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England, during this time period, people were being judged, separated and
persecuted on the basis of their religious beliefs. There were two groups of
people that were unhappy with the Church. These groups came to be known as the
Puritans and the Separatists. The Puritans are the people who are known to want
to make changes within the
Church of England. Then there were the Separatists,
who were so disgusted with the Church of England that they just wanted out. They
wanted to be recognized totally
separate from it.
One group, the Separatists. “ In 1609, a group of about 125 Separatists moved from England to Holland (a part of the Netherlands) because the Dutch had a policy of religious tolerance.” They were able to practice religion how they wanted to, but they were uneasy about the thought of their children losing their English roots as time went on. So they came up with the idea of immigrating to the New World. Only about 30 wanted to voyage to Virginia, which was an unknown land to all.
The Separatists sailed from Holland in 1620. This group was also known as the Pilgrims. The pilgrims are widely known for “The First Thanksgiving” as their offertory meal with the Native Americans. The Pilgrims goal was to establish a colony “ as a distinct body by themselves.” And off they went for their voyage across sea, goals sighted for just north of Jamestown. Unfortunately, they were blown off course, so when they finally got a glimpse of land, it was Cape Cod.
It was the separatists that put together the Mayflower Compact, which was a legal basis recognizing James I as their king and it state “ that they would form a civil body politic, which would frame such just and equal laws for the good of all the people.” A solemn agreement was made to abide by the compact, and it was signed before anyone got off the ship. Only men signed the document because women of that time were not considered capable enough to take part in political affairs.
Then there is the other group, the Puritans, who looked to make changes in the Church so they could all be happy. The Puritans are known for founding the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These people of the journey also set out for their self-government to be a commonwealth, which is a community founded on law and united by an agreement that the law would serve the common good of the people.
Among these people who were busy trying to remake a remarkable Christian life, there were people who didn’t necessarily agree with the common viewpoint. These people became known as dissenters. Dissenters were often persecuted for their beliefs, and just a few up and went and actually made a difference. They are still recognized today.
In the colony of Rhode Island, there was one main dissenter who was very well known. He was the assistant pastor in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He had two main thoughts that got him into trouble with his community. One was the fact that he questioned the legality of the colony’s charter, since the Indians had not been paid for the taking of their land. Another point was the fact that he believed that the civil government of the colony had no right to punish religious dissenters. He felt that people’s personal views of the religion should not be punished because everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Soon after he stated his thoughts, Roger Williams was banished from the colony. He went off and founded Providence, which was the first village in what is today’s Rhode Island. The followers of Williams accepted his ruling of no religious persecution very well. And in 1644, Providence became a haven for Protestants and from other dissenters from the Bay Colony.
The people who settled in Rhode Island had to adapt to the new area in which they were to live. They were right near the water so that made it easier for them to build their trades other than farming. Since they were in the New England colonies, the soil for farming was not top of the pick. They had to resort to other trades such as shipbuilding, fur trading and limber exporting. They were near the forests so the wood was easily accessible.
Connecticut is another area that was founded by settlers who left the Bay Colony. Thomas Hooker was a well-respected man in his area. He and some of the people that he preached to on a daily basis up and went off to found another colony because of dissension. His main reason for leaving the Bay Colony was because of his religious beliefs. There was an important document called the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut made from Thomas Hooker’s beliefs.
The settlers from Connecticut settled right on the Connecticut River in Hartford in 1636. “For some of these groups, the desire for more and better land was at least as strong a motive for moving to the frontier as were religious concerns.” So obvious reasons to leave the colony was to progress out further and make a better living with better soil. With better soil, more crops such as tobacco and indigo can be produced as major cash crops of that time.
Returning back to Thomas Hooker, he and his settlers composed a document called the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. This document was the first written constitution or plan of government in America. This document talked about how land ownership would determine citizenship, and not a person’s religious beliefs. In contrast to this ruling that was made, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, only Puritans church that went to church regularly and took part in the congregation could hold office or even vote to elect others to office.
Lastly, there were two other dissenters that took charge and left the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They were Anne Hutchinson and her brother-in-law, Reverend John Wheelwright. They always tended to get into heated discussions about religion and how we all needed God along with the necessities, such as the Bible and Mass. The bold pair believed that people were able to find “inner truth and divine guidance” without having to sit around and read the Bible or having the priests and the reverends preach to them. To Anne, she felt as if it were extra points being pounded into minds that were already full with God’s love.
It was actually Governor John Winthrop, who was very upset at the opinions and views of Anne Hutchinson. He was threatened at the thought of a religious anarchy. He felt that if so many people could up and leave from the colony, maybe other people were having similar thoughts, so he quickly went forth and banished Anne from the Bay Colony. Indians later killed her around 1643.
But her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright was more successful. He settled in New Hampshire. He setup the government that distanced itself from the whole religious environment. New Hampshire received its charter in 1679. The area in New Hampshire was a short growing period. Therefore this meant that they couldn’t farm as long, so whatever they did get to farm and grow, if something went wrong with the crop, their winter supply was ruined, or definitely lessened.
These dissenters are just needles in haystacks. They are just a few of the many people who took a stand against everyone who believe that in order to be recognized in life, you had to abide by the religious rules. Puritans especially believed that they could make changes in the Church to fit the needs of the members of the community. But what they did was just make the situation worse for the people who were already unhappy.
The Separatists cut off all ties completely with the Church, because they were fed up with trying to deal with its strict rules and regulations.
It is because of people like Roger Williams, John Wheelwright, and Thomas Hooker that we have some of the religions that we have today. It is also the factor of the colonies being where they are today. Everything that was done in the past by people like them, has had a great effect on today’s society. It is because of the people from the past that gives the people the courage today to stand up for what they believe in. Without theses people, we would not have the great Martin Luther King, Jr., or other great people who made changes in history. We owe a great deal to their courage and their actions, because without them, we may not have some of the places, people, or ideas that we have today.