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Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. (H. L.

Mencken)

I think that this quotation its a cynical definition of Puritanism. It means that Puritans characteristically looked at their neighbours and other townspeople suspiciously, because they believe that if anyone who was happy, was sinning. The New England Puritan group has played a pivotal role in shaping American values. The Puritans contributed to the countrys sense of mission, its work ethic and its moral sensibility. Today, a lot of Americans may say that they have Puritan roots, because a lot of Puritans migrated to New England between 1629 and 1640. The reasons of English migration are grouped in three categories: demographic, economic and religious. The religious reasons played an important role for emigration, because of newly- formed religious sects. During the reign of Elizabeth I, Protestant ideas gained influence within English church, but when the Stuart Dinasty came to the throne the Puritans were persecuted. The Puritanism has four distinctive convictions: that personal salvation was entirely from God, that the Bible provided the indispensable guide to life, that the church should reflect the express teaching of Scripture and that society was an unified whole. They believed that humankind was utterly dependent upon God for salvation. In 1620, a group of separatist Puritans travelled to North America- they left England because they were obliged; they were obliged because of their beliefs. The Puritans were inspired by John Calvins theology and they believed in predestination and in the study of the scripture. They demanded greater autonomy for the congregation and opposed many church rituals, such as Christmas. When they departed they had an idea: to construct a city upon a hill, which means an ideal community. They come to America seeking freedom of religionof their religion to be more precise. The Puritans banned Christmas. For Puritans those who celebrate Christmas feasting, drinking, not working- this went against everything the Puritans stood for. They thought that all kinds of fun things were from Satan. This is why H. L. Mencken describes them in his famous quotation: Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

They set a punishment for those who were celebrating Christmas: 5 shillings as a fine to the county for every such offense. For Mencken the Puritans came to symbolize every cultural characteristic that modern Americans despised. The Puritans were often characterized as being drably clothed religious zealots, hostile to the arts, and they were eager to impose their Puritanical morality to the world around them. Early Puritans thought that if a child cursed their parents could be executed. Anything that wasted time, money or energy was severely punished. A lot of things as cloths were controlled by Puritan Leaders. Puritan beliefs were filled with paradoxes. They rebelled against others in order to create a perfect World, a utopia that did not allow for rebellion. Man was not to sin, but he would sin anyway. They believed in Jesus Christ who was born to die for mans sins. They believe in the original sin of Adam and Eve. In their doctrine dancing was acceptable, but sexual dance was not. They believe in marriage, and were opposed to illicit sexual activities. Adultery was punishable by death. The Puritans had a strong belief in the existence of Satan; they thought that Evil power was present in their community. The Puritans made contributions to American society that exists today and God is an important part of American life. The Anglo- American Puritans, the Pilgrims, have had a profound influence on America in the past. John Winthrop, a prominent Puritan minister was one of 20, 000 who came to America, they had a dream: to build a City upon a hill. This city was not the Holy City or The New Jerusalem mentioned in Johns Revelation (21), but the American dream was that sublime vision of a perfect society. They wanted to create nothing else than a reflection of the Holy City of God. The new Christian society would also provide a wonderful way station for their fellow Christians. The Puritans were blessed in American- their society would become established and it would grow. They were successful in converting some Native Americans to the Puritan religion. These individuals also adopted many of the other cultural aspects of English society in the process. Religious interactions were not the only ones that took place. Contact with Native Americans was often also economic and political in nature. Puritans often sought larger and larger tracts of land to build their growing communities on. Land was to be used for production of food, but land could not be owned by any individual. As Native American land was increasingly encroached upon, the Native Americans began to fight back. This is evident in events such as King Phillips War. The English settlers tried to govern the Native

Americans actions. The Native populations were not as stupid as the English believed and they noticed this false treatment- the result of which was the death of many settlers and Native Americans. The Native Americans would take war captives to replace their lost dead and often the captives would be adopted in their tribes. The captive would be expected to take on the role of that individual within the family. Mary Rowlandson, the wife of a Puritan minister gives a description of her captivity in The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. This book gives a detailed account of the types of interactions that occurred between Puritans and Native Americans. Each interaction was unique for every member of New England society with every member of each Native American tribe. Many historians accuse Puritans of being religiously intolerant, but they are, really the builders of early American democracy and they are the symbol of education, hard work and discipline. Even if Mencken stated that the Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy, the Puritans encouraged the things that glorified God. They had some laws that forbade sexual activity outside of marriage that is still considered immoral. Puritans also allowed drinking in moderation, and opposed a law disallowing the sale of alcoholic beverage to Native Americans. They were also hard working people, they were able to survive the long winter. Despite the difficult conditions in New England, statistics show that life expectancy in the New England colonies was much higher than in England and the Middle Colonists. Men were expected to live for 69 years and women 62 years in New England, while male colonists in Virginia were expected to live for 48 years and women 39 years. Gilbert K. Charleston, a famous English writer, said that A Puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things. Many of them were educated at Oxford and Cambridge University and they also started the oldest college in the country- Harvard University, which is considered to be the most prestigious in the United States. In conclusion, we may say that the Puritans were not intolerant bigots, but they were well-educated, ambitious persons. They should not be looked as being a dark part of American History, but they should be looked as early builders of American democracy, who set the tone for generations of Americans.

Bibliography: - Serban, Codrut - A City upon a hill- Dimensions of American Culture and Ideology - R.C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop (Boston, 1864), I, 309-311 - www.helium.com- How did the Puritans in New England interact with Native Americans? - C. Danko, when Christmas was banned in Boston, retrieved 9/27/10, masstraveljournal.com/features/boston-cambridge/when-christmas-was-banned

Savu Ramona-Larisa III, FE