The Development of New England Society to 1660 Early American Social History,

The Development of New
England Society to 1660
Early American Social History,
Term 1 Week 9
New England Mind
• Phrase coined by Perry Miller in 1950s; argued
that Puritans were tough-minded people, and that
everything about Puritan existence was dramatic
(i.e. everything occurred because God wished it
that way), every action was symbolic, and charged
with meaning.
• Puritans struggled to balance opposing forces of
zeal with control - enthusiasm with caution.
Puritans sought union with God, but also
demanded decent public deportment.
Puritan Character
• Miller said there were five key words to explain Puritan
• Depravity - the corruption of man due to original sin
• Covenant - between God and Abraham, and between God
and man
• Election - only a few could be admitted to God’s grace, or
covenant - imp of public testimony of a conversion
experience. Became visible saints, God had marked them
as saved before death, gained special respect in society
because of it.
• Grace - this was God’s gift to the saints - man is justified
in the eyes of God only by his gift of grace.
• Love - it was man’s duty to love one another, love which
extended to correcting others when they lapsed, for their
own sake.
The New England Town
• Town are basis of settlement in NEng
• Each settlement was founded by a group of families who
were allocated a collective land grant that was then
subdivided to the constituting members.
• Some leeway for new arrivals to be granted land, but since
most of the best land had already been allocated, more
common for new arrivals to establish their own town since
land readily available
• New England towns therefore generally closed
communities, little natural growth by immigration.
• recreated Eng model of small settlements, interacting with
each other, and with the provincial capital on an economic
and political level. Each town sent two members to the
General Court in Boston to discuss weighty affairs of
defense or economic policy.
Parson Capen House, Topsfield, Mass, 1683
Old Ship Meeting
House, Hingham,
Mass, 1681
Religion 1
• Religious idealism central to settlement of NEng.
• NEng not a theocracy, rather a government of the
righteous, only visible saints could vote, and hold
• Religion central to lives of people: towns were
centered around a church, 1635 law that no one
was allowed to live more that half a mile from a
• land distribution controlled by church members.
• Sunday = day of rest, no work permitted at all.
• Attendance at church compulsory on Sundays,
long services
Creating a Religious Society
• Puritans believed that all people were sinful (depravity),
govt’s job to pass laws to encourage all to obey the will of
• Goodness epitomised by order, sin and evil by disorder. By
stamping out disorder, Puritans believed that they were
reducing sin.
• Mass law v. invasive. Reinforced natural authority of
husbands over wives, parents over children and masters
over slaves. Most crimes prosecuted were moral rather
than criminal e.g gambling, drunkeness, lying, adultery, or
sabbath breaking - punishable by corporeal and capital
• Some New England colonies based their whole criminal
codes on the bible, - idolatry, sodomy, adultery and
bestiality were all punishable by death.
• Popularity of humiliation – use of stocks, branding,
standing at the pillory (tied to a post), be put in a cage, or
be forced to wear a sign stating your crime for all to see.
Essex Co. Court Records
• 7 September 1636 :that William James and Elizabeth his
wyfe shall appear at the next quarter Court at Boston to
Answer matter of uncleanness confessed by them.
• 27 March 1638 : for drunkenness Richard Lambert was
fined ten shillings & ordered to sit in stocks two public
• 27 June 1637 Whereas Dorothy the wyfe of John Talbie
hath not only broke that peace & Love, which ought to
have been both betwixt them, but also hath violently broke
the kings peace, by frequent Laying hands upon her
husband to the danger of his Life, It is therefore ordered
that, for prevention of future evils that are feared will be
committed by her if she be left at Liberty. That she shall be
bound & chained to some post till she manifest some
change of her course and Conversation & repentance for
what is already committed. Only it is permitted that she
shall come to the place of gods worship, to enjoy his
• Geographical mobility – Movement after arrival seeking
lands, - no way that the Puritan leaders could keep
effective control of the outlying settlements.
