The Puritans

On September 6, 1620, the Mayflower, a sailing vessel, started her "memorable voyage from Plymouth, England, with about 100 pilgrims aboard, bound for Virginia to establish a private permanent colony in North America." (Roark, et al, 2007). Arriving on November 21, at what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts, 41 of them signed the famous Mayflower Compact. "A small detail of the pilgrims, led by William Bradford, assigned to select a place for permanent settlement, landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, on December 21." (Roark et al. 2007).The text of the document read: "We, having undertaken for advancement of the Christian faith and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, docovenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid, andenact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Officesas shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony into which we promise all due Submission and Obedience" (Roark, et al. 2007)Shortly before Charles I dissolved Parliament in 1629, "many Puritans formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony and were granted a charter for colonization in New England". (Roark, et al. 2007. pp 77-101). In 1630 this group sailed for the New World, with elected governor John Winthrop to lead them. Aboard the ship Arbella, "Winthrop delivered a sermon to his followers about the significance of their journey and their duty as settlers to follow a righteous path and to adhere strictly to God’s laws" (Roark, et al. 2007). He and his followers "established settlements around Boston in 1630." Unlike the Virginia colonists, "most migrants to New England were farmers or tradesmen of middle-class origin whocame as part of a family" (Roark, et al. 2007). Their "family ties reinforced their religious beliefs through interlocking institutions of family, church and community". Unlike their Chesapeake counterparts, New Englanders did not scatter across the land, but settled in numerous small towns located either on the coast or along a river. (Roark, et al. 2007) "The townspeople’s strong pietyenforced remarkable religious and social conformity in the communities. The word of God-not elaborate ceremony— was the focus of Puritan services. and Puritans considered ‘church’ to be not the building in which they worshipped but the men and women who entered into a solemn covenant with each other and with God to lead a holy and righteous life." (Roark, et al. 2007). Since Puritans were Calvinists, "they believed Christians must discipline their behavior to conform strictly to their religious ideas. Calvinism also preached the doctrine of predestination whereby individuals were either saved or damned according to God’s predetermined choice. and their covenant required the disciplining of the entire community. church members were to observe the behavior of other members and report any transgressions to church elders whose job it was to punish violators of the community’s covenant.
The church had no direct role in civil government. however, "the Puritans believed that government was ultimately subordinate to the church". They sought to make public life fully conform to their view of God’s law, "expecting strict observance of the Sabbath, refusing to celebrate Christmas and Easter, and censuring games of chance, music and dancing, among other things" (Roark, et al. 2007) The Puritans "created a civil government that was governed by Puritans for Puritanism. the leading officials in towns of the Colony were the ‘freemen’ who had to be male church members. they could vote for governor, deputy governor and other colonial officials. When the number of ‘freemen’ became too large to meet conveniently, each town agreed to send two deputies to the General Court to act as the Colony’s legislative body".