Four hundred years ago this week, September 16, 1620, the Mayflower, with 102 passengers,set sail from Plymouth, England, to Jamestown, the English colony founded in Virginia in 1607. Enduring rough seas crossing the Atlantic, the settlers arrived more than 500 miles north of Jamestown three months later. The immegrants to the new world stayed aboard the Mayflowr for another month while search parties went ashore to find a suitable spot to establish their new settlement. During their trip, the settlers signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement that bound the signatories into a “civil body politic,” establishing constitutional law and the rule of the majority, regarded as an important precursor to American democracy.
More than a century and a half later, September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States was signed by a majority of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. It took nearly a year before the Constitution was ratified by nine of the thirteen states. Following ratification, it was agreed that the U.S. Constitution would be the law of the land effective March 4, 1789. Rhode Island was the last of the states to ratify the Constitution on May 29, 1789
Less than 20 years from the formation of the new government, Lewis and Clark reached the first European settlement on the Missouri, as they returned from their two-and-a-half year exploration of America's western wilderness. On September 20, 1806, the Corps of Discover arrived at the frontier village of La Charette. After spending one night there, they continued down the Mississippi reaching St. Louis two days later.
Six years following the Lewis and Clark expedition, America would find itself in war with Britian once again. On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key penned the “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a poem after seeing Fort McHenry flying the Stars and Stripes after a night of British bombardment. The poem was later set to music, and in 1931 was adopted as the National Anthem.
Just 82 years after declaring American independence in 1776, the United States was fulfilling what had been coined as its Manifest Destiny extending the United States claim of democracy and political control of land from the Atlantic to the Pacific. On September 15, 1858, the first transcontinental mail service from St. Louis to California began. The early stagecoach mail service would soon have competition from the Pony Express and would cease operation in 1869, the day the transcontinental railroad was completed.
Images (left to right) Pilgrims unloading at Plymouth Rock. Andrews, J. & Rothermel, P. F. (ca. 1869).Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2010646064/. 1936 Faulkner Murals https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/faulkner-murals. Lewis and Clark at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1805. 1906 drawing.Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2006683399/. Francis Scott Key at Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland. Moran, P. (ca. 1913) Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/98513933/. Holladay's Overland stage office, daily stage on the point of starting for the Plains. Colorado Denver, None. [Between 1865 and 1870] Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2004682072/.