• Geographic spread weakened the puritan ideal of closely
knit communities and forced people into commercial
pursuits to the neglect of their spiritual lives in order to
• Religious Dissent: increasing nos of people with differing
religious beliefs e.g. Anabaptists, Quakers, all persecuted
by Puritan authorities. According to the Utopian society
which Winthrop and others sought to create, religious
dissent couldn’t be tolerated, because it would detract from
the perfect Godly society. How could a society be perfect if
individuals disagreed about something as fundamental as
how to worship God?
Half-Way Covenant
• Problem = falling nos of full church members – smaller
pool who could vote or serve in assembly
• Partly due to new non-puritan migrants, but also children
of original migrants who could be baptised by virtue of
their parents being full members, but their own children,
the grandchildren of the original settlers were ineligible
even for that.
• children were less interested because never had to struggle
for religious toleration like their parents; never been denied
religion - therefore did not see it as anything particularly
special; had not had the communal experience of the
voyage from England. Also - those overseeing conversion
experiences setting very high standards.
• Solution - Half Way covenant of 1662 whereby the
grandchildren of visible saints were permitted to receive
baptism; not universally accepted. Also did not end the
gradual drift away from religion by the younger inhabitants
of Massachusetts.
Roger Williams
• Roger Williams was born into a semi-aristocratic
background in England, and migrated to Boston in 1631.
• Appointed minister at Salem, just north of Boston, and was
held in high esteem both by his congregation and by the
• But advocated a complete split with the C of E. Official
position - desired to stay within the C of E and to reform it
from within - alienated the colonial authorities
• Williams upset many other settlers by proclaiming that the
King’s charter was useless as the land previously belonged
to the Indians, and it wasn’t his to grant.
• RW banished – founded Rhode Island 1635, got on well
with Miantonomi, purchased land from Narragasett.
Governor of
Rhode Island
Roger Williams and the Narragansett
Anne Hutchinson 1591-1643
• Hutchinson arrived in Massachusetts in 1634 - stirs up a
real controversy about the nature of God’s grace.
• Hutchinson believed that God would reveal his grace to
individuals directly, therefore there was no need for priests
or churches, rather piety was a personal achievement. This
was known as the Doctrine of Inner Light, and later
became popular among Quakers
• made even worse by the fact that AH is a woman - in a
patriarchal society women were simply not meant to do
such things.
• Challenge to trad puritan orthodoxy and hierarchy – can’t
be tolerated
• banished from Massachusetts in 1637, settles with family
in Rhode Island, but murdered by Indians 1643
Ann Hutchinson’s
• Quakers posed the greatest threat to Holy Experiment
• Beliefs: pacifism, declaring that no weapons or violence could be used
against others, even in self-defense; Doctrine of Inner Light – all holy
from within; disliked church hierarchy - said bishops and priests were
redundant; also rejected any kind of social hierarchy, all were equal
before God, and that no other authority had any legitimacy. These
views led to persecution throughout Europe
• New England Quakers not content to keep views to themselves,
intended to convert as many people as they could. - interrupted
sermons, shouting down priests, until forcibly ejected.
• Viewed by authorities as a 'cursed sect', anyone convicted to talking to
a Quaker could be fined, and if convicted of actually being a Quaker
whippings and other forms of mutilation could occur, then banishment
- but Quakers undeterred from mission.
• 1658 govt of Massachusetts Bay declared that any Quakers who
returned from banishment would be executed - final threat, did not
work. Four Quakers returned from banishment and were hanged. Mary
Dyer offered freedom on the scaffold if she recanted, but she refused,
evidence of the mentality of Quakers.
• 1660 the newly restored Charles II ordered Massachusetts to stop
executing Quakers, but this did not end their everyday persecution.
• New England gradually becoming less stable by
mid 17thC.
• Immigration continuing, economy diversifying
• original religious idealism fading, religious
homogeneity under threat from internal and
external forces
• New England becoming more diverse, yet still a
very different society from the Chesapeake.