Puritan migration to New England (1620–40)
The Puritan migration to New England was marked in its effects in the two decades from 1620 to 1640, after which it declined sharply for a while. The term Great Migration usually refers to the migration in this period of English settlers, primarily Puritans, to Massachusetts and the West Indies, especially Barbados, 1630–40. They came in family groups (rather than as isolated individuals) and were motivated chiefly by a quest for freedom to practice their Puritan religion.
King James I of England made some efforts to reconcile the Puritan clergy in England, who had been alienated by the conservatism blocking reform in the Church of England. Puritans adopted Calvinism (Reformed theology) with its opposition to ritual and an emphasis on preaching, a growing sabbatarianism, and preference for a presbyterian system of church polity. They opposed religious practices in the Church that at any point came close to Roman Catholic ritual.
After Charles I of England became king in 1625, this religious conflict worsened. Parliament increasingly opposed the King's authority. In 1629, Charles dissolved Parliament with no intention of summoning a new one, in an ill-fated attempt to neutralize his enemies there, who included numerous lay Puritans. With the religious and political climate so hostile and threatening, many Puritans decided to leave the country. Some of the migration was from the expatriate English communities in the Netherlands of nonconformists and Separatists who had set up churches there since the 1590s.
The Winthrop Fleet of 1630 of eleven ships, led by the flagship Arbella, delivered about 700 passengers to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Migration continued until Parliament was reconvened in 1640, at which point the scale dropped off sharply. In 1641, when the English Civil War began, some colonists returned to England to fight on the Puritan side. Many stayed, since Oliver Cromwell, himself an Independent, backed Parliament.
The 'Great Migration' 1629–40 saw 80,000 people leave England, roughly 20,000 migrating to each of four destinations, Ireland, New England, the West Indies and the Netherlands. The immigrants to New England came from every English county except Westmorland, nearly half from East Anglia. The distinction drawn is that the movement of colonists to New England was not predominantly male, but of families with some education, leading relatively prosperous lives. Winthrop's noted words, a City upon a Hill, refer to a vision of a new society, not just economic opportunity.
Moore (2007) estimates that 7 to 10 percent of colonists returned to England after 1640, including about a third of the clergymen.
Religious societies in New England
The Puritans created a deeply religious, socially tight-knit, and politically innovative culture that is still present within the modern United States. They hoped that this new land would serve as a "redeemer nation." They fled England and, in America, attempted to create a "nation of saints": an intensely religious, thoroughly righteous community designed to be an example for all of Europe.
Roger Williams preached religious toleration, separation of church and state, and a complete break with the Church of England. He was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and founded Rhode Island Colony, which became a haven for others such as Anne Hutchinson. Quakers were also expelled from Massachusetts, but they were welcomed in Rhode Island. Years later, four Quakers known as the Boston martyrs remained in Massachusetts and were executed by hanging for practicing their religion.
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