In response to J. Grant Swank's article on the Mayflower Compact &
God, one must point out the Puritans' intolerance of anyone who did not hold
to their beliefs. While they sought religious freedom, Puritans strictly limited
that option only to themselves.
Well known is Roger Williams and the founding of Rhode Island. Williams
espoused Puritanism and emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1631.
However, he also came to espouse the tenets of democracy and the "absolute
liberty of conscience" in religious matters. In doing this he so alarmed the
Puritan oligarchy that the General Court banished him in 1635, and so Williams
went on to found Providence, which later became part of the new colony of Rhode
Island in 1644.
Maryland was the first colony that allowed freedom of religion-and the
Puritans went to Maryland and tried to destroy that freedom.
Maryland was the concept of George Calvert, who was James I's First Secretary
- and when he converted to the Roman Catholic faith, he could no longer hold an
office of state in England. As Calvert had been a loyal and respected servant
servant of the Crown, King James made him Lord Baltimore, and with the wealth of
his Irish lands Calvert could afford to become involved with colonising the New
Maryland was the first colony established under the English proprietary
governments in 1634. The colony is most notable in American history as the first
in which religious toleration had a place. It was a colony where Catholics would
not be persecuted, even though Maryland was overwhelmingly Protestant.
In 1645, an English Puritan and associate of Oliver Cromwell, Captain Richard
Ingle, arrived in Maryland in the ship Reformation. He invaded Maryland,
overthrew Lord Baltimore's government and set up Parliamentarian rule. In
England, Lord Baltimore negotiated with the Puritans, and by 1649 he was on
reasonable terms with them and regained his colony grant. He appointed a
Protestant governor, William Stone, and brought Protestants into the ruling
In 1649, the Toleration Act in Maryland was enacted. By this act, the
toleration of all Christian sects, a privilege that the people had enjoyed in
practice since the founding of the colony, was recognized by law (except for
Jews and Unitarians who did not get full political rights in Maryland until
In the early 1650's, 400 Puritans who were unhappy with the political
situation in Virginia decided to move to Maryland for the "religious freedom"
granted to them by the Toleration Act. They then found that they were also
unhappy with Lord Baltimore's government and appealed to Cromwell for "help".
Cromwell's Commissioners came to Maryland from England in 1652, and helped their
fellow Puritans replace Baltimore's government, under the leadership of the
Anglican Governor William Stone, with Puritan rule. The Puritans then suspended
the Toleration Act and passed their own laws against "popery, prelacy, and
licentiousness of opinion". Baptists and Quakers, as well as Catholics and
Episcopalians, were denied religious liberty. They basically tolerated
"everybody except Catholics, Episcopalians, and anybody who disagreed with
In 1655, the Battle of the Severn was fought between the followers of the
ousted Gov. Stone and the Puritans. Gov. Stone was defeated and the Puritans
continued to govern Maryland until 1658 when Oliver Cromwell actually had the
Toleration Act restored and the Puritan domination was finally ended.
If this is the history- a legacy of intolerance, exclusion and repression-
that is being held up as the American ideal of Christianity, then I must reject
it, for it flies in the face of the teachings of Christ, who taught us charity
and love, who even healed Gentiles and defied the hypocrisy of the