Neighbors, Friends, or Madmen: The Puritan Adjustment to Quakerism in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts Bay

Synopsis

Chu explains the rise of religious toleration in America through an examination of the Puritan response to Quakerism in seventeenth-century Massachusetts. He casts the phenomenon in a new light, arguing that toleration for Quakerism emerged out of the very values and structures of Puritan life in Massachusetts Bay as early as the 1660s. Intolerance, Chu submits, became a threat to the separation of church and state, of local and central authority. The interaction of local forces and interests thus led to a rapid adjustment to and toleration of the Quakers. Chu illustrates this through an examination of Quaker populations in the townships of Kittery and Salem. He describes how the Quakers lived and suggests why they eventually turned from radical proselytizing missionary work to a more restrained and conventional lifestyle.