The religious beliefs of many Englanders influenced the settlement


religious beliefs of many Englanders influenced the settlement of North America
in the seventeenth century, as many people wanted to escape the religious rule
of the monarchy in order to obtain religious freedom. The first British colony
in America was established in Jamestown, which was situated in the Chesapeake
region of Virginia. The decision to colonise Jamestown in 1607, was made by the
Virginia Company of London. However, unlike many settlers in the seventeenth
century, they decision came from England wanting to assert it’s power overseas
by generating a profit through their agrarian society, rather than seeking freedom
from religious oppression. The first colony that was established primarily for
religious freedom was in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Plymouth was founded by a
group of religious separatists who were searching for a new place of settlement
for their community, due to the experience of religious persecution under the
rule of King James I. It was due to navigational inaccuracy that the ship they
were on, the Mayflower, arrived in Massachusetts, rather than Virginia. Due to
this, the settlers had not obtained approval from the crown to settle there,
which led to the creation of their own civil government. This was a highly
influential event in the settlement of North America, as the Mayflower Compact
is often cited to be America’s first constitution and an influence on the
Founding Fathers, during the revolution. Furthermore, in the 1620’s, Lord
Baltimore decided to establish his own colonial expansion in the New World.
After a failed attempt in settling in Newfoundland, he tried to relocate his
family and a group of Protestants and Catholics to the Chesapeake Bay region.
However, he died before his arrival, leaving his sons to finish his effort. His
sons, Cecil and Leonard Calvert, convinced the colonists to listen to them by
agreeing that they would allow them to worship God, in any way they pleased. Maryland,
the colony they established, was therefore highly influential in the settlement
of many religious settlers, due to the religious freedom it allowed.1


1630 and 1640, many Puritans began to arrive in New England due to burgeoning
persecution back home. After more settlers began to arrive, more independent
colonies were set up, including the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However, the
settlement of the Virginia and New England colonies created tensions between
the colonisers and the Natives. The New England settlers belittled the Native’s
pantheistic view on God, in comparison to their belief in a single supreme God.
As a result of this, the settlers decided to supersede their native values and
pressure them into becoming low-ranking English men and women, as they were
afraid that the low-ranking English men and women would turn against the colony.
Taylor argues, “by subordinating and converting the Indians, the Virginia
promoters meant to free up most of their land for the settlement of English
plantations.” 2  This perception of religious and cultural
superiority was carried by the English settlers and was influential in the settlement
of North America, as it allowed for the expansion of many English colonies. However,
in 1686, during the rule of King James II, the “Dominion of New England” was
introduced, which was the unification of the English and Mid-Atlantic colonies.
James pursued an administration of religious tolerance across the colonies,
through which he introduced the Church of England into Massachusetts, despite
protest from the Puritan leaders. This agitation, combined with other policies
of the union, caused many people to protest, ultimately leading to the
dissolution of the Dominion in 1689, after the Glorious Revolution. This was
highly influential in the settlement of North America, as the religious
tolerance of James II influenced the settlement of other religious minorities
in the colonies.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now


religious beliefs of many English settlers were influential in the advancement of
the colonies, and the settler’s decision to remain there. John Winthrop was a
leading Puritan figure, who was a prominent figure in the founding of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony, in the late 1620’s and early 1630’s. Winthrop
envisioned the colony as a Puritan “city upon a hill”, and this image was
significant in the development of the colony, government and religion in
surrounding colonies. Winthrop was believed to be highly influential in the
growth of the Puritan colonies and the decision to remain there, as he served
to be an example for Puritan reformers by creating a “godly community” in
However, although an increase in colonisation was successful, it can be argued
that Winthrop failed in his aim to create a “utopian community”4, as
he created religious tension through his disapproval of the antinomian views of
the other governors of the colony. Similarly, the colony of New Haven was
founded upon the Puritan ideals by which John Davenport, Theophilus Eaton and
other believers of the Puritan faith based their lives. The success of the
colony attracted more Puritan settlers and other believers, which allowed for
them to expand their colony into further towns and plantations. However, in the
early 1660’s, New Haven was used in the hiding of the three men who had signed
the legal order for the death of Charles I. This was detrimental for the
colony, as it became impoverished and powerless. This led to the colony of New
Haven to be absorbed by the colony of Connecticut, in 1665.5
Whilst the Puritan beliefs of Winthrop, Davenport and Eaton were essential in
the founding and settlement of some North American colonies, their distrust of
other believers proved to be a hindrance to the advancement of their colonies.


1674, following the influence of the Puritans, the Quakers tried to buy territory
in the colony of West Jersey. They believed that in order to live by their own
religion, they should buy their own land in America. However, due to the
hostility of the New England Puritans, it was difficult for them to settle. It
was not until 1681 that a large Quaker population settled in their new colony. In
1681, in order to repay the debt he owed to William Penn, King Charles II
granted Penn’s son and namesake a large piece of his American land, in order
for him to create the colony of Pennsylvania. William Penn was an early Quaker
and proponent of religious freedom, and he prided himself on creating a colony
that was free of political unrest. Penn acknowledged the difficulty in
persuading the English Quaker community to make the journey across the Atlantic
to Pennsylvania, however he was determined to succeed in the growth of his
colony. In order to entice settlers, he wrote a detailed prospectus



1 Roy Rogers, Maryland’s Protestant Revolution and the Problem of Religious Freedom,
accessed 16 December 2017

2 Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America, (New York:
Penguin Group, 2001)

The American Yawp,   16 December 2017

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.