Discuss The Role Of Religious Dissent In The Founding Of The First New England Colonies And In Stimulating The Creation Of Others?


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NEW ENGLAND Puritan followers of John Calvin sought to purify the English church by
rooting out vestiges of traditional Catholic practices. They found themselves increasingly in
conflict with royal authorities, especially King Charles I. Simultaneously, the French and Dutch
had established trade connections with the Indians along the North Atlantic coast. Between 1616
and 1618, a devastating plague decimated the native population, disrupting trade and weakening
Indian ability to resist colonization. The first English colony in New England was founded by
Separatists, who believed they needed to establish independent congregations to separate
themselves from the corrupt English church. In 1620 these “Pilgrims” founded the Plymouth
colony at an abandoned Indian village. After an initial winter of starvation, the Pilgrims (with
considerable Indian assistance) succeeded in establishing a community of self-sufficient farms.
In 1629 a group of wealthy Puritans received a charter to found the Massachusetts Bay
Company and settle in America. Between 1629 and 1643, 20,000 persons relocated to America,
expanding Puritan settlements. Most arrived as families or groups. The colony was governed
locally by a governor and elected representatives. Unlike the French and Dutch who preceded
them, the English were primarily interested in acquiring land for agriculture. Consequently,
conflicts between English and Indians grew. The English took advantages of the Indian
population which was weakened by disease and used various pressure tactics to acquire land,
including war. Unlike the Chesapeake region, New England developed a diversified economy
and closely knit families and communities, though not “puritanical” as we understand the word.
The family was the basis of the economy with labor divided along gender lines. Puritans stressed
male-dominated, well-ordered communities. Settlers clustered near the town center, building
churches and schools. The Puritans expected religious uniformity so dissenters such as Roger
Williams and Anne Hutchinson who challenged the status quo either left voluntarily or were
banished from the colony. Both founded new communities in New England.

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