Portsmouth Compact

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Portsmouth Compact

The Portsmouth Compact was a document signed on March 7, 1638 that established the settlement of Portsmouth, which is now a town in the state of Rhode Island. It was the first document in history that severed both political and religious ties with mother England.


The document was written and signed in Boston by a group of men who followed Anne Hutchinson, a banished Christian dissident from Massachusetts, to seek religious freedom in Rhode Island. The signers were ready to move to Aquidneck Island to set up a new colony and had been disarmed by the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The purpose of the Portsmouth Compact was to set up a new, independent colony that was Christian in character but non-sectarian in governance. It has been called "the first instrument for governing as a true democracy." [1]


The text [2] of the Portsmouth Compact:

The 7th Day of the First Month, 1638.
We whose names are underwritten do hereby solemnly in the presence of Jehovah incorporate ourselves into a Bodie Politick and as He shall help, will submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given in His Holy Word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby.

In the margin are the following Bible citations:

Exodus 24:3-4

First Chronicles

Second Kings

Plaque commemorating the Portsmouth Compact

It was signed by 23 men:

The last four names, for unknown reasons, show erasure marks and/or strikethroughs. Of those four—Thomas Clarke, John Johnson, William Hall and John Brightman—the first three are known to have been among the first settlers of Newport, Rhode Island, arriving in 1638, and the same may be true of John Brightman.


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