In the 1600s, when America was a mysterious land inhabited by even more mysterious people, a handful of brave souls ventured to this strange new world. These brave souls were known as the Puritans. This special group of people sought refuge in America to practice their religion freely, without the ‘corruption of the church’ back in their homeland. Puritans believed that the law, economy and social lives of the people should be completely controlled by their one God. These Puritans had a strong developmental impact on New England and lead their society on a religious foundation. The strict foundation had a distinct impact on the political, economic, and social development of the New England colonies from the 1630s through the 1660s. Puritans developed early New England politics on religion-based beliefs. Puritans sharply leaned towards a more theocratic, repressive model that enforced a strict moral code. John Winthrop, an early Puritan leader, delivered his famous ‘City Upon a Hill’ speech on sight at the Puritan established, Massachusetts Bay Colony; as seen in document A.
The speech was Winthrop’s outline for the colony that emphasized the colony would serve as an example of the model society the Puritans desired to create. In hopes to create this ideal society, New England fell under the Puritan law, which were sternly and primarily based on the teachings of the Catholic Bible. This law also delegated harsh punishments such as death or banishment for anyone who disobeyed their holy law. Theocracy was now the center of New England’s politics and moral principles overruled rationality. This morality the Puritans enforced with an iron fist, led to debates within the colony. These debates thus lead to banishments and the banishments even lead to new colonies, Rhode Island, started by Rodger Williams in 1636, is an example of a colony created from this. With new colonies and political views arising, Puritans felt they were loosing their grip on New England politics and tried to use the government to enforce religious intolerance. Puritans saw religious freedom as dejecting the colony and made it clear to every individual that it would not be tolerated. An example of this could be found in document G, when Nathanial Ward spoke out against separation of church and state.
Along with religious intolerance, Puritans became engrossed in battles with the neighboring Native American tribes. In a fight for land for the Puritan’s utopic society, Governor William Bradford organized an attack on the Pequot tribe. This battle is known as the Pequot War of 1632 and is responsible for the death and captivity of 400- 700 Indian men, woman and children. William Bradford describes a description of the bloody scene in document D. By establishing a strict theocratic government, Puritans largely impacted New England with their laws and ideas. Due to Puritan ideals, they believed they were God sent and therefore prioritized economic development in New England accordingly. Most Puritans were upper class merchants, which lead to the creation of an upper class economic structure. The Puritans excelled in the fishing and timber trade, two highly prized materials in New England, which thus allowed the Puritans to embark in economic success. Believing their flourishing economics were a sign they were in God’s favor, Puritans worked very hard to stay in that state of grace.
This hard work brought the Puritan colony on the map as a prime shipping and commercial center in New England. Although Puritans did not strive for economic success, but merely religious success, they developed a well-oiled economic machine. This machine shows the significant Puritan impact on the economics of New England by displaying the importance of the merchant class in the New World. Puritan impact on New England’s social development allowed the community to produce a healthy region prosperous with families and education. Family, as well as religion, was a large part of the Puritan society. This gave Puritan children the advantage of education because it was believed that every person in the community should be able to read the word of the Lord, this increases literacy dramatically. Puritans also went as far as establishing the first university in the New World, Harvard, to train puritan Ministers and lawyers. This can be shown by the discussion in document E. The bases of family also lead more families, rather than individuals, to settle in New England.
The amount of Puritan families created a strong sense of community throughout their small towns and villages. The community would pool together resources to support its members and structured their town around the three main aspects of their lives: the school, the church, the town hall, and the common. This can be seen in document B and proves how important these ideals were because the Puritans not only figuratively placed these things in the center of their lives, but also physically placed them there. The strong Puritan values of family, education, religion, and community heavily impacted the social development of New England in the 1630s through the 1660s. In conclusion, Puritan principles of their dream society greatly influenced the political, economic, and social development of New England in the early to mid 1600s.
With their strict religious vigor, Puritans created a theocratic government that developed New England’s politics immensely. Their ability to prosper in the timber and fishing industries set up a merchant based economic structure. This structure was able to excel and make New England a major economic hotspot for the New World. Puritans influenced social development by their deep seeded values of family, education, and religion and used those ideals to recognize the idea of community throughout New England. Therefore, Puritans impacted New England in countless ways and helped shape the modern America we know today.
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