Of Pilgrims, Presbyterians, and Puritans: West Milford, The Story of a Suburb, Ch. 4

Chapter Four:  Of Pilgrims, Puritans and Presbyterians.

Whoever wrote the saying, “A good fence makes a good neighbor” must have been a Puritan or had Puritans in their family tree.  You’ve heard all the horror stories about the Salem Witch Trials.  Of all their strict rules and punishments, such as putting sinners in the stockades or, wrose, “the press” whereby an offender had to lie on the ground and hold a boulder over his or her chest until they were crushed to death.  Of their “intolerance” (indeed).

When they came to America, they were not seeking freedom of worship, exactly.  According to John T. Cunningham, author of the 1988 book, “Newark,” they considered freedom of worship an abomination, the ‘worst temptation of Satan.’

The first English settlers in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims, established their settlement at Plymouth (or Plimouth, as they spelled it) in 1620, and developed friendly relations with the native Wampganoag.  This was the second successful permanent English colony in North America, after the Jamestown Colony. The Pilgrims were soon followed by the Puritans, who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony at present-day Boston in 1630.

The Puritans, who believed the Church of England was too hierarchical (among other disagreements), came to Massachusetts for religious freedom, although, unlike the Plymouth colony, the bay colony was founded under a royal charter. Both religious dissent and expansionism resulted in several new colonies being founded shortly after Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay elsewhere in New England. Dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams were banished due to religious disagreements; (Hutchinson held meetings in her home discussing flaws in the Puritan beliefs, while Williams believed that the Puritan beliefs were wrong, and the Indians must be respected.)  In 1636, Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island and Hutchinson joined him there several years later.

In 1691, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth were united (along with present-day Maine, which had previously been divided between Massachusetts and New York) into the Province of Massachusetts Bay.   Shortly after the arrival of the new province’s first governor, Sir William Phips, the Salem witch trials took place, in which a number of men and women were hanged.  Burning and “pressing” were also popular methods of dealing with “witches.”

The Pilgrim’s leadership came from the religious congregations of Brownish English Dissenters who had fled the volatile political environment in the East Midlands of England for the relative calm and tolerance of 16th–17th century Holland. Concerned with losing their cultural identity, the group later arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America. The Plimouth colony, established in 1620, became the second successful English settlement (after the founding of Jamestown, Va., in 1607) and later the oldest continuously-inhabited British settlement in the Colonies of America.

The core of the group that would come to be known as the Pilgrims were brought together by a common belief in the ideas promoted by Richard Clyfton [does that name sound familiar, North Jerseyans?], a Brownist parson at All Saints’ Parish Church in Babworth, near East Retford, Nottinghamshire, between 1586 and 1605.

There had been early advocates of a congregational (as opposed to hierarchal) form of organization for the Church of England, in the time of Henry VIII.  When, on the re-establishment of the Anglican Church, after Queen Mary’s (a Catholic) reign, it became clear that the English government had other plans, the Browinists looked towards setting up a separate church.

By 1580, Browne had become a leader in this movement and attempted to set up a separate Congregational Church in Norwich, England. He was arrested but released on the advice of William Cecil, his kinsman. Browne and his companions were obliged to leave England and moved to Middleburg in the Netherlands in 1581.

This congregation held Separatist beliefs comparable to non-conforming movements (i.e., groups not in communion with the Church of England) led by Browne, John Greenwood, and Henry Barrowe.

Unlike the Puritan group, who maintained their membership in and allegiance to the Church of England, Separatists held that their differences with the Church of England were irreconcilable and that their worship should be organized independently of the trappings, traditions and organization of a central church.

William Brewster, a former diplomatic assistant to the Netherlands, was living in the Scrooby manor house, serving as postmaster for the village and bailiff to the Archbishop of York. Having been favorably impressed by Clyfton’s services, he had begun participating in Separatist services led by John Smyth in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

The Separatists had long been controversial. Under the 1559 Act of Uniformity, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services, with a fine of one shilling) for each missed Sunday and holy day. The penalties for conducting unofficial services included imprisonment and larger fines. Under the policy of this time, Barrowe and Greenwood were executed for sedition in 1593.

