There’s a kind of sucker punch in many presentations of American history, wherein we are told that the Puritans left England for America because they had suffered religious persecution—and then the Puritans persecuted other religions here! We’re given the impression that they were looking for freedom of religion and then denied it to others.
In the 1650’s several of our ancestors became Quakers and enduried escalating fines, prison, banishment, whipping and ear cutting. Some of these ancestors were closely involved when four Quakers were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs in Boston in 1659, 1660 and 1661. Richard SCOTT’s daughter Patience, in June, 1659, a girl of about eleven years, having gone to Boston as a witness against ‘the persecution of the Quakers, was sent to prison; others older being banished. Today we ask, “What kind of people put an 11 year old girl in jail? “
In our 2011 imagination, the Quakers are the conscientious objector good guys while the Puritans are the hypocritical tyrants. Almost any book you read about the Massachusetts Bay Colony gives you the feeling that the moment those people set foot on shore in America they started betraying their own values. Objectivity is hard to come by when you’re reading about the Puritans. Is our modern perspective accurate?