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Religious Freedom in the 13 Colonies

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Religious Freedom in the 13 Colonies

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Areeb Ahmed
September 22, 2011
APUSH – Block 5
Essay #1
Prompt: Analyze the extent to which religious freedom existed in the British North American colonies prior to 1700.
Religion, one of the main reasons America is what it is now. Ever since the beginning of Jamestown, Europeans came to the Americas for a common reason; they sought religious freedom. The Middle Colonies were mostly Quakers with a mixture of Catholics and Jews. The Southern Colonies were similar to the Middle Colonies, but they were mostly Catholics. However, the New England colonies were mostly Puritans which led to strict laws when it came to religion. The majority of the colonies did indeed have religious freedom to a pretty large extent with the exception of the New England Colonies.

The New England Colonies were primarily composed of Puritans. This particular group of people believed in strict religious principles and had a strong passion for religion. If one were to break any of their religious laws, they received a strict punishment. For example, Anne Hutchinson was a strong and intelligent woman who took to extremes the Puritan doctrine of predestination. She stated that those who were already destined to go to heaven need not live a holy life because he/she will be guaranteed a spot in heaven regardless of their actions in this life. Due to this, she was eventually banished to Rhode Island. Another example is with Roger Williams who was the founder of Rhode Island. He believed in religious freedom which, for the most part, was not popular among the Puritans for which he was banished from Massachusetts. Overall, the Puritans opposed the idea of religious freedom and strongly supported their own ways of strict religious principles.

The Middle Colonies were the complete opposite and were mainly composed of the Quakers of Pennsylvania. Founded by William Penn, a fellow Quaker, his aim was to build a place where freedom of religion was acceptable. With the grant of a huge plot of...