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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

2. 3 Puritan Influence on the Early American Society

Early in his reign, Charles I wanted to get Puritans to settle in America. This he did by offering them generous grants for settlement in America. One such grant went to a group of puritans to settle in the Islands of West Indies. Another grant went to the Massachusetts Bay Company. The king also gave a charter to George Calvert to establish a colony in Virginia, where Roman Catholics were permitted to settle.

The Massachusetts Bay Company organized a group of rich Puritans, and landed in what is now known as New England. The Members had signed an Agreement - the Cambridge Agreement, to settle with their families in the New World. It is interesting to note that nowhere in the Charters or agreements signed is there a mention made of a government or headquarters for the colonies. The settlements that came up in the New World, due to practical needs, created self-government with the consent of the settlers.

For instance, the Massachusetts Company elected John Winthrop as its governor. With time, as the settlement grew in population, the company formed a government to conduct the business of the company. Winthrop, the governor of the company, became the governor of the colony.

Initially, when the colony was just set up, the puritan values of self-denial, discipline and hard work helped the settlers establish their colony. The Puritan government not only looked after the affairs of the company but also of the colony. It enacted into law the biblical injunctions against drunkenness, adultery, murder, and theft in an attempt to regulate the religion and morality of the people.

The colony was not a theocracy i.e. it was not run by the church. Thus the Puritan colony in the 17th century was not just a dull, pleasure denying society. The colony was involved in profitable trade, and had developed a lively social life where alcohol was consumed. Educated puritans read secular as well as religious literature. This was the basic difference between the Puritanism in England and the Puritanical values that developed in the New World.

However, the formal separation of the church from the state had not occurred yet. In both New England and the south, there was a union of church and state. In other words, the church was supported by the state. In fact, church attendance increased during the ’witch craft trials’ at Salem (1690 - 92). The period saw more than 150 people imprisoned and several women were publicly burned at stakes. Membership of the church was essential for voting or holding any public office.

By 1733, the British had set up a total of 13 colonies in North America.

(See Appendix.)

The Colonies

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Exhibit 2.2

Before the first Europeans touched the shores of North America, the Red Indians already inhabited the New World. They lived in tribes, some of them were nomadic, while the others led a settled life doing agriculture on vast pieces of land. Initially, the Indians in North America accepted the Europeans settlers in their midst. Some Indians helped the white men adjust in their new environment. However, very often conflicts broke out between the Indians and the Europeans. This was chiefly due to the European adventurers who tried to grab the lands of the Indians.

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Table of Contents

2.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
2.1 - Colonies in America
2.2 - The First English settlement
2.3 - Puritan Influence on the early American Society
2.4 - Colonies Versus Britain
2.5 - Points to Remember

Chapter 3


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