno. Domini, 1620.
Mr. John Carver Mr. Stephen Hopkins Mr. William Bradford Digery Priest Mr. Edward Winslow Thomas Williams Mr. William Brewster Gilbert Winslow Isaac Allerton Edmund Margesson Miles Standish Peter Brown John Alden Richard Bitteridge John Turner George Soule Francis Eaton Edward Tilly James Chilton John Tilly John Craxton Francis Cooke John Billington Thomas Rogers Joses Fletcher Thomas Tinker John Goodman John Ridgate Mr. Samuel Fuller Edward Fuller Mr. Christopher Martin Richard Clark Mr. William Mullins Richard Gardiner Mr. William White Mr. John Allerton Mr. Richard Warren Thomas English John Howland Edward Doten Edward Liester
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