Throughout history, many people have wanted to create a model society. During the 1600’s, Puritans in New England tried to establish a perfect society. The settlers sought to create a colony that was free, contained a strong sense of religion, and was perfect and admired.
The Puritans tried to create a liberated society. They first wanted to be free from England. They wanted to prevent what had gone wrong in England from happening in their colonies. In England, many people faced persecution because of their beliefs. Many people came to America seeking religious freedom. During the reign of Charles I in England, the only way people could get religious freedom was to sail to America, mostly to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Here, the settlers placed a very strong emphasis on religious freedom.
The Puritans ended up constructing the Massachusetts Bay Colony based on their religious freedoms and beliefs. The colonists managed to accomplish many of these goals. But a few of these goals did not go as they had originally wished. The freedoms in America eventually became the same as it was in England, because the government taxed all the people, church members or not, and they enforced a law forcing people to attend church services. The Puritans fulfilled the freedoms that they wanted, but these liberties did not last long.
The settlers also wanted their colonies to have a very strong sense of religion. The New England Puritans were very intense in religious matters. They wanted to be a very holy society. To ensure this, the church and the government worked together; the religion was very closely connected with the Puritan political structure. Their mixture of religion and politics was based on self-government, limited government, individualism, and the community’s right to control, meaning that the community could control all its members in a common interest. They were very serious about religion because they were founded upon religious beliefs.
They felt very strong about purifying the Anglican Church. Their churches because Congregational Churches; therefore, they emphasized local control and independence. The colonies, especially the Massachusetts Bay Colony, aspired to maintain this “holiness”, and they accomplished it, but it got out of hand. Their mixture of politics and religion soon turned into a theocracy, where it was hard to see where church and state separated. As their religious freedom lessened, the colonies became more and more like England over time.
The colonists wanted their colonies to be admired. In order for this to happen, the colonies needed to be “perfect”. They set boundaries about who they would let settle there: they only let religiously acceptable people in. The colonists thought that they needed a strict orthodoxy to survive. They were trying to create a holy empire, or a “city on a hill”, that would be looked up to by the rest of the world. They wanted to become a “beacon to others” (Brinkley, 1999). The governor of Massachusetts Bay, John Winthrop, described an ideal society in “Model of Christian Charity”. The settlers wanted to create a “New Jerusalem”, or John Winthrop’s “city on a hill”, to be admired by everyone, and they were willing to do almost anything to achieve it.
The New England Puritans were also very hard workers, and they had a very strong work ethic. They were serious and hardworking people who led very useful lives. They were against anything that wasted time or resources, such as playing cards or gambling. They believed that if they worked hard then they would be successful; therefore they thought material success and prosperity were favors from God. Although the Puritans created a strong and energetic society that would influence American culture far after their time, they still could not live up to the ideal conditions that John Winthrop discussed. They also could not keep up their passion for religion, so in the end, their colonies were far from perfect.
The settlers tried very hard to create these perfect and holy societies. They gained freedom from England, including the freedom to worship as they wanted. They then founded colonies based upon religion with a very strict and holy society. They wanted these colonies to be admired by being what they thought to be “perfect”. No matter how hard they endeavored, these colonies only became more and more like England. They New England Puritans tried very hard, but they never achieved their model society.
Brinkley, Alan. (1999). American History: A Survey, Tenth Edition. Boston:
Sage, Henry J. (2003). Colonial American History: Puritan New England. www.nv.cc.va.us/nvsageh/Hist121/Part1/NewEngland.htm.