Religious differences in colonial America were apparent and inevitable towardcreating a diverse society. Differences in religion, and way of life, and thelasting effects of these helped to shape The United States. Branches of thePuritan and Quaker faiths were the trailblazers for American diversity. Most ofthe first religions to begin the colonization of the America’s were not justcommon Protestants.
They had not only broken ties with the Catholic Church, butnow were severed from the Anglican Church of England. Faiths such as Puritan(which also had many branches) and Quaker were the front runners for Americancolonization. (2) Quakers espoused that the Church of England violated thespirit of Christianity as much as the Catholic Church. They were fueled toreform because of the new European Renaissance feeling, which called for theliteral translation of the bible, and not having a sole person lead the church,such as a king, or a pope.
They said that people could worship god directly,without having to go through a clergy member. They believed in frugality, and indressing and living extremely plainly. The tithes paid by the members of theAnglican and Catholic churches, to them seemed to be excessive, and unnecessaryfor worshipping god. They refused to attend regular services for church, andwere persecuted with fines and confiscation of property by English authorities.
This forced them to leave England for a more tolerant society. The Puritans,also former Anglicans, wished to purify the Church. They were more devout thanthe Quakers, in that they believed in clergy, and in formality, but theydidn’t like some of the ceremony that was adopted by the Church of England,that was similar to that of the Catholic Church. They were more for the literalinterpretation of the scripture than a clergy member interpreting it for them. These people weren’t nobility, but simply the working men and women ofEngland, many of which came from Cambridge University.
They came to be regardedas gloomy fanatics because they didn’t believe in societies simple pleasures,such as gaming and card playing. These acts were frowned upon by them. It wassaid that they objected to bear baiting, which was a game that required theslaughtering of a bear, not because of the humanity issue, but because of thepleasure the spectators got from watching it. Puritans included severalreligions that branched from them, such as Presbyterians, Separatists andCongregationalists.
Another, more radical group of Puritans was the Anabaptistswho believed that true religion was solely for adults, and that baptism includedthe entire immersion of the body in holy water. They also believed in the strictaccordance of church and state. (5) When the first religious pilgrims came tothe new world in 1620, to Plymouth, Massachusetts on the Mayflower, it began awave of such trips. America still had a forming tolerance level, and government,therefore it still had plenty of time to be shaped by these initial settlers. They brought along their new ideas on religion and government.
England, becausethey controlled these colonies, began to realize that toleration was needed. They then passed the Toleration Act in 1689, which said that religious diversitywas allowed. This, however did not help the feeling of prejudice in England,forcing even more people out. One group that was still persecuted was theQuakers. Lead by William Penn (the Pennsylvania namesake) they journeyed toAmerica. When they set up their colony here, even Native Americans, andCatholics were welcome, and friends with the Quakers.
Their formal name wasactually the Religious Society of Friends. This helped to instill this feelingof friendship into American societal beliefs. Puritans, and Separatists had beenleaving England for years, and were not as tolerable as their Quakercounterparts. The Puritans, who were based mainly in Massachusetts, believedthat their religious convictions were the only right way.
They were not tolerantof other ways of thinking. Church and state were one, and clergy members leadthe colonies. People were very conformed, and did not associate with the othercolonies, religious or otherwise. They rarely met for any reason other thanchurch, and were not known for having leisure time. This strong diversitybetween the colonies, surprisingly did not create too much controversy butrather made America more tolerant in the long run. There was even a colonialtoleration act, called the Maryland Toleration Act passed in 1649, that wasahead of the British one, because of the need for it in the colonies more thanin England.
(3) The governments of the new colonies in America were quitediffering. The Quakers, lead by William Penn, set up a democratic form ofgovernment in which everyone had rights that were protected. Good relations weremade with the Native Americans. This included many peace treaties. The mostfamous of which was signed on June 23, 1683, on the banks of the Delaware River,and stated that the colonists and Indians would “live in love as long asthe sun gave light. ” This was a revolutionary idea of this time ofaristocracy and sovereignty.
