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Madison Gilbert, Shannon Griffiths, Akram Hauler, Elise Taylor

AP U.S. History


29 September 2016

Group DBQ

All aspects of Puritan development lead to significant changes within the New England

colonies by 1660. Due to the Puritans’ religious drive to escape the oppressive British church,

Puritan society was heavily influenced by religious values. Physical, as well as mental,

dispositions were strongly altered by the Puritan concentration. As higher levels of education

became prominent throughout the New England colonies, fractions within social classes

increased. The Puritans’ homogenous society decreased the amount of trading between Puritans

and outsiders.

The economies of the New England colonies were restricted to within individual

settlements due to the enforced belief of Puritan homogeneous societies. Puritan towns were

spatially constructed around the church, with rows of tightly-knit homes eventually giving way

to agricultural fields (Doc 2). This constricted town structure discouraged trading outside of the

community and encouraged little levels of trade within the development; the Puritan colonists

were forced to embrace John Winthrop’s values, and labor together, as one settlement (Doc 1).

Due to this idea of unity, Puritan communities were often inhabited by subsistence farmers who

cultivated the fields for survival means (Doc 6). The New England colonies experienced a harsh

climate which lead them to grow crops such as squash, pumpkin, corn, beans, and other

non-labor intensive crops. The wealthy few Puritans located in the higher social rank
occasionally traded across the Atlantic, but more broadly cultivated crops for personal nutrition.

As stated by John Higginson, “worldly gain was not the end and design of New England, but

religion” (Doc 7). Since crops were mainly cultivated to provide for familial means, religion

remained the central focus of Puritan society.

Puritans believe that religion should be the center of government. This is the original

reason why the Puritans left England and came to the New World. They felt that the church was

experiencing too many changes, and needed to revert back to its former values in order to remain

pure. It was their goal to create a colony with a civil government where they could practice their

pure religion freely, without fear of persecution (Doc 3). This lead to the creation of a theocracy,

meaning that religion was the basis for their governmental structure. Religion even played a

major role in many Puritan laws. Puritans believed that man would become wicked if they had

too much power, and the only way to stay innocent was to follow the holy guidelines created by

God (Doc 5). One Puritan law states that it is good for the wife to acknowledge that the man has

total authority and dominance over them. Putian society was very strict and anyone who opposed

Puritan ideals was exiled. This can be seen through Roger Williams’ plead for religious liberty, a

plea that eventually lead to him becoming exiled from the Puritan settlement (Doc 4).

Puritan social aspects revolved very much so around religious morals and values. They

attempted to heavily incorporate the church into their society, even their governmental system,

so that the holy values of the Puritan church would not be lost among the progression of society.

John Higginson encouraged his fellow Puritans to focus on religion, and less on trade and

worldly gain, an idea that wasn’t hard to sell in an environment where most crops were grown

for familial means (Doc 7). Natives welcomed the Puritans originally, but they began to have a
very hostile relationship as time progressed. Their constant fighting and disagreement on culture

and religious morals eventually led to conflicts such as Metacom’s war. Looking at the

traditional layout of Puritan society, their houses appear to be placed very close together (Doc 2).

This town structure made it very easy for Puritan families to keep tabs on their neighbors. In fact,

spying on your neighbor, and notifying authorities if they were participating in ungodly acts was

heavily encouraged by the Puritan Church. Familial farms were also placed within close

proximity to Puritan homes, so that Puritan families could rely on farming for substantial means.

They were also not involved in trade with anyone located outside of the Puritan settlement, this

made them dependent on their own agricultural profit. Since they depended on each other to feed

their community, John Winthrop’s cry for the colonists to work hard in order to set a good

example, not only for themselves, but for other colonies as well, was heavily evident within

Puritan settlements. The value of working hard and putting forth effort was greatly appreciated

throughout Puritan society (Doc 1).

The influence of the Puritan Church heavily influenced the society of New England

colonies as a whole - they became more religious based. This societal structure surrounded by

the church’s morals and values lead to the Salem Witch Trials, and the inevitable demise of

theocracies within the northern colonies. The very close-knit housing structure of Puritan

societies, and the addition of the Church’s influence lead to neighbors spying on one another,

and, eventually, the Salem Witch Trials. The havoc and chaos created by the Trials discouraged

the benefits of a theocracy within the British colonies. After the Salem Witch Trials, theocracies

were nonexistent in the New World.