Settling the Northern Colonies
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Settling the Northern Colonies,
Theme: The Protestant Reformation, in its English Calvinist (Reformed) version, provided the major impetus and leadership for the settlement of New England. The New England colonies developed a fairly homogeneous social order based on strong religious convictions and semi-communal forms of colonial and town settlement which they fostered. Religious dissent and Indian warfare challenged, but did not fundamentally alter, “the New England way.”
Theme: The middle colonies of New Netherland (New York), Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware developed with far greater political, ethnic, religious, and social diversity than New England; and they represented a more cosmopolitan middle ground between the tightly knit New England towns and the scattered, hierarchical plantation South.
The New England colonies were founded primarily by the English Calvinist religious dissenters called Puritans. While most Puritans sought to “purify” the Church of England from within, and not to break away from it, a small group of Separatists—the Pilgrims—founded the first small, pious Plymouth Colony in New England. More important was the larger group of nonseparating Puritans, led by John Winthrop, who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony as part of a “great migration” of Puritans fleeing persecution in England in the 1630s.
A strong sense of common religious and moral purpose shaped the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Because of the close alignment of religion and politics in the colony, those who challenged religious orthodoxy, among them Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, were considered guilty of sedition as well, and driven out of Massachusetts. The banished Williams founded Rhode Island, by far the most religiously and politically tolerant of the colonies. Other New England settlements, all originating in Massachusetts Bay, were established in Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire. Although they shared a common way of life, and occasionally engaged in common action (e.g., against the Indians), the New England colonies developed with a substantial degree of independence.
The middle colonies took shape quite differently. New York, founded as New Netherland by the Dutch and later conquered by England, was economically and ethnically diverse, socially hierarchical, and politically quarrelsome. Pennsylvania, founded as a Quaker haven by William Penn, also attracted an economically ambitious but politically troublesome population of diverse ethnic groups.
With their economic variety, ethnic diversity, and political factionalism, the middle colonies were the most typically “American” of England’s thirteen Atlantic seaboard colonies.
DEVELOPING THE CHAPTER: SUGGESTED LECTURE OR DISCUSSION TOPICS
• Explain Puritanism in terms of the “Puritan dilemma” of trying to pursue high religious ideals while somehow remaining practically effective and involved in the world. Emphasize how the Puritans believed that their “errand into the wilderness” in New England would enable them to build an idealistic “City upon a Hill” that would inspire a corrupt world.
REFERENCE: Andrew Delbanco, The Puritan Ordeal (1989).
• Examine the relationship between Puritan theology, the ideas of government its educated leaders promoted, and the religious beliefs and experience of the more ordinary settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Consider the ways in which Puritanism created both strong communal ideals, while almost guaranteeing tensions and conflicts at the boundaries of church and society.
REFERENCE: David Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Beliefs in Early New England (1989).
• Explore the development of religious, political, and social freedom in New England and the middle colonies. Examine the role that the fight against religious intolerance in New England played in the developing ideas of American religious liberty, and the particular role that dissenters like Quakers and Baptists played in that development in New England, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
REFERENCES: Carla Gardina Pestana, Quakers and Baptists in Colonial Massachusetts (1991).
• Consider the relations of the New England settlers and their Puritan leadership to the Indians. Examine how they adjusted, or failed to adjust, their understanding of covenant and the communal role of town government to those on the frontier of settlement. Analyze episodes like King Philip’s War and the Pequod War to discover what they revealed about the roles of “insiders” and “outsiders” in defining American identity and culture.
REFERENCE: Jill Lepore, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origin of American Identity (1998).
• Examine the origins of ethnic and social diversity in America by focusing on the early middle colonies, especially New York and Pennsylvania. Contrast the ethnic and religious diversity of those two colonies with the Anglo-Saxon, Puritan character of New England and relate this
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English colonization of the Americas, Thirteen Colonies, Dominion of New England, American political philosophy, Anglican saints, Puritans, Puritan migration to New England, John Winthrop, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Anne Hutchinson, New England Colonies, Middle Colonies
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