History of Religion in the United States

By Clifton E. Olmstead | Go to book overview
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The Transplanting of Continental Protestantism

ENGLISH CONTROL OF THE EASTERN SEABOARD WAS NOT DESTINED TO REMAIN unchallenged. During the seventeenth century varied and complex forces in Continental Europe were setting the stage for a mass exodus which would divert the course of American colonial development. Early in that century the desire for political and economic advantage had committed the Dutch and the Swedes to the enterprise of carving out empires in the New World. The empires faded and expired, but from their residues emerged continuing societies which shone as beacons pointing the way to a land of opportunity. A later generation, seeking escape from religious persecution and the disasters of war and aspiring for freedom to propagate distinctive doctrines and to follow a particular way of life, would behold these lights from afar and respond to their invitation.

The wave of immigration from the European continent began in earnest towards the close of the seventeenth century. In 1690, the total colonial population of 250,000 represented largely English stock. English immigration, however, had by this time virtually come to a standstill. The fact that the population had multiplied ten times by 1775 was due in


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History of Religion in the United States


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