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Society and religion in the New England colonies

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KC‑2.1.II.B (KC)
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Unit 2: Learning Objective C
The New England colonies organized society around the Puritan religion and family farming. In this video, Kim explores New England settlers' reasons for immigrating to North America and their farming and fishing economy.

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  • mr pants teal style avatar for user mcflurry
    what is the diffrence of the puritians and the pilgrams
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Sunny Yu
    Where did the name Massachusetts come from?
    (6 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user 20mfay
    Didn't the pilgrims already have religious liberty in Holland? They just felt like the Dutch were corrupting their children and wanted their government to reflect their religious values. They didn't come to America for religious liberty (they had that in Holland), they came to establish a theocracy. And they clearly didn't care much about religious liberty since they kicked out people who criticized religious leaders (Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams). Or am I thinking of the wrong thing?
    (5 votes)
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  • starky tree style avatar for user jiz04
    What is the connection between Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth?
    (5 votes)
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    • hopper jumping style avatar for user Max Halbach
      I am pretty sure that the Puritans in Plymouth wanted to practice a new version of the Anglican Church, where all of the ceremonies were stripped away. The Pilgrims in the Massachusetts Bay Colony wanted to completely abandon the Anglican Church and form their own church that England would look up to.
      (4 votes)
  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Michael Fulcher
    Is is just me or did Cotton Mather have the worst wig of all time? Ok being serious now, For trying to be a city on a hill didnt they treat the Native Americans very badly?
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Rovie Romarate
    What was a puritan?
    (2 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Puritans got their name from a religious movement that sought to "purify" the Church of England. They eventually decided that the job was too big, so they moved across an ocean and established their own society. The good traits of Puritans are their moral uprightness and honesty. The bad traits include intolerance and judgmental approaches to others.
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Morgan Lambert
    Why were the colonial regions so different from each other, other than their geography, based on their beliefs?
    (2 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Geography and attendant climate had some influence.
      Geology and attendant soil types had some influence.
      The nature of the colonization process in each (private company, crown colony, religious background (consider Quakers in Pennsylvania and Roman Catholics in Maryland) had something to do with it.
      (3 votes)
  • primosaur tree style avatar for user GuitarMaster06
    At , why would the puritans cancel Christmas? And would they just do something else to celebrate Christs birth?
    (2 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Stephen White
      I don't have a specific case file, but it probably had to do with the pagan origins of Christmas which were the Roman holiday of Saturnalia or the winter solstice celebrations. In these cases, the worship of creation instead of the creator may have been the issue.

      The celebration of Christmas at that time was also a time of heavy drinking and sexual license, so the Puritans would have considered that to be paganism.

      They would have been much more likely to celebrate Easter which is the commemoration of Christ's resurrection.
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Erkata335
    what value do the people of this colony place on education & religion? in New England colones
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      New England was primarily settled by English religious dissenters. These were not easy-going Church of England members, but Calvinists. They took their religion very seriously. As for education, Calvinists wanted every member of the church to be able to read the Bible, so education was highly regarded during the colonial period. Note that America's premier universities, Harvard and Yale, were in New England, and when Princeton (in New Jersey) got rolling, they called as president a clergyman from New England.
      (3 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user xander miller
    Why was the king the "ruler" of the church?Why was there only one religion?
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      One has to keep in mind that in national churches (like the Church of England), the king appointed the Bishops, who managed different areas. The dissenting churches operated, free of royal interference, but also without support from the national church's funds. Even as Islam is divided between 3 or 4 different groups, but all are Islamic, and Judaism is divided (but all are still considered Jewish), and Buddhism has different varieties, so also does Christianity, a single religion, but with many varieties.
      (4 votes)

