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The Mayflower Compact Essay

1383 words - 6 pages

From the first European migrants to America in the eighteenth century, we as the collective American people have set forward certain moral standards, first in the Mayflower Compact, and later, when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were ratified. But even beyond our written laws, citizens of the United States have other unspoken guidelines that we follow on a day to day basis that affect the way we act and perceive, as well as our interactions with other people—Especially when our interactions are considered deviant by our society.
To address American morality, first, we must first address the question: What is morality? Stanford University defines morality as either some code of conduct put forward by a society, group, or individual, or a “...code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons” (Gert). This morality can be seen to derive from a higher divine source, or from a biological basis, where morality is part of humanity's complex structure used to avoid social consequences and maintain social grouping while increasing our chances of survival, much like the functioning of wolves in social groups (Petersen). So, what do rational people set forward as moral codes? After extensive research, in 1998, a research professor from Pellegrino University put forward that the universal, commonly understood moral values are honor, patriotism, altruism, justice, compassion, mercy, and redemption (Wilson). To determine America's moral code, I did some of my own research and discussion among my peers and my family, and there were a few generally agreed upon answers: Freedom, justice, patriotism, responsibility, independence, and the pursuit of happiness (some of these were named in our founding documents, such as independence, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness!). On a side note, some older generation Americans, especially in my case, parents and grandparents, noted that values that Americans had in the past seem to be gone from today's society; that is to say, back in the day, “things just seemed better”. People were more honest. They were more compassionate, and more religious (Leon).
Without a doubt, American moral concerns are very much present in our society, going back to the very foundations of America. For many years, the purchase and ownership of other human beings was a normal day to day activity in America, and slavery was not abolished until December of 1865, although many would point out that racist sentiments still exist in many parts of America. Slavery was once a real cultural norm, even to the point where Thomas Jefferson, who helped draft the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, was a slave owner as well (Helo and Onuf). Other activities that were once considered immoral are slowly becoming accepted in our society even by older members, from homosexual marriage and polygamy to divorce and childbirth out of wedlock (Wilke and Saad). America is shifting towards...

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