Puritans and Adventurers: Change and Persistence in Early America

By T. H. Breen | Go to book overview
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II
The Covenanted Militia of Massachusetts Bay: English Background and New World Development

THIS ESSAY EXPLORES the distinctive origins of the Massachusettsmilitia and in so doing further develops several themes presented in "Persistent Localism," particularly the concept of institutional parallelism. The great nineteenth-century English historian, S. R. Gardiner, was one of the first scholars to appreciate how seriously Charles's military policies in the late 1620s upset the entire nation. Since the publication of Gardiner's monumental History of England, others -- most notably Lindsay Boynton -- have extended our knowledge of the disruption of the English countryside between 1625 and 1628. The king's misguided efforts to create a "perfect militia" and his stubborn determination to wage war on the continent sparked a storm of constitutional and religious protest.

Colonial American historians have concentrated their research largely upon other aspects of English society, especially upon the rise of Puritanism, and have overlooked the profoundly negative impact that the Stuart military system had upon those men and women who emigrated to Massachusetts Bay. After they had successfully replaced Charles's "perfect militia" with their own "covenanted militia," the colonists confronted a quite different, institutional problem, the need to define the limits of popular participation in the election of officers. This debate continued for the rest of the seventeenth century.

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