Puritan Contamination of America

During the reign of James the First, King of Great Britain from 1603 to 1625, the spirit of Puritanism had invaded English society and the Parliament, reaching a brief triumph in the person of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658).  The first permanent English-Puritan colonists in America founded Jamestown in Virginia in 1607.  When these “Pilgrim Fathers” began to colonize New England, the native Americans—the Indians—were originally open-hearted and kind.  In every case, with the exception of William Penn (1682), after the Christian colonists had established their god-focused colony they had turned upon their benefactors and protectors, and without any attempt at moral behavior had robbed and murdered the Indians. 

In this timeframe, the founder and Head Chief of the Powhatan Confederacy of Virginia had at first sought friendly interaction with the whites.  Chief Powhatan was astonished and then embittered by the treachery, deceit and thievery indulged in by the Puritan crowd.  Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas (1595-1617), is alleged to have saved the life of the colony leader Captain John Smith in 1607.  The Captain was supposedly held captive by the Indians and was to be slain, but Pocahontas risked her own life to stop it.  At least that was the romantic tale related in a letter to future Queen Elizabeth in 1616.

By myth and tradition, however, the year 1620 is regarded in the United States as when the “Pilgrims” first set foot in the Americas.  Although the ship Mayflower did indeed reach the bleak shore of what is today Massachusetts in 1620, the Pilgrims were at that location due to bad weather and poor navigation.  Their intended destination had been Jamestown and “The Old Dominion” of Virginia, 500 miles to the south which had been established in 1607.  And tradition has it that the Puritans brought by the Mayflower were fleeing religious persecution in England, but the bulk of them had lived for eleven years in Holland where they were not persecuted.  The real reason for the Puritans to strike out  for the New World was to bring aid and support to the Puritan element in Virginia, for the Puritan deputy governor, Samuel Argall, had been deposed by the Episcopalians in 1619—a great set-back for the Whig/Puritan cause.  But the newly arrived “pilgrims” chose to end their travel traumas and instead establish a new colony in Massachusetts on the tenets of harsh intolerance for any belief other than their own. 

In the course of the next twenty years thousands of Puritans settled in what is now Massachusetts.  The situation in England changed, however, and in 1640 emigration by Puritans to America came to a standstill.  The Puritans that had come to the New World considered themselves to be members of the Church of England, and they held no desire to separate.  The Pilgrims that preceded them in the new land in 1607 were already separate from English communion and were independent in their church government.  The influence of the earlier Pilgrims, aided by the Puritans’ sense of being cut off from their home country, led to the Puritans grudging adoption of the Congregational or Independent form of church government.  But the strictness, bigotry, intolerance toward other forms of worship, and the Puritan “blue laws” were to cast their long kinky shadow of Puritanism even into the 21st century.

One example (out of  many that could be cited) of Christian-Puritan piety among the New England settlers is the disgraceful carnage known as the Cos Cob Massacre that occurred December 24, 1641.  The New England settlers had been kindly received by the Cos Cob Indians at Stamford and vicinity (Connecticut).  The Indians had taught the settlers how to make a living from the sea and from the forest.  But when the number of settlers had grown and they attained sufficient firearms, they displayed their Christian understanding of love by creeping out on Christmas Eve to the Indian village of Petudquapen.  In the spirit of Christ they built a huge fire at each of the  village gates and then shot down every man, woman and child that sought to escape.  Every inhabitant of the village perished—400 “savage” souls.

The Puritans who remained in England disliked the useless, misleading and unscriptural forms and ceremonies—especially when those forms and ceremonies were obligatory for all and the observance of them enforced by civil authority.  This, they felt, hampered their faith.  But Elizabeth I was queen, and she leaned toward more colorful tastes and disliked the simplicity and bareness of Puritanism.  The suggestion of puritanical modification of the Prayer Book and ceremonies in the church led to Elizabeth’s first Parliament passing, the Act of Uniformity(1662).  In that Act it was declared unlawful for any form of public worship but the Prayer Book, and acknowledged the Queen as supreme governor of the realm in spiritual and ecclesiastical affairs.  The situation grew steadily harsher for the Puritans, reaching such a state of severity under Charles I (1625-1649) that the Puritans and Separatists again set sail for America.

To the Puritans the idea of religious tolerance was an utterly devilish concept.  Once they reached the American shore that devotion to intolerance could and was made more rigid than permitted in Europe.  Among the first to feel Puritan prejudice were the Baptists.  Indeed, Roger Williams had to flee from them c. 1636 into the wilderness region that became Rhode Island.  His comment on Puritan persecution of Protestants and Papists are on record with open reference to the blood of so many thousands of victims.  On record too is the account of four Quakers being hanged by Puritans for having differing religious beliefs. 

The Puritan movement, like the Roman Catholic Church, embraced a drastically literal interpretation of the priest-written Genesis version of Creation.  The Puritan movement embraced such interpretation influenced mainly by the English Puritan poet John Milton’s epic work Paradise Lost, composed from 1658 to 1665 and published in 1667.  As noted in Time Frames and Taboo Data: So influential was this poetic epic that Milton’s elaborate rendition of Creation was termed the “Miltonic  hypothesis” by Thomas Henry Huxley.  Theologians swarmed upon what they termed Milton’s “natural” interpretation, and special criticism of an allegorical interpretation was taken up as a fad-craze of Christian thought.  Like most fads, literal interpretation of Bible accounts would crumble before scientific research and the rationality presented by Charles Robert Darwin in the 19th century.

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8 Responses to “Puritan Contamination of America”

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  4. You might want to check your facts about the “the disgraceful carnage known as the Cos Cob Massacre”. This is a myth.

    Please read” Insubordinant Spirit” by Missy Wolfe.

    • It is interesting that you picked only one paragraph to belittle the overall picture of Puritan treacheries and deceit. The Indians came to have plenty of reasons to despise the presence of the Europeans, represented primarily by the Dutch and English. “The disgracefurl carnage known as the Cos Cob Massacre,” you may dismiss as “myth,” but the fact remains that the Puritans were, from the start, beyond mere hypocisy in their dealings with natives whom they referred to a “savage souls.” Actually, the site referred to as the Cos Cob Massacre has never been verified, even though “myth” has it that it occurred Christmas Eve 1641. But a similar event, not so mythical, occurred in February 1644 when a combined force of Dutch and English soldiers attacked and destroyed the natives of the region who had gathered to celebrate one of their festivals. The number of men, women and childred exterminated in that spree is placed between 500 to 700. Certainly the killers were NOT practicing the alleged teaching of Jesus. It is upon such glorious holy pioneers that we can now proudly claim, “One nation under God.”

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