American colonies fell into two categories. There was a group of Europeans who had religious intolerance and insisted that everyone within their colonies had to practice Christianity. In New England, for example, the churches were officially formed by the colonial administration. Only 5 of the 13 English colonies allowed people to practice any other religion than Christianity (Powell, 2012). A good example of a colony whereby religious freedom was practiced was Pennsylvania. In the colonies where Christianity enjoyed the monopoly of practice, practicing any other religion was an offense that could lead to persecution.
Based on the difference between the stands on religion, there was segregation in the early American colonies as people who were adamant about practicing other religions, such as the Quakers and Indians, would migrate from colonies such as New England. The difference in how Christianity affected the practices in colonial America was a reflection of the segregation of the practice of Christianity among different denominations of Christianity back in Europe. Quinn (1990) asserts that the differences in ethnic background and protestant practices played a primary role in the difference in the ways the European settlers in America fostered Christianity.
Pacifism, which was a social issue in Europe, played an important role in the definition of some of the colonies in America. Pacifists were a group of people in Europe who did not participate in wars. They were highly despised by the rest of the Europeans who had participated in wars. Quakers were pacifists who were in search of freedom when they left Europe. To Quakers, the existence in America was about more than just Christianity because they were in search of an environment in which they would be allowed to choose the religious practices to adopt and the ones to let go freely. For this reason, Quakers were liberal. They never forced the American Indians to practice Christianity and were willing to live harmoniously with them.
Puritans were also in search of religious freedom after England had broken away from the Roman Catholic Church and formed the Church of England that was under the control of the King (Heimert & Delbanco, 2009). However, the difference between Puritans and Quakers is that Puritans believed Christianity just as it was done under Roman Catholicism. Puritans forced their colonies to practice Christianity. They were strict on the conduct of people within their colonies and were not popular among the Indigenous communities.
Some social factors led to the migration of populations from Europe to America. Based on the emergence of the agrarian revolution, the working class sought chances for escaping poverty (Kulikoff, 2014). The knowledge that was acquired during the agrarian revolution played an important role in influencing the practice of the European settlers in America. Notably, slavery played a pivotal role in the agrarian revolution in Europe. The class segregation that emerged as a result of the agrarian revolution was transferred to America, with the slaves being at the lowest level of the tree.
Religious and social issues of Europe played a major role in the definition and segregation of the early American colonies. The settlers used Christianity as a tool for reaching their objectives even though the application was different. The course of early American Colonies would have been different in the absence of the religious and social issues that have been discussed herein.
Heimert, A., & Delbanco, A. (2009). The Puritans in America: A narrative anthology. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Kulikoff, A. (2014). From British peasants to colonial American farmers. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Powell, S. C. (2012). Puritan village: The formation of a New England town. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press.
Quinn, D. B. (1990). Explorers and colonies: America, 1500-1625. London: Hambledon Press.