The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry

By Perry Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
HISTORY

1. WILLIAM BRADFORD, 1590-1657

[The Puritans acquired their name because they were English Protestants who in the second half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth centuries were resolved to "purify" the Church of England. They determined to continue the reformation begun under Henry VIII until they duplicated in England the precise form of ecclesiastical polity they believed to be clearly set forth in the New Testament. They would utterly extirpate everything in the Church for which they could find no specific Biblical warrant, especially those features they considered the foul heritage of medieval corruption. They would abolish the episcopal hierarchy, the prayer book, all ritual, vestments, and the celebration of Christmas.

However, by the "Elizabethan Settlement" of 1559 the crown officially identified itself with that compromise between radical Protestantism and Roman Catholicism which today constitutes the Church of England. Hence the Puritans were obliged to become opponents, even enemies, of the state. The controversy became, decade after decade, more bitter, until it flared into ferocious warfare in 1642. By 1649 the Puritans had seized the power and had executed both the Archbishop of Canterbury and King Charles I.

In the course of fighting this Civil War the Puritan forces discovered to their dismay that they were divided into two irreconcilable opinions about just what the Biblical pattern, supposedly so precise, really was. Furthermore, as this division came into the open, they had to recognize that it

-1-

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The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Contents iii
  • Title Page v
  • Foreword ix
  • Chapter One - History 1
  • Chapter Two - State and Society 78
  • Chapter Three - This World and the Next 143
  • Chapter Four - Personal Narrative 225
  • Chapter Five - Poetry 265
  • Chapter Six - Literary and Educational Ideals 320
  • A Brief Bibliography 336
  • Index 341
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