Who were the Puritans?
All of this protesting started with Martin Luther, in Germany, who was upset that the church was selling *indulgences*, which were a way for people to literally pay money to the church to get some type of sin absolved. Actually, Luther had a long list of grievances, and that is what started people to start questioning how the Christian Church had been running, some 1400 years after the birth of Christ.
In England, where my family was, Protestants were divided into two groups: Separatists, and Puritans. Separatists, as the name conveys, were interested in completely separating from the existing church. Puritans, on the other hand, were interested in staying with the Church of England, but fixing some of the defects that had worked its way into the system. It was called purifying. These people, who were interested in purifying the church, not completely breaking away, were my family.
The best way to picture the Separatists is to know that they arrived in the New World on the Mayflower, the story that most of us learn in school. They arrived at Plymouth, and really wanted to start all over in the New World. This isn't my family.
My family arrived in the New World in the Massachusetts Bay, and established Boston. And although history books often mix up the two groups, as *Pilgrims*, they were very different. My family were not Pilgrims. They did not turn their back on England, at least not initially. They were not out in the middle of the wilderness. Yes, ships sailed back and forth between Boston and London all of the time. After the American Revolution, this chummy attitude towards England was hushed up.
It's been over 300 years since my family arrived in America, and it's understandable that a lot of information has been lost, and confused. And, ultimately, the Puritans in America became Separatists, especially after the last straw from England, the tax on tea. From that point on, all Americans united against England, and the fine distinction was lost between Pilgrims and Puritans. We were all Americans now. And it was important to hang together, for if we didn't, as Benjamin Franklin said, we would all hang separately.
Photo: John Winthrop, who arrived in America in 1630, along with many members of my family, the Puritans.
Posted by Brad Hall