to many Puritans’ decision to go to New England. Many were well-off in England but lived in economically depressed areas, and sought opportunity inthe New World, especially in the form of land ownership or a craft. While many New Englanders made a living by exporting fish and timber to Europe, most survived on subsistence family farming and the small surpluses this 10
produced. Compared to the southern colonies, in New England there were fewslaves and fewer indentured servants.Although New Englanders were not as wealthy as colonists in the Chesapeake region, wealth was distributed more equally than in Virginia or Maryland.But economic development was accompanied by social inequality, with a growing number of wage earners and a merchant elite profiting from an expansive trade in goods between the West Indies, Europe, and Africa.This economic growth and increasing commercialization worried some Puritan leaders, with fewer members of the Massachusetts colony being eligible for church membership. The Half-Way Covenant of 1662 was designed to solve this problem by enabling third-generation Puritans, those least likely to have met the “conversion” standard of church membership, to become church members merely because they were descendants of original Puritan settlers. By the late seventeenth century, ministers were excoriating colonists for violations such as selfishness, pride, and violation of the Sabbath in lengthy sermons called “jeremiads.”By 1600, the traditional view of English “liberties” as a set of privileges limited to certain social groups was competing with a notion that certain “rights of Englishmen” applied to everyone in thekingdom. This tradition rested on the Magna Carta of 1215, in which the king had given rights to all “free men” in England, including protection against arbitrary imprisonment and the seizure of property without due process of law.Over time this document came to signify a particularly “English freedom,” where the king was subject to the rule of law and all persons enjoyed security of person and property, and which was embodied in common law rights like habeus corpus and trial by jury. As the serfdom characteristic of feudalism receded, more and more Englishmen were considered “freeborn” and entitled to these rights.Political and religious divisions within seventeenth-century England heightened the meaning and importance of “freedom” there and in the colonies. The struggle for political supremacy between Parliament and Stuart monarchs James I and Charles I culminated in the 1640s in the English Civil War.Disputes over how and to what degreethe Church of England should distance itself from Catholicism, and struggles over the respective powers of Parliament and the king, including the king’s power to impose taxes without Parliament’s consent, provoked a military conflict that ended in a victory for pro-Parliamentary forces and the abolition of the monarchy and the execution of King Charles I. The victors established a
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- History, The Bible, Thirteen Colonies, Massachusetts Bay Colony