The Puritans: Purity and
Problems
New England Colonies
Brainstorming
George Henry Boughton, “The Early Puritans of New England
Going to Church,” 1867
Brainstorming
• Differences between Chesapeake and
Puritan settlements?
– Religious focus – freedom?
– Came as families
– Close knit, family and community centered
– Literate
– Middling sort
– Longer life span
– Better conditions: willing and able farmers
– Better conditions: better environment
Thoughts on the Painting?
• What message was the artist trying to
convey about the Puritans?
• Does the painting contain any indication of
problems or conflicts in Puritan life?
Thoughts on the Painting?
• What message was the artist trying to
convey about the Puritans?
– Positive portrayal; tight-knit community;
religious devotion; families; male leaders;
religious leadership; belief despite harsh
environment
• Does the painting contain any indication of
problems or conflicts in Puritan life?
– Look unhappy; have to carry guns for
protection on way to church; fear of attack?;
bad relations with Indians
Major Themes & Questions
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Who were the Puritans?
What did they believe?
Why did they come to North America?
Differences from Chesapeake settlers?
The Puritan Covenants – Inclusion and Exclusion
Conflicts between purity and living in the “real
world”
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Religious conflicts – inclusion and exclusion
Land Hunger & Conflicts with Native Americans
Economic issues and problems
Conflicts with England
Puritan Religious Beliefs
Christianity in England
Catholic Church
Church of England (Henry VIII)
Pilgrims
(Separatists)
Puritans
(Non-separatists)
Anglicans
Goals of Purification
• Puritans part of longer Protestant Reformation
• Puritans wanted to apply John Calvin’s
principles to purify Anglican Church
– More Biblical, literal interpretation of Bible
– Rejected hierarchy of Catholic Church – “popish” –
no one should get between individual and God
– Rejected rituals
– Rejected trends in English society – crime,
commerce, lack of tradition
– They liked Anglican break with Catholic Church, but
believed A.C. was corrupt – thought they could reform
A.C. from within
– Charles I & Anglicans persecuted Puritans for
criticisms – pushed them to North America and
Europe
First Euro Settlers in MA Colony
• Comparing Pilgrims and Puritans
• Pilgrims (separatists) first settlers in 1620, but
few in number
• Plymouth Plantation was a backwater
• Puritan Great Migration began in 1630
• 40,000 colonists in decade, so dominated colony
• Puritans formed a joint stock company –
Massachusetts Bay Co.
• Left meeting place blank, so held meetings in
New England to get away from English
control
Puritan Beliefs
• Original sin – humans born sinful – “In Adam’s
Fall, We Sinned All” in N.E. schoolbooks
• Predestination – John Calvin – God had plan
for all humans, but it was unknown to all
– God only chose some people to be saved from Hell
– One could live well, have revelatory experience (God
revealed), then prob. going to heaven – but still up to
God
• Puritans adapted Calvin’s beliefs – God was
rational – one could be pretty sure of salvation
• Life on earth would be good indicator of
salvation – live religious life, work hard
• Puritan diaries filled with angst about whether
they would be chosen for heaven
Puritans vs. Chesapeake:
Based on what you learned about the Chesapeake
colonies, how would you compare Puritan MA?
Puritans
Chesapeake
Puritans vs. Chesapeake:
Based on what you learned about the Chesapeake
colonies, how would you compare Puritan MA?
Puritans
• Puritans focused on
controlling behavior while
on earth – punishment on
earth for bad behavior
• Puritans more religiously
motivated
• Required to go to Church
• No separation of Church
and state
• Migrated as families and
lived longer
• More healthy enviro.
Chesapeake
• Profit motive
• Individualism
• Religion not as central
• Dispersed settlements
• Majority of population
were indentured servants
• Free-wheeling in first
generations
• Gender imbalance
• Unhealthy enviro., death
normal thing
Puritan Migration
• Puritans came as families, multiple
generations
• More balanced sex ratio than Chesapeake
• Lower mortality rates – 1st generation = 72 yrs
old
• Healthier environment, less disease
• 7/8 of children reached adulthood
• Compare to Chesapeake migration and
settlement
Puritan Settlement and the Land
• John Cotton, “The Divine Right to Occupy the
Land,” 1630
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Compares Puritans to Israelites – chosen by God
Old Testament rationale
Right to make war on N.A.
Duty to spread religion
• Thoughts? Criticisms?
Puritan Settlement and the Land
• John Cotton, “The Divine Right to Occupy the
Land,” 1630
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God gives land to chosen people
People placed on land – passive
Justified war against heathens
Vacant land or unused can be taken
Migration and settlement justified to ‘gain knowledge’,
profit economically, use talents, or plant a
colony/church
– To flee persecution or debts
• Thoughts? Criticisms?
