Puritan Inheritance

Puritan Inheritance

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Today, people describe the Puritans with their biased point of view. It is not unfathomable why people do not like the Puritans. The Puritans’ society and today’s society are very different. Puritan society was very restrained; people could only believe in God and the Bible was the law. Unlike Puritan society, today’s society does not restrain religion. Even though Puritans had bad influences on today’s society, Puritans played a pivotal role in constructing the USA. If you look around more carefully, you will easily realize that some things that you took for granted were actually influenced by the Puritans, and they are very significant and necessary to today’s society. The Puritans’ influences on today’s United States are found in the areas of economy, government, education, church, and social mores.
The Puritans’ influences on the economy are very palpable. On the US dollar you can clearly see the statement “In God we trust.” Money is the most significant tool in an economy; therefore, a statement about God on the money of the USA accentuates the Puritans’ role in determining the economy of the United States. Today, people recommend frugality. Even people like Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, and Warren Buffet do not use their money prodigally. Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, only has $100,000 car; Carlos Slim, the second richest man in the world is known for his stinginess – he even checks how much he spent for his socks; lastly, Warren Buffet, the third richest man in the world, is known for his frugality and generosity. He still has his shabby car and his house is considerably smaller than other rich people. The reason all people try to avoid prodigality is also Puritan’s influence. Puritans recommended poverty: “Even though a member of the group became very poor, the Puritans did not kick him out but even extolled him for his industry and frugality” (Beeke 101).
Today, the system of the United States’ economy is capitalism. The definition of capitalism is “the economy system in which businesses are owned and run for profits by individuals and not by the states” (Longman 261). This system of economy reflects the Puritans’ life in the USA. The Puritans landed on uncultivated land several centuries ago. To establish all the milieus similar to Europe, Puritans had to do a lot of things. However, they did not have a government like Europe because they did not want to be subordinated under a king’s or dictator’s power.

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Therefore, each Puritan ran his own business to accomplish their goal of constructing a new society, and this idea descended to us. “Calvinistic Protestantism as a theological belief system exerted an important influence on the emergence and growth of capitalism as a mode of economic organization” (Sociumas). As Puritans became more inured to the local geography and to their businesses, they began to establish new industries in America. Those industries are still influencing today’s industries. “They established fur, fishing, and shipping industries” (Wiegand 40).
The USA’s system of government is a democracy. The ones who originated democracy are the ancient Greeks, but the people who firstly applied it to the government in America were the Puritans. Their church government was based on the voting system. All the officials in the church were voted in by people. Also the Puritans influenced Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the USA who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and heavily influenced the Bill of Rights. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence using the ideas of John Knox, a Scottish reformer who directly the affected Puritans. “John Knox believed that all men are born with the same right” (The rise of Puritanism 214). Based on John Knox’s idea, Jefferson wrote “All men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence. Moreover, Jefferson inspired his fellow politicians to create the Bill of Rights, which protects the rights of people. The Bill of Rights says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or limiting the freedom of speech, or of the press, nor the right to peaceably assemble.”
The Puritans were very explicit about their laws. For example, Sir Thomas Dale, was very strict in applying the laws. “His strict application of severe laws disciplining the Jamestown community probably saved the colony from extinction … Dale thought of himself as a laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, as a member of Israel building up a “heavenly New Jerusalem” (Hall 67). The thoughts and actions of Sir Thomas Dale are reflected in the US government today; the US government sets its goal to build the peace of the world. Just like Sir Thomas saw himself as the servant of the Lord, the USA sees itself as the ‘tool’ for construction of a placid world – a Utopian World. Puritans also dreamt of a Utopian world – God ruling society. Even though the Puritans’ and the Americans’ concept of a Utopian society were different, their goals were similar.
One influence of the Puritans that all should appreciate is education. At the time of the Puritans, only aristocrats could be educated. However, the Puritans, who saw all people with parity, offered education to all people in the colony. “They set up a system of compulsory free education and institutions of higher learning” (Washington State University). Moreover, Puritans established all the “dream” schools in USA. “They founded Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth and Columbia in order to ensure a steady stream of trained ministers” (Church outline). The Puritans provided education not only to adults but also to children:
“For the first time in history, free schooling was offered for all children. Puritans formed the first formal school in 1635, called the Roxbury Latin School. Four years later, the first American College was established; Harvard in Cambridge. Children aged 6-8 attended a "Dame school" where the teacher, who was usually a widow, taught reading. "Ciphering" (math) and writing were low on the academic agenda” (Infoplease).
Since Puritan society was founded on the Bible, Bible was the key subject taught in school. The Bible was central because it provided maxims for daily life to the Puritans. “Reading of the Bible was necessary to living a pious life. The education of the next generation was important to further "purify" the church and perfect social living” (Kizer). Unfortunately, today, public schools and all the colleges that the Puritans founded reject God.
The word “Puritan” originated from the word “to purify.” Puritans tried to purify the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church was founded by the king of England. Because Puritans strongly opposed against the king of England, they were persecuted severely. The Puritans left their homeland and settled on the New Continent. Puritans could leave their homeland gamely because they had faith in God. Their belief system was totally based on the Bible and God. They went to America only with the Bible and their faith. Most protestant churches in the USA, no matter what domination, were influenced by the Puritans. For example, almost all churches today known at Sunday school. The Puritans were interested in education for their children because they wanted to raise their children under God’s laws. Therefore, they taught the Bible to their children, and today this tradition has become became Sunday school. “Great pains were taken to warn their members and especially their children of the dangers of the world. Religiously motivated, they were exceptional in their time for their interest in the education of their children” (Kizer).
The Puritans established many colleges to train ministers. Still today, the ideas of Puritans affect pastors. For example Jonathan Edwards, who was an eloquent and elegant minister, studied in Harvard and spread the Puritanism to numerous churches and pastors. The well educated Puritan pastors spread the Puritanism and influenced churches today. “The Puritan ministers were elegant, well formed, exegetical renditions of scriptures... with a healthy dose of fear woven throughout the fabric of the literary construction” (Puritanism 809). Those well trained ministers preach God’s Word every Sunday in their churches.
Many of the Puritan laws are not still laws today. Instead of being legitimated as law, they remain as social mores. The Ten Commandments are not laws today, but many of them still are respected and obeyed by Americans today. For example, adultery, “Adultery was punishable by death until 1632 when the penalty was ameliorated to a public whipping and the forced wearing of the letter “A” sewed onto the clothing” (Wiegand 50). People do not get punished under law for adultery; however, those who committed adultery might be derided or alienated by society. Also idleness and slothfulness could be punished at the period of Puritans, but not today. However, the US society still encourages people to be diligent and assiduous. “The Protestant work ethic was the belief that hard work was an honor to God which would lead to a prosperous reward. Any deviations from the normal way of Puritan life met with strict disapproval and discipline” (Kaizer).
There is a saying in Korea “People do not know a man’s hundred good deeds, but they know his one bad deed.” Puritans have contributed to today’s society in numerous ways. Even though there was one negative thing about the Puritans, if they have done hundred good things, we should appreciate the hundred and jettison the one. Puritans were the first settlers in America; their accomplishments made today’s society possible. It is not right to pan the Puritans and bury all their good achievements with their negative ones. Puritans should be venerated for their beneficiary attainments for American citizens today.

Work Cited

Beek, Joel. Meet the Puritans. New York: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006.
“Connection between Puritanism and Economy.” 25 Oct. 2007
Hall, David. Puritans in the New World. USA: Princeton UP, 2004.
“Influence on American Society.” 9 Oct. 2007
Kizer, Kay. “Puritans.” 25 Oct. 2007
“Puritanism in the New England.” 9 Oct. 2007
Safra, Jacob. Puritanism/The rise of Puritanism. Encyclopeadia 9/Encyclopeadia 26. USA:
Britanica, 1903.
“The Puritans: 1600-1699.” 9 Oct. 2007
Wiegand, Steve. U.S History for Dummies. USA: ID G Book World Wide, Inc., 2001.
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