In 1620 came the vanguard of the true founders of American civilization.
They, and not the Englishmen of Jamestown who were also the first, are called by the official American iconography the Founding fathers (Founding Fathers). The new settlers called themselves The Pilgrims (pylgrims). Destined by the London company to Virginia and embarked on the Mayflower sailing ship, due to a storm they landed in present-day Massachusetts, where the company granted them to wait to define the position with the crown.
On the fourth Thursday of November 1621, they organized a ceremony of thanksgiving to God, after which they had lunch with turkey meat; That day remained a U.S. national holiday, Thanksgiving Day (Thanksgiving Day). In the number of 100 ο 101 ο 102 Depending on the version, they all belonged to the English Presbyterian Church as the Puritani, but they were called separatists.
In spite of the iconography, this group had no relevance in setting the characteristics of colonization: There were already few, and moreover during the first winter half of them died of cold and hunger before the Indians could help them.
Here Come the Puritans
With the arrival, in 1630, of 2,000 Puritani, followed by 1640 by other 18,000, begins the true colonization of the United States.
The Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, using the name of the company with which they had signed the colonization contract, the Massachusetts Bay Company of London, a company in which many of them had a sharing Equity.
No one had embarked as indentured servant. In the same 1630 they founded the port city of Boston. In the following decades they gave rise to the colonies of the so-called New England Puritan.
The form of government adopted in the colonies was similar to the English one of the time.
Instead of the king or queen there was a governor with ample powers, then a bicameral parliament in which the upper house, corresponding to the House of Lords of England, was elected by the governor and the lower house was elected by the “people”.
This only on paper; In fact only the wealthy could vote.
In order to be able to both vote and to hold public office, it was first to be of age, males and whites; Generally in New England it was also necessary to be elders of the Congregationalist church, as well as the Puritans called, in America, their confession.
The minimum capital requirements were everywhere very high (Massachusetts and Connecticut you had to have an activity that would make 40 pounds a year, or real estate valued at least the same amount; in Rhode Island 40 pounds and that would make at least the same Digit every year; In New Jersey at least 40 hectares of land, plus an asset or real estate valued at least 50 pounds; In Virginia minimum 20 acres of land, plus a house in town; Georgia and North Carolina minimum 20 hectares of land; In South Carolina at least 40 hectares of land and a house in the city, etc.).
From this level of requirements, it is evident that the economies of the two colonial “blocs” were spread from the outset: New England was heading for trade and the Southern colonies towards the agricultural large estates.
The Puritans of New England were overwhelmingly numerical superiority until the war of independence, and retained a majority until 1880.
They were inspired by the Old Testament, or at least they were convinced to do so.
The basic idea was that material wealth, and material well-being, including the physiological one, represented a sign of divine election.
An individual was elected if God predestined him to the virtue of observing the commandments. There was no obligation to mutual solidarity or to perform good works. The respect required for the commandments was literal, i.e. formal. The figure of Jesus was totally ignored, although they certainly called themselves “Christians”.
The Puritans, like all the other Protestants, operated a certain targeted selection even in the context of the Old Testament, further demonstrating the utilitarian principle underlying the whole operation. This can be seen in slavery, private property, capitalism, in the obliteration of debts, etc. They welcomed from the scriptures what was most comfortable.
A very important concept for the Puritans, which turned out to be fraud with unexpected consequences, was that of an elected people.
To the Chosen people god destines an opulent homeland, and the Puritans certainly headed to America thinking it was their promised land. The Indians were destined for destruction by their hand as were the Canaanites for Joshua and the judges. Not only that, but when the Puritans will see a little more in there a land rich or in some way palatable will always think of being entitled, a right that will justify even the cruelest means, including extermination. Of course the respect of the commandments was limited to the scope of the chosen people.
I Puritani and politics
In the colonies the residents had a wide possibility of self-government.
The governors kept in mind that the principles of English legislation were saved, especially in form, and they tried to intervene as little as possible; Their salary was then set by the colonists.
The Puritans could organize themselves as they wished, except for the elimination of the monarchy, which they succeeded in achieving only with the war of independence.
In the religious field they no longer recognized the hierarchy of the Church of England, and banned all outward manifestations of worship arbitrarily introduced by the Catholic Church: ritual vestments, the sign of the cross, especially in baptism , the genuflection during communion, the use of faith in marriage, the observance of the Feasts for the Saints, including the celebration of Christmas. You can also read another one of our religious news articles.
The political organization was based on two fundamental concepts: the single man who was to be absolutely free to be able to make his material fortune, bound only by the commandments; And the community that only had to supervise that the same were respected.
