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How did the issue of religious diversity affect the social development of the 13...

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rashaad64 | eNoter

Posted February 28, 2013 at 10:18 PM via web

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How did the issue of religious diversity affect the social development of the 13 English colonies in the era from the founding of Jamestown to the American Revolution (1607-1776)?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:43 AM (Answer #1)

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Although popular American folklore depicts the English colonies as having been formed for religious freedom, in fact the founding Puritans were some of the least tolerant individuals to ever wash up on North America's shores.  The first colony, Plymouth, guided by William Bradford, and "officially" established in 1620, was known for such hijinks as crashing a "May Day" festival in a neighboring community; although the community was not part of Plymouth, the Plymouth residents felt compelled to put a stop to the pagan holiday because they, themselves, had banned pagan holidays.  The Massachusetts Bay Colony soon followed, and again, the Puritan dynamic proved to be less than welcoming.  When problems in the colony, and with England threatened to destroy the colony (or more specifically, when England itself indicated it might be losing interest in the endeavor), efforts to quell the chaos included some ill-advised attempts to ban religious dissenters, including the folks who would found Rhode Island, Roger Williams and Ann Hutchinson, and Thomas Hooker, whose liberal beliefs about the natives put him in conflict with the colony's leaders, sending him off to found Connecticut. 

Interestingly, the Middle or "breadbasket" colonies such as Pennsylvania, became the most tolerant of the thirteen.  Pennsylvania, founded by Quaker William Penn (the name means literally "Penn's woods"), was particularly welcoming, open and non-antagonistic toward differing religious beliefs, while the other middle colonies generally developed the same liberal tone.  The Southern colonies, always most closely tied to England, tended to develop along the lines of England's Anglican roots, and when the American Revolution arrived in the late 1700's, the Southern colonies were the least interested in war with England, as they still, nearly 200 years later, embraced the tradition, ritual, and what they perceived to be the "gentleman's" lifestyle, approximating (they hoped) the English country gentleman's home, wealth, and leisure (which, of course, would feed directly into the growth of plantation slavery, and lead to the Civil War). 

By the time the American Revolution began, talk of freedom from England had long ago morphed from religious to political, i.e. the colonists who more or less started the war were incensed about high taxes without representation, and issues relating to the French-Indian War of the 1750's.  Religion had long since faded into the background as an igniter of conflict in the colonies. 

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