There were various reasons why the American Colonies were established. The three most important themes of English colonization of America were religion, economics, and government. The most important reasons for colonization were to seek refuge, religious freedom, and economic opportunity. To a lesser degree, the colonists sought to establish a stable and progressive government. Many colonies were founded for religious purposes. While religion was involved with all of the colonies, Massachusetts, New Haven, Maryland, and Pennsylvania were established exclusively for religious purposes.
Massachusetts’s inhabitants were Puritans who believed in predestination and the ideal that God is perfect. Many Puritans in England were persecuted for their nihilist beliefs in England because they felt that the Church of England, led by the Kind, did not enforce a literal enough interpretation of the Bible. Persecution punishment included jail and even execution. To seek refuge, they separated to go to Holland because of its proximity, lower cost, and safer passage. However, their lives in Holland were much different than that of England.
The Separatists did not rebel against but rather preferred the English culture. They did not want their children to be raised Dutch. Also, they felt that Holland was too liberal. Although they enjoyed the freedom of religion, they decided to leave for America. Pilgrims, or sojourners, left for America on The Mayflower and landed in Cape Cod in 1626. They had missed their destination, Jamestown. Although the climate was extremely rocky, they did not want to move south because of their Puritan beliefs.
William Burns from class gives a good analogy of how it was back in the Puritans day. \”It is always easy to look back and say it must have been tough, while sitting at your computer, fully clothed, and warm, but trying to put yourself in that position is much harder. Try going outside without your coat on, and see how long you can stay out there on a cold winter day. Then try to imagine having to feel like that constantly. Or as another test, boil an old belt (or some other piece of leather that you may have) in water, and see what it looks and smells like.
I do not recommend drinking it, but imagine what it would be like if you actually had to, because that’s what the pilgrims did, just for something to drink. It makes you thankful for the things you have, that’s for sure\”(Burns). When the Puritans moved to the New World they created a new society based upon perfect adherence to the strict and intolerant Puritan philosophy. However, the moral center of their universe could not hold because the people themselves although normally English, were blends of their European ancestries and the folk culture of generations before them.
Puritan philosophy was rooted in the search for spiritual perfection. Puritans viewed witchcraft as evidence of the man’s spiritual weakness. Therefore, Puritan philosophy, as later reflected in The Crucible, was the natural enemy of witchcraft. A Puritan’s first responsibility was to serve God. The Bible was a Puritan’s road map toward that duty. While Puritans respected authority, they did not revere tradition or ritual. Their churches were plain and unadorned. Prayer and listening to sermons were constant companions to the righteous Puritan. The family was a homage to God.
A man’s gift to God was a happy, prayerful family centered within the church. Witchcraft evolved in many parts of the world at different times and in different ways. But essentially, witchcraft served its developers as a system of explanation for the ways of nature and as a scheme by which man could gain control over his life. The Northern European belief in witches was a holdover from a pre-Christian time when cause-and-effect reasoning was not at its best. Two events, which occurred in the same timeframe, were often misconstrued to have a cause-and-effect relationship.
For example, if a farmer cut wheat on the full moon, and the wheat went bad, the farmer might blame the moon phase for the molding of the wheat; or he might blame his neighbor’s jealous spirit for cursing the wheat. Superstition is the basis of witchcraft. Witchcraft bases much of its belief system on the oneness of man with the world. Many of its rituals place great emphasis on the place, man holds on the planet. This, according to the pagan tradition, would mean that man was just another species in Nature’s spectrum. And witches would view man not necessarily as the most important species.
This is definitely at odds with Puritan philosophy, which would place man just below God, but clearly as master over the world God made. As much as Puritans would wish to distance themselves from the pre-Christian European beliefs, their own abhorrence of witchcraft is proof that they themselves were strong believers in witchcraft. Much of the information the Puritans had about witchcraft came from a book published in 1490. Malleus Malefic arum (translated to \”The Hammer of Witches\”), by Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, and it was used by members of the court in the prosecution of witches during the 17th century.
These authors described witches who could \”fly on broomsticks, change into animals, and kill or wither a person at a glance\”(Spenger 20). These witches were Satan-worshipers, said the book. And thus, the Christian church in all its various denominations felt justified in ferreting out and murdering those suspected of being witches. The Puritans brought these fears and superstitions with them from the Old World. As Arthur Miller writes in the early explanation of The Crucible, the Puritans felt that they were the only light for God in the New World.
If they let down their guard for one moment, the Devil would rush in and crush them out of existence. The existence of witches in the New World made perfect sense to the Puritans. They were natural enemies and were naturally pitted against each other. The Puritans looked everywhere for the source of their problems. Witchcraft made a likely opponent. But the Puritan authorities might have looked closer to home for real culprits. The Puritans were the greatest antagonists of Witchcraft in the New World. Even the Old Testament says that, \”Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. (Exodus 22:18)
So, since then 19 witches have been hanged by the Puritans in Salem in 1692. Now later in our readings there was a man named Thomas Paine who was an English-born man who seemed to stir controversy wherever he traveled. Paines forceful yet eloquent prose made him a hero for the three great causes to which he devoted his life; the American Revolution, religious reform, and the natural rights of man. At the age of 37, Paine strove for the fabled shores of America, determined to forget his past. He made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, and settled in Philadelphia.
There, Paine was eventually hired into the profession of editor for the Pennsylvania Magazine. He published a series of minor essays, but his first important work was an essay written for the Pennsylvania Journal in which Paine openly denounced slavery. This was Paines first foray into the world of protest literature, and it clearly whet his appetite. Paine soon became fascinated with the ongoing hostility in Anglo-American relations, and, much to the dismay of his publisher could not seem to think of anything but.
Therefore, in late 1775, Paine had begun what was to become a 50-page Pamphlet known as Common Sense. In this work, Paine stated that: Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a Government, which we might expect in a country without Government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.
Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise (Early America). This very biting and controversial stance is what characterized Paines writing. He went on to dismiss the King as a fool, and stated that natural ability is not necessarily related to heredity. Paine argued that the colonies existed only for British profit, and that the colonies must unite quickly if they were ever to form a single nation.
This latter argument was more than likely influenced by Franklins famous \”Join or Die\” cartoon. Finally, Paine argued that the only way to gain the rights desired by the colonists and help from outside powers was to claim total independence. In Paines own words, \”Until an independence is declared, the continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business… and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity\” (Cassidy 21).