Puritanism was a sixteenth century reform movement that originated with the Church of England. In the 17th century, English Puritans migrated to America and initiated the new reformation. The Puritans believed that the Church of England had not been fully reformed. In addition, the Puritans opposed over involvement of the British Royal family in church matters. Most Puritans did not promote separatist movements, instead they advocated for secondary reformation. The Puritans had significant effect on American culture. Being a political and a cultural block, the Puritans continued to influence American culture until 1728. At the height of Puritanism, the South became the center of American civilization and this ushered in the supposed “Age Of Reason.” Puritanism not only affected on American culture but also on American economy and philosophy. Most Puritan pilgrims arrived in North America during the Great Migration, 1630-1640. Following this settlement, the Puritans continued to impact American cultural and intellectual life. This essay describes American Puritanism emphasizing on cultural and intellectual impacts of the movement.
According to John Winthrop, Puritans played the main role in the forming of American values. The notion of covenant was the cornerstone of the Puritan lifestyle. This covenant regulated relationships between men and God, congregations and ministers, magistrates and members of their community, men and their families. For example, New England Churches were created by the covenant of the participants, who had elected their own ministers. The same way Plymouth Colony’s and New Haven Colony’s governments were formed through social agreements. Although the Puritans did not establish a separatist movement, they promoted independence of thoughts and ideas. Indeed, churches established by the Puritans retained a sense of independence. Thus, the movement created a sense of freedom in terms of ideas and decision-making. American Puritans were idealists, who believed in restoring the first century purity of the church.
American Puritans also had profound effect on American literature. Literature is a major determinant of a society’s culture and intellect. Thus, Puritan literature had enormous contribution to American intellectual and cultural life. Firstly, the Puritans nullified the “Painted Sermons” necessitating the creation of new literature. The Puritans viewed "Painted Sermons” as a barrier towards religious honesty. Need for independence of thoughts led to the creation of new literature that came to be regarded as the Puritan literature. Unlike the mainstream literature, Puritan literature promoted independence of thoughts, realism, and modernity. American Puritans valued truth and justification of ideas. For this reason, Puritan literature was considered as an absolute truth. Beside academic integrity, Puritan’s literature applied plain language. This aspect was mainly utilized in speeches. Plain speeches became a characteristic of American literature and history. America is widely known for its pragmatic leaders, who delivered outstanding speeches. Besides the new literature, the Puritans supported writers. Writers from African American societies also became popular during this era. In addition, Puritanism supported the establishment of new publishing houses. Puritan literature included sermons, poems, dictionaries, diaries, and letters. Puritans wrote about life and the need to have productive life. This promoted American intellectual capacity as people started to view the world and life from a different perspective. In addition, Puritanism promoted a reading culture among Americans. Diversity of Puritan literature ensured that all people had adequate reading materials. Ideally, there were reading materials for everyone. Churches had literature materials for children, the elderly and young people. Development of a reading culture among Americans played a significant role in the development of education. Some Puritan sect also established independent schools that were meant to provide specialized education to their children. Ann Hutchinson was a typical Puritan, as depicted by her poems. Much of her work represents a struggle to accept adversities in Puritan beliefs. The “Tenth Muse” is surprisingly Puritan, as Hutchinson wrote it from a personal perspective rather than a conventional one. For instance, in one of her poems, she writes of a real event whereby her family house is burnt down. In another, she writes about her fear of death. Both cases represent her Puritan beliefs on reward for good deeds and transition of earthly treasures into eternal treasures (Baym, 2007). However, her feminist mindset is surprisingly not Puritan.
Puritans also contributed to the established education. Before the arrival of the Puritans, America did not have formal education system. In 1653, the Puritan established Roxbury, which became the first formal school in America. Other foundations include Harvard College (1935), and Massachusetts School of Law (1939). The Puritans also prompted the establishment of elementary schools through the local authorities. For instance, Massachusetts law required families to support the establishment of elementary and grammar schools. These schools were meant to facilitate boy’s education and prepare them for college education. Initially, only wealthy or privileged families sent their children to school. However, the Puritan movement supported education among all Americans. The current state controlled education system seems to have originated from the Puritan movements. Consequently, education became a requirement among Americans. With availability of literature materials Americans developed strong values towards education.
Culture determines people’s attitude towards life. The Puritans had significant influence on the development of American culture. The family is the fundamental unit in any society. Thus, family establishment determine the culture of the society (Baym, 2007). The Puritans preached the truth, as it is illustrated in the bible. Besides the bible truth, the Puritans promoted logical reasoning and supported monogamy relationships, whereby men provided for their families and women took care of homes and children. Any family union had to be certified through a church wedding. Therefore, the Puritans promoted family values and adoration of wedding ceremonies. These values continue to characterize American culture. Antisocial behaviors such as alcoholism and smoking were forbidden. During the era of the Puritans, divorce was outlawed (Bloom, 1992). This was aimed at supporting the family and promoting social value that strengthened the family. The Puritans also had significant value for children, who were considered the future generation and, therefore the society had to prepare for the future. Besides quality education, parents offered their children the best form of life that they could afford. Consequently, child abuse or neglect cases are not popular in the US. The Puritans also outlawed abuse of children and child labor.
The Puritans continue to influence modern American culture through ideologies. The notion of freedom, liberty, and independence originated with the Puritans. Indeed, American democracy is established on this aspect. America is known worldwide for its democracy and support of human rights. The idea of liberty and freedom has been the basis of the American dream. The ideology was extended to cover other aspects of life including economic and political freedom. Americans control or influence their government through voting. The idea can be traced back to the teachings of the Puritans. The Puritans believed in religious as well as political freedom.
Finally, American’s prosperity and hard work culture can be attributed to Puritanism. The Puritans not only preached about religious but economic freedom as well. America is one of the countries with a metropolitan economy. This has been made possible by availability of the infrastructure. Owning cars has also promoted the metropolitan culture. In fact, nearly all Americans own cars and homes in the suburbs. Besides these prosperity, Americans are inventive people. Indeed America is the home for great scientists, engineers, and thinkers (Miller, 1938). These values can be traced back to the Puritan movements. According to William, the Puritan movement laid the foundation for American prosperity. Thus, Puritanism led to the development of the culture of successfulness that characterizes American society.
In conclusion, Puritanism revolutionized American cultural and intellectual life. Both Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams confirm that Puritanism created independence of thought among Americans. This independence has been replicated through culture and education. The Puritans continued to influence American society through the church, which was the main social organization. The Puritans transformed American culture and access towards literature materials. Production and distribution of literature materials increased during the era of the Puritans. In addition, the Puritans established schools and promoted equal enrolment. This laid the foundation to the current state controlled education system that characterizes the American society.
American culture borrowed heavily from the Puritans. The Puritans protected marriages and families. Moreover, the Puritans had value for their children. The monogamy family setting and value towards children is a major attribute of the Puritans. American liberty and freedom are also a consequence of the Puritans. Subsequent stability has promoted economic prosperity that characterizes Americans.
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