I. Puritans History and Immigration to The New World:
Puritanism was a religious reform movement; it had a fundamentalist protestant belief. Puritans believed that it was necessary to be in a covenant relationship with God in order to be redeemed from one’s sinful condition. According to puritans, preaching and the holy spirit were the instruments of salvation, they emphasized preaching on images extracted from scripture and everyday experiences. The puritan’s teachings were influenced by Calvinist typology and policy.
The combination of the religious earnestness of puritanism with the doctrine of predestination inherited from Calvinism produced a” covenant theology “, which is a belief or a sense of superiority, considering themselves as the elected people chosen by God to live a Godly life as individuals and community. They called themselves using many terms as Godly, saints, professors, and God’s children, but not puritans since this last had been given by their enemies.
The beliefs and the characteristics of puritanism led them to the rejection of the Anglican Church which they considered as corrupted and viewed as popish idolatry because they rejected the pope’s authority and the episcopacy system in the church.
Puritans were divided to two major groups. The first group called the Separatists, or Independents were radical Puritans who, in the late sixteenth century, advocated reform within the Church of England.
Dissatisfied with the slow pace of official reform they founded churches outside the established order. Robert Browne gathered the primary Separatist church at Norfolk, England, in 1581; later Separatists were dubbed ‘Brownest,’ but the group did not constitute an organized movement. Within the main Separatists proposed a congregational or independent form of church polity, where in each church was to be autonomous, founded upon a formal covenant, electing its own officers, and restricting the membership to ‘visible saints.’ They wanted worship freedom independently from the English authority. In England during the 1640s, the minority wing of the Puritan party maintained congregationalism against the majority in the Westminster Assembly and the Parliament and were known as Independents, but the multitude of sects that arose out of the disorders of the time also took unto themselves the title of Independents, so that the term came to be a vague designation for opponents of Presbyterianism. The separatists were the first to immigrate to the New World.
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The second group were the nonseparatist puritans who sought to reform the Anglican Church from within and preferred to remain inside the church.
1) The Birth and Evolution of Puritanism:
Puritanism movement aroused in 1534. When King Henry VIII separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. The reform of king henry was for personal purposes. The puritans were not satisfied since instead of the pope as the head of the church, it would be the king. For this reason, they considered the Church of England corrupted and they aimed to purify it.
The Protestantism movement advanced rapidly during the reign of kind Edward VI in between 1547 to 1553. During the reign of Queen Mary (1553 to 1558), England became ones more catholic after the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church, Queen Mary was not tolerant, and she was known for her persecution of Protestants including puritans who refused conversion to the Catholic Church.
Under the reign of Elizabeth, I, the Church of England was widely considered as reformed. Being protestant, she realized that religion had caused a lot of problems in England so she tried to find a middle way that both Catholics and Protestants could accept.
Some of the reforms she made to satisfy them were:
- The use of the term supreme Governor instead of head of the church
- Church services and the bible were in English
- Many elements of the Catholic Church were allowed like bishops, church decoration,
- The English prayer book was brought back, and a Latin version as printed too
- The new prayer book said that Christ was present in the bread and the wine in the communion service, this was halfway between Catholics’ and protestants’ beliefs.
Although the reforms under Queen Elizabeth I, puritans were still unsatisfied and represented a threat to Elizabeth even that they were not a great one, but she did not accept the puritan challenge to her authority. Elizabeth resisted the puritan attempts to change the religious settlement.
By 1590, most people accepted the church of England as national one. The movement started to lose its importance after the death of its leaders one by one.
After the death of Elizabeth, I, Puritan movement hope raised again when King James I took the throne in 1603. He was king James VI of Scotland, he received Presbyterian and Calvinist education. Puritans thought that he would reform the Church of England as it is supposed to be reformed.
A list of requests signed by 1000 puritan ministers was presented to the king in 1603, expressing their desire to reform the Church of England and its state. The main demands of the document called” The Millinery Petition “.
They demanded the rejection of many ceremonies like:
- The signing of the cross during baptism.
- The administration of baptism by lay people (It was common in some areas that mid-wives would baptize children.)
- Use of the ring in marriage.
- Bowing at the name of Jesus.
- The requirement of the surplice and cap.
- The practice of giving men multiple ecclesiastical positions, receiving pay for each.
Also, they demanded a stricter observance of the Sabbath which they considered as holy. They requested some changes to ecclesiastical discipline which is the study of the Christian church, its origins, the relationship to Jesus and its role in salvation, its polity, its discipline, its destiny, and its leadership.
The Millinery petition caused King James I to organize “The Hampton Court Conference “in 1604. He called representatives of the Anglican Church including English puritans to discuss the puritan requests. King James rejected most of the Puritan’s demands and particularly the rejection of any change in the episcopal form of church government. When he announced what he said that he had learned in Scotland “No bishop, no king “, which he meant that the enforcement of the bishop’s authority in religion was essential to the maintenance of royal power in other words the divine right of kings. In the other hand, he accepted some of their requests as the one for a new translation of the Bible.
This was a great disappointment for puritans, in addition, the king said that he would” harry them out of the land “if they refuse to conform.
