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- The fact is, there were all kinds of Puritans. There were dismal precisians, like William Prynne, illiberal and vulgar fanatics, the Tribulation Wholesomes, Hope-on-high Bombys, and Zeal-of-the-land Busys, whose absurdities were the stock in trade of contemporary satirists from Johnson to Butler. But there were also gentlemen and scholars, like Fairfax, Marvell, Colonel Hutchinson, Vane, whose Puritanism was consistent with all elegant tastes and accomplishments. Was Milton’s Puritanism hurtful to his art? No and yes. It was in many ways an inspiration; it gave him zeal, a Puritan word much ridiculed by the Royalists; it gave refinement, distinction, selectness, elevation to his picture of the world. But it would be uncritical to deny that it also gave a certain narrowness and rigidity to his view of human life.
- Henry A. Beers, "Milton’s Tercentenary", in The Connecticut Wits and Other Essays (1920), p. 230.
- The much-ballyhooed arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England in the early 1600s was indeed a response to persecution that these religious dissenters had experienced in England. But the Puritan fathers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not countenance tolerance of opposing religious views. Their “city upon a hill” was a theocracy that brooked no dissent, religious or political.
The most famous dissidents within the Puritan community, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, were banished following disagreements over theology and policy. From Puritan Boston’s earliest days, Catholics (“Papists”) were anathema and were banned from the colonies, along with other non-Puritans. Four Quakers were hanged in Boston between 1659 and 1661 for persistently returning to the city to stand up for their beliefs.
- The Puritans in New England were not immediately presented with an Indian problem, for diseases introduced earlier by trading ships along the coast had badly decimated the Indian population. Yet when the Pequots resisted the migration of settlers into the Connecticut Valley in 1637, a party of Puritans surrounded the Pequot village and set fire to it. About five hundred Indians were burned to death or shot while trying to escape; the Whites devoutly offered up thanks to God that they had lost only two men. The woods were then combed for any Pequots who had managed to survive, and these were sold into slavery. Cotton Mather was grateful to the Lord that "on this day we have sent six hundred heathen souls to hell."
- Peter Farb, Man's Rise to Civilization (1968)
- It is the night-black Massachusetts legendry which packs the really macabre 'kick', Here is the material for a really profound study in group neuroticism; for certainly, no one can deny the existence of a profoundly morbid streak in the Puritan imagination....The very pre-ponderance of passionately pious men in the colony was virtually an assurance of unnatural crime; insomuch as psychology now proves the religious instinct to be a form of transmuted eroticism precisely parallel to the transmutations in other directions which respectively produce such things as sadism, hallucination, melancholia, and other mental morbidities. Bunch together a group of people deliberately chosen for strong religious feelings, and you have a practical guarantee of dark morbidities expressed in crime, perversion, and insanity. This was aggravated, of course, by the Puritan policy of rigorously suppressing all the natural outlets of excuberant feeling--music, laughter, colour, pageantry, and so on. To observe Christmas Day was once a prison offence....
- The Puritan hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.
- Thomas Macaulay, History of England (1849-1861), Volume I, chapter 3.
- Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
- In Puritan Massachusetts, any woman pregnant through rape was prosecuted for fornication.
- Klein: Puritan Boston was described as “the common receptacle of pirates of all nations,” and John Winthrop described a 1646 visit by pirates to Plymouth as “divine providence.” How did the Puritans and Pilgrims reconcile their support of piracy with their morality?
- Dolan: They were no different than any of their fellow colonists in trying to survive any way they could. Plymouth was in dire straits in 1646, and the pirates who visited may have been a bunch of unruly, lusty men who raised hell for a couple of days, but they came with money in their pockets and shared it liberally. When those same pirates came to Boston, they gave Winthrop a stolen sedan chair that had been intended for the ruler of Mexico, so Winthrop got his palms greased a little bit. When pirates came to Boston, the people threw out the red carpet for them because they knew that they would be spending a lot of their plunder at the local grog shops and stores and provide a major jolt to the economy.