The New England colonies developed quickly and rapidly through the early 1600’s. The colonies development was largely influenced by the Puritans, who had helped found most of the colonies in the in the region after emigrating from Britain. The philosophies, ideas, and values of the Puritans greatly shaped the development of the colonies in many ways. Politically, the idea of a united, representative government that later became a staple of the United States was from Puritan ideals. Economically, the ideals of fair pricing came from the Puritans. Socially, emphasis on religion, church, and community was another lasting influence of the Puritans. The values held by the Puritans greatly influenced the political, economic, and social development of the New England colonies from the 1630’s through the 1660’s.
The Puritans impacted the political development of the New England colonies. The idea of a representative government was from the Puritans. The Puritans believed the congregation should elect the reverend. The Puritans also believed the government should get its power from the people. This experiment in democracy was one of the lasting ideas of Puritan influence on the New England colonies. Extending from that idea was the idea of unity. As said by John Winthrop “Wee must be knitt together… as one man… Wee must delight in eache other, make other’s conditions our own…” [Doc. A] The concept of unity and loyalty to one another and to a government greatly shaped further development in the New England Colonies. Another political influence of the Puritans was the respect to a higher power. The deeply religious Puritans believed in salvation and the existence of a power capable of accepting or denying that salvation. Thus, they hit upon the “Limitation Of Government,” explained by John Cotton: “Let all the world learn to give mortal men no greater power than they are content they shall use…” [Doc. H] Thus, the governments of the New England colonies were impacted by this limitation. It is clear that the Puritans greatly affected the political development of the New England colonies.
Economically, the Puritans again had a great amount of influence to the colonies. As Robert Keayne proudly proclaims in his last will and testament, “My account books… testify to the world on my behalf that I have not lived an idle, lazie or dronish life nor spent my time wantonly, fruitlessly …”
[Doc. I] Keayne’s words provide a glimpse at the power the Puritans had over economics; Their philosophies shaped the way people did business. Though the Puritans appreciated economic success, they did not believe in extorting people merely for the sake of getting rich. “Let merchants and such… (who) are increasing per cent remember… that worldly gain was not the end and design of the people of New England, but Religion.” [Doc. J] The Puritans ideals greatly impacted economic development in the New England colonies.
A third influence of the Puritan faith rested on the social development of New England. Again, the Puritan’s ideas brought great changes in the social aspect of the colonies. Primarily, this influence could be seen as a strong emphasis on church and educaton. As seen in Doc. B, a map of a New England town shows the center of a normal Puritan town, with a village green boxed in by various buildings. Of those buildings there is a church and a school. The church was the religious and social center of a Puritan town, with all the people striving to better understand the ways of God and his people on Earth. The Puritan love of religion also drove them to educate their children in similar fashion. Compared to all the other colonies, the New England colonies had the best educational system, focused on religion and reading/writing. The school is the third largest building next to the church and town hall. Advanced educational opportunities were also available; to “advance learning… it pleased God to stir up the heart of one Mr. Harvard” [Doc. E] The same Harvard who founded Harvard college.
The Puritans are long gone, but their influences live on today. Their beliefs, faith, and ideas shaped the New England colonies , and to great extent the United States as we know it. In conclusion, politically, economically, and socially the ideas and values held by the Puritans shaped the development of the New England colonies.