According to William Bradford, future governor of the Plymouth colony in his book Of Plymouth Plantation, himself and his separatist followers were haunted, and persecuted on every side and some were taken to prison.
This was the main reason for their immigration first to Holland than to the new world,
Hampton Court Conference, 1604.
2) Immigration to Holland Than To the New World :
By 1607, life became so uncertain for the separated congregation, they began to think of living in England to escape from the persecution of the king. Hearing from other separatists who immigrated and found their religious freedom there. They decided to do the same and take the adventure which was almost desperate, intolerable, and a misery worst than death without an official permission for leaving England. They were forced to seek extralegal means to cross the northern sea to reach Holland.
Holland was known for its religious freedom; it was proudly protestant and tolerant place. Holland was one of the seven provinces that united to form the Dutch republic after declaring independence from Catholic Spain.
Despite the religious freedom, life was not easy in Holland. The separatists stayed briefly in Amsterdam before moving to Leiden. Amsterdam was home for diverse growing population and religious refugees which caused housing and working problems.
Leiden was the second largest city in Holland. They remained there for eleven or twelve years. Most found work in the cloth trade, others were carpenters, tailors, and printers. Due to the hard life, even children were obliged to work. This child left their parents to become soldiers and sailors in the Dutch army. Children becoming more Dutch, their parents feared that they would lose their identity as English people. In other words, the English puritan society began to be influenced by the Dutch. Moreover, the separatists worried that another war might break out between the Dutch and the Spanish.
So, they decided to move again.
After great meditation, pilgrims decided to leave Holland to establish a farming village in the northern part of the Virginia colony. They planned to live under the English government, but they would worship in their own manner, with a separate church. Because of their difficult financial situation, their money was not enough to achieve their dream village. In search of a solution, they made a deal with a company of investors in London called “Virginia Company “. The company would provide passage for the colonists and supply them with all the necessary tools (clothing, food. etc.), but in turn, they would work for the company for seven years for free. To attain their goal, they accepted the conditions of Virginia Company.
On September 6TH, 1620, a ship called mayflower departed from Plymouth and headed to America. The ship carried 102 passengers among them, women and children. The passengers were split to two groups; the separatists who were only 41, they called themselves “Saints” and the others called “strangers” who were adventures, tradesmen, craftsmen, laborers, Indentured servants, and several young orphans.
After 66 days voyage, the passengers arrived at the New World on November 11, 1620. Due to the bad stormy weather of the Atlantic Ocean, they did not arrive to the Intended place as they planned to. Instead of landing in a place near the mouth of the Hudson River, they landed in another called Cape Cod. Pilgrims choose to remain there and establish their colony but they needed to get formal permission from King James and the council of New England, this permission called “patent “.
3) The Arrival to The New World and The Signature of the mayflower Compact:
After great meditation, pilgrims decided to leave Holland to establish a farming village in the northern part of the Virginia colony. They planned to live under the English government, but they would worship in their own manner, with a separate church. Because of their difficult financial situation, their money was not enough to achieve their dream village. In search of a solution, they made a deal with a company of investors in London called “Virginia Company “. The company would provide passage for the colonists and supply them with all the necessary tools (clothing, food…), but in turn, they would work for the company for seven years for free. To attain their goal, they accepted the conditions of Virginia Company.
On September 6TH, 1620, a ship called mayflower departed from Plymouth and headed to America. The ship carried 102 passengers among them, women and children. The passengers were split to two groups; the separatists who were only 41, they called themselves “Saints” and the others called “strangers” who were adventures, tradesmen, craftsmen, laborers Indentured servants, and several young orphans.
After 66 days voyage, the passengers arrived at the New World on November 11, 1620. Due to the bad stormy weather of the Atlantic Ocean, they did not arrive to the Intended place as they planned to. Instead of landing in a place near the mouth of the Hudson River, they landed in another called Cape Cod. Pilgrims choose to remain there and establish their colony but they needed to get formal permission from King James and the council of New England, this permission was called “patent “.
According to William Bradford, several men on the board especially strangers began to make discounted and mutinous speeches, they considered themselves as servants because they promised the London Virginia Company to work for free to pay for their passage for the New World. They thought that none had the power to command them since they landed in Cape Cod not in the territory of Virginia so the contract with Virginia Company is not valid anymore. Passengers promised to take their freedom as soon as they get on land.
‘Occasioned partly by the discontented and mutinous speeches that some of the strangers amongst them had let fall from them in the ship, that when they came ashore, they would use their owne libertie, for none had the power to command them, the patente they had being for Virginia, and not for New England, which belonged to another Government with which the Virginia company had nothing to do’
To maintain organization while waiting for the new permission of the king and improve their survival chances in the new world since pilgrims knew that they would need all the help they could get to survive especially the first winter.
To solve the problem, pilgrims wrote an agreement or a covenant which was drafted and signed by forty-one men including the mutineers abroad the Mayflower and two servants indentured servants, women were not allowed to vote and participate in the governing process. The signer’s purpose was to live in peace by creating their own rules and choosing their leaders.