Covenant: Puritan Migration,
Settlement, and Leadership
• John Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity,”
1630
• Covenants on diff. levels: bound family,
community, group, classes, and God together
• Different forms of covenantal bonds in
Winthrop’s “Modell”?
Covenant: Puritan Migration,
Settlement, and Leadership
• John Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity,”
1630
• Covenants on diff. levels: bound family,
community, group, classes, and God together
• Different forms of covenantal bonds in
Winthrop’s “Modell”?
– Between Puritans and God – success = God’s
approval
– Covenant between individual and God – Christian life,
belief = good hope for salvation (heaven)
– Covenant of settlement and migration
– City Upon a Hill – symbol to Europe
– Covenant between leaders and led; wealthy and poor
Family Covenant
• Family Life
– Patriarchal family – man was head of household;
women expected to marry and have children;
unmarried looked down upon or spurned
– Relationships between husband and wife?
(Bradstreet poems)
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Loving, companionate marriage
Focus on earthly love and devotion
Women’s role = family, home, religious devotion
Pride in children and growth of family
– Conflicts between love and patriarchy?
Covenant & The Land
Relationship between covenant and settlement on
land:
– Puritans wanted competency – enough land to live
on – focus on subsistence at first, not as much on
profits for self or king
– But not equality – prominent deserved more land
– Focus on community – town decided which land
would be used, worked on what day
– Town meeting – at first, only elect (saved) voted, had
best interests of community
– Covenant bound church and community members to
town and land
– Focus on benefits to included members – keeping
out excluded “others”
– Different methods of settlement than Chesapeake
Trouble in the City on a Hill
• Religious dissenters – problems of
inclusion and exclusion, purity and
tolerance
• Land Hunger – conflicts with Native
Americans
• Economic problems
• Relations with England/Crown
• Question: What issues or problems
strengthened the Puritan covenant?
Which weakened it?
Puritan Religious Problems
Angst
George Henry Boughton, “The Early Puritans of New England
Going to Church,” 1867
Roger Williams
• Roger Williams – critical of Puritan leadership
and values – raised issues of P exclusion and
intolerance
– Believed to be more dangerous b/c he was a minister
– Disagreed with church leadership on relationship
between church and state
– Believed in toleration – people shouldn’t be forced to
join or attend church
– Exclusion was wrong
– Disagreed on treatment and relations with Native
Americans
– Williams believed N.A. deserved respect; relations of
peace; bargaining or buying of land
– Williams banished from MA in 1636; founded R.I. in
1644
Anne Hutchinson
• Came to MA in 1634, was
a midwife and educated
by father
• Held religious meetings in
her home and discussed
sermons of ministers
• Accused of heresies:
teaching men, evaluating
ministers’ beliefs,
antinomianism (belief that
God was talking directly to
her)
• Banished from MA
Anne Hutchinson
• Trial transcript
• Major issues?
Anne Hutchinson
• Trial transcript
• Major issues?
– Women’s role in church
– Male dominated
– Who has right to relate to
God? Interpret God’s will or
message?
– Tradition vs. change
– Maintaining purity through
exclusion
– Can community or covenant
remain strong with dissent?
Salem Witch Trials, 1692
• Combination of social, economic, religious, and cultural
factors led to witch hunt and trials
• Puritan belief in witches not unique, but heightened focus on
outcasts, women, poor – exclusionary tendency in Puritan
life
• Focus on conformity, correct women’s roles in society
• Heightened surveillance of others b/c of frontier Indian war and
commercial development – suspicion of others, constant rumors
• Tituba, a slave, crystal ball, hysterical young women accused T of
being witch
• Two Sarahs (Goode and Osgoode) accused of casting spells,
one typical outcast, the other an argumentative woman outsiders
• Tituba confessed and accused dozens of others
• 48 people claimed spells put on them
• 200 accused; 50 confessed – why? -- Confessors wouldn’t be
executed, but had to rat out teachers of witchcraft
Religious Change
• Problem of declension – 2nd and 3rd
generations not as religious
– What could be done to increase membership and
those saved? – worry that children wouldn’t go to
heaven
– Halfway covenant, 1662 – children of members could
participate in church – way of appealing to younger
generations to become involved
• Problem of religious schism – search for purity
of experience led to divisions, criticism of
leaders
– 1st and 2nd Great Awakening
– Reform movements – perfection on earth
Puritans: Problems of
“Real Life”
• Main Topics:
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Puritan Land Hunger
Relations with Native Americans
Wars
Economic problems and issues
Relations with England
• Question: What issues or problems
strengthened the Puritan covenant? Which
weakened it?
• Or, put another way: What issues of “real life”
challenged or changed Puritan beliefs?
