These chapter summaries correspond with Bedford/St. Martin's The American Promise (2005, Third Edition).
Chapter Summary 1
Chapter Four begins with a discussion of Roger Williams, a critic of the Puritan leaders who ran the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the seventeenth century. Williams, a well-educated English Puritan minister who came to Massachusetts to preach, criticized how Puritans worshipped and the way they governed their colony. English Puritans traveled to America to provide a model of Christian community that would be a guide to their fellow Englishmen. Williams thought the Massachusetts experiment failed to live up to its ideals. He criticized Puritans for abusing Indians, coveting riches, and persecuting Christians who disagreed with their doctrine. In return, Puritan leaders denounced Williams and banished him from Massachusetts. Williams fled south to found the colony of Rhode Island, on the principle of liberty of conscience. Williams's dissent from Puritan orthodoxy showed that faith mattered intensely to seventeenth-century colonists. It also revealed tensions inside of Massachusetts that would cool Puritan zeal by 1700, a time when all the North American colonies had become more integrated into the English Empire.
Puritan Origins: The English Reformation, pp. 105-106
The English Reformation began less so as a result of doctrinal revolts and more so because of a political dispute between the king and the pope. In 1534, King Henry VIII, angered by the power and interference of the Catholic Church, broke England's ties with Rome and established himself as head of his nation's Christian faith. Henry made relatively few other changes in his "new" church, which remained very Catholic in theology and worship. Many English Protestants clamored for reforms that would "purify" the church of its Catholic trappings; these Protestants came to be called Puritans. The fate of Protestantism waxed and waned under the monarchs who succeeded Henry VIII. The survival of English Protestantism was still in doubt when Elizabeth I came to the throne (in 1558) and attempted to consolidate a position midway between the extremes of Catholicism and Puritanism. Puritan agitation for further reform of the church continued during the reigns of Elizabeth's successors— James I and Charles I— neither of whom were receptive to Puritan ideas. Indeed, both monarchs' anti-Puritan policies made many Puritans believe that if they were to be free to live and worship in peace, they would have to leave England. For example, King Charles I's dissolution of Parliament (in 1629) caused great anxiety among English Puritans who, now without political representation, could not defend themselves legally against Charles's anti-Puritan policies.
Chapter Summary 2
Puritans and the Settlement of New England, pp. 107-111
The sixteenth-century religious and political turmoil engendered by the English Reformation led many Puritans to emigrate to New England. The colonies they established were shaped by their faith and desire to create a new society that conformed to their interpretation of God's plan for humankind.
The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony
Plymouth colony was settled by the Pilgrims, Separatist Puritans who had emigrated to escape persecution in England. They moved first to Holland, in 1608, but by 1620 they found they could not live and worship as they had hoped. Believing that America was a place where they might protect their children's piety and preserve their community, the Separatists obtained permission to settle in the extensive lands granted to the Virginia Company. They left for the New World aboard the Mayflower in August 1620, landing offcourse at Cape Cod in present-day Massachusetts in November. To provide order, security, and legitimacy for the new colony, the Pilgrims created their own government by consent, drawing up the Mayflower Compact. They also elected William Bradford as their governor. Although survival was difficult in the early years, the Pilgrims were fortunate in their Indian friends— for example Squanto and Chief Massasoit— who showed them how to gather seafood and cultivate corn. After the first harvest in the fall of 1621, the settlers invited the Indians to celebrate a thanksgiving feast. Plymouth remained a small colony, attracting few immigrants, but that did not bother the Pilgrims, who wanted to live quietly and simply according to their faith.
The Founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony
Shortly before Charles I dissolved Parliament in 1629, a number of Puritans formed the Massachusetts Bay Company and were granted a charter for colonization in New England. In 1630, this group sailed for the New World with elected governor John Winthrop to lead them and a key provision in their charter that would allow them self-government in Massachusetts. Aboard the ship Arbella, Winthrop delivered a sermon to his followers about the significance of their journey and their duty as settlers to follow a righteous path and to adhere strictly to God's laws. He and his followers established the settlement that would become Boston and others near it in 1630 and, despite early hardships, the Massachusetts Bay Colony enjoyed a steady stream of migration during its first decade. Unlike the Virginia colonists, most immigrants to New England were farmers or tradesmen of middle-class origin who paid their own passage to Massachusetts and came as part of a family. The immigrants' family ties reinforced their religious beliefs through the interlocking institutions of family, church, and community.
