And no one can deny the Puritan contribution on that score. The Mayflower Compact, formed aboard the famous ship to establish civil government for the good of that early colony, was a pivotal document in the development of limited, constitutional government in America.
The Puritans gave us a legacy of regular elections, the secret ballot, the federalist principle and even the beginnings of the separation of church and state — of course, it was to protect a religious people from government encroachment. (Ministers in Puritan New England were prohibited from holding office.) Most important, the Puritans loved God, and incorporated worship of him into the very fabric of their daily lives. This allowed the Puritans to brave the New World and remain faithful during the most difficult hardships.
I wonder: If Americans today were subjected to the kinds of trials the early Puritans triumphed over, could we survive? Of course, the Puritans were sinners, just like us, and sometimes terribly so, just like people in our day. Nonetheless the Puritans’ intellectual power came from mastery of the Bible and their moral power came from living the Bible. Perhaps this has something to do with why they have been so thoroughly denigrated in modern times.
Betsy Hart is the author of “It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting our Kids — And What to do About It” (Putnam Books). Reach her through email@example.com. For more stories, visit shns.com.