The Puritans were a group of people who grew discontent in the Church of England that had a profound influence on the social, political, ethical, and theological ideas of England and America. Puritans immigrated to the New World, where they sought to found a holy commonwealth in New England. Although the Puritans wanted to reform the world to conform to God's law, they did not set up a church-run state. Even though they believed that the primary purpose of government was to punish breaches of God's laws, few people were as committed as the Puritans to the separation of church and state. Not only did they reject the idea of establishing a system of church courts, they also forbade ministers from holding public office. Puritans were mainly concerned with religious matters, rather than politics or social matters. Puritans also lost their power in politics. In future Puritans would no longer be allowed to become members of the House of Commons or local counselors. They were also excluded from universities and from teaching in schools. Strict censorship was also imposed on books. All books dealing with history, science or philosophy had to be checked by the government and the leaders of the church before they were published. The Salem Witch Trials were a notorious episode in New England colonial history that led to the execution of 14 women and 6 men, in 1692, for charges of witchcraft. The trials began as a result of the bizarre and inexplicable behavior of two young girls, afflicted by violent convulsions and strange fits that seemingly rendered them unable to hear, speak, or see. After a medical examination and a review by Puritan clergy, the girls were judged to be victims of witchcraft. In... [continues]
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