Conflict With Religious Freedom Search Between Puritans and Native Americans Term Paper

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Building a New Jerusalem

The conflict between Puritans and Native Americans regarding religious tolerance

The New Jerusalem

The first settlers to the Americas in New England were known as Puritans, or nonconformists in their native England. They wished to keep the Protestant English Church pure, or free of Catholic influences. However, because of their refusal to obey what they saw as impure Anglican doctrine, they were persecuted in their native land. The first Pilgrims or Puritans were also called Separatists because they held themselves separate from the Anglican Church. The early settlers sailed aboard the Mayflower in 1620 and founded Plymouth Colony near what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts. They came to the new land of America to create a New Jerusalem, a shining city upon a hill of religious truth. They did not, contrary to popular American mythology, come seeking religious toleration. This sense of specialness, separateness, and mission placed them inexorable conflict with the native populace of the Americas ("Religious tolerance in Colonial America, 2008, Geocites).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Conflict With Religious Freedom Search Between Puritans and Native Americans Assignment

The early settlers could be quite intolerant towards individuals who did not adhere to their doctrines dear. Their descendants were increasingly hostile to the Native Americans. The Puritans came, not to a wild and unsettled territory, although they may have perceived it as such, but a land already occupied by a populace possessing its own unique traditions and heritage. The Puritans were intent upon creating their own community, with a distinct culture and religious climate. "They had originally left England for the religiously tolerant Netherlands, but left there for economic reasons and because their children were becoming more Dutch than English" ("Religious tolerance in Colonial America, 2008, Geocites). In America they desired an apparently culturally 'free' zone to create a new government, a worldview that enabled them to conveniently ignore the land claims and religions of the Indians.

First dealings, first peace

The first encounters of the Pilgrims with the natives were not as hostile as they were later to become in subsequent eras. True, one author describes his initial view of the natives as coming into contact with a "companie of wolves, or such like wild beasts...arrowes came flying" (Atkins, 2008). However, these very early colonists did establish somewhat peaceful relations with the natives, cumulating in a treaty with Massasoit, a representative of the native people, holding that: "That neither he (Massasoit) nor any of his, should injurie or doe hurt to any of their peopl (e). 2. That if any of his did any hurte to any of theirs, he should send the offender, that they might punish him. 3. That if any thing were taken away from any of theirs, he should cause it to be restored; and they should do like to him.4. If any did unjustly warr against him, they would aide him; if any did warr against them, he should aide them. He should send to his neighbours confederates, to certifie them of his, that they might not wrong them, but might be likewise comprised in the conditions of peace" (Cited by Atkins, 2008). Some of the natives spoke some English, gleaned from trading with earlier European travelers to the New World, who had come to trade with the natives. This made communication and relations easier with the Pilgrims. Communication created a sense of common humanity, as did the need to survive the harsh winter, despite the two population's religious differences. However, this early treaty seems bitterly ironic in contrast to the later Puritan's willingness to encroach upon native territory.

Nathanial Ward: "Against toleration"

This initial peace was fleeting as the character of the early settlers changed. The later settlers "had no intention of breaking with the Anglican Church. [These] Puritans were nonconformists as were the Pilgrims, both of which refusing to accept an authority beyond that of the revealed word. But where with the Pilgrims this had translated into something closer to an egalitarian mode," later leaders were more often "highly trained scholars, whose education tended to translate into positions that were often authoritarian (Atkins, 2008). In fact, one of the earliest exponents of Puritanism, the Reverend Nathaniel Ward, actually wrote a document called "Against toleration" of other faiths in 1647.

When some of the early English Puritans were attempting to allow for some toleration for differing views and even different sects of Protestants, and spoke out against the banishments and executions of Puritans heresy in New England. Nathaniel Ward, the minister at Ipswich, Massachusetts wrote: that no one "hath to doe to institute Religion but God. The power of all Religion and Ordinances lies in their purity: their purity in their simplicity: then are mixtures pernicious. I lived in a City, where a Papist preached in one Church, a Lutheran in another, a Calvinist in a third - a Lutheran one part of the day, a Calvinist the other, in the same Pulpit: the Religion of that place was but motley and meagre, their affections Leopard-like" (Ward, 1647:393). In short, tolerance leads to the dilution of the true faith.

Nathanial Ward argued that because only God could create religion and that a true religion was based upon purity and simplicity in accordance with Puritan beliefs, it was wrong to allow for the existence any other sect of Protestantism, or even more liberal Puritan views within the community. He criticized the "Orthodox" English church for allowing some forms pluralism to flourish, and saw it as the reason that the English church had become religiously corrupt with 'popish' influence. Ward wrote that the 'New' English like himself could not take such an ecumenical stance: "That there is no Rule given by God for any State to give an affirmative Toleration to any false Religion, or Opinion whatsoever; they must connive in some Cases, but may not concede in any" (Ward 1647: 396).

Ward was intolerant even of other Puritans whose views conflicted with his own, thus the lifestyle and religious belief of the native peoples of the Americans, to the Puritans, seemed utterly without merit. While the mythological image of the first Thanksgiving commemorates an idealized moment in the history of America where the settlers' survival depended upon Native American generosity, as the later Puritans learned to farm the new land, eventually conflict over land caused fighting to erupt on a grand scale. The Pequot were the first tribe to war against he puritans. "In one battle at Mystic River in 1637 Puritan soldiers and their Native American allies surrounded and exterminated an entire Pequot town of several hundred people. Interpreting Pequot misfortune as a sign of divine favor, Puritan leaders expanded their influence, conquering much of New England throughout the 1600s" ("Native Americans of North America," 2007, Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia). Every victory was interpreted by the Puritans, not a result of their superior weaponry, but a sign from God that this was their land, their New Jerusalem. In the eyes of the Puritans, the Native Americans spoke strange languages, and seemed like barbaric, warlike pagans. The natives saw the presence of the settlers as a threat to their way of life.

John Wesley: A cry against unchristian bloodshed

However, it should be noted that not all of the Puritan's radical Protestant contemporaries saw the New English settlers' behavior as laudable. England, John Wesley later delivered a sermon entitled: "A caution against bigotry," where he called the Puritan's behavior during the early years of settlement anti-Christian. Wesley wrote "Even cruelty and bloodshed, how little have the Christians come behind them! And not the Spaniards or the Portuguese alone, butchering thousands in South America...our own countrymen, too, have wantoned in blood, and exterminated whole nations; plainly proving thereby what spirit it is that dwells and works in the children of disobedience" (Wesley, 1872). John Wesley's rhetoric indicates that he believed that the Puritans had sunk to the level of the Catholic Spaniards and Portuguese in their behavior.

However, this condemnation of the Puritan actions as foreign also shows that Wesley, in his own way, was not an exponent of toleration. His argument was that the Puritan's expulsion of the natives and their cruel treatment of the Indians was un-English, and contrary to the true spirit of Protestantism, not simply inhumane. Moreover, Wesley took a similarly deflationary view of native practices, stressing their innate barbarism and unchristian aspects, rather than noting that the natives initially had helped the settlers survive on what was their land. "The natural to torture all their prisoners from morning till night, till at length they roast them to death; and upon the slightest undesigned provocation, to come behind and shoot any of their own countrymen! Yea, it is a common thing among them, for the son, if he thinks his father lives too long, to knock out his brains; and for mother, if she is tired of her children, to fasten stones about their necks, and throw three or four of them into the river, one after another" (Wesley, 1872).

Because the native's religion is natural it was seen as inferior,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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