During much of Brewster’s tenure (1595–1606), the Archbishop was Matthew Hutton. He displayed some sympathy to the Puritan (butnot to the Separatist) cause, writing to Robert Cecil, Secretary of State to James I in 1604:

“The Puritans (whose phantasticall zeale I mislike) though they differ in Ceremonies and accidentes, yet they agree with us in substance of religion, and I thinke all or the moste parte of them love his Majestie, and the presente state, and I hope will yield to conformitie. But the Papistes are opposite and contrarie in very many substantiall pointes of religion, and cannot but wishe the Popes authoritie and popish religion to be established.”

It had been hoped that when James came to power, a reconciliation allowing independence would be possible, but the Hampton Court Conference of 1604 denied substantially all the concessions requested by Puritans, save for an English translation of the Bible. Following the Conference, in 1605, Clyfton was declared a nonconformist and stripped of his position at Babworth.   Brewster invited Clyfton to live at his home.

Upon Hutton’s 1606 death, Tobias Matthew was elected as his replacement. Matthew, one of James’chief supporters at the 1604 conference, promptly began a campaign to purge the archdiocese of nonconforming influences, both Separatists and papists. Disobedient clergy were replaced, and prominent Separatists were confronted, fined, and imprisoned. He is credited with driving recusants out of the country.

At about the same time, Brewster arranged for a congregation to meet privately at the Scrooby manor house. Beginning in 1606, services were held with Clyfton as pastor, John Robinson as teacher and Brewster as the presiding elder. Shortly thereafter, Smyth and members of the Gainsborough group moved on to Amsterdam. Brewster is known to have been fined £20 for his non-compliance with the church. This followed his September 1607 resignation from the postmaster position, about the time that the congregation had decided to follow the Smyth party to Amsterdam.

Scrooby member William Bradford, of Austerfield, kept a journal of the congregation’s events that would later be published as Of Plymouth Plantation. Of this time, he wrote:

“But after these things they could not long continue in any peaceable condition, but were hunted & persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison of these which now came upon them. For some were taken & clapt up in prison, others had their houses besett & watcht night and day, & hardly escaped their hands; and ye most were faine to flie & leave their howses & habitations, and the means of their livelehood.”

The Columbia Encyclopedia states that, “Although not actively persecuted, the group was subjected to ecclesiastical investigation and to the mockery, criticism, and disfavor of their neighbors.”

Unable to obtain the papers necessary to leave England, members of the congregation agreed to leave surreptitiously, resorting to bribery to obtain passage. One documented attempt was in 1607, following Brewster’s resignation, when members of the congregation chartered a boat in Boston [another familiar name to Americans], Lincolnshire. This turned out to be a sting operation, with all arrested upon boarding. The entire party was jailed for one month awaiting arraignment, at which time all but seven were released. Missing from the record is for how long the remainder were held, but it is known that the leaders made it to Amsterdam about a year later.

In a second departure attempt in the spring of 1608, arrangements were made with a Dutch merchant to pick up church members along the Humber estuary at Immingham near Grimsby, Lincolnshire. The men had boarded the ship, at which time the sailors spotted an armed contingent approaching. The ship quickly departed before the women and children could board; the stranded members were rounded up but then released without charges.

Ultimately, at least 150 of the congregation did make their way to Amsterdam meeting up with the Smyth party, who had joined with the Exiled English Church led by Francis Johnson (1562–1617), Barrowe’s successor. The Scrooby party remained there for about one year, citing growing tensions between Smyth and Johnson.  Smyth had embraced the idea of believer’s baptism, which Clyfton and Johnson opposed. Protestant churches, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist tradition, believe a person is baptized on the basis of his or her profession of faith in Jesus Christ and as admission into a local community of faith.  This is opposed to infant baptism. Anabaptists or “re-baptizers) are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th Century Europe, although some consider Anabaptism to be a distinct movement from Protestantism. The Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites, Old Order and Conservative Mennonites are direct descendants of the movement.

Robinson decided that it would be best to remove his congregation from the fray, and permission to settle in Leiden was secured in 1609.  With the congregation reconstituted as the English Exiled Church in Leyden, Robinson now became pastor; Clyfton, advanced in age, chose to stay behind in Amsterdam.

In Leiden, they lived in small houses behind the “Kloksteeg,” opposite the Pieterskerk (a church). The success of the congregation in Leiden was mixed.  Leiden was a thriving industrial center, and many members supported themselves working at Leiden University or in the textile, printing and brewing trades. Others were less able to bring in sufficient income, hampered by their rural backgrounds and the language barrier; for those, accommodations were made on an estate bought by Robinson and three partners.

Of their years in Leiden, Bradford wrote:

“For these & other reasons they removed to Leyden, a fair & bewtifull citie, and of a sweete situation, but made more famous by ye universitie wherwith it is adorned, in which of late had been so many learned man. But wanting that traffike by sea which Amerstdam injoyes, it was not so beneficiall for their outward means of living & estats. But being now hear pitchet they fell to such trads & imployments as they best could; valewing peace & their spirituall comforte above any other riches whatsoever. And at length they came to raise a competente & comforteable living, but with hard and continuall labor.”

The Netherlands was, however, a land whose culture and language were strange and difficult for the English congregation to understand or learn. They found the Dutch morals much too libertine. Their children were becoming more and more Dutch as the years passed by. The congregation came to believe that they faced eventual extinction if they remained there.

By 1617, although the congregation was stable and relatively secure, there were ongoing issues that needed to be resolved. Bradford noted that the congregation was aging, compounding the difficulties some had in supporting themselves. Some, having spent through their savings, gave up and returned to England. It was feared that more would follow and that the congregation would become unsustainable. The employment issues made it unattractive for others to come to Leiden, and younger members had begun leaving to find employment and adventure elsewhere.

Also compelling was the possibility of missionary work, an opportunity that rarely arose in a Protestant stronghold. Reasons for departure are suggested by Bradford, when he notes the“discouragements” of the hard life they had in the Netherlands, and the hope of attracting others by finding “a better, and easier place of living;”; the“children” of the group being “drawn away by evil examples into extravagance and dangerous courses;” the “great hope, for the propagating and advancing the gospell of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.”

Edward Winslow’s list was similar. In addition to the economic worries and missionary possibilities, he stressed that it was important for the people to retain their English identity, culture and language. They also believed that the English Church in Leiden could do little to benefit the larger community there.

At the same time, there were many uncertainties about moving to such a place as America. Stories had come back from there about failed colonies. There were fears that the native people would be violent, that there would be no source of food or water, that exposure to unknown diseases was possible, and that travel by sea was always hazardous. Balancing all this was a local political situation that was in danger of becoming unstable: the truce in what would be known as the Eighty Years’ War was faltering, and there was fear over what the attitudes of Spain toward them might be.

Candidate destinations included Guiana, where the Dutch had already established Essequibo, , or somewhere near the existing Virginia settlements. Virginia was an attractive destination because the presence of the older colony might offer better security and trade opportunities. It was thought, however, that they should not settle too near since that might too closely duplicate the political environment back in England. The London Company administered a territory of considerable size in the region. The intended settlement location was at the mouth of the Hudson River. This made it possible to settle at a distance that allayed concerns of social conflict, but still provided the military and economic benefits of relative closeness to an established colony.

Robert Cushman and John Carver were sent to England to solicit a land patent. Their negotiations were delayed because of conflicts internal to the London Company, but ultimately a patent was secured in the name of John Wincob on June 9 (Old Style)/June 19 (New Style), 1619.  The charter was granted with the king’s condition that the Leiden group’s religion would not receive official recognition.

Because of the continued problems within the London Company, preparations stalled. The congregation was approached by competing Dutch companies, and the possibility of settling in the Hudson River area was discussed with them.  These negotiations were broken off at the encouragement of another English merchant, Thomas Weston, who assured them that he could resolve the London Company delays.

Weston did come with a substantial change, telling the Leiden group that parties in England had obtained a land grant north of the existing Virginia territory, to be called New England. This was only partially true; the new grant would come to pass, but not until late in 1620 when the Plymouth Council for New England received its charter. It was expected that this area could be fished profitably, and it was not under the control of the existing Virginia government.

A second change was known only to parties in England, who chose not to inform the larger group.  New investors who had been brought into the venture wanted the terms altered so that at the end of the seven year contract, half of the settled land and property would revert to them; and that the provision for each settler to have two days per week to work on personal business was dropped.

Amid these negotiations, William Brewster found himself involved with religious unrest emerging in Scotland. In 1618, James had promulgated the Five Articles of Perth, which were seen in Scotland as an attempt to encroach on their Presbyterian tradition.

Presbyterianism adheres to the Calvinist theological tradition and whose congregations are organized according to a Presbyterian polity  This branch of Christianity bears the name of the French Reformer John Calvin (also known as Jean Cauvin) because of his noticeable influence and his role in the confessional and ecclesiastical debates that happened throughout the 16th century. Today, this term also refers to the doctrines and practices from the Reformed churches, where Calvin was an early leader. Although not often, it may refer to the individual, biblical teachings that Calvin made himself. The system is often summarized in the Five Points of Calvinism and is best known for its doctrines of predestination and total depravity, stressing the total contingency of man’s salvation upon the absolute sovereignty of God.

Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of grace through faith in Christ. Presbyterianism originated primarily in Scotland. Scotland ensured Presbyterian “church government” in the Acts of Union in 1708 which created the kingdom of Great Britain. In fact, most Presbyterians found in England can trace a Scottish connection, and the Presbyterian denomination was also taken to North America mostly by Scots and Scots-Irish immigrants. The Presbyterian denominations in Scotland hold to the theology of Calvin and his immediate successors, although there is a range of theological views within contemporary Presbyterianism.

Modern Presbyterianism traces its institutional roots back to the Scottish Reformation. Local congregations are governed by Sessions made up of representatives of the congregation, a conciliar approach which is found at other levels of decision-making (Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly). Theoretically, there are no bishops in Presbyterianism; however, some groups in Eastern Europe, and in ecumenical groups, do have bishops. The office of elder is another distinctive mark of Presbyterianism: these are specially ordained non-clergy called ruling elders and ministers of Word and Sacrament called teaching elders who take part in local pastoral care and decision making at all levels. The office of deacon is geared toward the care of members, their families, and the surrounding community. In some congregations active elders and deacons serve a three-year term that is renewable for a second three-year term and then rotate off for at least a year. The offices of pastor, elder, and deacon all commence with ordination; once a person is ordained, he holds that title for the rest of his life. An individual may serve as both an elder and a deacon.

Pamphlets critical of the Five Articles of Perth were published by Brewster and smuggled into Scotland by April 1619. These pamphlets were traced back to Leiden, and a failed attempt to apprehend Brewster was made in July when his presence in England became known.

Also in July in Leiden, English ambassador Dudley Carleton became aware of the situation and began leaning on the Dutch government to extradite Brewster. An arrest was made in September, but only Thomas Brewer, the financier, was in custody. Brewster’s whereabouts between then and the colonists’ departure remain unknown. Brewster’s type was seized. After several months of delay, Brewer was sent to England for questioning, where he stonewalled government officials until well into 1620. One resulting concession that England did obtain from the Netherlands was a restriction on the press that would make such publications illegal to produce.

Thomas Brewer was ultimately convicted in England for his continued religious publication activities and sentenced in 1626 to a fourteen year prison term.

Not all of the congregation would be able to depart on the first trip. Many members would not be able to settle their affairs within the time constraints, and the budget for travel and supplies was limited. It was decided that the initial settlement should be undertaken primarily by younger and stronger members. The remainder agreed to follow if and when they could.

Robinson would remain in Leiden with the larger portion of the congregation, and Brewster was to lead the American congregation. While the church in America would be run independently, it was agreed that membership would automatically be granted in either congregation to members who moved between the continents.

With personal and business matters agreed upon, supplies and a small ship were procured.  The Speedwell was to bring some passengers from the Netherlands to England, then on to America where it would be kept for the fishing business, with a crew hired for support services during the first year. A second, larger, ship, The Mayflower, was leased for transport and exploration services.

In July 1620, the Speedwell departed Delfshaven with the Leiden colonists. Reaching Southampton, they met with the Mayflower and the additional colonists hired by the investors. With final arrangements made, the two vessels set out on August 5 (Old Style)/August 15 (New Style).

Soon after departing, the Speedwell crew reported that their ship was taking in water, so both were diverted to Darthmouth, Devon. There, the ship was inspected for leaks and sealed, but a second attempt to depart also failed, bringing them only so far as Plymouth, Devon. It was decided that the Speedwell was untrustworthy, and it was sold. It would later be learned that crew members had deliberately caused the ship to leak, allowing them to abandon their year-long commitments. The ship’s master and some of the crew transferred to the Mayflower for the trip.

Of the 121 combined passengers, 102 were chosen to travel on the Mayflower with the supplies consolidated. Of these, about half had come by way of Leiden, and about 28 of the adults were members of the congregation. The reduced party finally sailed successfully on September 6/September 16, 1620.

Initially the trip went smoothly, but under way they were met with strong winds and storms. One of these caused a main beam to crack, and although they were more than half the way to their destination, the possibility of turning back was considered. Using a “great iron screw” (probably a jack to be used for house construction) brought along by the colonists, they repaired the ship sufficiently to continue. One passenger, John Howland, was washed overboard in the storm but caught a top sail halyard trailing in the water and was pulled back on board.

One crew member and one passenger died before they reached land.  A child was born at sea and named“Oceanus”.  Land was sighted on Nov. 9,1620.  The passengers who had endured miserable conditions for about 65 days were led by William Brewster in Psalm 100 as a prayer of thanksgiving.

It was confirmed that the area was Cape Cod, within the New England territory recommended by Weston. An attempt was made to sail the ship around the cape towards the Hudson River, also within the New England grant area, but they encountered shoals and difficult currents around Malabar (a land mass that formerly existed in the vicinity of present-day Monomoy). It was decided to turn around, and by November 11/November 21 the ship was anchored in what is today known as Provincetown Harbor.

With the charter for the Plymouth Council for New England incomplete by the time the colonists departed England (it would be granted while they were in transit, on November 3/November 13), they arrived without a patent; the older Wincob patent was from their abandoned dealings with the London Company. Some of the passengers, aware of the situation, suggested that without a patent in place, they were free to do as they chose upon landing and ignore the contract with the investors.

To address this issue, a brief contract, later to be known as the Mayflower Compact, was drafted promising cooperation among the settlers “for the general good of the Colony unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.”  It organized them into what was called a “civil Body Politick,” in which issues would be decided by that key ingredient of democracy, voting. It was ratified by majority rule, with 41 adult male passengers signing. At this time, John Carver was chosen as the colony’s first governor. It was Carver who had chartered the Mayflower,and being the most respected and affluent member of the group, his is the first signature on the Mayflower Compact. The Mayflower Compact was the seed of American democracy and has been called the world’s first written constitution.

You know the rest of the Pilgrim’s story, the more familiar part, about their attempt at living communally at first. Finding that didn’t work out, that they were starving and only saved by the native Indians (who also shot at them; other English had come before the Pilgrims and turned the Indians against them). And of course, you know about the first Thanksgiving.

So we’ve learned more about the Pilgrims, the Presbyterians, and something about the Puritans, who came later than we learned in school.  Hard to believe the Puritans approved of English rule as they didn’t believe in any authority except God.  They would soon change their minds.

The Puritans were a community of English Protestants active during the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism was created by Marian clergy exiles as an activist movement within the Church of England shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558. England practiced strict laws controlling religion, which restricted the Puritans ability to practice religion according to their beliefs. Seeking the ability to practice Puritan beliefs without persecution, the community emigrated from England to the Netherlands. Afterwards, the Puritans then emigrated to New England. The Puritan belief system was also spread by evangelical clergy to Ireland and later Wales. The educational system also played a role in the spread of Puritanism, as certain colleges within the University of Cambridge supported the group’s viewpoints.

Puritans took distinctive views on clerical dress. They also opposed the Episcopal system after the 1619 conclusions of the Synod of Dort were resisted by English Bishops.  The Synod of Dort (a town in Holland) denounced Arminianism. Arminianism is based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) and his historic supporters known as the Remonstrants.  It is known as a soterilogical sect of Protestant Christianity, meaning the study of salvation. Dutch Arminianism was originally articulated in the Remonstrance (1610), a theological statement signed by 45 ministers and submitted to the States-General of the Netherlands. The Synod of Dort (1618–19) was called by the States General to consider the Five Articles of Remonstrance. They asserted that:

  1. election     (or condemnation on the day of judgment) was conditioned by the rational     faith or nonfaith of man;
  2. the     Atonement, while qualitatively adequate for all men, was efficacious only     for the man of faith;
  3. unaided by     the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God’s will;
  4. grace is     resistible; and
  5. believers     are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from     grace..

In the 17th century the Puritans adopted Sabbatarian views (belief in the sanctity of the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day) and were influenced by millennialsim, the penultimate age, just prior to the end of Satan’s worldwide system in anticipation of a New Heavens and a New Earth under Jehovah’s kingdom reign (Rev. 21:1). Some believe that between the millennium proper and the end of the world there will be a brief period in which a final battle with Satan will take place. After this follows the Last Judgment.

The 17th century featured a growth in the commercial world and growing parliamentary opposition to the royal prerogative, Scottish Presbyterians also emerged in the late 1630s and shared many beliefs with the Puritans. These factors fostered an environment in which the Puritans were able to gain power. As a result of the First English Civil War (1642 – 46), the Puritans became a major political force in England.

English Restoration in 1660 and the 1662 Uniformity Act caused almost all Puritan clergy to leave the Church of England. Some became nonconformist ministers. The movement in England changed radically at this time, though this change was not as immediate for Puritans in New England.

Puritans felt that the English Reformation was not sufficient, and still believed that the Church of England was tolerant of Catholic Church practices [sorry, Catholics; no offense.  This is just what these people believed]. They formed religious groups advocating a greater “purity” of worship and doctrine. They also desired greater personal and group piety. The Puritans adopted a Reformed theology and became, in a sense, Calvinists. Their criticism of Calvin distinguished Puritan beliefs from Calvinism.

Some Puritans wanted complete separation from all other Christians. These independent strings of Puritanism became more prominent in the 1640s after supporters in the Westminster Assembly were unable to forge a new English national church.

The term “Puritan”in the sense of this article was not coined until the 1560s, when it appears as a term of abuse for those who found the Elizabethan Religious Settlement of 1559 inadequate. Puritanism has a historical importance over a period of a century (followed by 50 years of development in New England), and general views must contend with the way it changed character and emphasis almost decade by decade over that time.

The problem was this: the accession of James I brought the Millenary Petition, a Puritan manifesto of 1603 for reform of the English church, but James wanted a new religious settlement along different lines. He called the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, and heard the views of four prominent Puritan leaders including Chaderton there, but largely sided with his bishops.

Well-informed by his education and Scottish upbringing on theological matters, he dealt shortly with the peevish legacy of Elizabethan Puritanism, and tried to pursue an eirenic (opposition to angry or violent argumentation) religious policy in which he was arbiter. Many of his episcopal appointments were Calvinists, notably James Montague who was an influential courtier. Puritans still opposed much of the Catholic summartion in the Church of England, notably the Book of Common Prayer, but also the use of non-secular vestments) during services, the sign of the Cross in baptism, and kneeling to receive Holy Communion. Although the Puritan movement was subjected to repression by some of the bishops under both Elizabeth and James, other bishops were more tolerant, and in many places, individual ministers were able to omit disliked portions of the Book of Common Prayer.

The Puritan movement of Jacobean times became distinctive by adaptation and compromise, with the emergence of “semi-separatism,” “moderate puritanism,” the writings of William Bardshaw who adopted the term “Puritan” as self-identification, and the beginnings of congregationalism. Most Puritans of this period were non-separating and remained within the Church of England.  Separatists who left the Church of England altogether found themselves leaving England altogether.

King James I of England made some efforts to reconcile the Puritan clergy in England, who had been alienated by the conservatism blocking reform in the Church of England. Puritans adopted Calvinism (Reformed theology) with its opposition to ritual and an emphasis on preaching, a growing sabbatarianism, and preference for a presbyterian system of church polity. They opposed religious practices in the Church that at any point came close to Roman Catholic ritual.

After Charles I of England became king in 1625, this religious conflict worsened.  Parliament increasingly opposed the King’s authority. In 1629, Charles dissolved Parliament entirely, in an ill-fated attempt to neutralize his enemies there, who included numerous lay Puritans. With the religious and political climate so hostile and threatening, many Puritans decided to leave the country. Some of the migration was from the expatriate English communities in the Netherlands of nonconformists and Separatists who had set up churches there since the 1590s.

King Charles I was placed under arrest and moved to Hurst Castle  at the end of 1648, and thereafter to Windsor Castle. In January 1649, in response to Charles’s defiance of Parliament even after defeat, and his encouraging the second Civil War while in captivity, the House of Commons passed an Act of Parliament creating a court for Charles’s trial. After the first Civil War, the parliamentarians accepted the premise that the king, although wrong, had been able to justify his fight, and that he would still be entitled to limited powers as King under a new constitutional settlement. It was now felt that by provoking the second Civil War even while defeated and in captivity, Charles showed himself responsible for unjustifiable bloodshed. The secret treaty with the Scots was considered particularly unpardonable; “a more prodigious treason,” said Cromwell, “than any that had been perfected before; because the former quarrel was that Englishmen might rule over one another; this to vassalise us to a foreign nation.” Cromwell had up to this point supported negotiations with the king, but now rejected further diplomacy.

Over a period of a week in which Charles I was accused of causing millions of deaths in the English Civil Wars, he was asked to plead three times, he refused. It was then normal practice to take a refusal to plead as pro confesso: an admission of guilt, which meant that the prosecution could not call witnesses to its case. However, the trial did hear witnesses.

The King was declared guilty at a public session on Jan. 27, 1649 and sentenced to death.  Fifty-nine of the Commissioners (judges) signed Charles’ death warrant.  After the ruling, he was led from St. James’s Palace, where he was confined, to the Palace of Whitehall. There an execution scaffold had been erected in front of the Banqueting House.  Charles Stuart, as his death warrant states, was beheaded on Jan. 30, 1649. Before the execution, it was reported that he wore warmer clothing to prevent the cold weather causing any noticeable shivers that the crowd could have mistaken for fear  weakness.

Particularly in the years after 1630, the Puritans left for New England, supporting the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and other settlements. The large-scale Puritan emigration to New England then ceased, by 1641, with around 21,000 having moved across the Atlantic. This English-speaking population in America did not all consist of original colonists, since many returned to England shortly after arriving on the continent, but produced more than 16 million descendants. This so-called “Great Migration” is not so named because of sheer numbers, which were much less than the number of English citizens who emigrated to Virginia and the Caribbean during this time.  The rapid growth of the New England colonies (~700,000 by 1790) was almost entirely due to the high birth rate and lower death rate per year.

The term “Great Migration” usually refers to the migration in this period of English settlers, primarily Puritans to Massachusetts and the warm islands of the West Indies, especially the sugar rich island of Barbados, 1630-40. In fact, the area now called West Milford Township was called “New Barbados”, a name given to it by trade merchant Lewis Morris.  They came in family groups, rather than as isolated individuals and were motivated chiefly by a quest for freedom to practice their Puritan religion.

From 1630 through 1640, approximately 20,000 colonists came to New England.  The “Great Migration,” 1629-40, saw 80,000 people leave England, roughly 20,000 each to Ireland, New England, the West Indies, and the Netherlands. The immigrants to New England came from every county except Westmoreland, nearly half from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.  The distinction drawn is that the movement of colonists to New England was not predominantly male, but of families with some education, leading relatively prosperous lives. Winthrop’s noted words, a  City upon a Hill, referred to a vision of a new society, not just economic opportunity.  Some estimate that 7 to 11 percent of colonists returned to England after 1640, including about a third of the clergymen.

The Winthrop Fleet of 1630 of eleven ships, led by the flagship, the Arbella, delivered approximately 800 passengers to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Migration continued until Parliament was reconvened in 1640, at which point the scale dropped off sharply. In 1641, when the English Civil War began, some colonists returned to England to fight on the Puritan side, and many stayed, since Oliver Cromwell, himself an Independent, backed Parliament.

So why all this religious history? What do Pilgrims, Puritans and Presbyterians and the death of Charles I have to do with West Milford?  Well, Cromwell’s notion of a “headless” state didn’t last very long.  Charles’ son, Charles II, soon took his father’s place on the throne of England and vowed to avenge his father’s death by hunting down the judges who signed his death warrant.  Three of them had escaped to the American colonies and had taken refuge with the Puritans of the New Haven colonies.  For the time, New Haven was in a part of Connecticut not under English control. But the ideas of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were catching on and so was a reunion with England, and her army, which could protect them from native uprisings.

The Puritans preferred isolation, in order to do things their own way.  But other religions were encroaching on their territory and were favoring reunion with England.  The Puritans had to get out of Connecticut for the sake of their fugitives, their own lives, and their own religion.

The Governor of New York, taking upon himself the rule of New Jersey, invited Robert Treat of Milford, Conn., to inspect an ideal spot for isolationists on the western side of New York Bay.  The invitation already had induced a group of Long Islanders and New Englanders to found Elizabethtown in late 1664 and early 1665. Some of these Elizabethtowners were related to inhabitants of Milford and most were known by name or reputation.

Robert Treat of Milford accepted Gov. Nicolls’ “invitation.”

Published in: on October 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm  Comments (1)  

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