Video transcript

- [Instructor] Depending on where you grow up in the United States, you might hear a different story about the founding of this country. Now, I grew up in Pennsylvania and the story that I heard was about the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. They were a group of deeply religious people, who had been persecuted in England and were looking for a new world, where they could practice their religion freely, but many of my friends grew up in Virginia and the story they heard was about the founding of Jamestown, where a group of men from England, who were adventurers looking for gold and glory, landed in the New World, hoping to make a profit. And I think both of these stories tells us a little bit about the founding mythology of the United States. Were the original settlers here looking for religious freedom or were they here looking to make a quick buck? Well, in this video I'd like to take some time to explore the New England colonies, the story of the people who landed at Plymouth Rock and then later, at Boston, to begin the colony of Massachusetts Bay and we'll see as we go along, just how different the settlers in Massachusetts Bay were from those at Jamestown and also some of the ways in which they were quite similar. Now, there's no question about who got here first. As you can see, Jamestown was founded in 1607, but it wasn't too much later that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, and then they were followed by a much larger group of Puritans, who landed at Boston and founded Massachusetts Bay in 1630. So let's talk about Puritans. So who or what was a Puritan? This is an image of Cotton Mather, he was a prominent Puritan minister, fact the Mather family will go on to be one of the great theological families of Massachusetts. Puritans started in England and their main concern was that they believed the Church of England, the Anglican Church, was too much like the Catholic Church and this is a fairly legitimate criticism, because in many ways, the Anglican Church was very similar to the Catholic Church, except that instead of being headed by the Pope, the Church of England was led by the king. So Puritans hoped that they could purify the Church of England from its many Catholic influences. So that's where Puritan comes from, purify, and by this, they meant that there were too many rituals, too much pomp and circumstance, and not enough focus on the Bible itself. So they kind of wanted to strip away a lot of the fanciness of the Church of England. In the 1620s, the Puritans began to face more persecution in England. Now, why did the English government care about a group of religious folks who were not big fans of the Church of England? Well the answer is, that there was no separation of church and state and so as the king was the head of the church, if you're casting doubt on the church, you are then casting doubt on the king and so the Puritans did not make themselves very popular in England and sensing that they might be in trouble, many Puritans began to emigrate to the new world. They'd seen lots of tracts about Virginia and how one could make a new life there and they thought that perhaps, if they went to Virginia and they were originally aiming to go to Virginia, they ended up landing a bit north of there, that they could set an example of what a righteous church and a righteous society would look like, because they believed that the church and the society of England were becoming much too corrupt, much too divorced from the principles of the Bible. So in 1620, one group of Puritans set out for the new world and landed at Plymouth Rock and we call them the Pilgrims, and then in 1630, a second group set out and they were just Puritans more broadly. And over the course of the 1630s, about 14,000 Puritans emigrated from England to New England, Massachusetts Bay, in what's called the great migration. So what was the difference between these two groups, The Pilgrims and the Puritans? Well, the Pilgrims who arrived in 1620, they were separatists and what that means is that they thought that the Church of England was so corrupt that there was just no chance that they were going to be able to save it. So they wanted to separate from that church altogether and live a completely separate life at Plymouth. They had a pretty small settlement, about a hundred people crossed over on the Mayflower, the ship that brought them to the New World, but the group that came over in 1630, the Puritans, they did not want to separate from the Church of England altogether. They wanted to purify it and they hoped that by setting an example of a righteous society, they would actually convince people back in England to adopt their ways, invite them back, and that all of England could become like New England. This man here is John Winthrop and he was a lawyer who became a leader of the Puritans, he was elected governor pretty much for his entire life and he wrote that he wanted Massachusetts Bay to be like a city upon a hill and be a kind of a beacon of light, showing the world what a good society could be like. Now, obviously the New England Puritans did not get their way, they were not invited back to England to become the model of English society, but they did become the model of society in Massachusetts Bay and New England, more generally, and I think a strong influence on American culture, writ large. So how did life in New England compare to life in Virginia? Well, a lot depended on the different environment of the colony and the reasons that migrants came to New England. Because the environment of New England was colder, the land was rockier, it was both a healthier place to live, because tropical diseases couldn't flourish there the way that they could in the marshy areas of Virginia and it was also the unsuitable place for large-scale plantation agriculture. So they couldn't grow the kinds of crops that Virginia grew, like tobacco or even sugar in the West Indies. So that meant that in New England, most of the industry was either family farming and fishing and also some trading, since they were on the coast. And because most Puritans came over to help build this city upon a hill, they came in family units, not as single men, like in Virginia, so there was a much more even ratio of men to women. The families that came over tended to be well-off enough to pay their own passage across the Atlantic, tended to be kind of middle-class, artisan types and so New England didn't have the kind of influx of indentured servants that Virginia had, nor did it have an influx of enslaved Africans as laborers, because most New Englanders were farmers and they were small farmers, so they relied on their own family as labor. So a major consequence of these motivations for emigrating and this environment, was that New England society was relatively egalitarian. There were very few very wealthy landowners, like there were in Virginia, and very few people who were completely at the bottom, like servants and enslaved people. People who lived in Virginia had a life expectancy of up to 70 years, which was one of the highest life expectancies in the world at this time and because reading the Bible so important to the Puritans, New England also had one of the highest rates of literacy in the world at this time, but for all of these positives, there were plenty of reasons why living in New England wasn't so much fun. Most of them related to the strictness of the Congregational Church. Puritans canceled Christmas, that they thought was too much of a pagan ritual and though you would think that their own experience of religious intolerance in England would have led them to be more tolerant to dissidents, that was not the case. Anyone who disagreed with a Puritan theology or leadership, was given the option to go somewhere else or be executed. For example, Roger Williams, who questioned the Puritans' actions toward Native Americans was expelled from Massachusetts Bay in 1636 and he went on to found the colony of Rhode Island, where religious dissenters could find a place of refuge from Massachusetts Bay, just as the people of Massachusetts Bay had found refuge from England. One of these was a woman named Anne Hutchinson, who in 1637, was expelled from Massachusetts Bay for daring to be a woman who preached the Bible. So in this video, I've explored some of the background to Puritans and Pilgrims and aspects of New England society and religion. In the next video, we'll continue our exploration of New England's life through its politics and policies toward Native Americans.