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Saturday, November 22. 2014
This is a re-post:
One historical detail I picked up in reading Philbrick's wonderful Mayflower is that the Pilgrims only permitted civil marriage ceremonies - no religion involved, and no preacher present.
As Calvinists, the Pilgrims/Puritans/Separatists of colonial New England viewed the Anglican sacraments as Papist, and thus representative of the Anti-Christ - and they meant it. As a consequence, Congregational Churches, the heirs of the Puritan movement, still have no sacraments per se, although many have liberalized (or backslided?) to the extent of doing baptism, communion - and, of course, weddings which, even if not technically sacramental, are viewed as sacred vows. People long for a touch of the sacred and sacramental.
It is fascinating to be reminded that our nation's deepest roots are in Calvinist theocracy: pre-enlightenment, for better or worse. They viewed the Indians as equals (though living in spiritual darkness), but they hung some Quakers in Boston as blasphemers (but mainly tried to just send them away).
They even hung an ancestor of mine, who ran away from her husband and kids in Kingston, Rhode Island and was caught on a trail outside of Boston, headed north. Her crime? She refused to return home. We suspect she was not overly fond of her husband, who had previously been suspected of throwing his first wife overboard on the way to Rhode Island in 1640.
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"they hung some Quakers in Boston as blasphemers"
Hubby's ancestors burned the witches in Salem. Mine were mostly planting tobacco and fraternizing with Indians in Virginia. Here is a book you might enjoy. Old, read in college, but good.
Looked at Puritan journals and analyzed patterns of religious experience, childrearing and conceptions of the self. Phillip Greven.
Off to the women's church supper, leaving family with leftover Boston beans and brown bread. Get in touch with your PUritan roots, guys!
That's fascinating. I didn't know that they only permitted civil ceremonies. This is tangential, but if memory serves me correctly, my parents told me that either the State of New York or the City of New York did not recognize church weddings when they married in the early 1950s. They had a civil wedding at city hall one week and then got married at church on the following weekend. They have always treated the date of their 'sacramental' wedding as their anniversary.
The Puritans were the originators of "companionate marriage," and so were among the first to tolerate divorce. John Milton was eloquent on this score. Those strict Calvinists were the opposite of the anti-sexual stereotype we give them today. They were indeed extremely rigid about the rules surrounding sexual relations, but believed such relations were important to "knit the hearts of the husband and wife together."
As to the Quakers in the Bay Colony, I am descended from both the victims and the persecutors. While the Puritans were indeed brutal and intolerant, it is worth noting that the Quakers endeared themselves by such acts as breaking into worship services to throw blood upon the altar in England, or the pulpit in New England. In contrast to the Puritans who would force miscreants to wear a letter on their clothing - A for adultery, L for liar, G for gossip - the early, peaceful Quakers would brand the letter onto the offender's forehead.
For the best in depth understanding of the folkways of the four settling regions of the colonies (New England, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Appalachia) I recommend David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed. It will change how you understand colonial history forever.
You’ve done gone destroyed my grade school play / Rockwellian mental image of the Pilgrims.
Things must have been really tough before they achieved religious freedom.
Had an ancestor in the Salem community during the Salem witch trials who was "pressed to death for standing mute." Our early ancestors were not politically correct, bless their hearts. Religious freedom was frequently paired with religious prejudice. But at least they had the guts to act in terms of right and wrong, as they saw it.
Not so many people do today, I'm afraid.
"she was not overly fond of her husband, who had previously been suspected of throwing his first wife overboard on the way to Rhode Island in 1640."
And so...she had problems with this? The guy probably
needed a bit of space in the morning. Cramped cabins and all.
My favorite story about the Puritans is how they hanged beggars. They were dead serious about the war on poverty.
Had a wife like yall's ancestor who hankered to run, Bird Dog.
I told her if she could make it to the first rise 'fore i could cap her, she'd be free and thar wouldn't be no hangin'.
It encouraged her to run quick and i sure enjoyed watchin' her disappear.
Did you know that Squanto was a baptized Catholic? He was captured and enslaved by the English, and freed by Spanish Franciscans. The word thanksgiving derives from Catholic usage of Eucharist.
I was interested in the "Mayflower" book linked above, but sceptic that I am, I always read the bad reviews. Semi-literate Amazon review copied below, what do y'all think?
