Puritanism was a form of movement that originated as a form of reformation movement from the Church of England. It was formed in an attempt of the church to purify the overall perception of the Church and also act as a middle ground between Roman Catholics and the Protestant congregation. The movement had significant influence on various components of the American society including the culture, political concepts, social ideas and ethical beliefs of the Americans at the time. They also maintained a certain standard by only recruiting regenerates into their congregation, who were willing to publicly confess how they converted. Eventually, they managed to influence the formation of American individualism and introduced democratic thoughts to people. Some of the most prominent effects of the Puritans on America will be discussed below.
To start with, it laid the foundation for the formation of American individualism. Evidently, individualism is among the key values that every American enjoys in our current society. It ensures that each individual is self-reliant, has a right to their own privacy and everyone enjoys mutual respect. The concept was introduced by Puritans as a form of secular tradition that would develop a sense of self-awareness among the Americans and act as a reform from the traditional religious beliefs. Their concept of “justification by faith” was not positively received by the pope, who later declined to give them his authority.
Nevertheless, it was seen to bridge the gap between man and God since every individual could pray directly to God without the intervention of a priest. They believed that every individual could directly pray to God if they had faith, regardless of whether they went to a specific church or not. “The Puritans brought about the emancipation of the Christian mind from the traditional Roman Catholic beliefs that had been instilled into the society”. Their beliefs stressed more on an individual’s personal values in comparison to the values of the masses, thereby giving the individual’s soul freedom and independence.
In addition to that, following the introduction and implementation of Martin Luther’s tenets, Puritans were able to form their own church and manage it themselves. They dismantled the traditional hierarchical system in place and selected their own priests. “As a result, Christians were redeemed from the strict Catholic rules and the church became a free and comfortable organization for individuals who placed more emphasis on their spirituality than the concept of religion” . Further than that, their “predestination” theory strengthened their self-awareness in an attempt to improve oneself to become closer to perfection. They believed that in order to achieve religious purity, one had to apply self-discipline, hard work and self-improvement. These beliefs were acclaimed and confirmed by sociologist Max Weber in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”. With the evidence provided, it is clear that Puritanism paved way for individualism in America which consequently became a core value for people in the country.
Another effect that the Puritans had on America was the introduction of democracy. When people discuss western democracy, American democracy tops the list. He Declaration of Independence gave every American the freedom to experience every right endowed by God including the pursuit of happiness, liberty and life. “In 1620, the Mayflower Compact was established to develop a temporary government that would see to it that the popular sovereignty dominated over the rule of the privileged” . It eventually contributed to the New England being a self-governing colony.
With the introduction of the self-governing regime in this colony, the Puritans introduced a new way in which individuals would air their thoughts freely in relation to how they preferred the country to be governed. This was achieved through the formation of the town meeting. In this meeting, every Christian had the right to speak their mind and all decisions were made according to the majority rule. Further than that, “the Puritans followed the autonomic principle which had a significant contribution to the establishment of democracy”. As mentioned earlier, the Puritans believed in the establishment of their churches as they wished. They also chose their priests through majority rule. These actions acted as the foundation for the introduction of democracy in America.
In addition to that, they emphasized on the concept of hard work for the acquisition of wealth rather than domination. This eventually shaped the national character of Americans. According to Puritans, “material wealth was a way of God showing his favor on His people”. They also believed that one way of showing their appreciation to God was through hard work, and taking care of God’s creation. They educated people on these beliefs and informed people that the only way to act as the chosen ones of God was by working hard for their own food. They also believed that this would guarantee people a place in heaven. God had already decided on people who belonged to heaven and hell, but there was no way of Christians to know this. Therefore, in order to be on God’s good graces they had to work hard for their wealth.
Other social activists also advocated for hard work in different colonies. For example, Benjamin Franklin spent most of his life instilling this belief in people in an attempt to make America a self-dependent nation full of hard working individuals. Every puritan had a task to perform in the development of the nation. “They even developed character traits of pursuing their dreams to the end and taking risks whenever necessary”. This is evident in the current society whereby most Americans have brought themselves out of poverty due to hard work and dedication.
Conclusively, the puritans introduced the desire for education to the American society. Puritans had a firm belief that education was important for development. According to their theology, it was important for people to attend school in order to redeem themselves from Adam’s sin. The Bible was a mandatory part of the Christian education and every child was expected to attend school and learn about God’s desires and how to live a morally upright and fulfilling life.
When they got to America, their first priority was to establish schools and colleges to nurture thee young minds. Their schools were free for all and every student was welcome. They first established the Roxbury Latin School, which was then followed by the Harvard College. By the 1650s, it was mandatory for every town to have a form of school; elementary schools and grammar schools as they prepared for college. It is important to note that education for the puritans was not limited to religious studies, they also placed emphasize on liberal education.