What was up with the Puritans

My class is reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and I have some questions about the Puritans.

I know they saw crime and sin as the same thing but how did they define guilt, sin, crime, and adultery? How were they punished when they commited a crime? Lets say they were guilty of the crime of adultery, was the man and woman punished in the same way?

Some Puritans communities probably didn’t have the same problems as other so did all Puritan communities punish in the same way, or did the pastor of the community punish in a different way? Under certain circumstances, were some crimes viewed as less offensive.

In the book they put her on the scaffold and have her walk around with an A for adultery, did the puritans find it necessary to humiliate offenders?

I read about the time when the Puritans beat a Quaker, is this how they treated all the people who didn’t share their beliefs.

And with all the rules to follow, what was life like during the Puritan Age?

and whatever happened to the Puritans?

TeemingONE - Puritan’s are still around, just not in the guise of your book. And they do not have the same rules and punnishments. Thank God!! oops excuse the Pun.

As for what life was like during Puritanical times, that is pretty easy. Very structured and hard, they lived by tough moral code. Puritans lived by the law of the church, they just took it to the tenth power. Punnishments, included banishment, solitary confinement, humility as in the Scarlet Letter, but the worse punnishments was being told you were going to hell. Many lived in such fear of the the Devil.

They defined their crimes by the word of God. You have broken a commandment, etc…etc…Don’t forget the Puritans held the salem witch trials. Murdering innocent people because they were different, or because they somehow went against certain docturins of the church. Men and women were hung or burned to death. Giles Cory a famous salem-ite, was crushed to death with large stone slabs, until his chest caved in. This is well documented.

For more info on the Puritans, google search puritan/giles cory/puritan lifestyle…

Thank you for your help Phlosphr, I think I will google this.

DOn’t overdo it; the Puritans apparently were quite tolerant of several things. A child born 6 months after the wedding was considered legitimate, for example. All in all, they seem to have mosty been pretty happy and productive people. I suppose every culture has its dark side.

I googled what I wanted to find and it gave me a couple days worth of reading, can anyone give me straight answers to the questions?

Try a google search for “Max Weber” and/or “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”

alright I did, but it didn’t answer most of my questions. Is there a particular section I should be reading.

Don’t rely only on Hawthorne’s novel for factual information about the 17th century Puritans of Massachusetts. It is fiction, after all, and he changed and invented things to suit his purposes.

Phlosphr, where do you get your information? Witches were never burned at the stake in the Salem witch trials. They were hanged, or in one case, pressed to death in an effort to make the accused confess.

And before we consider executing witches to be a phenomenon of American Puritans, keep in mind that while 23 alleged witches were executed at Salem, in Europe 30,000 to 50,000 people accused of witchcraft were killed during the 400 years from 1400 to 1800.

Might I suggest a book? * The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony *
by James Deetz and Patricia Scott Deetz.

It’s a book about the Pilgrims, but gives good detail about life in early America.

In 1632, Plymouth colony enacted a law punishing adultery with death. Seven years later, the law was amended, reducing the penalty for adultery from death to branding. That same year, a woman found guilty of adultery was publicly whipped, then dragged through the streets of the colony and forced to wear the letters “AD” on her left sleeve. She was notified that if she removed the letters from her clothing, her face would be burned with a hot iron.

In 1636, Roger Williams, Puritan pastor at Salem and Plymouth, was convicted of heresy and banished from Puritan Massachusetts for his belief that church and state should be separate.

In 1637, Mrs. Anne Hutchinson was banished from Puritan Massachusetts for opposing Puritan laws mandating, among other items, church attendance and “reverence toward ministers.” The following year, the Rev. John Wheelwright, a Puritan clergyman in Boston and Braintree, was banished from Massachusetts for supporting Anne Hutchinson’s ideas on civil freedom and tolerance. Wheelwright and 36 male followers then established the settlement of Exeter, New Hampshire.

A 1647 law barred Catholic priests from entering Massachusetts. Penalty for a first offense was banishment. Penalty for a second offense was death.

In Boston in 1651, Baptists Dr. John Clarke and Obediah Holmes were arrested in Lynn, Mass., for holding services in a private home. Clarke was imprisoned, Holmes was publicly whipped. Eight years later, Quakers William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson were publicly hanged and their bodies thrown into an open pit for preaching “Quakerism” in Puritan Boston.

what characterized puritan relgion and governemt?

It was a religious movement, inspired by Calvinism within the Church of England, to “purify” it of Catholic and “pagan” influences. Politically, it supported Parliament over the King, leading to the Civil War.

More specifically, what characterized Puritanism religiously was an emphasis on the bible, a congregationalist form of church government, the understanding that all men are sinful and of need of divine grace, and a commitment to live one’s life to reflect the divine grace within you.

According to my old professor Michael Finlayson, Puritanism didn’t really exist as a movement. (OK, I know that’s just a link to his book on the subject. Bear with me.) He argued that what we call “the Puritans”, and what he called “the godly”, were just a loose collection of evangelical Calvinists who were polarized by their opposition to the official Laudian or “high” church. He doesn’t think that Puritan necessarily was the same as Parliamentarian, and that there were some “royal” Calvinists floating around.

Having taken his course, I have to say I have some sympathy for that view. I think Captain Amazing is right to say that the Puritans, or whatever you want to call them, generally desired a “cleansing” of the Anglican church. But I think it’s a stretch to say it was a coherent movement or denomination. They had a goal, but not much of a plan. Indeed, Oliver Cromwell ended up cracking down on some of their more radical ideas.

Are we doing your homework for you? :dubious:

The idea that the criminal law ought to be based on God’s law was a commonplace of English legal thought of the period - almost everyone, ‘puritan’ or not, accepted that. The real difference between England and New England was instead that, whereas in England, certain categories of moral misdemeanours were reserved for the church courts, the absence of church courts in New England meant that there these had to be dealt with by the secular authorities. The offences and punishments for such behaviour in New England were pretty much the same as had long applied back in England.

Cory’s punishment was unremarkable and indicates little about the nature of ‘puritanism’. His crime was refusing to plead before the commission of oyer and terminer, a secular body appointed by the Crown. This was not torture, in the sense that they were not looking for a confession. Crushing someone to death in this way was simply the standard English common law punishment for those refusing to cooperate with a law court.

Albion’s Seed by Fischer, has a thorough discussion of Puritan culture. Actually, it sounds pretty liveable…

Walloon - asked where do I get me information?
Phlosphr’s answer - I spent my entire life living in New England - except 4 years in Grad school in AZ - now at 35 I enjoy doing more personal research about where I live. My wife and I visit Salem every October for the festivals, and we have participated in our fair share of re-enactments.

No Puritans did not burn people at the stake, but the Abanaki, Mohegans, and Algoncquians Indian’s did.