"This review is from: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War (Hardcover)
What a disappointment! The author goes out of his way to highlight the worst possible view of the Pilgrims. He almost ignores the fact that William Bradford was elected 31 times Governor of Plymouth Colony and during THOSE decades the "myth" of the Pilgrims was no myth -- it was true. Bradford was a fabulous leader and Chief Massasoit and Bradford supported each other in PEACE for all of their lives.
The author is most critical of the Pilgrims decades AFTER Bradford and Massasoit were gone. He hardly mentions that Bradford for decades DID embrace our nations most treasured values -- democracy (gosh -- Bradford led with town meetings!), separation of church and state (no religious leaders held political office while Bradford was Governor), free enterprise (tossing the original socialist system overboard), and trial by jury (12 jurors). Bradford is the "grandfather of America" and all of New England, and many Natives, mourned his death.
Bradford wanted a small community, and was OPPOSED to Europeans coming over the sea and grabbing land, but you'd never know it to read Philbrick's book.
Philbrick suggests Bradford was naive, trusting the merchant backers, but he did so when there was no choice. Why did Philbrick omit the examples of Bradford's shrewdness ... when he personally uncovered a plot to overthrow Plymouth and exposed the plotters... or when the King sent a new governor and some at Plymouth wanted to overthrow the man, but Bradford wisely and correctly waited the man out, saying, "Governor Gorges hates it here, and he'll soon return to England" (which he did)? He omitted 90% of the positive facts about Bradford and the Pilgrims during the Bradford years.
Philbrick makes a big deal of the Pilgrims stealing seed corn from the Natives. But they had just landed in the New World, had heard nothing but horror stories about the savages, and .. by the way ... after meeting and making peace with the Natives, PAID them back. The author mentions Bradford taking the helm of a fishing boat, but downplays his heroism -- the colony was about to starve and no one else would said the ship, so Bradford sailed into tracherous waters, at great personal risk (and with success).
Bradford enabled the New World to become the United States. No Bradford, no US. The author seems to think it was easy for the Pilgrims and the many non-Pilgrims on the Mayflower to form a peaceful community; even after describing all the failed colonies, Philbrick hardly gives Bradford credit for building the houses, government, legal system, economic system, judiciary, and foreign relations. But Bradford pulled off a miracle, and he did it with courage, humility, tolerance, brilliance, honesty, and respect (of Natives and of the colonists who elected him 31 times).
Plymouth was overrun by Puritans who, under Winthrop, was a nasty theocracy. The author criticizes Bradford's intolerance, yet he opened the doors to Quakers and others persecuted elsewhere. True -- he didn't want the Quakers to stay, becuase they were disruptive )stripping naked and screaming during their church services). But Philbrick doesn't mention this. This Week magazine, in the current issue, gives a scathing review of Philbrick, saying his history was unscholarly, and for some reason he calls a "hero" the white man who chopped the Indian leader into 4 parts. My criticism is that the author must have deliberately wanted to do a politically correct "hatchet job" on the Pilgrims, downplaying the wonderful human values and leadership strengths of Bradford, implying that he was responsible for evils by the colonists long after he left office.
Philbrick pretends to be a historian, when in fact he deliberately ommitted positives in order to do his version of scalping the Pilgrims.
Dr. B. Smart"
Hanged = bad (at least from your perspective)
Hung = good
Two points re: that husband of you ancestor....
1) While we all love and deeply cherish our betrothed which of us, after being stuck on a small and leaky boat with her for 60+ days, would not think quite thoroughly 'bout the possibility of pitching the Dear Thing overboard. Just sayin'.
2) Are you certain the shipboard wife was alive at the time of her, umm... disembarkment? After all, some people did die during the crossing and needed to be disposed of. Burial plots were in short supply.
Bird Dog-- As a Presbyterian (one of the two original branches of the Puritans, along with the Congregationalists), I don't think your statement about there being no sacraments in the Congregationalist churches is correct.
My understanding is that the Puritans (both Presbyterians and Congregationalists) only recognized two sacraments, which are those that were specifically instituted and commanded in Scripture by Jesus: Baptism (Matthew 28:18-20) and Communion (Luke 22:19). Others recognized by the Catholic Church (e.g., marriage, confession, confirmation, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders), they rejected because they were not specifically commanded by Christ.
One of the reasons the Quakers were considered beyond the pale and persecuted by the Puritans is that the Quakers did reject all sacraments, including baptism and communion. This, among other Quaker beliefs, made the Quakers heretics in the eyes of the Puritans.
