Religion in the Thirteen Colonies

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What is the difference between Puritans and Pilgrims?

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Both Pilgrims and Puritans were concerned with reforming the Church of England. Both organized groups of colonists to settle in the New World, and they established their new homes in New England within close proximity of each other. However, there were significant differences between these two groups in their approaches...

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Both Pilgrims and Puritans were concerned with reforming the Church of England. Both organized groups of colonists to settle in the New World, and they established their new homes in New England within close proximity of each other. However, there were significant differences between these two groups in their approaches to church reformation, their wealth, and the size of the colonies they set up in America.

The Pilgrims were originally known as the Separatists. They had no intention of working within the Church of England. Instead, they began to worship in secret in their homes. Due to persecution in England, they fled to the Netherlands. Later, many of them moved on to America aboard the Mayflower. They landed at Plymouth Rock and founded the Plymouth Colony. About half of the 102 passengers of the Mayflower survived the first winter.

In contrast, the Puritans did not want to separate themselves from the Church of England. Instead, they wanted to reform it from within. They agreed with many of the principles that the Pilgrims espoused, such as meeting together in congregations, but they wanted to make these changes while remaining loyal to the Church of England. The Puritans were not driven from England, although they welcomed the freedom of the New World to be able to put their reforms into practice. They saw the move to America as an investment opportunity.

The Puritans were much wealthier than the Pilgrims. They arrived in the New World with abundant money and resources and 1,000 colonists on 17 ships. By the mid-17th century, the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony was populated by about 20,000 people, while the Pilgrim Plymouth Colony had only about 2,600 inhabitants. Soon afterwards, the Puritan colony completely absorbed the Pilgrim colony.

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The difference between the Pilgrims and the Puritans was how they viewed their relationship with the Church of England. These two were more alike than they were different. The Puritans and Pilgrims both escaped England and religious persecution for the safe haven of the New World. They had very strict and rigid religious practices. Pilgrims were essentially a branch of the Puritans.

While the Puritans felt like the Church of England should and could be cleansed of corruption, the Pilgrims went further. This is where the key difference comes into play. The Pilgrims were essentially separatists, meaning they wanted a total break from the Church of England. This was because they rejected the elements of Catholicism still present in it. The Puritans were reformists, meaning they believed the Church could be reformed without a total break.

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