Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Who are the Pilgrims, the Puritans, and the Separatists and how are they connected? The Pilgrims were the people who came from England to settle in New England. The first Pilgrims settled in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. There were many Separatists among the early Pilgrims. The Separatists were once part of the English Protestants known as Puritans. The Puritans were a group within the Church of England who tried to continue the changes in the church which started with the Protestant reformation. They were called Puritans by those who opposed them because they were trying to "purify" the church. There were many famous names among the Puritans, including John Wycliffe, John Calvin, William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, and Oliver Cromwell. In the late 1500s some Puritans decided that they could not reform the church from within. They left - or separated from - the Church of England and set up their own congregations. They were called Separatists. A group of Separatists left England to settle in Holland. After living in Holland for several years, some Separatists feared that their children were becoming more Dutch than English. In addition to this fear, there were additional problems. They could not own land in Holland because they were foreigners. War was starting in Europe, and America looked good to them. They offered to start an English colony in America and found some merchants willing to finance their plans. They sailed to America in September 1620 on the Mayflower. The group on the ship included 41 separatists and 61 other English people. They arrived in America on November 21, 1620, and chose Plymouth as the place for their colony. "The term Pilgrim may have come from William Bradford, the second governor of Plymouth Colony. Bradford wrote that `they knew they were pilgrims' when they left Holland.'" (Joan R. Gundersen, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, pp 463-464). Other Puritans gave up on the idea of reforming the Church of England and left for America in the 1600's. Their settlements were in Virginia and along the New England coast, particularly in Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay Colony. We can understand from this brief history that some Puritans became Separatists and some Separatists later became the Pilgrims and that they were all Puritan at heart. The Puritans' beliefs in the Bible continued to guide their lives in America. These ideals shaped religion, social life, and government in America. Their strong belief in education led to the founding of Harvard and Yale. Their strong belief in hard work may have led to the rise of the free enterprise system (John F. Wilson, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, pp.902-911). Religious denominations that developed from Puritan beliefs include Congregationalism, Unitarianism, Methodism, and Calvinism. Puritans of the 1500's and 1600's had a great effect on the development of our nation.