Chapter Summary 3
The Evolution of New England Society, pp. 112-121
New Englanders did not scatter across the land like their Chesapeake counterparts but instead settled in numerous small towns located either on the coast or by a river, ensuring access to water. The townspeople's strong piety, sustained by the institutions of local government, enforced remarkable religious and social conformity in these communities, although tensions and changes would later test and even splinter that conformity.
Church, Covenant, and Conformity
The word of God— not elaborate ceremony— was the focus of Puritan services. And Puritans considered church to be not the building in which they worshipped, but the men and women who entered into a solemn covenant with each other and with God to lead a holy and righteous life. Since Puritans were Calvinists, they believed Christians must discipline their behavior to conform strictly to their religious ideas. Calvinism also preached the doctrine of predestination, whereby individuals were either saved or damned according to God's predetermined choice. The Puritan covenant required the disciplining of the entire community; church members were to observe the behavior of other members and report any transgressions to church elders whose job it was to punish violators of the community's covenant. The church had no direct role in civil government; Puritans believed that government was ultimately subordinate to the church. As much as possible, they sought to make public life conform to their view of God's law, expecting strict observance of the Sabbath, refusing to celebrate Christmas and Easter, and censuring revealing clothing, music, and dance, among other things.
Government by Puritans for Puritanism
The Puritans created a civil government that was governed by Puritans for Puritanism. The leading officials in the towns of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were the "freemen," who had to be male church members. Freemen had the right to vote for governor, deputy governor, and other colonial officials. When the number of freemen in the Massachusetts Bay Colony became too large to meet conveniently, each town agreed to send two deputies to the General Court to act as the colony's legislative body. All the other men were designated "inhabitants" and could vote and take part in their local town's government. At the town meetings, every man— whatever his status— could speak up, a level of popular participation unprecedented in the seventeenth century. Town governments distributed land among their inhabitants, with each family generally given between fifty and one hundred acres, which meant New England had a more equitable distribution of wealth than that in the Chesapeake. The physical layout of towns enabled colonists to keep an eye on their neighbors' activities and enforce godly behavior. Routes between towns were often hardly more than footpaths.
The Splintering of Puritanism
Puritanism's emphasis on individual Bible study soon resulted in dissension among some of the faithful who believed in a different interpretation God's word and so adhered to different visions of godliness The two most important dissidents in early the Massachusetts Bay were Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. One of the most vocal and devout Puritans to emigrate to America in the seventeenth century, Hutchinson was a well-educated, well-spoken woman in the Massachusetts Bay the Colony whose in-home discussions of the previous week's sermons were initially well received. In time, however, increasing numbers of both men and women came to listen to her, and the meetings alarmed her nearest neighbor, the former governor of the colony, John Winthrop. Fearing that she was subverting the good order of the colony, Winthrop and others brought forth charges of heresy against her, and she was excommunicated from the Boston church. She and her family were banished, first to Rhode Island and then to Long Island, where she and most of her family were slain by Indians. Another prominent minister who clashed with Winthrop was Thomas Hooker, who argued that all those leading godly lives should be admitted to church membership, whether or not they had experienced conversion.
Religious Controversies and Economic Changes
When the Puritan Revolution began in England and religious dissenters came to dominate the English government, the stream of immigrants to New England dwindled to a trickle, creating hard times for the colonists. New England's rocky soil and harsh winters made the growing and export of crops such as tobacco and rice impossible. Instead, a fur trade with the Indians and a timber industry developed, but the most important export was fish, which found ready markets abroad. The fish trade also stimulated colonial shipbuilding and trained generations of fishermen and sailors; it also contributed to the growth of trade networks and a merchant class. New England's population boomed during the seventeenth century, owing to high marriage and birth rates and a healthy climate relatively free of disease, but there was also a slackening of piety that was of growing concern. As the children of the original founders began to have children themselves, Puritan leaders worried about their falling away from the faith. Thus, in 1662, they drew up the Halfway Covenant, by which unconverted children of saints could become halfway church members. The Puritans also had to contend with the arrival of new religious groups, most notably the Quakers, whose views were very different from their own. The Salem witch trials of 1692 demonstrated the erosion of religious confidence and assurance felt by many Puritans.