Quakers were well known for being very tolerable,and respectful of most lifestyles. The only exception to this was them not beingvery empathetic to Catholics, however they did allow them to live in theircolonies. Banking, Insurance, and book keeping were emphasized, more thananything else, besides religion. However, religion was brought into stateaffairs. Monthly meetings that were to attend to colonial business, wereactually prayer services. This meant that there was not a strict separation ofchurch and state, and in modern democracy.
The Puritan government was one thatwas entirely based on the church. Everything was under constant supervision. They were easily manipulated because of conformity, and punishment was severefor “sinners,” as is demonstrated when the Puritans have the Salemwitch scare which resulted in many hangings. Education was the highest stressedissue for the Puritans, and banking was thought of as unimportant. Relationswith the natives weren’t particularly good. Puritans tried to avoid contactwith these strange new people, as much as possible.
A Puritan government was notparticularly tolerant, and was more like a hierarchy because of extensive clergyinvolvement in everyday life. (1) Though governmentally, the Quakers appeared tobe in the right, Puritans were much more advanced, educationally. Quakers didnot stress education, at all. They believed that all you needed to know could betaught through the church, and scripture. They believed that the scripture couldbe read by a select few, to the public. They did not see the point in educatingthe people, when all that was needed to know was in the bible, and in sermons.
They solely relied on inspiration and spontaneity for guidance. This idea didnot carry through for long. Eventually the Quakers determined that in order tobe an effective society, people had to be educated. This lead to the creation ofschools and Universities under the Quaker faith.
The first of which was simply aprimary and secondary school called the Friends’ School. Eventually,Universities were created in and around Philadelphia. Puritans had beeneducating since they came to the new world. They believed that education wasvery important, so that children could grow up reading and understanding thebible. There had always been schools in Puritan colonies, and in rural areasthey had tutors for their children. Puritans also began to open their ownUniversities, such as Harvard, and Yale.
Education remained strictly religiousuntil after the American Revolution. This educational importance that wasespoused by the Puritans began to shape the education of the entire country. In1647, and 1650, Massachusetts, and Connecticut passed laws mandating theeducation of children. They said that if a parent did not enroll their child inschool then a business man could automatically take the child into theirapprenticeship. Free education was being offered in many places in order topromote learning about the bible, and going into the ministry.
By 1700, 70% ofmen, and 45% of women could read and write in America, which was an incrediblestatistic. This also increased the number of missionaries, in America, becauseof the increase in educated people. (1, 35) The only real conflict that occurredin the new world was with Native Americans, and the occasional squabble within acolony. The Native American’s weren’t even a very large threat, yet, becauseexpansion had not reached it peak. Because of the tolerable feeling of theQuaker colonies, and the hermetic feeling of the Puritan colonies, Americaremained a very peaceful place to live, being fairly non-confrontational.
America has picked up many of these original colonial ideas. The Puritansespecially helped to form our modern day theories, and standards for education. They began the first educational establishments in this country, and introducedthe strict discipline needed to succeed in learning. Many of their schools, suchas Harvard, are still in use, and are very respectable.
The Quakers, too had adirect impact on current American society. Their tolerant ideas helped to spreadthe ideals of America. This country was built on tolerance, and democracy. OurConstitution was drawn up with these ideas, and the reason so many people cameto the new world was because of the political situation here, and it’sbenefits. Because of their respect for other religions, and races, America wasbuilt on good values.
(4) By coming to the new world because of injustice, theoriginal American colonists helped to create a new country that was religiously,and socially diverse, and generally, and politically accepting. The injusticethat they withstood helped to insure that America would not be like that. Theoriginal settlers to America helped to shape the way we are, today, and the waywe are going to be in the future. The ideals they stressed, and fought forfreedom of, have been kept with us all, and formed The United States in ademocratic, and tolerable way. Bibliography1.
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Colonial America: A Compact History. Hawthorn Books, Inc, 1971, New York,New York. 3. *Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. Major Problems in American ColonialHistory: Documents and Essays. D.
C. Health and Company, 1993, Lexington,Massachusetts. 4. McFarlane, Anthony. The British in the America’s(1480-1815).
Longman Group Limited, 1994, New York, New York. 5. Middleton,Richard. Colonial America Second Edition (A History, 1585-1776).
BlackwellPublishers, 1996, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 6. Semonche, John E. Religion andConstitutional Government in the United States. Signal Books, 1985, Carrboro,North Carolina.