Puritan Ethic Beginnings to 1800

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					   Puritan Ethic
 Beginnings to 1800
Taken from Elements of Literature

• 1528- Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
  – 1490-1557
  – Florida
  – Fleet leaves
  – Eight years
  – Captured by Native Americans
― The term “Puritan” was first applied to those
 Protestant reformers whose zeal to “purify” their
 religion caused them to reject Queen Elizabeth’s
 religious settlements of 1560.
― Puritans were influenced by John Calvin and his
 concept of predestination and Martin Luther and
 his ninety-five theses, among them his
 “priesthood of believers” and his attacks on the
 hierarchic structure and power of Roman
• Puritans were persecuted in England,
 particularly under King James, who ascended
 to the throne in 1603 and especially when
 Archbishop William Laud rose to power in
 1628 first as Bishop of London and then, in
 1633, as Archbishop of Canterbury.
 (Puritanism, however, remained strong in
 England in the first half of the seventeenth
 century, and, after the English Civil War (see
 chronology 1642), rose to power, politically
 and religiously, from 1650-1660.
• Beginning in 1608, many Puritans left England
  for Leyden, Holland. In 1620, these Pilgrims, so-
  called for their wanderings, sailed on the
  Mayflower for the New World .

• Puritanism dominated New England culture in
  the seventeenth century. By 1700, however, the
  dominance of the Puritans had greatly
  diminished, as a more secular culture had
  developed. The witch trials of 1692 could be
  interpreted as, at least in part, a display of
  power meant to intimidate the populace.
• God is omnipotent and good. Individuals are innately
    evil, helpless as to their own salvation, and insignificant
    next to God.
•    As John Calvin’s theory of predestination taught,
    individuals are either saved (saints or elect) or damned.
•   Neither faith nor good works insure salvation – a
    condition decreed by God and not dependent upon the
    beliefs and acts of humans.
•   Although the clergy’s first duty is not the operation of
    government, governments should function to enforce
    obedience to God.
•   The Bible is God’s direct communication to humans,
    should be read daily and its guidance followed by
 Beliefs cont’d…
• No hierarchic chain of command should govern a church.

• The Puritans did not make use of vestments for church
  services, and neither relics nor statues could be found in
  their churches. Neither did they celebrate traditional
  religious holy days or ceremonies. They did not celebrate
  Christmas, for instance, because December 25 could not
  be substantiated as the true date of the Nativity.

• Only those who were saved could be admitted to full
  church membership and receive Holy Communion. Those
  who were saved would “confess” to the congregation their
  mystical experience through which God informed them of
  their salvation.
Beliefs cont’d..
• The Puritans were Biblical scholars fully aware
  of Biblical typology. They believed their journey
  and settlement in the New World were
  extensions of that typology, that they were, in
  fact, living the Biblical pattern as God’s chosen
  people and in covenant with God like the ancient
  Israelites. Thus, Puritan writing includes many
  analogues between their own struggle and that
  of Biblical peoples.
• The Puritans originally got their name from their enemies,
    because they wanted to “purify” the Church of England.
•    The Puritans emphasized education. It was a preeminently
    literate culture which regarded illiteracy as a kind of sin.
•   The individual Puritan wrote a lot. A diary was regarded as
    a tool helpful for self-examination.
•   Sermons were especially highly regarded.
•   The Puritans wrote in what is called the “plain style.”
    Extending the purification of religion to the purification of
    language, they preferred the less ornate Geneva Bible of
    1560 to the King James version of 1611.
•   Only literary forms found in the Bible were acceptable.
    Therefore, all forms of fiction were despised. (And nothing
    in the Bible was fiction, for all was true.)
• The “plain style” of Puritan writing was reflected in the
  straightforward, unadorned style employed in the other
  arts. The Puritans detested frivolity and excess;
  consequently, all their art work is practical and
  functional. A graphic artist acted as the “Lord’s
  remembrance,” painting portraits, which often included a
  religious message or spiritual warning. A sense of
  Puritan belief in divine order is reflected in their furniture
  and neat architectural designs. Gravestones might make
  use of stylized skulls or angel’s wings – death and
• Puritans had a profound influence on the
    shaping of American culture in ways that
    reached far beyond their religious beliefs.
•   The Puritans discussed crucial issues publicly the
    way later Americans would do in town hall
    meetings, debates, and newspapers.
•   They had faith in the public to understand
    complicated issues of general concern, a later
    ideal in democratic societies.
• Puritans believed that individuals were responsible for
    what happened in their society and therefore had a
    responsibility to be actively involved in community
•   This belief is not much different from that of community
    activists throughout American history and suggests
    President Kennedy’s inaugural speech and his famous
    challenge to Americans to ask what they could do for
    their country.
•   In both their religious and political theories, the Puritans
    struggled with ways to grant the individual considerable
    autonomy while preserving a community, a recurrent
    issue in democratic societies.
• The Puritans promoted a watchdog mentality, as
  neighbors spied on neighbors to detect any
  wrongdoing. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller
  found such snooping to be analogous to the
  McCarthy hearings.

• The Puritans believed that art needed to
  perform a function. It was not enough that a
  work be simply beautiful or pleasing to the
Turn and Talk!

• Do Americans generally believe that art
 and the artist must have a practical
 function? Is “art for art’s sake” an
 acceptable credo in America?
• The Puritan respect for individual rights and
    opinions as well as their antagonism toward
    hierarchies created a society more litigious than
    those where decrees emanate from above.
•   The Puritans were known for their frequent
    lawsuits. The lawsuits were so commonplace
    that it would not have been considered unusual
    for a property owner to be involved in, say,
    twenty-plus lawsuits through the course of his
    life. Miller considers this aspect of Puritan
    culture in The Crucible.
Turn and Talk!

• Like Puritan culture, is America male
 dominated? How does Puritan or
 American male dominance compare to
 that of other countries and cultures that
 you have experienced or read about?
  Influence on Society
• The Puritans were not as dour as many think. They were
  lovers of life, who would wear colorful clothes if they could
  obtain them; they did drink alcohol, but had little tolerance
  for the drunkard. They did not, however, permit dancing or
  theatrical productions.

• Puritan culture was dominated by men who considered the
  secondary position of women to derive from Eve’s creation
  from Adam’s rib. The ideal Puritan woman was married,
  subservient to her husband, humble, and devoted to God,
  husband and children. This did not mean there were no
  strong women.

• Frequently, just to survive in seventeenth-century New
  England, a woman had to be rugged, resourceful, and
  independent. Numerous women took over their father’s or
  husband’s businesses in times of sickness or after his death.

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