Theme 4American Colonial Empires:The English in North America History 140, Spring 2011 Shannon Lopez
Disdaining the legacy of medieval Catholicism, the Puritans sought to recover the original, pure, and simple church of Jesus Christ and his apostles. Puritans longed to experience the “New Birth” a transformation infusion of divine grace that liberated people from profound anxiety over their spiritual worthlessness and eternal fate. The Puritans labored even harder to perfect their morality and worship because diligence and discipline honored God. Puritans came from all ranks of English society, most belonged to the “middling sort” of small property holders: farmers, shopkeepers, and skilled artisans. The godly could never escape worldly temptations because Puritan virtues helped them to accumulate money. Puritans advanced the radical notion that England could be cleansed of poverty and crime if godly men and women united to take charge of their churches and local governments and they longed to purify the churches by ousting all conspicuous sinners and by inviting members to monitor one another for consistent morality and sound theology. 1604, if the Puritans did not conform to King James I authority and church, he threatened to “harry them out of the land,” even though the crown depended upon propertied and educated men to keep and preach order in the counties and such men were often Puritans. That accommodation eroded late in James’s reign and collapsed in 1625 upon the accession of his son King Charles I with his marriage to Catholic princess. Faced with the growing power of the king and his bishops, some Puritans considered emigrating across the Atlantic to a New England. American Colonies 8:New England
The first Puritan emigrants consisted of 102 Separatists, the Pilgrims; they crossed the Atlantic in 1620 in the Mayflower to found the town named Plymouth on the south shore of Massachusetts Bay. In 1630 a much larger Puritan emigration, called the “Great Migration,” began under the leadership of John Winthrop. Once in Massachusetts, the company leaders established the most radical government in the European world: a republic where the Puritan men elected their governor, deputy governor, and legislature; and until his death in 1649, Winthrop almost always won annual reelection as governor. From the coastal towns, the colonist expanded into the interior during the 1630s-40s and during that time they Puritans were discovering their disagreements over the proper rules to govern their new towns and churches. Often with a push from local majorities, the disgruntled minority bolted for new location where they hoped to enforce their own rules and obtain better lands. With 20,000 of the 33,000 inhabitants in 1660, Massachusetts remained the most populous, influential, and powerful of the New England colonies. American Colonies 8:New England, Cont.
During the 1620s-30s the English middling sort had economic cause to consider emigrating across the Atlantic. The Puritans interpreted the wandering beggars, increased crime, clothe trade depression, and famines as divine afflictions meant to punish a guilty land that wallowed in sin. In New England, the Puritans could purify their churches, supervise one another, and enact a code of laws derived from the Bible. Their voyages during the 1630s, of 198 only 1 sank and the mortality from disease was less than 5%, far lower than what indentured servants experienced. New England was a northern and hilly land with a short growing season and faster-flowing rivers and streams, which discouraged the malaria and dysentery that afflicted southern colonies, so although they were not the wealthiest English colonial region, New England was the healthiest and most populous, and the most egalitarian in the distribution of property. New English leaders favored compact settlement in town to concentrate people for defense, to support schools, to promote mutual supervision of morality, and above all, to sustain a convenient and well attended local church. The average New England farm was significantly larger than most landholdings in England and almost all farmers enjoyed complete ownership. The New England farm family also tended a modest but critical herd of livestock and the families consumed most of their own crops and butchered animals or traded them for the goods and services of local artisans. The New English relied upon the family labor of their sons and daughters because they were unable to afford servants or slaves. American Colonies 8: New England, Cont.
During the 1630s, New England thrived primarily from the regular infusion of newcomers who brought currency and other capital and consumed, at enhanced prices, the crops produces by the first-comers. The New England fisherman exploited the disruption brought during the 1640s by civil war in England. They were shipping the better-quality fish to Spain and Portugal and their Atlantic islands. In 1641 the New English caught and marketed 600,000 pounds of fish and grew to 6 million pounds in 1675 when the New England fisheries employed 440 boats and more than 1,000 men. By developing the fishing trade, the Puritans rescued the region’s economy, but at the cost of accepting the presence, albeit limited, of the sort of rowdy and defiant folk whom they had hoped to leave behind in England because when obliged to choose a faith, most fishermen preferred a relaxed Anglicanism with its ceremonies to an intense Puritanism with its strict morality and long sermons. Seaport merchants packed and exported the agricultural surpluses produced by the New England farmers, along with lumber and fish, to the West Indies and in exchange the merchants procured molasses, rum, and sugar; some for their consumption but most for carrying to other markets in the Chesapeake and Europe. The low price of wood enabled New England to produce ships at half the cost of London shipyards and by 1700, Boston alone had 15 shipyards which produced more ships than the rest of the colonies combined. The shipyards also stimulated an array of associated enterprises: sawmills, sail lofts, smithies, iron foundries, ropewalks, barrel shops, and taverns which in turn the New England farmers benefited from feeding these artisans and providing timber to the shipyards. American Colonies 8: New England, Cont.
