Puritan Influences on Modern American Culture and Thought
The ideas put forth by the Puritans are not simply an important starting point for American culture because they were the first in the country, but because they offered ways of thinking that are still ingrained in our culture today. Although many of the thoughts of Puritans have gradually dissipated or become less meaningful over time, it is important to note that Puritan writers and thinkers such as John Winthrop and Roger Williams offered ideas that were new at the time that stayed with the American consciousness—culturally, socially, and politically.
Notions of freedom, liberty, and the role of religion within the state have long since been at the forefront of national debates. When the Puritans considered such ideas, their thoughts and writings on the matter were never quite forgotten, only shifted and modified to suit the taste of contemporary concerns. In “The Journal of John Winthrop” and Williams’ treatise, “ The Bloody Tenet of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience” many ideas that are still present in modern American life and culture are brought forward and explored. By examining these writings, it becomes more possible to trace the philosophical development of America from the colonial to the modern period.
The idea of government and the meaning of liberty have been questions plaguing Americans since the time John Winthrop wrote in his journal in 1648. In many ways, the issues he addresses, most notably in the section of his journal containing his speech to the General Court, are the same that are alive in contemporary debates about the role of the government and what moral liberty means. In the beginning of his speech he states, “The great questions that have troubled the country are about the authority of the magistrates and the liberty of the people” and the modern reader cannot help but think about how such a statement resonates today. This...
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