A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of by David D. Hall

By David D. Hall

During this revelatory account of the folks who based the recent England colonies, historian David D. corridor compares the reforms they enacted with these tried in England through the interval of the English Revolution. Bringing with them a deep worry of arbitrary, limitless authority, those settlers established their church buildings at the participation of laypeople and insisted on "consent" as a premise of all civil governance. Puritans additionally remodeled civil and legal legislation and the workings of courts with the goal of creating fairness. during this political and social background of the 5 New England colonies, corridor offers a masterful re-examination of the earliest moments of latest England's background, revealing the colonists to be the simplest and bold reformers in their day.

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Towns came together in a colony-wide federation with a charter from Parliament. Everywhere, the process turned on how to answer questions about statecraft so difficult to resolve in England that civil war broke out in 1642. For many Englishmen—and certainly for the colonists, had they lingered in their homeland—the great difficulty at the beginning of the 1640s was the insistence of Charles I on his authority as monarch and the corollary he added to this argument, that “Parliaments are altogether in my power” (as he told the Parliament of 1626) “for their calling, sitting and dissolution,” an assertion he amplified by likening that body to a “council” and “therefore” limited in what it could undertake.

20 This was language informed by the Petition of Right and evocations of consent in English political debate. ” Putting things this way was utterly opposite to Winthrop’s position that the charter—or, if not the charter, something other than the people—was the source of political authority. 21 Yet there was still no consensus on the practical workings of magisterial office. General Court sessions in the early 1640s became increasingly contentious, sometimes in response to circumstances, sometimes because of persistent anxieties about arbitrary power.

Thanks to these circumstances, the people who colonized New England were virtually unique in establishing a system of church governance that, as their critics angrily complained, shifted authority from the clergy to the laymen of the congregation and made church membership voluntary and selective. 46 They were virtually unique in the care with which they built participation into every level of governance, from town and congregation to colony and confederation. They were singular in distributing land to households in the form of tenure known as freehold—that is, private ownership.

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