Thereligious beliefs of many Englanders influenced the settlement of North Americain the seventeenth century, as many people wanted to escape the religious ruleof the monarchy in order to obtain religious freedom. The first British colonyin America was established in Jamestown, which was situated in the Chesapeakeregion of Virginia.
The decision to colonise Jamestown in 1607, was made by theVirginia Company of London. However, unlike many settlers in the seventeenthcentury, they decision came from England wanting to assert it’s power overseasby generating a profit through their agrarian society, rather than seeking freedomfrom religious oppression. The first colony that was established primarily forreligious freedom was in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Plymouth was founded by agroup of religious separatists who were searching for a new place of settlementfor their community, due to the experience of religious persecution under therule of King James I. It was due to navigational inaccuracy that the ship theywere on, the Mayflower, arrived in Massachusetts, rather than Virginia. Due tothis, the settlers had not obtained approval from the crown to settle there,which led to the creation of their own civil government.
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This was a highlyinfluential event in the settlement of North America, as the Mayflower Compactis often cited to be America’s first constitution and an influence on theFounding Fathers, during the revolution. Furthermore, in the 1620’s, LordBaltimore decided to establish his own colonial expansion in the New World.After a failed attempt in settling in Newfoundland, he tried to relocate hisfamily and a group of Protestants and Catholics to the Chesapeake Bay region.However, he died before his arrival, leaving his sons to finish his effort. Hissons, Cecil and Leonard Calvert, convinced the colonists to listen to them byagreeing that they would allow them to worship God, in any way they pleased. Maryland,the colony they established, was therefore highly influential in the settlementof many religious settlers, due to the religious freedom it allowed.
1 Between1630 and 1640, many Puritans began to arrive in New England due to burgeoningpersecution back home. After more settlers began to arrive, more independentcolonies were set up, including the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However, thesettlement of the Virginia and New England colonies created tensions betweenthe colonisers and the Natives.
The New England settlers belittled the Native’spantheistic view on God, in comparison to their belief in a single supreme God.As a result of this, the settlers decided to supersede their native values andpressure them into becoming low-ranking English men and women, as they wereafraid that the low-ranking English men and women would turn against the colony.Taylor argues, “by subordinating and converting the Indians, the Virginiapromoters meant to free up most of their land for the settlement of Englishplantations.
” 2 This perception of religious and culturalsuperiority was carried by the English settlers and was influential in the settlementof North America, as it allowed for the expansion of many English colonies. However,in 1686, during the rule of King James II, the “Dominion of New England” wasintroduced, which was the unification of the English and Mid-Atlantic colonies.James pursued an administration of religious tolerance across the colonies,through which he introduced the Church of England into Massachusetts, despiteprotest from the Puritan leaders. This agitation, combined with other policiesof the union, caused many people to protest, ultimately leading to thedissolution of the Dominion in 1689, after the Glorious Revolution.
This washighly influential in the settlement of North America, as the religioustolerance of James II influenced the settlement of other religious minoritiesin the colonies. Thereligious beliefs of many English settlers were influential in the advancement ofthe colonies, and the settler’s decision to remain there. John Winthrop was aleading Puritan figure, who was a prominent figure in the founding of theMassachusetts Bay Colony, in the late 1620’s and early 1630’s.
Winthropenvisioned the colony as a Puritan “city upon a hill”, and this image wassignificant in the development of the colony, government and religion insurrounding colonies. Winthrop was believed to be highly influential in thegrowth of the Puritan colonies and the decision to remain there, as he servedto be an example for Puritan reformers by creating a “godly community” inAmerica.3However, although an increase in colonisation was successful, it can be arguedthat Winthrop failed in his aim to create a “utopian community”4, ashe created religious tension through his disapproval of the antinomian views ofthe other governors of the colony. Similarly, the colony of New Haven wasfounded upon the Puritan ideals by which John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton andother believers of the Puritan faith based their lives. The success of thecolony attracted more Puritan settlers and other believers, which allowed forthem to expand their colony into further towns and plantations.
However, in theearly 1660’s, New Haven was used in the hiding of the three men who had signedthe legal order for the death of Charles I. This was detrimental for thecolony, as it became impoverished and powerless. This led to the colony of NewHaven to be absorbed by the colony of Connecticut, in 1665.
5Whilst the Puritan beliefs of Winthrop, Davenport and Eaton were essential inthe founding and settlement of some North American colonies, their distrust ofother believers proved to be a hindrance to the advancement of their colonies. In1674, following the influence of the Puritans, the Quakers tried to buy territoryin the colony of West Jersey. They believed that in order to live by their ownreligion, they should buy their own land in America. However, due to thehostility of the New England Puritans, it was difficult for them to settle. Itwas not until 1681 that a large Quaker population settled in their new colony. In1681, in order to repay the debt he owed to William Penn, King Charles IIgranted Penn’s son and namesake a large piece of his American land, in orderfor him to create the colony of Pennsylvania. William Penn was an early Quakerand proponent of religious freedom, and he prided himself on creating a colonythat was free of political unrest.
Penn acknowledged the difficulty inpersuading the English Quaker community to make the journey across the Atlanticto Pennsylvania, however he was determined to succeed in the growth of hiscolony. In order to entice settlers, he wrote a detailed prospectus 1 Roy Rogers, Maryland’s Protestant Revolution and the Problem of Religious Freedom,