The common misconception that Puritans were against anything fun is, well, just that: a misconception. Puritans actually held this as their main slogan: "Moderation in all things, including moderation itself." Today, the word "Puritan" has taken a different meaning. We all know that words' meanings change over time, and it's been a couple hundred years of language changing going on, even by the time the authoritative 1913 edition of Webster's was written. So, if you really want to know about ideas and concepts from the 1700's, don't be satisfied to read a 1913 account... view the source.

To understand why the Puritans fled from England, you must first know some of their background. Puritans challenged the existing Christian order when Catholicism was the dominant religion in England. In the early 16th century, Martin Luther (1483-1546) began to challenge the existing hierarchy. He believed that Roman Catholicism relied too much on the clergy. He believed that it was corrupt because people would pay the clergy for salvation. If someone had recently died, people would pay the clergy to further the dead ones chance at obtaining salvation, this was called indulgence. Luther believed that one obtained salvation by faith alone. He shifted the emphasis on the clergy to the individual. Under him, individuality is promoted.

John Calvin (1509-1564) agreed with Luther but had a different viewpoint on certain subjects. Calvin preached pre-destination, which meant that even before you were born, you were destined for Heaven or Hell. The individual would never know whether or not they were going to either one. He preached on original sin, meaning that all are sinners at birth because of Adam & Eve. "In Adam's fall, we sinned all." This saying was used to show original sin and also used to teach Puritan children the letter 'a'. One perhaps gained salvation through a conversion experience, to be "born again." The conversion experience was obtainable after years of study and a public confession of sins.

Puritans were a dissenting sect in the Church of England. They felt that they were there to "purify" the Church. In England, Puritans were persecuted under James I and Charles I.

In the late 16th century, under James I, England decides that settlement of the New World was a good idea. Why did England arrive late? That is explained in that node. They were late nevertheless and England did not have the resources to send ships to the New World "discovered" by Christopher Columbus. So under advisement, James I had some important joint stock companies created. People would invest in these companies who would then send out settlements, and if the settlements prospered, then the people with stock in the company would receive benefits. There were many compaines but only two joint stock companies will be mentioned.

Virginia Company of London
Virginia Company of Plymouth

A member of an English Protestant sect of the seventeenth century. Puritans wanted a 'godly reformation of manners' i.e. abstention from sin and more worship of God. Were against the Laudian reforms of the Church of England, such as the reintroduction of the altar, incense and priests' vestments. Instead, they were in favour of a much simpler and more plain church, with many wanting to abolish bishops and the most extreme wanting to abolish the priesthood altogether.

What is Puritanism? (A brief summary of this report)
The puritan movement began around 1559, during the reign of Elizabeth I, when a large group of dissentant protestants sought to abolish all Catholic influence from the Church. When King James I came to power, the Puritans asked him to reform the church to their ways. They were rejected and persecuted for this, and in 1620, many of them emigrated to New England. The increasing repression of the Puritans caused a civil war, and the Puritans remained the dominant force in England until 1660. The protestant dissentants began to quarrel and divide. The monarchy returned to power, and the Anglican church was restored. Among the emigrating American Puritans were the pilgrims, who founded the Plymouth Colony. The Puritans held a tight grip on the church in New England, and their viewpoints on Christianity dominated for over 200 years.

Historical Description
The dissentant Puritans were unhappy with the state of the Church in England. America had only recently been discovered, and many Puritans emigrated to New England to preach and live their way. The Piligrims that founded the Plymouth Colony were among these Puritans. Many of these Protestants stayed behind in England to fight and push their interpretation of Christianity.

England was doing well economically well. Many of the citizens were middle to high class, and held positions in the House of Commons. The richer the people became, the more power they wanted in the Parliament. King Charles II had ignored the Parliament to deal with the problem in 1629. The Commons were angry at tax raises by the King’s predecessor Charles I without consulting them. Angers between the King and Parliament rose, and the country was plunged into civil war.

During these war times, the Puritans held dominance over Christiainity in England until 1660, where many of the Puritan groups quarreled and fought. Puritanism collapsed in England, and Anglicanism and the monarchy were restored. Puritanism was thriving in America still.

Major Political Trends
England was ruled under a monarchy. When citizens were unhappy with the current King, all they could do was wait for the next one, and tackle their problems once more. The Church of England was in turmoil from the dissentant Puritans. The Puritans sought to rid the Church of all Catholic roots, and were not given the chance until Elizabeth I was succeeded by King James I. King James rejected the Puritans, and mass emigration of the Puritans to America occurred.

The Parliament of England was comprised of the wealthier citizens. They were consulted when the King made decisions such as declaring war or raising taxes. The English Civil War started because King Charles ignored his Parliament, and they became very discontented with him.

Social and Cultural Trends

Religion was a major aspect of everyday life in England. The Puritans believed in the absolute power of God, the corruption and evil in man, the Bible as law and a guide to life, and the importance of strict religious practice for divine salvation. They sought to rid the church of all Catholic influence, as they believed many of its ways were contradictory to the Bible. The key difference between the Puritans and the Anglicans is that the Puritans believed they should do as the Bible commanded, and the Anglicans should rather not do what the Bible forbid.

Pu"ri*tan (?), n. [From Purity.]

1. Eccl. Hist.

One who, in the time of Queen Elizabeth and the first two Stuarts, opposed traditional and formal usages, and advocated simpler forms of faith and worship than those established by law; -- originally, a term of reproach. The Puritans formed the bulk of the early population of New England.

The Puritans were afterward distinguished as Political Puritans, Doctrinal Puritans, and Puritans in Discipline.



One who is scrupulous and strict in his religious life; -- often used reproachfully or in contempt; one who has overstrict notions.

She would make a puritan of the devil. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

Pu"ri*tan, a.

Of or pertaining to the Puritans; resembling, or characteristic of, the Puritans.


© Webster 1913.

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