In southeastern New England the leading tribes were the Mohegan and Pequot of Connecticut, the Narragansett of Rhode Island, the Patuxet and Wampanoag of the Plymouth colony, and the Nipmuck, Massachusett, and Pennacook of the Massachusetts Bay. Each band had a leading sachem, assisted by a council of lesser sachems, shamans, and especially prestigious warriors. The chief sachem assigned cornfields, mediated disputes, and supervised trade, diplomacy, and war with outsiders. Their mix of plants did not seem like proper agriculture to the English, who segregated their various crops in distinct fields even thought the Indian cultivation was more efficient, producing substantial yield from relatively small amount of land and labor. To facilitate their hunting and gathering, the Indians set fire to the forest beyond their fields twice a year and this also diminished mice, fleas, and parasites that troubled people or the game that they ate. Their culture cherished leisure and generosity more than the laborious accumulation of individual property for display and because hospitality and generosity were fundamental duties, no one went hungry in an Indian village and theft was virtually unknown to them. The Algonquians possessed neither the market institutions nor the mentality of capitalism nor did they own particular parcels of land as exclusive or private property. Because land was not a commodity for them, the Indians neither bought nor sold portions of their domain-until induced or compelled to it by colonists. American Colonies 9:Puritans and Indians
In English society, men got high status by accumulating property through market transactions, rather than by redistributing property as did the Indian chiefs. In the wild plants and animas of New England, the colonist saw potential commodities as particular items that could be harvested, processed, shipped, and sold to make a profit. The colonist appointed themselves to judge how much land the Indians needed, which shrank with every passing year. To perfect their land titles, the colonist usually tried to buy tracts of the Indians’ land, offering trade goods in return for their marks on paper documents called deeds. The New English and the Indians did not understand the deed in the same way because the native did not share the European notion of private property. The colonists maintained that by signing deeds, the Indians gave up every right to the land and had to move out but he Indians regarded their deed as an offer to share the land with the colonists. The Indians were surprised and offended when colonist abused or arrested native as trespassers and they were also astonished when the colonist cleared the forest so quickly to make pasture for their livestock and fields for grain. American Colonies 9:Puritans and Indians, Cont.
The first major conflict between the New English and the Indians erupted in 1636. Colonial leaders demanded that the resident Pequot pay a heavy tribute in wampum, give up several of their children as hostages, and surrender suspects accused of killing a trader. In May 1637, Narragansett and Mohegan warriors guided the Puritan forces deep into the Pequot territory to surprise a village beside the Mystic River. Commanded by Captain John Mason and Captain John Underhill, the New English set the sleeping village on fire and the Pequot died either in the flames or in flight from the fire as they ran into the gunfire of their enemies. Stung by rebukes from their godly friend at home, especially over the Pequot slaughter, some of the New English turned their attention to evangelizing the Indians and beginning in the 1640s the Reverend John Eliot took the lead. The missionaries wished to rescue Indians’’ lives from the colonists as well as to save their souls from hell, but he effort demanded that Indians surrender their own culture a s the price of physical survival; they have to convert or die. In permanent, compact “praying towns” the Indian could be kept under closer surveillance and under more constant pressure to change their behavior and appearance which incidentally freed up additional lands for colonial settlements. The Indians had to abandon their Algonquian names and take new English names, and they had to give up wearing body grease, playing traditional sports, and killing lice with their teeth. Above all, the missionaries exhorted the Indians to adopt the Puritan pace and mode of work, which meant long days of agricultural labor. American Colonies 9: Puritans and Indians, Cont.
In the spring of 1675 the Plymouth colonist provoked the confrontation by seizing, trying, and hanging three Wampanoag for murdering a praying town Indian who had served as a colonial informant. Indiscriminate Puritan counterattacks on neutral band created additional enemies, including the Narragansett. Drawing upon the grim lesson in total war taught by the colonists in the Pequot War, the Indians often killed entire colonial families, including women and children. When the colonist counterattacked, the Indians took refuge in swamps and repelled their foes or they surprised and ambushed retreating colonist unfamiliar with the paths through the forests. To vindicate their God and prove their own worthiness, the Puritans felt compelled to destroy their Indian enemies. Every dead Indian and burned wigwam manifested the resurgent power of the Puritan God and his renewed approval of his chosen people, the New English. The Puritans enlisted praying town Indians and required each to prove his loyalty and zeal by ringing in 2 scalps of heads taken from the enemy. The best colonial commanders abandoned European military tactics and adopted the Indian tactics of dispersion, stealth, ambush, and individual marksmanship. In the spring of 1676 the Indian rebels ran out of food and ammunition, just when they faced increasing attacks from their more numerous and improved foes. The conflict that came to be known a King Philip’s War, killed at least 1,000 English colonists and about 3,000 Indians. American Colonies 9:Puritans and Indians, Cont.