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 8
The New England Town
• Townships 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
generally closed
communities, little natural
growth by immigration,
mainly on rivers or coast
recreated Eng model of
small settlements,
interacting with each other
Each town sent two
members to the General
Court in Boston
• Religious idealism central to settlement of NEng.
• NEng not a theocracy, rather a government of the righteous,
only visible saints could vote, and hold office. Non-saints
effectively marginalised
• 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 church.
• land distribution controlled by church members.
• Sunday = day of rest, no work permitted at all.
• Attendance at church compulsory on Sundays, long services
Old Ship Meeting
House, Hingham,
Mass, 1681
Parson Capen House, Topsfield, Mass, 1683
New England Mind
• Phrase coined by Perry Miller in 2 vol
intellectual history of New England
(1939 & 1953)
• Puritans struggled to balance opposing
forces of zeal with control - enthusiasm
with caution.
• Puritans sought union with God, but
also demanded decent public
Puritan Character
• Miller’s 5 key words to explain Puritan
Half-Way Covenant
• Problem = falling nos of full church members
• Explanations
• 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.
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 God.
• Goodness epitomised by order, sin and evil by
• 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, drunkenness, lying,
adultery, or Sabbath breaking - punishable by
corporeal and capital punishment.
• Some New England colonies based their whole
criminal codes on the bible
Dealing with deviance
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 a 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
Colonial Pillories
• Popularity of humiliation – use of stocks, branding, standing at
the pillory (tied to a post), putting in a cage, or being forced to
wear sign stating your crime for all to see.
• Geographical mobility
• Economic change
• Religious Dissent: increasing nos of
people arriving with differing religious
beliefs e.g. Anabaptists, Quakers, all
persecuted by Puritan authorities.
Thomas Morton and Merrymount
• Morton arrived New England 1624,
grew disillusioned with harsh way of
life, established own community that
rejected religious doctrines and
moralistic ways
• Encouraged drinking, trad Eng sports,
inter-marriage with Indians, traded
guns for furs, erected maypole, goaded
religious authorities.
• Arrested and deported by Plymouth
authorities, 1628. Returned 1637,
arrested and exiled to Maine, died
• The Inhabitants of Pasonagessit
(having translated the name of their
habitation from that ancient
Salvage name to Ma-reMount
[MerryMount]) did devise amongst
themselves to have it performed in
a solemne manner with Revels, &
merriment after the old English
custorne: prepared to sett up a
Maypole upon the festivall day of
Philip and Jacob ; & therefore
brewed a barrell of excellent beer,
& provided a case of bottles to be
spent, with other good cheer, for all
comers of that day. .. The setting up
of this Maypole was a lamentable
spectacle to the precise seperatists :
that lived at new Plymouth. They
termed it an Idoll; yea they called it
the Calf of Horeb: and stood at
defiance with the place, naming it
Mount Dagon; threatening to make
it a woefull mount and not a merry
mount. . . .
Roger Williams 1603-83
• Roger Williams arrived 1631,
appointed minister at Salem 1634
• Controversial ideas: advocates a
complete split with the C of E.
• Proclaims King’s charter was useless
as the land belonged to the Indians,
and it wasn’t his to grant.
RW banished 1635 for spreading
"diverse, new, and dangerous
opinions" – writings burned
• 1636 founded Providence, Rhode
Island, got on well with Miantonomi,
purchased land from Narragasett.
Roger Williams 1603-83
Governor of Rhode Island 1654-8
Anne Hutchinson 1591-1643
• Hutchinson arrived in Massachusetts in 1634
• Hutchinson developed the Doctrine of Inner
Light arguing that God would reveal his grace to
individuals directly - no need for priests or
churches, rather piety was a personal
achievement - later became popular among
• made even worse by the fact that AH is a woman
• 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 in NY 1643
• Quakers posed the greatest
threat to Holy Experiment
• Beliefs: pacifism;
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
• New England Quakers
v.vocal in criticism
• Viewed by authorities as a
'cursed sect’,
• 1658 govt of
Massachusetts Bay
declared that any Quakers
who returned from
banishment would be
executed - final threat, did
not work.
• 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.