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Massachusetts and New England

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1104
  • Category: Religion

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In what ways did ideas and values held by Puritans influence the political, economic, and social development of the New England colonies from 1630 through the 1660s? During the 1600s, waves of Puritan immigrants arrived in the region of New England, settling the area and establishing population centers in areas like Massachusetts Bay, where the part of Boston was established. In contrast to the Chesapeake region’s inhabitants, the Puritan settlers did not come primarily for economic interests, but rather out of a desire to create a more pure, moral Christian society based on their street code of moral living and emphasis on the family and community. Consequently, the Puritans had a strong impact on the development of the New England region, based on their religious emphasis and support for a theocratic political structure. By organizing their society based on their desire to create a theocracy, the Puritans ensured that their values and ideas had a profound impact on the political, economic, and social development of the New England colonies from 1630s through the 1660s. In the area of political development of New England, the Puritans influenced the region by basing the political structure on a theocratic, authoritarian model that enforced rigid moral conformity.

When the Puritan settlers founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, their leader, John Winthrop, outlined their mission of creating a colony that was a “city upon a hill” or “mode of Christian charity” that would serve as an example of the ideal society that the Puritans hoped to create (Doc A). As a result, New England was invoked by laws that enforced the Puritans’ strict moral code, including bans on public drunkenness, the theater, and strict punishments for those who disobeyed “God’s law.” So, New England’s political development centered on the establishment of a theocratic state where morality superseded all other concerns. In fact, this infusion of morality into Puritan politics led to a fierce response to any dissidents on the colony. For example, when Roger Williams, a preacher, called for greater religious tolerance in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, challenging authority of the Puritan hierarchy (Doc F), the Puritan colonial leaders banished him in 1636. This action led to Williams founding the colony of Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissidents, showing that tensions over Puritan theocratic values led to the establishment of new political entities in New England.

Clearly, the Puritan clergy, which dominated the political structure, tried to enforce conformity and opposed any separation of church and state, as shown with Nathaniel Ward’s argument against government tolerance of religions diversity (Doc G). The Puritan hierarchy believed that giving religions freedom to individuals undermined the colony, so they ensured that the citizenry would not have much independent liberty or authority (Doc H). In addition, the Puritans’ emphasis on religions conformity and the attainment of land for their model society led them to engage in wars with neighboring Indians tribes, with Governor William Bradford organizing the defeat of the Pequot tribe in the Pequot War of 1632 (Doc D).

As a result, New England experienced the bloody removal of its tribes as part of the political development of the region, By organizing a theocratic form of government that enforced moral conformity and provoked the formation of Rhode Island, the Puritans clearly influenced New England’s political development through their values and ideas. By believing that they were favored by God to succeed, the Puritans worked hard to prioritize economic development in New England. Bu the region’s economic activity was secondary to religious concerns as a focus. Since many of the Puritan setters in New England were wealthy merchants, they created a merchant upper class at the top of the economic structure. In addition, the ample supply of timber and the necessity of fishing in place of agriculture ensured

that timber and fishing because the most prized and valued products from the New England colonies. Since they believed that their wealth was a sign that they had won God’s favor, the Puritan merchants worked hard to ensure that the part of Boston became prime shipping and commercial center in New England so that they would be legitimate players in the economic scene of the New World. However, unlike the Chesapeake colonies, where people focused primarily on commercial centers, New England did not develop as a region focused on economic activity because it was founded as “a plantation of religion” (Doc J), not as a center for “worldly trade.” Nevertheless, the Puritans’ emphasis on winning God’s favor illustrates the importance of the merchant class on New England’s economic development. Concerning New England’s social development, the Puritans’ emphasis on community, family and education caused the region to develop with more families and small towns and with an advantage in education.

At the foundation of Puritan society was the importance of the family, which was viewed as the central social unit through which children were raised to become enlightened participants on the “model Christian society.” So, since Puritans were more likely to come to the New World’s families instead of as individuals, New England had more families settle there than in other regions of colonization. Consequently, the region had a more balanced sex ration of males to females and more stable population growth. In addition, Puritans placed emphasis on the concept of a community living together an sustaining its members, so New England was marked by the development of many small towns and villages, each with common lands for animals to graze known as the “common” (Doc B). Also, Puritans placed emphasis on education because they wanted to be enlightened, informed followers of their religious beliefs. So they established Harvard University as a school to train new Puritan ministers (Doc E).

Harvard’s establishment provided New England with a major center of learning, supported the Puritan hierarchy with informed clergymen, and led to greater literacy in New England because of the use of Harvard’s printing press. So, the Puritans’ values of religion, education, family ad community clearly had a profound impact on New England’s social development. In conclusion, the Puritans’ values of creating a model Christian society had a major impact on the political, social, and economic development of New England. By establishing a theocratic structure, the Puritans gave the region its political system. With their emphasis on winning God’s favor, the Puritans made the region a center of merchant activity, but placed religion before economics as the persons for their settlement. In social development, families and small communities sprang from the Puritans’ values. Clearly the Puritans had a distinct influence on the region and colonial times.

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