Raised during the aftermath of the fall of the Spanish Armada to England, the Puritan generation they were children and grandchildren of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. An idealistic generation of the Colonial Cycle, the Puritans came to America seeking freedom, to practice religion in a manner different than that of the English.
Puritans regarded New England as a place to establish a “visible” kingdom of God, a society where outward conduct would be according to God’s laws. Puritanism is defined by…: “the intensity of the Puritan’s commitment to a morality, a form of worship, and a civil society strictly conforming to God’s commandments. …[in colonial America] Puritanism meant the direction and control of civil authority.” (Encarta?)
They found their strengths in the formation of their congregation. They followed daily demanding schedules that were placed upon them by their minister leaders. “By placing the authority over religious appointments in the hands of the lay congregation, they sought to establish a purified church, which meant frequently harsh imposition of religious uniformity and conformity.” (Cody, D.) This led to the creation of various legal codes and standards. Puritanism became a way of life and a way of religion.
The severe restrictions and demands of the Puritan religion can be viewed as their weakness. Masses were forced to follow the rigorous demands of their religion. There was no room for religious freedom or tolerance. Examples of their strict enforcement of values upon the general public follow:
May 24, 1610, Jamestown:
August 14, 1619, Jamestown:
The first general assembly (the House of Burgesses) passes in six days a series of harsh laws, including ones making the wearing of “excessive apparel” illegal and requiring attendance at two church services every Sunday. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
“These pressures placed upon the people by strict religious practices led them to take a stand in a direction that helped found today’s society and values. Puritanism was carried into our form of civil government. “The First Great Awakening” (1730s – 1770s) produced a general discussion of the principles of freedom and human rights, the habit of contending for rights with religious zeal, and the preparation of the mind for all questions pertaining to civil government in the American colonies.” (Singer, C. Gregg) Although it is true that there was a strong deistic influence at the time of the signing of the Declaration, there is no question that there were the residual effects of strong Puritan
Cody, D. Puritanism in New England
IRIS Publications and Technical Reports
Singer, C. Gregg A Theological Interpretation of American History. 2nd Edition (revised)
Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publications. Co., p. 19
Encarta? World English Dictionary [North American Edition] ? & (P) 1999-2000
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Encyclopedia Britannica Online, and Charlestown, Exploring Boston’s Neighborhoods from the Boston Landmarks Commission.