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 American history that severed both political and religious ties with England.


The document was written and signed by a group of Christian dissidents who were seeking religious freedom from the governmental oversight of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by moving to Aquidneck Island to set up a new colony. Among this group was Anne Hutchinson, who had been banished from Massachusetts Bay following the Antinomian Controversy there.

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."[citation needed]


The text 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

1 Chronicles 11:3

2 Kings 11:17

Plaque commemorating the Portsmouth Compact

It was signed by 23 men:

The last four names show erasure marks or strikethroughs for unknown reasons: Thomas Clarke, John Johnson, William Hall, and John Brightman. The first three of those four were among the first settlers of Newport, arriving in 1638, and the same may be true of John Brightman.

Compact of Loyalty[edit]

The Compact of Loyalty [4] was written and signed April 30, 1639.

"We whose names are underwritten do acknowledge ourselves the legal subjects of His Majesty King Charles, and in his name do hereby bind ourselves into a civil body politic, unto his laws according to matters of justice."


  • William Hutchinson
  • Samuell Gorton
  • Samuel Hutchinson
  • John Wickes
  • Richard Maggson
  • Thomas Spiser
  • John Roome (his mark)
  • John Sloffe (his mark)
  • Thomas Beddar (his mark)
  • Erasmus Bullock
  • Sampson Shotten
  • Ralph Earle
  • Robert Potter
  • Nathanyell Potter
  • Wm Heausens
  • George Cleare
  • George Lawton
  • Anthony Payne (his mark)
  • Jobe Haukins
  • Richard Awards
  • John More
  • Nicholas Browne
  • William Richardson
  • John Trippe
  • Thomas Layton
  • Robert Stainton (his mark)
  • John Briggs (his mark)
  • James Davice

The names of the signatories above were copied verbatim from the Compact of Loyalty. Note that the only name in common with the signatories of the Portsmouth compact is that of William Hutchinson.


External links[edit]