The Puritans did not operate any distinction between political and religious authority; Each congregation was therefore a small theocracy. The authority was exercised by a kind of Council of wise Men or elders, who traced the concept of the Presbytery of Calvin.
The English colonies of the new World were therefore oligarchies based on money; Those of New England and some of the South were also theocratic.
The Puritans represented the antithesis of democracy.
They did not believe that men were all alike, let alone they had all the same rights. Some in fact could also be enslaved.
The access to that oligarchy could not be denied to those who became wealthy and showed that they were by definition one of them. From here comes another aspect of their apparent democraticity, as well as their republicanism: the abolition of the concept of elite by inheritance and the introduction of the concept of open elite, precisely “democratic”.
In practice, the nobility by divine right, unprovable, medieval-style The Puritans replaced the nobility by divine right demonstrable, precisely through material wealth. The present Americans willingly accept that their political leaders and high officials of the state are almost all extremely wealthy men, and justification lies implicitly in that Puritan reasoning.
The Puritans and the economy
The Puritans naturally gave birth to a pure capitalist system. Such a system is still the system, not only economic, but social in the broad sense of the current United States, where everything is almost private or privately owned, such as many prisons.
For the Puritans everything could be bought with money, and everything had to be sold for money; Always in the formal respect of the commandments.
So in New England there were also slaves: Blacks bought by Dutch Calvinistic slave traders but also Indian and Indian caught on site and kept as servants or groom. However, slavery had never in New England a diffusion comparable to that of the south: its economy was based on trade and its agriculture was floridissima but divided into many small family farms, where the production was diversified and The requested workforce rather specialized. In the ports of Boston and New York instead there were many slaves.
Taxes will always be the primary issue in the colonies: The Puritans did not accept the principle of entrusting the Government with the management of tax revenues; There were risks of a policy of redistribution of incomes.
I Puritans and Morals
The morals of the Puritans consisted in the formal observance of the commandments, which allowed them all iniquity in substance. In addition, this law was only in the context of the chosen people of the Puritans: the others, especially the savage Indians, could be robbed, captured as slaves, even killed.
For example, sexual intercourse with Indian women did not constitute a crime, not even on the part of married Puritans.
Women were believed to be the “Eva Temptress’s sisters”, the means preferred by the evil to tempt the virtue of men and divert them from their covenant with God. They could not show in public more of the face and hands, and this was also true for girls of all ages.
Even the divorce, which has always been used by the Americans, was admitted by the Puritans, who practiced it with even greater frequency given the serious prohibition of adultery. Sexual offences were punished with extraordinary rigour. For adultery and homosexuality the death penalty was imposed. Adultery also occurred in case the woman was only engaged.
Each community had its watchmen (“warders”), communal employees whose task was to control the behavior of people and to report to the pastor of the church. They were the informers, who were eavesdoing behind the corners and spying on the windows. Bachelors and spats were naturally the most controlled.
The Puritans connected physical health with divine intervention, and mental disorders with that of the devil.
I Puritani and culture
At the school the Puritans immediately paid attention to the times.
There were two necessities, the commandments and the affairs: to follow the first one needed to know the Bible, and therefore to be able to read, while for the seconds besides that it was necessary to be able to reckon. Each township then had at least one school and one teacher, paid by the municipality, and there were others in the cities. The level of literacy among the Puritans was undoubtedly the highest of the American colonies.
In 1640 there were already in New England about 300 diplomatized shepherds on site. Harvard College, which has gradually become a university, is the oldest college in the United States. Also as seminars were born in 1701 Yale University, in 1764 the University of Brown in Rhode Island and in 1769 the University of Darthmouth in New Hampshire.
These institutions granted the Puritans an overwhelming cultural superiority in the colonial realm until the war of independence.
The most read poem by Americans of all time is the Day of Doom (The Last Judgement) published in 1662 in Massachusetts by the Puritan Michael Wiggleworth, in which the Calvinist theology is set in verse Septenari.
The cultural and psychological characteristics of the Puritans have been preserved in the Americans: even for them everything must aim at achieving wealth.
Publishing therefore has an essentially practical character, with products that in various genres have reached over time levels of excellence (the American manuals are points of reference in the various sectors). The talented authors, rather than investigating reality, that is the truth, aim to package successful works in the wide audience. So they specialize in fiction, in the works of evasion, where they again excel by far all over the ability to present stories and absurd situations in a plausible way. Hollywood summarizes this typically American attitude.