The Puritan movement consisted of a group of English Protestants in the 16th and the 17th centuries. The movement was founded on the ideology of purity of worship and doctrine as well as individual and group piety. It was viewed as a social danger as it seemed to generate an excess of evangelical fervor disturbing the public tranquility and promoting a mysticism obscuring the imperatives of morality. The movement was firmly based on purity of religion as their main agenda and did not base its agenda on economic reforms and the then upcoming innovations. They felt that advancing their own profit and their community’s well-being furthered God’s plans for them and as such, were much into improving the livelihoods of all their members. Though puritans did not base their ideology on economic development, their participation in economic activities was paramount as this was the only way in which they would improve their livelihoods. As such, this paper argues on the importance behind participation in economic activities as well as purity in religion that had a major role in the lives of puritans.
Do Puritans identify any threats to the communal idea?
The puritans believed that and individual should work for the betterment of the society. There was nobody above the others and human beings equal, and we should dedicate their lives in saving others in their daily life. They also believed the land and the resources should be shared equally to the entire human race whether poor or rich. Nevertheless, this could not be possible since the New England was a communist state where the resources could be shared. Furthermore, they believed all the citizens of New England should follow and govern by the rules of the bible and the law of the England. However, these stands could not be achieved since the New England had many religious groups like Hindu, Buddhism and Muslim, who had other believed. This incompatibility of on the values and principles with other groups such as American natives and other immigrant pose a major threat to the idea of communal idea.
The puritans believed in a pure life of individualism, where everyone was equal. They put an emphasis on religion, not the economic needs/ means. This poses a threat to the communal idea since every individual was trying to make ends meet to sustain their lives in a new land by engaging in economic activities. The engagement in production activities calls for use of labor mainly from slaves. The puritans were against the slavery, but other groups were not. Therefore, for puritans to sustain their daily life they had to engage in economic activities where slavery was the order of the day. This posed a great threat since the other migrants and natives were not willing to work along slaves whom they considered inferior to them. Thus, the slave trade and economic drive was another threat to this idea.
What "Puritan" assessments of history, if any, appear in early thought, in the Southern and Middle Colonies?
A great number of the puritans came from commercially depressed woolen districts. They sought Calvinism and its idea of reassuring order in the divine plan, fed on social unrest as it provided spiritual comfort. As such, the major motive for establishing the middle and southern colonies was to develop profitable training centers in which all the community members would benefit. The puritan movement fuelled New England’s mercantile development and Penn’s Quaker experiment was turning the middle colonies into America’s bread basket whereas the south turned to cash crop farming. Development of these colony districts from those that lay to the north was rendered by geographical location of the colonies and their motives to expand economically. However, the southern and middle colonies did not enjoy the good health as seen in their New England counterparts as there emerged outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever which subsequently kept the life expectancies lower. The southern and middle colonies attracted religious dissenters and tended to migrate in families. As such, the family connections were much prevalent in these colonies. Those who settled in the southern and middle colonies went to America to seek economic prosperity that was not very prevalent in the old England, which provided a grand existence of stately manors and hard living. Through their strictness, the puritans ran the colonies in the interests of the community and with little tolerance for a democratic government.
What did Puritans say about American distinctiveness [or "exceptionalism"] in their ideas? What evidence do they provide for their argument?
Puritans believed that American exceptionalism is one based on “chosenness”. They believed that America was a sacred chosen nation that would guide the rest of the world on religious grounds. This was further attested by John Winthrop, one of the most iconic believers of American exceptionalism, who suggested at one time that the puritan movement would lead to the establishment of the “city on the hill” in reference to America as a nation that would be looked upon by other nations.
In conclusion, the Puritan movement thought that it was prudent that America as the leader exerts its republican and liberty ideologies to the rest of the world. This was in a bid to become a shining light on all fronts, politically, economically and socially. The Puritans justified this action through the belief of sacred “chosenness” by God. According to the Puritans, the exceptionalism ideology was a “lived experience” of a “selected agent”. An idea that began as a religious principle was further extended to political and economic doctrines with sacred history as the supporting justification.
Ahlstrom, Sydney E. A religious history of the American people. Yale University Press, 2004.
Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Puritan origins of the American self. Yale University Press, 1975.
Morgan, Edmund Sears. The puritan dilemma: The story of John Winthrop. Longman, 1999.