General Question

717richboy's avatar

What were the Puritans experiencing that caused them to flee England?

Asked by 717richboy (234 points ) December 20th, 2011

I know why they left England; primarily because of religious persecution, but what exactly were they being faced with? What kind of oppression were they facing?

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28 Answers

Nullo's avatar

I read about a fellow who was tied to a stake and set on fire. Another one got built into a wall and left to die of dehydration. I would suspect that there was loss of property, curtailing of rights and privileges, excessive fines, that sort of thing. The martyrs tend to hog history’s spotlight.

ragingloli's avatar

Well, reading this source, it seems that the puritans wanted to do some oppression of their own by, among other things, banning christmas. did not fly so well with the rest of the population, so they bugged out of europe. and once in america, they banned christmas again.

717richboy's avatar

Tied to a stake because what exactly?

WestRiverrat's avatar

@717richboy They were out of ham. I think you should do your own homework.

Searching here might help.

Aethelflaed's avatar

So, first, not all Puritans became “the pilgrims”. There are Puritans who, after about a century of intense conflict within England, decided to be Seperatists and start their own community away from the Church of England, and those who decided to stay within the Church of England. (And not all those who were Seperatists moved to America).

Puritans were Calvinists who believed that the English Reformation had not gone far enough, and wanted to get rid of every vestige of Catholicism within England (like priests, hierarchy within the church, saints, decorated churches, monasteries, etc). They did not get their way. And so, while things were hardly comfy for the Puritans, they also wanted to make life really uncomfy for everyone else, and they weren’t really kicked out, it was more of a mutual breakup between England and the pilgrims. Whatever England did to them, the Puritans had every intention of doing back to England and more.

At the time, religious persecution meant loss of privileges (like, people of this religion can only have these 3 menial jobs, and can only live in these 2 neighborhoods, and can’t interact with people who aren’t of the same faith…), often being tried and convicted of breaking the laws (they were a lot more ok with the death penalty in general back then), being exiled, and in England, not being part of the Church of England was often a crime of treason. But it was hardly just the English on Puritans, pretty much everyone in Europe hated on everyone else.

SavoirFaire's avatar

They heard there were Quakers in the Americas practicing their religion openly, so they sailed across the ocean to oppress them.

717richboy's avatar

@Aethelflaed- Thank you!

@SavoirFaire- I’m confused by your answer. Why would they flee persecution just to oppress the very people they desired to like? Oppress them how exactly?

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srmorgan's avatar

Sarah Vowell wrote a book about the Puritans, their beliefs and their way of governance. The Puritans left Boston, Lincolnshire in 1630 and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

She also contrasted their reasons for leaving England and their experience in the New World. with the Pilgrims who founded Plymouth in 1620.

The book is called “The Wordy Shipmates” and was published in 2008. It is a very good book although it does drag in places.

Worth a read if you are truly interested in the subject.

SRM

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717richboy's avatar

Thank you, @srmorgan! I’ll Google it and then order it from the library or Amazon.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@717richboy People very rarely respond to “I was persecuted” with “so I should make sure not to persecute others” (especially on a substantial level). And they already were in favor of religious persecution, that’s why they created such a conflict in the first place. Seriously, they were like the Westboro Baptist Church of the day.

717richboy's avatar

@Aethelflaed- Yikes! That’s not the way I imagined them. I can’t stand Westboro.

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717richboy's avatar

When did I ask anyone to do research for me? This is getting ridiculous, seriously. I’m in college, but I just completed the semester and start back in January (if you all MUST know); this ISN’T a homework assignment. I happen to LIKE history, and I wanted a different perspective. Answering the question I asked doesn’t really require research; people simply give their opinions, and I am left with something more to think about. THANK YOU, I have been left with enough to think about. You may all move on to someone answering someone else’s question with “we are not going to do your homework for you”.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Blackadder has a good parody of the Puritans, though set a few decades before the Mayflower came over.

717richboy's avatar

Lol I’m open to seeing it, if it’s still available.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Also, the relevent Wikipedia page on the migration of the “classic” puritans (with the Mayflower, and then with the Thanksgiving? them), some history on Puritan migration to America, a larger list of dissenters within England at the time, and on the Puritans. And then this is a book not specifically on the Puritans or the Mayflower pilgrims, but does sort of set them within a larger historical context of the religious intolerance, fracturing of ideas, and radicalism of the day.

717richboy's avatar

Thanks so much; I really appreciate all of the information. I have plenty of time on my hands now that school is over for a few weeks, so I’m sure I can get through quite a few books. Appreciate it, @Aethelflaed!

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bkcunningham's avatar

This may help you and be a springboard for further research and reading:

http://www.exlibris.org/nonconform/engdis/puritans.html

SavoirFaire's avatar

@717richboy The Puritans who left England were subject to a fine if they refused to attend services performed by the Church of England, and they faced larger fines or imprisonment if they held their own services. This led them to claim support for a separation of church and state, which was not common in Europe at the time. I say “claim” because they would not put such a separation in place when they came to power later (in the colonies, and also in England under the brief tenure of Oliver Cromwell). What they really wanted was the freedom to force others to follow their religion.

So while the story of the Puritans leaving England due to religious persecution has a historical basis—I do not dispute that trying to force people to attend services under the threat of being fined is oppression—the tale has been exaggerated over time. The fact is, the Puritans largely left England because the government wasn’t oppressing the right people (in their view). They did not leave directly for the Americas. Before that, they escaped to Amsterdam. Once there, however, they discovered that they had few opportunities for evangelism and were largely unable to win converts.

Worse yet, they believed that their new neighbors held questionable moral standards. Worried that their members would become corrupted in such surroundings, they looked for somewhere else to go. The Americas were not immediately agreed upon; but the ability to form their own colony and perhaps even convert a few of the natives, combined with growing uncertainty about the political stability of Europe, ultimately convinced the Puritans to make the journey.

Once in the Americas, the Puritans set up their own society—including an established church. As more Puritans came to the Americas, and as more colonies were founded, this pattern largely continued (though the Province Plantation was an exception). Part of the Puritan ethic was opposition to Quakerism, leading to the execution of several people for the crime of being a Quaker on Puritan land. So while it may seem odd to flee religious persecution only to wind up oppressing others, it follows quite naturally when one of the reasons a group is fleeing is because it thinks the wrong people are being oppressed.

And for what it’s worth, I did not think this was a homework question.

plethora's avatar

@SavoirFaire Good answer. I would be interested in your reference.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@plethora Thank you, sir. My answer is a synthesis of things I have learned in history courses and from two friends in particular (one a Quaker, the other a religious scholar). This book gets into some of the Puritans’ complexities, however, and certainly informs a large part of my response.

plethora's avatar

@SavoirFaire Thanks very much.

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