Covenant & The Land
(Review)
Relationship between covenant and settlement on
land:
– Puritans wanted competency – enough land to live on
– focus on subsistence at first, not as much on profits
for self or king
– But not equality – prominent deserved more land
– Focus on community – town decided which land would
be used, worked on what day
– Town meeting – only elect (saved) voted, had best
interests of community
– Covenant bound church and community members to
town and land
– Focus on benefits to included – keeping out excluded
– Different methods of settlement than Chesapeake
Puritans and the Land
(Review)
• John Cotton, “The Divine Right to Occupy the
Land,” 1630
–
–
–
–
–
God gives land to chosen people
People placed on land – passive
Justified war against heathens
Vacant land or unused can be taken
Migration and settlement justified to ‘gain knowledge’,
profit economically, use talents, or plant a
colony/church
– To flee persecution or debts
• Thoughts? Criticisms?
The Land: N.A.s vs. Puritans
• N.A.s and Puritans thought about and used the
land differently
• They formed diff. economies and had diff.
environmental impacts
• N.A. practices had less impact on enviro.
• Puritans brought attitude toward enviro. from
England
• But N.A. did actively change enviro. to live
• N.A. land practices benefited Puritans
• Puritans and N.A. had diff. definitions of property
• Puritan def. of property required N.A. exclusion,
brought about greater enviro. change
Native American Power and
Influence
• Native American traditions of power and
influence – tactics?
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Intermarriage with other clans
Ability to muster support, respect
Reciprocal gift giving and exchange
Cementing of alliances
War as one option
Use of captives to replace those lost in war
• Pequot War and King Philip’s War show
breakdown of traditional tactics
Pequot War, 1637
• Context: prior diseases decimated tribes, power vacuum
• Relations between tribes and clans threatened by
European settlement - competition among tribes for
influence with Europeans for fur trade
• Mohegans allied with English; Pequots with Dutch
• Attacks on Pequot traders; predatory Euro. traders broke
rules of reciprocity: gifts between groups sign of respect,
alliance, rather than just commercial transaction
• Competition and attacks between Indians and allies
• Conflict over land in CT river valley
• Pequots already had more positive relationships with
Dutch and French fur traders – D & F were willing to
engage in reciprocal relations of trade
Pequot War
(continued)
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Difference between fur trade and settled farmers
Puritans wanted land and permanent settlement
Pequots preferred reciprocity of fur trade
Narragansetts and Puritans had close relations,
so Puritans got Ns to attack Pequots
• Puritans not happy with progress of war, so
wiped out Pequots
• Used Bible to justify war; test of their will; Bible
justified Israel’s decimation of other tribes too
Pequots caught between expanding Puritan settlements
Pequot War, Mystic Massacre
• Puritan leaders called out the militia and enlisted
dissident Pequots and some 500 Narragansetts to help
attack a Pequot fort on the Mystic River
• Shelter for Pequot women and children
• English surrounded the fort, set fire to it, and killed many
of the Pequot people who tried to escape
• Between 400 and 700 died
• Puritans hunted down Pequot men
• Few survivors were handed over to the native allies of
the English as payment for their services or were sold
into slavery to other colonies
• Question: Were Pequots victims?
Pequot village near present-day Mystic, CT – site of massacre
Puritans and Indians
George Henry Boughton, “The Early Puritans of New England
Going to Church,” 1867
King Philip’s War, 1675-77
• Wampanoags had been decimated by disease early in
century; had used whites for protection
• King Philip, or Metacomet, Chief of Wampanoags –
unhappy with treatment of N.A.: punishment for crimes;
land-hungry expansion; bad treaties that ripped-off N.A.
• K.P. convinced Ws and Narragansetts to unite to fight
whites
• Got within 20 miles of Boston; defeated several towns
• Of 90 Puritan towns, 52 attacked
• 1/7 of Puritan towns destroyed - took 40 years to rebuild
and resettle lands Puritans had before war
• Insecurity created by war had impact on Puritan
mentality and religious belief
– Suspicion and paranoia contributed to Salem witch hunt
– Puritans questioned why God had punished them
King Philip’s War
(continued)
• Philip reached out to Mohawks to join war against
Puritans
• Instead, Mohawks attacked and defeated Wampanoags
and Narragansetts
• King Philip/Metacomet killed by musket fire in 1677
• @600 whites and 8000 Native Americans killed
• Whites gained control of land area
• Mohawks and Iroquois became leading intermediaries in
trade with whites and Native Americans
• Question: Did King Philip have power?
• Lesson: Europeans affected Native American politics
and power relations; played tribes against one another;
certain tribes took advantage of situation for increase
power
Democracy in MA?
• Based on what you now know, do you
think MA was a democracy?
• Why or why not?
Challenges to Puritan Life?
• Future problems?