I. Puritan Origins: The English Reformation
A. The religious roots of the Puritans who founded New England reached back to the
B. England's King Henry VIII understood that the Reformation offered him an opportunity
to break with Rome and take control of the church in England; in 1534, Parliament, at his
insistence, passed the Act of Supremacy, which outlawed the Catholic Church in
C. The English Reformation divided the country's people: Some wished to return to
Catholicism, while others sought a more genuine reformation.
D. Those who favored a more genuine, comprehensive Reformation came to be called
E. During the sixteenth century, Puritanism was less an organized movement than a set of
ideas and religious principles that appealed strongly to many groups of dissenting
members of the Church of England.
The fate of Protestantism waxed and waned under Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James
I, and Charles I, the successors of Henry VIII; in particular, James I and his son Charles I
were especially unreceptive to the ideas of Puritan reformers.
G. The aggressive anti-Puritan policies of Charles I compelled many Puritans to emigrate;
the largest number set out for America.
II. Puritans and the Settlement of New England
A. The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony
One of the earliest Puritan groups to emigrate from England, later known as Pilgrims,
espoused a heresy known as separatism: They sought to withdraw and separate from the
Church of England, which they considered hopelessly corrupt.
The Pilgrims, who had obtained permission to settle in the extensive lands granted to the
Virginia Company, landed in present-day Massachusetts in 1620.
Although they had no legal authority from the king to settle in this area, on the day that
the Pilgrims arrived they drew up the Mayflower Compact to provide order and security
as well as a claim to legitimacy.
The Pilgrims soon settled at Plymouth and elected William Bradford as their governor.
The colony struggled to survive the first winter, during which half of its members died.
In the spring, nearby Wampanoag Indians rescued the floundering colony from
The colony's status remained precarious, but the Pilgrims coexisted in relative peace with
B. The Founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony
In 1629, a group of Puritan merchants and country gentlemen in England obtained a royal
charter for the Massachusetts Bay Company that provided the usual privileges granted to