On the latest edition of QI (BBC2 - 8/16, the one with Sandi Toksvig, Clive Anderson, Henning Wehn and Alan Davies), Stephen Fry said that the Puritans did not escape persecution, but went to America to persecute.
Half right. Because the evidence of persecution (especially after the Civil War) is that they met in secret in houses, that they suffered the Five Mile Act that threw their meeting places outside towns, and had to wait for the King's Indulgences and then the Act of Toleration in 1689.
The Puritans wanted liberty for themselves. What is true is that they wanted a Puritan Commonwealth, a pure godly land where they could practice their ideas alone. Indeed, these first imported Americans could be called Religious Communists.
It is only later, as they had liberalised, that they began to see liberty as an ideal - for themselves and others.
He also claimed that Puritans were pictured in their Sunday best, in black, but otherwise wore clothes like the rest of the people. Only, however, if the clothes were sober, plus we know that the more moderate and parish minded Calvinists wore less severe clothing than the Independents and clear sectarians.
The Puritans were Bible only people and yet reasoned their Bibles, first in a harsh trinitarian way (and very opposed to Socinians, even to the point of wanting the death penalty) and then via many and various theories of interpretation the academies set up continued the liberalising through Arminianism and even into Socinianism later on.
They were merchants, saving money and investing, and rich people don't keep a severe religion down the generations. They later became the capitalists that wanted in on political life (the 1832 Reform Act) to overturn the feudal Church of England monopoly. We now see that at St. Pauls the Church of England has joined the capitalist establishment.
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