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

Aug 2010
15,110
Welsh Marches
#11
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.
Much as it was good that royal absolutism should not have established itself in England, I think it is anachronistic to regard the parliamentary side in general as being liberal, least of all the Puritans who were opposing the King for religious reasons. This is in effect trying classify people in accordance whether they were on the 'side of progress' in the long run rather than in accordance with their immediate aims. Similarly with regard to those who seem to think that the Puritans advanced freedom of religion, while the very idea was abhoorent to them.
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,678
#12
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.
I agree with all of that, but you can't really consider Puritans the conservative side. Some of what they did has similarities to the French Revolution and Communism. Being oppressive and authoritaran does not make you conservative.
 
Aug 2010
15,110
Welsh Marches
#13
Indeed, they were not conservative, they were religious radicals. Some did of course hold radical political views too. It is merely that liberalism and puritanism are like water and oil.
 
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Dec 2011
4,293
Iowa USA
#15
If one uses a modern definition of "liberal," then Yes, I would think so. After all, modern-day liberals don't execute people for being witches.

It is your thread, so please help us understand your meaning more precisely here.

The word liberal is notoriously slippery. It is an adjective applied to the founders of British Liberal Party in the mid 19th century and also to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for instance.
 
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Oct 2011
7,645
MARE PACIFICVM
#16
The Puritans were certainly not liberals! Yes, they were anti-monarchical during the English Civil War, but only because they saw the English monarchy as not sufficiently pious and wanted to establish an oppressive religious theocracy in the Monarchy's place. They were a deeply judgemental, holier-than-thou group of theocrats who have more in common with the modern Iranian Ayatollahs than they do with American progressives.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
13,833
SoCal
#17
It is your thread, so please help us understand your meaning more precisely here.

The word liberal is notoriously slippery. It is an adjective applied to the founders of British Liberal Party in the mid 19th century and also to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for instance.
I define "liberal" as wanting greater personal freedom in the social sphere (abortion, the right to marry, drug decriminalization, et cetera) while wanting a large government hand in the economy in order to redistribute wealth to those people who are less fortunate.

The Puritans were certainly not liberals! Yes, they were anti-monarchical during the English Civil War, but only because they saw the English monarchy as not sufficiently pious and wanted to establish an oppressive religious theocracy in the Monarchy's place. They were a deeply judgemental, holier-than-thou group of theocrats who have more in common with the modern Iranian Ayatollahs than they do with American progressives.
So, how did New England evolve from a region ruled by Christian ayatollahs to being the U.S.'s most liberal (and probably tolerant as well) region?
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
13,833
SoCal
#19
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.
What's interesting is that the Netherlands is also noted for its liberalism nowadays. For instance, it was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage!
 
Feb 2016
537
ROK
#20
The Puritans became a minority after more and more Europeans immigrated into the US, especially during the late 19th century. There are actually more German-Americans than there are English-Americans. And there are more Irish-Americans than there are English-Americans.
 
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