Painting by Winthrop Chandler, Courtesy Brookline Historical Society Puritans in both Britain and British North America sought to cleanse the culture of what they regarded as corrupt, sinful practices. They believed that the civil government should strictly enforce public morality by prohibiting vices like drunkenness, gambling, ostentatious dress, swearing, and Sabbath-breaking. They also wished to purge churches of every vestige of Roman Catholic ritual and practice--the ruling hierarchies of bishops and cardinals, the elaborate ceremonies in which the clergy wore ornate vestments and repeated prayers from a prescribed liturgy. Accordingly, New England's Congregational churches were self-governing bodies, answerable to no higher authority; mid-Atlantic Presbyterian churches enjoyed somewhat less autonomy because a hierarchy of "presbyteries" and "synods" made up of leading laymen and clergymen set policy for individual congregations.
The "impact of Puritanism" might refer to the continuing effect that the Protestant denominations, descended from the seventeenth-century Puritans, had on American society and literature.
Much of the literature produced by New Englanders such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau focuses on the conscience of the individual and the necessity of taking a separate path, when necessary, from that of society if society is judged to be wrong.
This is a central tenet of Protestantism in general and of the specifically Calvinist branch of it from which the English Puritans are descended. The abolitionist movement is also often seen to have its roots in the spirit of the "dissenters"—that is, any of the Protestant groups who broke off from the Anglican church.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. Though not all of these writers were conservative Christians, the dissenting attitudes of their forefathers, with regard to both previously established denominations and political matters not directly related to religion, affected their thinking and their work.
Nathaniel Hawthorne is a writer who is characterized not so much by Puritan-derived ideas as by his ambivalent conception of his ancestors who founded and governed New England two centuries earlier. A major theme of his work is the harshness, and even the hypocrisy, of the early Puritans and their condemnation of anyone who deviated from the rigid dictates of religion.
In The Scarlet Letter,the pillorying of Hester Prynne by the religious establishment is shown as hypocritical. It is ironic as well, given that Hester herself, by having a child out of wedlock, is expressing another form of the individualism that motivated the Puritans and drove them from England to the New World.
Elsewhere in his fiction, Hawthorne seems to express a kind of admiration for the radicalism of the Puritans while subtly questioning it.
In the story "Endicott and the Red Cross," the defiance of the English crown during the reign of the Stuarts is seen as the seed which, nearly years later, grew into the War of Independence.
But the depiction—as in The Scarlet Letter—of the punishment of an "adulteress" and a "wanton gospeller," as well as the moderating presence of Roger Williams, makes the situation ambiguous. It is characteristic of Hawthorne that he presents a two-sided issue and leaves it to the reader to interpret.
The authors discussed here, regardless of their own personal beliefs, were all influenced by the legacy of Puritanism in its different manifestations, as was New England society—and by extension American society as a whole—in the nineteenth century.In the 17th century, the word Puritan was a term applied to not just one group but many.
There continues to be debate among historians over the definition of Puritanism. Historically, the word Puritan was considered a pejorative term that characterized Protestant groups as extremists. According to Thomas Fuller in his Church History, the term dates to Few subjects in early modern history have received more attention from scholars than Puritanism, and historians of early America have focused the most intense .
The Puritans were a varied group of religious reformers who emerged within the Church of England during the middle of the sixteenth century.
They shared a common Calvinist theology and common criticisms of the Anglican Church and English society and government. Their numbers and influence grew.
The Puritans were a group of people loosely defined through their shared adherence to the reformed theological tradition, largely following the work of John Calvin. Beginning in the 16th century, the Puritan movement took root in specific regional locales throughout Germany, Scotland, the Low Countries, and England.
Following Queen Elizabeth’s . The "impact of Puritanism" might refer to the continuing effect that the Protestant denominations, descended from the seventeenth-century Puritans, had on American society and literature.
We can also speak of the manner in which nineteenth-century Americans' understanding of their history, of the actions of their Protestant forefathers . Puritanism: Puritanism, a religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th centuries that was known for the intensity of the religious experience that it fostered.
Puritans’ efforts contributed to both civil war in England and the founding of colonies in America. Learn more about Puritanism, its history, and beliefs.