I’m currently reading historian Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, a meticulously researched and beautifully written narrative of the voyage and arrival in New England of just over a hundred pilgrim colonists in 1620. It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it. Early this morning I got to the section about how those weary, half-starved, mostly ill travelers convened in their cramped space below deck on that small ship after a rough voyage of 66 days across the Atlantic and, even before setting foot on Cape Cod, hobbled together the barely 200 words they called the Mayflower Compact, which stands with the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution as the formative documents of American democracy.
At the conclusion of the Compact the pilgrims swore to … “in the presence of God, and one 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.”
That last bit about submission and obedience to the established rule of law made me, early this morning, realize that at this particular point in time we, as a civilized and just ‘body politic’, must clearly agree that absolutely no one person is, or can be, held above it.