Catholics, on the other hand, consider marriage to be sacramental because they believe it to be ordained by God, even if not specifically commanded by Jesus. There is ample evidence in Scripture to support this position as well. In the end, what side you come down on is what meaning you consider to be encompassed by the word "sacrament."
In your post you have hit on one reason why there is such confusion as to what marriage means as a legal matter in the United States. In States where the Puritan view of marriage prevailed, first New England and later moving westward into places like Ohio and many other States (such as my state, Hawaii), marriage was viewed as a civil matter and the minister performing the marriage is only acting as an agent of the State. That's why often the minister will say, even in a religious ceremony, that "by the authority vested in me by the State of X, I hereby pronounce you man and wife."
In other states that have an Anglican or Catholic background, either directly, e.g., Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana, or by virtue of the adherents of those churches being those who populated the state, the law tends to recognize the sacramental primacy of marriage as a rite performed by the church and the religious marriage is then acknowledged and recognized by the civil government.
Because of these and other reasons, over the years the lines have gotten blurred and confused about what is the role of the church and the role of the state in marriage.
By the way, I read the Philbrick book on the Mayflower and enjoyed it. I didn't find it as negative as the review printed in another comment above, although I did think it tragic how the good relationship between the Pilgrims and the Indians eventually broke down. People tend to forget that there had been more than 50 years of largely peaceful relations prior to King Philip's War, and by that time many of the Indians had become Christians.
The reviewer obviously has a hair across. Philbrick has done a good job with all of his books including "Mayflower". He doesn't sugar coat the history which usually sets some off.
Personally, I think he's an outstanding writer and while he does do some "interpretation", he sticks to the facts.
I just finished "Mayflower" and am waiting on "The Last Stand" which was on my Christmas list. :>)
"....not overly fond of her husband, who had previously been suspected of throwing his first wife overboard on the way to Rhode Island in 1640."
Was it just me or did anybody else find that sentence funny?
Gotta be me.
Big Al ... As far as the hanged/hung thing goes, I once heard a grammarian say, "Being hanged is a very bad thing; being hung, on the other hand, is a gift from God."
Thanks, Tom. I trust your judgement, so maybe I'll go ahead and pick it up.
(And did I really call myself a "sceptic" above?! Embarrassing. Meant skeptic, of course.)
I probably deserve "hanged," sinner that I am; fortunately God is merciful!
"Congregational Churches, the heirs of the Puritan movement, still have no sacraments per se, although many have liberalized (or backslided?) to the extent of doing baptism, communion ..."
Of course the Congregational Churches had sacraments. See the Savoy Declaration, chapters 28 & 29.
The Savoy Declaration (slightly modified) was adopted as the Confession of 1680, and was printed as a book of doctrine and government for the churches of Massachusetts.
The Savoy Declaration of 1658
The whole "what is marriage?" debate is taking on increased significance in light of this (which was separately referenced in your Saturday links):
"The Marriage Pledge" (First Things)
I am one of those who believes that at this point Christians need to get out of the secular marriage industry controlled by the government by simply being married in church. It would be optional whether you would also get a government license.
Puritans, and their American descendents the Congregationalists, viewed the Bible as a blueprint to be followed exactly by the Church. Since only baptism and the Supper were commanded by Jesus, then these were observed. Marriage certainly was done, but not as a sacrament. Here is the text of the Savoy Declaration on the sacraments.
Of The Sacraments
Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by Christ, to represent him and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him, and solemnly to engage us to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.
There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.
The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution; which contains, together with a precept authorising the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.
There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Lord's Supper; neither of which may be dispensed by any but a minister of the Word lawfully called.
The Sacraments of the Old Testament, in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were for substance the same with those of the New.
I just have to comment on how much I enjoyed the hanged/hung comments but it reminds me of how much I miss Marianne! How I wish I could have met her!
Sometimes these reprised comments even introduce me to a me that I have long forgotten...
Yes, missing Marianne, especially when her comments come up in the archives. Such a lady!
Close to what it should be now.
I have long thought the European model, as I understand it, of a civil ceremony and a religious one.
One for the Law of Caesar (to paraphrase), on for the Law of G*d.
I think it is interesting that so many regulars on Maggies have roots that go back in NE. I had Dutch farmers of a similar vintage as your Uxoricideal relative. Passafists during the war. Thus causing consternation among modern day Aunties for being refused membership in the DAR.