How did the Puritans re-create political and social forms they were familiar with in the New World?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In many ways, Puritans intended to create new political and social forms in the New World, an ideal religious society that would serve as an example to others, as leader John Winthrop memorably said:

He shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: "The Lord make it like that of New England." For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have under-taken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world...(P. 23)

While Puritans would establish democratic institutions in the form of town meetings, and fiercely protected their chartered rights until the late seventeenth century, they also established a firmly hierarchical society with church members, "visible saints" at the top. While contemporary rhetoric emphasized religious freedom, the Puritans had no interest whatsoever in even basic religious tolerance, fiercely persecuting Quakers, Antinomians, and other dissenters, as the examples of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson attest.


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