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God, America, And The Pilgrim

English: One of the the bas-reliefs on the bas...

English: One of the the bas-reliefs on the base of the statue of John Bunyan in Bedford, sculpted by Joseph Edgar Boehm. They each represent a scene from “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jess touched on something important yesterday, in her article on God, Guns, and America. Indeed many did return to England, especially in the early years. America was a hard place, and especially in Plymouth Plantation, they made it even worse.

For the first few years the Puritans insisted on a communal lifestyle, they very much attempted to live like they understood the early church to have been, a commune. Indeed Karl Marx’s immortal (and obscene) slogan applied very well to them: “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”.

The result was, as it always was and is, they starved in a land of plenty. In a couple of years William Bradford, who was elected to 30 one year terms as governor, divided the land amongst the settlers and advised them to do their best. They thus paralleled the example of Jamestown in the period of 1607-1609. In both cases was as stated from Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians

“If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

And so was recognized very early in what was to become America the essential role of private enterprise.

But something else is hiding in here. The settlers in New England, like those in Virginia, were not only running away from persecution in England (which was plenty real, as the fires at Smithfield indicated). These men and women, with Bradford (a very staunch Yorkshire separatist) were going to something. As Mr. Sales has been explaining on the Jess’s Watchtower they were very familiar with the work of John Bunyan, specifically A Pilgrim’s Progress. They were very devout and they decidedly identified with Christian on his journey to the Celestial City.

Note that the video is nearly 2 hours but it is also very good.

This is one of the foundations of American exceptionalism for this is the basis of the enduring belief in America as the “Shining City on the Hill” that President Reagan spoke so movingly of.

But it didn’t stop there either. There is credible evidence that some of the regicides of James II found a reasonably comfortable existence in Massachusetts. The so-called Cavaliers of Virginia and the southern colonies came from nothing so much as the Royalists who lost to Oliver Cromwell. As well, there were the Scots-Irish, often Baptist, that spread from the south into the Old South and Northwest.

This was still going on right into the eighteenth century as the Wesley brothers had much to do with the founding of Georgia, and the Carrolltons, who were Catholic gentry, were the founders of Maryland, explicitly as a haven for Catholics after the exclusionary acts. Not to mention that notorious freethinker, Roger Williams, who even welcomed Jews (whom Edward I had banished from England) to Rhode Island. As well as the Dutch Reformed in New York, and the Mennonites (known to us as the Pennsylvania Dutch) and William Penn’s Quakers in Pennsylvania.

The founders were far from Godless men, but they were of many sects and faiths, almost all of which distrusted each other, with cause. This is why the 1st Amendment exists, not to keep God out of the public square but, to avoid the religious wars and persecutions of the old world. As written, there was nothing that prevented Maryland from requiring Maryland to have a Catholic governor, if it so desired. Or any other combination.

And it continued as the mostly Catholic Irish fled the Potato Famine, as the mostly Lutheran Germans fled the failed revolutions of 1848, as the Polish/Russian Jews fled the pogroms of the late 19th century, all found an eventually congenial home here. And all contributed. And now we are concerned with the mostly Catholic Hispanics who have (with reason) given up on our impenetrable immigration laws in their quest for a better life for their families.

So it has ever been in America.

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Categories: American Values, Christianity, History, Immigration, Literature

Tags: , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. Not to argue, but as I lived for a while in the county where the Calverts, the family of Lord Baltimore who founded Maryland – not the Carrolls who were actually Irish and came over much later – landed in 1634 (St. Mary’s River off the Potomac), after the Glorious Revolution in 1688 Catholicism was illegal in the entire British Empire until the 19th century. It was the American Revolution that legalized the Church in what were the colonies after almost 90 years. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the order that traveled most frequently with explorers were the Jesuits, and the Calverts brought a few with them. The Jesuits were pretty used to persecution by that time. John Carroll, a Jesuit, the first bishop of the United States and relative of Daniel Carroll, actually was a contemporary of the Revolution. He was named bishop in 1790, founded Georgetown, etc.

    There’s a lot more to all of that, but that’s the gist.

    • Now that I think about it, landing was in 1632 and the colony was 1634 or something like that. 350 was going on when we lived there. There was this 4th grade play my brothers were in and they came home saying, “Mom, we need costumes.” Some things just stick in memory, and Mom dressing “Jesuits” as Dominicans was one of them.

      • Thanks again, far more than I knew about it, don’t know why but I never read much about Maryland, and have only visited, and then mostly the Civil War sites.

    • You’re right, of course, I claim a brain spasm :-)

      I do seem to remember reading (in several places) that Catholicism was winked at quite obviously in Maryland, but I’ve been wrong before.

      Thanks.

      • Catholicism was winked at until Cromwell in England, actually. In a very short period, relatively speaking, there was a lot of back and forth.

      • I knew that it went back and forth a lot, and have read of priest-holes and such. Cromwell wasn’t very good at winking at much of anything. A dour man he was.

      • It was more like hiding in plain sight. There’s a book titled Shadowplay by a Shakespeare scholar named Claire Apsworth that has a lot of info, and puts forth some really interesting theories about Shakepeare’s plays.

      • Another one for my wishlist, the way it’s growing lately I’d better win Powerball soon, besides I’ll need to retire to get the reading done. :-)

  2. The more of such as this one reads, the more obvious it becomes why history is so abysmally provided in public education: The facts fail to support the desired narrative. Kindly keep them coming!

    Re persecuting Catholics,that has been in decline ever since the indicated times but even so, it wasn’t till after Kennedy’s election as President that a Catholic could anticipate a management career in most of American industry. Prior to that time, the utilities were the main opportunities open to them. Hourly labor jobs were no problem but management was closed…

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