Puritanism, Godliness, and Political Development in Boston and the General Court (1630-1640)
The Journal Jurisprudence, Vol. 12, pp. 599-678, 2011
80 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2012
Date Written: August 1, 2011
The goal of this article is to examine the degree to which Puritanism influenced early American political culture. That is, how did Puritan values and practices facilitate the development of an exceptional political culture during the formative years of Massachusetts Bay? Utilizing a case-study method of analysis, this article examines the political developments in the General Court and the town of Boston during the decade 1630 to 1640. The research methods used are primarily the writings of leading Puritans, and concomitant town, church, and colonial records. The main finding is that the Puritans paid little heed to notions of democracy, theocracy, oligarchy, or British political traditions; instead, Puritan institutions and practices were based on the primary Puritan ideal of godliness. However, the formative influence of the godly ideal inadvertently reinforced democratic and republican ideals. The conclusion is that the focus on godliness provides a comprehensive and multiple explanations for the course of political developments in early Massachusetts Bay.
Keywords: Puritanism, legal transplants, American colony law, democratic theory, republicanism, American political culture, political traditions, constitutional development, Massachusetts Bay
JEL Classification: N41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation