AP US History 1
4 September 2012
2 Men, 1 Deity, & the Birth of a Nation
The Puritan Church influenced everyday life for colonists during the early seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Every colonist who lived in a Puritan settlement was expected to attend Sabbath every Sunday. Here they would hear the word of God, and be instructed on how to live their lives. These sermons affected every decision the colonists made. Whether one had to decide to acquire a slave or not, they would look to the Church. Slavery was not frowned upon among the Puritans; they felt, if they had any slaves, that they had an obligation to keep them physically and spiritually healthy (Mount). If they wanted to befriend a new single woman to their town, their decision depended on what the Church would say. During colonial times, single persons were placed into homes, as for it was inappropriate for anyone to live alone (Vandergiff). When someone wanted to purchase items from a man or woman deemed inept to live in their society, they based their decision on what the Church would do. The Church had the power to outcast whomever they decided did not belong. The Puritan Church influenced the morals, the relationships, and the way of life for every colonial family living in their society; it not only influenced ideas; but it changed them in both beneficial and destructive ways.
The man and wife were shaped and molded by the Puritan influence. The man would be the head of the house, and the woman would take care of the house and the children. The Puritan Church was centered around the concept of patriarchy when it came to family (Vandergiff). Patriarchy was where the Puritan “religion taught that family roles were part of a continuous chain of hierarchical and delegated authority descending from God" (Vandergiff). The man provided for the family and was the head of the household. Yet, this did not mean that in God’s eyes the man was better or more important that the woman. Originally, a woman and a man were not considered equal. Women were thought to be below men due to their “moral weakness” as a result of Eve’s sin (original sin) in the Garden of Eden (Kearney). But other research suggests that a man and a woman who were married were considered equals, almost like the same individual. Women could have a life outside of their home, but her identity was in a way absorbed by her husband after marriage. She could still have freedoms like ownership of property or custody of children, especially if she was widowed, with her husband’s consent. Even with the Church towering over everyone, “political and philosophical influences were gradually leading to a more egalitarian status for women” (Vandergiff). Women were not as fatuous as people think they were then.
People were encouraged to have children, as many children as they could, probably because of the high mortality rate. Those children who did survive were ‘bent into shape’. Parents wanted to remove the original sin children were born with, per ‘suggestion’ of the Church. The Church was everything to those colonists that lived under it. The Puritans goal with children was to “break down a child’s sinful will and internalize respect for divinely instituted authority through weekly catechisms, repeated admonitions, physical beatings, and intense psychological pressure” (Vandergiff). If a child’s misbehavior was so bad, their parents could send them away to live with another family. There they would be like a servant, but still be cared for as that family’s own child (Vandergiff). As time progressed, parents did not find as much of a need to try to remove their child’s “original sin”. They saw them more as “blank slates”, and let them grow up to their own accordance, making adjustments where it was needed.
The morals and the relationships of the colonists were determined by the Church. Single persons during colonial times were looked down upon. They could be single for any