Historical/Cultural Context for Puritans and Pilgrims

Settlement & Religion
Puritans and Pilgrims
Aliyah, Carolyn, Denise, and Lauren
ELIT 48A, Professor Pesano, Fall 2009
In 1608 when King James Stuart
succeeded Queen Elizabeth, the
Puritans fled to the Netherlands
and then asked for the right to
settle in the vast holdings the
British held in America.
The Pilgrims (1620) and the
Puritans (1630) came and settled
in Massachusetts. The Puritans
wanted to build the “New
Jerusalem” or Boston as it came to
be known.
The Quakers (bad name for
pacifists) came and settled in the
Pennsylvania area.
The Catholics came and settled in
Mary’s Land to escape
persecution (later became
**Map of the first colonies settled
during the time of the puritans
and pilgrims.
Important Events:
Back to the book…
The most famous, or infamous, event of this time was the Salem
witch hunt and trials. The Salem witch trials were a series of
hearings before local magistrates followed by county court trials to
prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk, and
Middlesex counties of colony Massachusetts, between February 1692
and May 1693.
As the Norton Anthology mentions, the Pilgrims who came to
Plymouth Plantation wished to purify their Christian beliefs and
practices. However, the Puritans initially were willing to work
within the confines of the established Church of England, the
Pilgrims thought it so corrupt that they wished to separate
themselves from it completely.
Pilgrims vs. Puritans…
The "Pilgrim Fathers" who fled to the Netherlands, and then to New
England on the Mayflower, were Puritans. "Pilgrims" is the name
that has stuck for this particular group of English Separatists. Their
beliefs, however, were not materially different from those of the
Puritans settlers who followed them to New England in the 1630s.
Religious views of the Pilgrims
The pilgrims shared the views of the Separatist: they
believed that the reforms of the Anglican Church had
gone far enough.
To establish themselves as rightful interpreters of the
Bible, they removed from the Anglican Church in
order to re-establish it as they believed it should be.
The first of their reasons for sailing to America is fairly
passive – they wanted to “draw” others by the
example of their prosperity, not necessarily go and
conquer and actively convert.
 Such an idea reflects the one that would be
expressed by the Puritan John Winthrop, where the
New World would become a beacon of religious
light, a model of spiritual promise, and a “citty upon
a hill”
Religious views of the Puritans
The most obvious difference between the Pilgrims and the Puritans
is that the Puritans had no intention of breaking with the Anglican
The Puritans had suffered repeatedly under a society which had
seemed to demonstrate the potentially ominous side of the relation
of church and state.
 The king was the leader of the church, and the state decided how
the church was to function
 In 1629 when Charles I dissolved parliament, the people found
that they no longer had any political representation
 Their secular agency had then become a measure of their
religious agency
 The removal to Massachusetts was a way to gain a political voice,
to create a state that would develop according to their own
beliefs and fashion itself harmoniously with the church
Religious views (continued)
Puritans and Pilgrims were nonconformists; both of which refused
to accept an authority beyond that of the revealed word (the Bible).
The Puritans were ardent reformers, seeking to bring the Church to
a state of “purity” (as NAAL states)
 This reform involved varying degrees of stripping away practices
seen as residual “popery” – vestments, ceremony, etc.
However, where the Pilgrims had translated this in something of an
egalitarian mode, the Puritans considered religion a very complex
and highly intellectual affair.
 Its leaders were highly trained scholars whose education tended
to lead to authoritarian positions.
While these views fostered such class distinction, it nevertheless
encouraged education among the whole of its group, and in fact
demanded a level of learning and understanding in terms of
 Knowledge of Scripture and divinity, for the Puritans, was
Religious beliefs were the basis of their outlook
on life
Legal documents influenced by the Bible and
English common law
Puritans held education in high esteem
Women were treated as
Religious perspectives
Social and legal
(“The Prologue”)
Roles of women in the
Plymouth Colony
Misconceptions (continued)
Salem witch trials
Public humiliation
The First Thanksgiving
William Bradford (1590-1657)
Was born in Austerfield, Yorkshire, into a family of substantial yeomen,
March 19, 1589.
Read the bible when he was 12 and joined a separatist group that would later
become the Pilgrims in 1606.
After the Mayflower anchored, his wife fell/jumped overboard and drowned
Was elected Governor of Plymouth in April of 1621 and started to write the
history of Plymouth Plantation.
Was re-elected 30 times.
Died May 9, 1657
William Bradford (continued)
Of Plymouth Plantation (1620-1637)
Portrays suffering of early settlers and their trip across the sea to the New World.
Upon landing, they had neither shelter nor knowledge of how to survive.
Settlers set out to look for supplies
Found corn buried by Indians
Some went off to sail around Cape Cod and were attacked by Native Americans during
their exploration.
The explorers later found cornfields and fresh water during their searches through the
Half the people died in the first few months of landing.
As life settled down, the Pilgrims began to form relations with the surrounding Native
American tribes through men such as Samoset and Squanto who served as
Indians helped teach them to grow and hunt for food.
Spoke of Morton of Merrymount’s lavish lifestyle and eventual fall.
Described his fear of the community’s increasing neglect of the Church.
Apprehensive concerning the large amount of people who broke away from the
Church community to life on their own.
Saw it as the ruin of society
Documented the first years of the Pilgrim settlements in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Portrayed the suffering of the Pilgrims as they attempted to survive the new landscape.
Described the small details behind the glorious image of the first settlers in the New
Recordings serve as a historical log of the everyday struggles the men and women faced
as they built the foundations of a new society.
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)
Was born in 1612
Received education superior to most
women of her time
Married Simon Bradstreet when she
was 16
Did not have healthy disposition, was
frail and weak
She had 8 children
Both her husband and father became
Governors of Massachusetts
Died in 1672
Anne Bradstreet (continued)
“The Prologue to Her Book” (1650) and “The Author to Her Book” (1678)
 Spoke humbly in introduction of her poetry
 Affectionately described her poetry as flawed creation that was not
worth much merit besides as a tool to amuse and express herself.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband” (1678)
 Displayed her love and devotion to her husband, Simon Bradstreet
 Simon is represented as the center of her world
A few other works
 “Before the Birth of one of Her Children” (1678)
 “To My Dear Children” (1867)
 “Contemplations” (1678)
Depicted the Puritan life in the home
 Spoke of the simplistic home life of a Puritan wife.
 Men and women each had duties to perform.
 Fulfilled herself by being a good wife, mother, and poet.
 Depicted the small joys in life even as everyone continued to struggle
to survive in the colonies.
John Edward (1703-1758)
Born at East Windsor, Connecticut
in 1703
Entered Yale University at the age
of 13
Married Sarah Pierrepont of New
Haven, in his early 20’s
Began preaching at one of the
leading American Churches in
Northampton, Massachusetts
He was dismissed from his Church
in 1750 for his insistence that only
those who had experienced
“Grace” should be allowed to be
members of the Church.
Became President of Princeton
University in 1757
Died in of smallpox inoculation in
John Edward (continued)
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
 Sinners have a possibility of facing destruction at any moment and are
already condemned to hell no matter how much they attempt to avoid it.
 God can send sinners to hell whenever he desires and does not lack the
power to do so.
 God’s wrath is expressed in the fiery tortures of hell.
 This is a warning to everyone to avoid sin and others to convert and turn
towards God to be saved.
 The rest shall be damned.
 God shows no mercy in exacting his justice and should be feared.
Reveals unforgiving Puritan views of religion
Religion is all encompassing of life and should be used as a set of guidelines.
Every word and action is seen in black and white.
God is depicted as a harsh and omnipotent ruler who is always present.
There is no room for negligence. The strict religious codes are continuously
in effect.
John Winthrop (1588-1649)
Born in Groton, England in 1588
Went to Cambridge University
for 2 Years, was exposed to
Puritan beliefs here.
Was married when he was 17
Was not a Separatist
Wanted to reform the National
Church from within getting rid
of hierarchal clergy and
traditional rituals.
Became a lawyer
Emigrated to America in order to
avoid persecution under King
Charles I
In October 1629 he was chosen
as Governor of the colony in
Massachusetts, and remained in
the position for 20 years
Died in 1649
John Winthrop (continued)
A Model of Christian Charity (1630)
God made men different to provide a
variance to life and show his power through
his proper maintenance of all the diversity.
Men should bond together and support
each other.
Treat each other with justice and mercy.
Take care of the lives and belongings of
others as though they were your own.
People must help each other even beyond
their abilities.
Sacrifice one’s needs for the good of
Love is the perfect bond between people.
Reveals another aspect of Puritanism
Expresses a gentler and more
compassionate view of religion.
God is seen as a merciful and kind
fatherly figure who desires to see His
children unite.
Religion is still seen as the center of life,
but is less constraining.
Everything is done out of personal
kindness rather than mere fear of
condemnation and punishment.
Portrays the softer and more emotional
aspect of the Puritan culture.
Related Literature
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
Was born at Salem, Massachusetts, July 4, 1804
Two of his ancestors served as judges during the
infamous Salem Witch Trials
Hawthorne added the “w” to his last name to
distance himself from his ancestors.
Is most famous for his novel about the Puritans
“The Scarlet A”
The Scarlet Letter (1850) Summary:
Hester Prynne is a woman who committed
adultery while her husband, Roger
Chillingworth, was absent from the town.
Hester is forced to wear the scarlet “A” on her
chest to represent her sin.
Throughout the novel, Hester refuses to
reveal the father of her child to be the beloved
town minister, Arthur Dimmesdale.
In the process, Dimmesdale goes through an
internal struggle with the truth until the end
where he reveals his sin and then dies.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (continued)
Promotes the image of Puritan
societies as being cold and merciless
 Depicts the rigid and strict culture
of the Puritans.
 The scarlet A shows the Puritan
belief of making an example of
 Reveals the restraints placed on the
Puritan people and the religious
expectations of each person.
 Puritans were seen as callous and
judgmental men and women who
were always ready to condemn any
rebellious members of their society.
John Milton (1608-1674)
Was an English poet, author,
polemicist, and civil servant for the
Commonwealth of England.
He is best known for his epic poem,
Paradise Lost, and for his treatise
condemning censorship, Areopagitica.
Paradise Lost (1667)
In his anger against God for
choosing his Son to be his secondin-command, Lucifer raises up a
rebellion against the army of
In spite, Lucifer tricks Eve into
eating the forbidden fruit.
Adam eats the fruit because he does
not wish to part from Eve.
God condemns mankind to suffer
because of Adam and Eve’s
Lucifer and the other fallen angels
see evil as their “good” through a
twisted sense of reasoning.
Lucifer continues to wreak havoc
and destruction in battle against
John Milton (continued)
Relations to Puritan views of life
 Humans seen as creatures who
are weak and easily tempted by
 Women illustrated as foolish
 The love, seen as a weakness,
Adam had for Eve led him to
rebel against God and fall from
 Similar image of a harsh God.
 Sins are black and white without
any middle-ground.
 Promotes obedience and strict
adherence to religious traditions.
 Evil is always around and if
people are not cautious, they will
stray and be condemned to hell.
Other Prominent Writers During This Time:
Roger Williams (1603-1649)
Mary Rowlandson (1636-1711)
A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary
Rowlandson (1682)
Was captured by the Wampanoag Indians and taken into
captivity for 11 months during the series of attacks on the
colonial settlements starting in 1675 called “King Phillip’s War.”
Wrote about her life as a captive
Details the life of a minister’s wife during the rough times of
war chaos in the colonies.
Edward Taylor (1642-1729)
A Key into the Language of America (1643)
Preparatory Meditations (1939)
“Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children” (1939)
Cotton Mather (1663-1728)
The Wonders of the Invisible World (1692-1693)