Other Essays

1. History - Part 1

In 1620, a group of religious separatists known as the Pilgrims has dropped anchor in the harbor of what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts, and, one month later they landed in what became the Plymouth colony. Their greatest achievement was the Mayflower Compact, which served as a precursor of constitutional law in America, and was influential in the writing of the Constitution.

Another group of religious separatists that came to America was the Puritans. They arrived in 1630 and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans were members of the Anglican Church, who wanted to reform the practices of their church.

Puritan theology is a version of Calvinism. Its basic belief is that humankind is sinful, but it also declares that God has determined that some will be saved through the righteousness of Christ despite their sins. However, no one can be certain in this life what their eternal destiny will be. Nevertheless, the experience of conversion, is at least some indication that one is of the elect.1

The Puritans claimed that the Massachusetts Bay Colony offered religious freedom to all. This, however, was not entirely true. Only members of the church could vote and hold political privileges. Non-Puritans were might be fined, beaten, imprisoned, or banished. Quakers were the most unwelcome of all: some were whipped or had their ears cut of. And, in 1659, two Quakers were hanged.2 It was not, however, a theocracy, since ministers could not hold public office, and magistrates had no jurisdiction over doctrine of criteria for church membership.3 The Puritans also held the belief that they were the Chosen People, ordered by God to create a City upon a Hill, a New Israel, a Redeemer Nation, for the entire world to emulate.4

Not everyone agreed with this assessment, however. Roger Williams, a dissenting minister, taught that political leaders had no authority over religious matters, and that "people had the right to worship God as their consciences dictated".5 He then proceeded to start the Rhode Island colony.

Another exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony was Anne Hutchinson. She was exiled because of her belief that "faith in God was the only thing required to enter heaven; the church believed that good works were also needed".6 She and her family moved to Rhode Island, and, after the death of her family, to what is now Pelham Bay, The Bronx, NY.7

When Roger Williams was exiled, he purchased a piece of land from the Native Americans, and founded the colony of Rhode Island. It offered religious and political liberty for all, including Native Americans. The colony Charter said:

No person within the said Colony, at any time hereafter, shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question for any differences of opinion in matters of religion.8

Williams was also the first known person to speak of the separation of church and state. He spoke of a "hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church, and the wilderness of the world".9

Another colony was Maryland. George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, established Maryland as a refuge for Roman Catholics. However, all other congregations except Unitarians were allowed to settle.10 Maryland's Act of Toleration (1649) forbade people to deride one another's beliefs and to use terms "heretic", "papist", or "Puritan" to insult other colonists.11

However, this era of tolerance did not last long. More and more Puritans were moving into Maryland. Eventually, there were enough of them to take control of the colony. Once in power, they banned Roman Catholicism and the Church of England. In 1688, however, the Church of England was dominant back in England, and it became the established church of Maryland.12

The Colony of New Amsterdam was settled by Dutch immigrants in the 1620s. They have founded Dutch Reformed churches, based on the teachings of John Calvin.13 Governor Stuyvesant originally opposed all religions but his own. In 1657, however, he received instructions from Holland ordering him to pursue more tolerant policies. In response to that, the people of Flushing, Long Island added a clause to their town charter called the "Freedom from Molestation" clause, and forbid the town officials to "condemn, punish, banish, prosecute, or lay violent hands upon anyone, in whatever name, form, or title he might appear".14

The colony grew and soon contained citizens of more than fourteen countries. In addition to the members of the Dutch Reformed, Anglican, and Catholic churches, there were Quakers, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Jews, and others.15

The South was a mix of different denominations. Anglicans and Huguenots lived along the South Carolina coast. Scotch-Irish Presbyterians settled farther inland. North Carolina was occupied by Anglicans, but also had Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and others living in it; while Virginia was settled mostly by followers of the Church of England. Georgia was home to Austrian Salzburgers, Lutherans, Waldensians, Quakers, Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Moravians, Methodists, and Presbyterians.16

Finally, William Penn had founded the colony of Pennsylvania in 1682. It was intended to be the "holy experiment" where people of different faiths, even Native Americans, could live together. In fact, Penn's policies of nonviolence towards Native Americans had averted wars between them and the settlers for more than seventy years.17

Pennsylvania became the most religiously diverse of all the colonies. Along with Quakers, there were Puritans, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, German Pietists, Anabaptists, Roman Catholics, Jews, Deists, Schwenckfelders, and agnostics. It was also home to such pacifist sects as Mennonites, Brethren (Dunkers), Amish, and Moravians. By 1776, there were about 403 different congregations in Pennsylvania.18

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1"Puritanism", Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99

2Sherrow, Separation of Church and State, p. 18

3Martin, With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, pp. 1-2

4Ibid, p. 2

5Kleeberg, Separation of Church and State, p. 15

6Ibid, p. 15

7"Hutchinson, Anne", Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 99

8Sherrow, Separation of Church and State, p. 21

9Ibid, p. 21

10Kleeberg, Separation of Church and State, p. 17

11Sherrow, Separation of Church and State, p. 23

12Kleeberg, Separation of Church and State, p. 17

13Sherrow, Separation of Church and State, p. 17

14Ibid, p. 21

15Ibid, p. 17

16Ibid, pp. 17-18

17Ibid, p. 22

18Ibid, p. 22

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