Massachusetts Bay Colony

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The Massachusetts Bay Colony government was able to be, at least partially, simultaneously theocratic, democratic, oligarchic, and authoritarian. It was able to be partly theocratic because of the doctrine of the covenant, which stated that the whole purpose of government was to enforce God’s laws. God’s laws applied to everyone, even nonbelievers. Everyone also had to pay taxes for the government-supported church. This meant that religious leaders held enormous power in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They were able to effectively control who was admitted to the church by conducting public interrogations of people who claimed to have experienced conversion. The last reason it was partially theocratic was one of the main governors, John Winthrop, believed he had a “calling” from God to lead the Massachusetts colony. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was partially democratic for a couple of reasons. First, the freemen elected the governor and his associates each year. The freemen also voted for a representative assembly called the General Court. The Colony was also partly an oligarchy. It was an oligarchy because only Puritans could be freemen and were eligible to vote. Puritans were even more limited because religious leaders could control who was admitted into the church. Finally, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was partially authoritarian. This was partially because many of the residents were Puritans. Puritans shared in the “Protestant Ethic”, which involved serious commitment to work and to engagement in worldly pursuits. Everyone was held to these standards because of this. Everyone was expected to do this, even if they weren’t Puritan.
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