Religious Minorities in the English Colonies
AS THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY PROGRESSED, THERE APPEARED IN THE ENG- lish colonies the first signs of that religious diversification which was to become normative in American life. No orderly pattern marked the emergence of the phenomenon. It was at once planned and spontaneous, immigrant and native born, concentrated and diffused. Its single element of homogeneity lay in its vital principle-a passion for human rights. The motivation behind this principle was complex, a curious blend of economic, social, political, and theological factors which could not readily be isolated. It was perhaps inevitable that its application on the colonial scene should have brought on conflict. Neither the Puritan saint nor the Anglican divine was intellectually or socially geared to tolerate dissent. Throughout the colonial period the erratic fires of authoritarianism alternately blazed and smoldered. But never could they consume the forces of diversity. This chapter concerns the rise of religious heterogeneity in the English colonies, the role played by three groups of nonconformists in the early struggle for freedom.