How did New England transition from being puritanical to being liberal?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
15,749
SoCal
#1
Early on in New England's history, there was a large Puritan influence in New England. This was especially evident in Massachusetts--which was the location of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692-1693 (which is when various people were accused of witchcraft, put on trial, and executed). However, later on, New England became very liberal. For instance, Massachusetts was one of the first U.S. states to repeal its anti-miscegenation law in 1843 and it was also the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003.

My question is this--what exactly caused New England to shift from being puritanical to being liberal?
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,888
#4
Puritan was liberal. Puritans wanted change in religion. They also were for republican politics. Who were the liberals in the English Civil War, the royalists or the parliamentarians? Roman Catholic and Anglican royalists were for traditional religion and a strong king. The Puritans got rid of the king and House of Lords. There were radical Puritans in the English Civil War, the Leveller and the Diggers, who supported universal sufferage, and some of which were forerunners of socialists and anarchists. New England was strongly patriot in the American Revolution. It was the strongest area for abolition and gave the strongest support for the Union in the American Civil War.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
15,749
SoCal
#5
Puritan was liberal. Puritans wanted change in religion. They also were for republican politics. Who were the liberals in the English Civil War, the royalists or the parliamentarians? Roman Catholic and Anglican royalists were for traditional religion and a strong king. The Puritans got rid of the king and House of Lords. There were radical Puritans in the English Civil War, the Leveller and the Diggers, who supported universal sufferage, and some of which were forerunners of socialists and anarchists. New England was strongly patriot in the American Revolution. It was the strongest area for abolition and gave the strongest support for the Union in the American Civil War.
Interesting points. As for the English Civil War, the parliamentarians were the liberals in this war, no?

Also, though, I have a question--was freedom of religion, freedom of speech, et cetera actually allowed in the New England colonies early on in their history?
 
Oct 2013
13,534
Europix
#6
... modern-day liberals don't execute people for being witches.
Ofcourse.

My question came from the fact that reformats brought a different religious organisation and approach: less hierarchic than Catholicism and Orthodoxy, preaching a more "direct" relationship between believer and God.

So I was wondering if it's not somehow natural that puritanism evolved towards liberalism with the secularisation of the society.

Somehow, attitude of reformats towards established Catholic religion wasn't that different of liberals towards established monarchic state.
 
Aug 2010
15,506
Welsh Marches
#7
It's much more complicated than you suggest. The Puritans came into opposition with the King primarily for religious reasons, and they imposed an equally or even more authoritarian form of rule (also getting rid of parliament!). Nothing liberal in any of that, and they wanted to impose their own form of religion on everyone else; most people were heartily glad to get rid of 'the rule of the saints' at the Restoration. Puritanism was essentially authoritarian, it tried to interfere in people's lives in every detail in a way that the Church of England did not, and there is nothing particularly liberal in trying to uproot old traditions - including the traditional celebration of Christmas - for that end.
 
Oct 2013
13,534
Europix
#8
It's much more complicated than you suggest. The Puritans came into opposition with the King primarily for religious reasons, and they imposed an equally or even more authoritarian form of rule (also getting rid of parliament!). Nothing liberal in any of that, and they wanted to impose their own form of religion on everyone else; most people were heartily glad to get rid of 'the rule of the saints' at the Restoration. Puritanism was essentially authoritarian, it tried to interfere in people's lives in every detail in a way that the Church of England did not, and there is nothing particularly liberal in trying to uproot old traditions - including the traditional celebration of Christmas - for that end.
Thank You Lins!

It seems I have to go back and revisit my idea of "reformats" and how adequate it is (not ...) when trying to generalize.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,888
#9
Interesting points. As for the English Civil War, the parliamentarians were the liberals in this war, no?

Also, though, I have a question--was freedom of religion, freedom of speech, et cetera actually allowed in the New England colonies early on in their history?
It's hard to label, but the Puritans would seem to be the more liberal or radical side in the English Civil War. They were for republican politics and radically reformed religion. In power, they did close the theaters, and try to restrict the celebration of holidays such as Christmas.

There were a few Puritans religious dissenters executed in Massachusetts. Pretty much all churches in New England were Congregationalist and you had to be Congregationalist to vote in colonial times. At the time of the American Revolution, the Anglican Church was established everywhere but New England and Pennsylvania. In Virginia, all churches had to be Anglican, and you had to go to church once a month by law. I believe there was relative freedom of religion in NY, NJ, PA, and MD. Obviously, the Spanish Empire had less freedom of religion. There wasn't really the concept of freedom of religion in the 17th century.
 
Aug 2010
15,506
Welsh Marches
#10
It may be apparent that I can't stand Puritans, and least of all the 17th Century English variety! Why people should regard them as being liberal-minded reformers is a mystery to me. At least they lost out in the end in England, by contrast to the Netherlands where the narrow Calvinists gained the upper hand over the Arminians.
 
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