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- Protestant Reformation in England
- Pilgrims left for the New World
- Mayflower Compact
- The Great Migration
Key Facts And Information
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- King Henry VIII brought about the Protestant Reformation in England, causing deep division and conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants. Tensions continued during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who arranged the Religious Settlement of 1559, aiming for a balance between the opposing creeds. Under the monarchy of James I, the Pilgrims left England for religious freedom and settled in Massachusetts in 1620.
- A decade later, Puritans set out on a fleet led by John Winthrop, heading to Massachusetts under a Royal Charter. The Great Migration saw eighty thousand people leaving England for various destinations such as New England, Ireland, the West Indies, and the Netherlands.
Protestant Reformation in England
- The Protestant reformation movement was at its peak in the fifteenth century.
- It called for the church, which at the time was Roman Catholic, to reform and to move (according to Martin Luther) from the authority and sole priesthood of the Pope to an authority based on scriptures and priesthood of all believers.
- Henry VIII of England, who reigned from 1509 to 1547 and was married to Catherine of Aragon, had a daughter but desperately wanted a son and heir to his throne.
- In 1534, he attempted to convince the Pope to annul his marriage so that he could marry Anne Boleyn whom he believed would bear him a son.
- When the Pope refused, Henry saw that passing the Act of Succession and the Act of Supremacy was the solution.
- The Act of Supremacy acknowledged Henry VIII as the only supreme head of the Church of England, enabling him to divorce his wife.
- The Act of Succession compelled the people to take an oath recognising Anne Boleyn as the King’s wife and his children as heirs to the throne.
- Refusal to take the oath was an act of treason.
- Henry went on marrying one woman after another, and had three children from six marriages: Mary, daughter with Catherine of Aragon, Elizabeth, daughter with Anne Boleyn, and Edward, son with Jane Seymour.
- All property, including land, ornaments and other objects held by the Catholic Church reverted to the crown and subsequently provided resources for improving the military.
- Henry’s successor, his son King Edward VI, governed England as a Protestant nation, whilst Mary I after him, reverted to Catholicism, re-introducing the authority of the Pope and other Catholic practices that were previously disallowed, and executing people who were openly Protestants.
- Elizabeth I reintroduced Protestantism and aimed to balance the tensions in the country with the Religious Settlement of 1559.
- By the end of her reign in 1603, Protestantism was widely accepted in England.
Pilgrims left for the New World
- As people embraced Protestantism, there emerged great scholars like John Calvin and subsequent divisions within the Protestant church as to the nature of worship and conduct of services.
- Puritans, as the name signifies, called for a form of purification of the Protestant church with a complete removal of any rituals and liturgies that resembled the Roman Catholics.
- They pursued the Calvinist theology, a development of Luther’s reformation ideals, which emphasised justification by faith alone and the doctrine of predestination.
- The Puritans who wanted to separate themselves from the Church of England thought that strict reforms in the church would not be possible.
- These Puritans, who were called Pilgrims, established communities that strictly adhered to bible teachings.
- One community, later known as the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, was a group of separatist believers from the Yorkshire village of Scrooby.
- They moved to Holland for safety in 1608, and then to the place they called Plymouth in New England in 1620.
- Besides the pilgrims from Holland, in 1620 English pilgrims set out on the Mayflower ship, heading for the Virginia colony to settle near the Hudson River. But because of a storm that almost wrecked their ship, they landed instead near the present-day Provincetown in Massachusetts.
- They crossed Cape Cod Bay and the settlers named the area Plymouth Colony because the Mayflower had set sail from the port of Plymouth in England.
- The Mayflower had 102 passengers, and just 41 of them were true Pilgrims.
- The Pilgrims called the others “strangers”. They consisted of craftsmen, merchants, indentured servants, and orphaned children.
- When the Mayflower docked at Cape Cod, there were tensions and insistence from the strangers especially, for release from their contracts, which according to them should only apply in Virginia.
- Notably, companies had been given charters to establish colonies in specific areas for the benefit of the crown, transporting these colonists to the New World.
- In exchange, the colonists were required to work for the respective company until the recovery of their transportation costs.
- To control the discord and to ensure cooperation of all, which was important for the survival of any colony upon establishment, the elites and the colonists made an agreement binding them to a set of rules.
- This was until such time as King James I would give permission to settle in the new area.
- The agreement was signed on the ship by 41 adult male colonists, including two indentured servants on 11 November 1620, and was subsequently called the Mayflower Compact.
- The Mayflower compact outlined four fundamental principles:
- The colonists would maintain their loyalty to King James, despite their need for self-governance.
- The colonists would live according to the Christian faith.
- The colonists would create one society and jointly work to further it.
- The colonists would develop laws, ordinances, act, constitutions and offices for the good of the colony and all, and to abide by those laws.
- The people elected John Carver as governor of the Plymouth Colony, who some historians identify as the drafter of the Compact.
- He served as a leader during the voyage and had earlier contributed to efforts for securing the financing for the Mayflower expedition.
- Half the Pilgrims died during the winter of the first year after settling in the Plymouth Colony, and whilst the governor survived the hard winter, he died in 1621.
- It has been argued that the Compact was instrumental in building their resilience and commitment to each other through this tough time.
- William Bradford was the second governor of the Plymouth colony, and under his leadership, the colony began to thrive. It continued to do so with other governors, until 1691 when the Crown of England merged it with the Massachusetts Colony.
The Great Migration
- In 1625, when King Charles I ascended the English throne, he found Puritans in Parliament a threat to his rule.
- The King dissolved Parliament to rid it of this threat in 1629.
- As a result many Puritans decided to leave England to avoid persecution and to seek religious freedom by settling in the New World.
- A well-financed group of leaders from East Anglia obtained a Royal Charter in March 1629 for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- John Winthrop was elected Governor of the Fleet and the Colony.
- The Winthrop Fleet of 1630, led by the flagship Arabella, included eleven ships and brought about 700 passengers to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
- Twenty thousand people followed over the next ten years.
- Most of the Puritans who arrived in New England came from wealthy middle-class families, had skills and could read.
- These Puritan settlers in Massachusetts discriminated against the arriving immigrants and passed a law that forbade a person or town to entertain guests for more than three weeks without special permission.
- When William Laud was appointed the archbishopric of Canterbury by King Charles I, Puritans flocked to New England.
- The appointed Archbishop organised a widespread crackdown on dissidents, which caused the surge in migration.
- Within a decade of Puritan migration, twenty-two towns closed their doors and would not allow entry of new immigrants.
- Whilst some moved to New England, others migrated to Ireland, the West Indies, and the Netherlands.
- When Parliament reconvened in 1640, the rate of migration dropped off sharply.
- Some colonists returned to England during the English Civil Wars in 1641 to fight on the Puritan side.
- When Oliver Cromwell, an Independent Puritan and statesman, supported Parliament, many of the colonists remained in England.