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The Church of England
New England region, United States. See Article History.
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New England Colonies ***
Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Although lacking a charter, the founders of Plymouth in Massachusetts were, like their counterparts in Virginia, dependent upon private investments from profit-minded backers to finance their colony. New England was the dominant region during the century of rapid expansion following the American Revolution and not merely in terms of demographic or economic expansion.
In social and cultural life—in education, politics, theology, literature, science, architecture, and the more advanced forms of…. The year , chronicled in New England annals as the beginning of the Great Migration, witnessed the founding there of Puritanism as the established religion. Rejecting democracy and toleration as unscriptural, the Puritans put their trust in a theocracy of the elect that…. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice.
People sat on hard wooden benches for most of the day, which was how long the church services usually lasted. These meeting houses became bigger and much less crude as the population grew after the s. Steeples grew, bells were introduced, and some churches grew big enough to host as many as one thousand worshippers.
In contrast to other colonies, there was a meetinghouse in every New England town. After the s, with many more churches and clerical bodies emerging, religion in New England became more organized and attendance more uniformly enforced. In even sharper contrast to the other colonies, in New England most newborns were baptized by the church, and church attendance rose in some areas to 70 percent of the adult population. The New England colonists—with the exception of Rhode Island—were predominantly Puritans, who, by and large, led strict religious lives.
The clergy was highly educated and devoted to the study and teaching of both Scripture and the natural sciences. The Puritan leadership and gentry, especially in Massachusetts and Connecticut, integrated their version of Protestantism into their political structure. Government in these colonies contained elements of theocracy, asserting that leaders and officials derived that authority from divine guidance and that civil authority ought to be used to enforce religious conformity.
Their laws assumed that citizens who strayed away from conventional religious customs were a threat to civil order and should be punished for their nonconformity. Despite many affinities with the established Church of England, New England churches operated quite differently from the older Anglican system in England. Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut had no church courts to levy fines on religious offenders, leaving that function to the civil magistrates. In those colonies, the civil government dealt harshly with religious dissenters, exiling the likes of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams for their outspoken criticism of Puritanism, and whipping Baptists or cropping the ears of Quakers for their determined efforts to proselytize.
The Founding Of New England
The Toleration Act, passed by the English Parliament in , gave Quakers and several other denominations the right to build churches and to conduct public worship in the colonies. Inhabitants of the middle and southern colonies went to churches whose style and decoration look more familiar to modern Americans than the plain New England meeting houses. They, too, would sit in church for most of the day on Sunday. After , as remote outposts grew into towns and backwoods settlements became bustling commercial centers, Southern churches grew in size and splendor.
Church attendance, abysmal as it was in the early days of the colonial period, became more consistent after Much like the north, this was the result of the proliferation of churches, new clerical codes and bodies, and a religion that became more organized and uniformly enforced. Toward the end of the colonial era, churchgoing reached at least 60 percent in all the colonies.
The middle colonies saw a mixture of religions, including Quakers who founded Pennsylvania , Catholics, Lutherans, a few Jews, and others. The southern colonists were a mixture as well, including Baptists and Anglicans. In the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland which was originally founded as a haven for Catholics , the Church of England was recognized by law as the state church, and a portion of tax revenues went to support the parish and its priest. Virginia imposed laws obliging all to attend Anglican public worship.
The 13 Colonies
Baptist preachers were frequently arrested. Mobs physically attacked members of the sect, breaking up prayer meetings and sometimes beating participants. As a result, the s and s witnessed a rise in discontent and discord within the colony some argue that Virginian dissenters suffered some of the worst persecutions in antebellum America. With few limits on the influx of new colonists, Anglican citizens in those colonies needed to accept, however grudgingly, ethnically diverse groups of Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, members of the Dutch Reformed Church, and a variety of German Pietists.
Maryland was founded by Cecilius Calvert in as a safe haven for Catholics. Clergy and buildings belonging to both the Catholic and Puritan religions were subsidized by a general tax. Quakers founded Pennsylvania. Their faith influenced the way they treated Indians, and they were the first to issue a public condemnation of slavery in America.
A religious revival swept the colonies in the s and s. In retrospect, the Great Awakening contributed to the revolutionary movement in a number of ways: it forced Awakeners to organize, mobilize, petition, and provided them with political experience; it encouraged believers to follow their beliefs even if that meant breaking with their church; it discarded clerical authority in matters of conscience; and it questioned the right of civil authority to intervene in all matters of religion.
In a surprising way, these principles sat very well with the basic beliefs of rational Protestants and deists.
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