Puritans were not satisfied with the slow progress of the Protestant

Puritans were not satisfied with the slow progress of

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the Puritans had to share their churches with the “damned.” Puritans were not satisfied with the slow progress of the Protestant Reformation in England and what they felt was a corrupt and worldly Church of England. A small group of extreme Puritans called Separatists broke away from the Church of England completely. In 1603, when King James I succeeded Queen Elizabeth I, the Puritans feared that England might slide farther back to its Catholic roots. At the same time, King James began to feel that if
the Puritans did not see him as their spiritual leader, they might defy him as their political leader. So James began pressuring the Puritan Separatists to conform. Finally, in 1606, the Separatists severed all ties to the Church of England. In an age when church and state were united, dissenting from the practices of the official Church of England was seen as treason. The Separatists went into exile departing for Holland in 1608 so that they did not have to conform to the beliefs set out by the Church of England. As fellow Calvinists, the Dutch tolerated the Separatists—and many others. After living with the Dutch customs and liberal ways for 12 years, the Separatist longed for their English lifestyle. Since they could not go back to England, they decided the next best option was to transplant their customs in the New World. These “Pilgrims” negotiated with the Virginia Company of London and secured rights to establish a settlement near the mouth of the Hudson River. King James did not promise toleration, but he agreed to leave them alone if they went to Virginia. In 1620, about 100 people boarded the Mayflower for the New World, and less than half of them were Separatists. A storm made the group miss their destination, pushing them north of the Virginia Company where they settled off the coast of New England in Plymouth Bay. Rather than brave the stormy seas and try to make it south to the Virginia Company location, they stayed where they were. The Pilgrims believed that Plymouth Bay was outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company. Although they did not have the monarch’s authority to establish a government, they drew up a formal agreement called the Mayflower Compact before going ashore. This compact established the first standard in the New World for written laws and was signed by forty-one adult men on the Mayflower. The Pilgrims who signed the compact met as the General Court in open-discussion town meetings and chose John Carver as their first governor. They also chose his council of assistants and eventually others were admitted as members, or “freemen,” but only if they were church members. In April 1621, John Carver died and William Bradford was elected governor. Bradford served many terms as governor and was largely responsible for the infant colony's success through great hardships.

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