The growing child is a learning child and therefore adventurous. As soon as the total dependence of the cradle is passed, the child begins to learn the ways of independence and adulthood. Why was childhood so dangerous, according to Puritan adults? What was the source of these dangers? Who was responsible for removing them? In what ways did Puritan society try to remove them? Do you think that this was an easy task for most parents? How did Puritan parents regard their children? Did mothers regard them any differently than fathers? Why? What effect do you think Puritan upbringing had on the children themselves? What kind of children were they? What kind of adults? How can you tell? What other kinds of evidence would tell you about the kind of children they were? Was formal education important to the Puritans? Why? What are some of the ways you can tell? Are schools different today? Are they similar? What has happened in the past two hundred years that might explain this?
One of the rarest and most intimate glimpses of the growing child in New England is provided by the journal-letters of Esther Burr ( 1732-58), daughter of Jonathan Edwards of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the most powerful minister in colonial New England, and wife of Aaron Burr ( 1715-57), a Presbyterian minister and the second president of Princeton. Although they were written from New Jersey where she and her family had recently moved, her letters to a young friend, Sarah Prince, in Boston reflect her own New England upbringing and the shared knowledge of her New England friend. These unique letters are in the Beinecke Library of Yale University and have not been published.