Motives Driving Early Immigrants

Motives Driving Early Immigrants It must be acknowledged that the American colonies were in a very favorable position to denounce old hatreds and broaden the scope of toleration. British and European rulers generally looked upon any religious deviance at home as no less than a personal offense -dissent was considered seditious, and was therefore intolerable. The fortunes of Protestant, Catholic, Jew, and Moslem had swung like deadly pendulums under the successive kings and queens of France and England and under the monolithic rule of the Spanish royalty, but enforcing such narrow views upon a mixed group of people three thousand miles to the west was another matter. Therefore, more out of necessity than good will, the growing tolerance of the colonists was not effectively opposed by the rulers and the archbishops of Europe. By 1661, in fact, Charles II of England, a Roman Catholic newly restored to the throne seized from his father by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell, granted to Rhode Island a royal Charter which specifically permitted "freedom from molestation, punishment, or disquiet for religious views." Not all the other new colonies practiced meaningful religious tolerance, however. When the land around Boston and the original Plymouth settlement became less plentiful, some adventurous "saints" moved west along the Connecticut River to found the colonies of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield, together designated the "New Canaan."  These people, too, drew up a written constitution which they called their "Fundamental Orders"; this "constitution" carried the Puritan concept of an established church into the wilderness of central Connecticut. In the fervor of their religious conviction, these settlers soon fell upon the peaceful but "heathen" Pequod Indians and virtually exterminated them.

Charles' II of England (1630-1685) granted a royal Charter to Rhode Island to support religious freedom.

But in spite of setbacks, tolerance spread, tolerance that eventually extended to a quite wide range of religious attitudes, and more people left England and Europe for the New World. The Society of Friends, a religious group founded by George Fox, found itself coming under more and more suspicion and disquiet in England. Guiding themselves by an "Inner Light," they affected some bizarre habits of dress and behavior which soon provoked ostracism and other oppressive measures. But within a few years these "Quakers," as they were contemptuously called, had for the most part moderated the strangest of their behavior patterns, and in about 1670 they attracted a powerful recruit, the Oxford-educated William Peon. The son of well-to-do pious and Puritan parents, Peon was seeking a quiet, non-proseletyzing manner of worship. One of the Friends, John Archdale, had bought proprietary settlement right in the territory of North Carolina. He hoped to found a colony there for the Society. But nothing came of this venture. What did thrive, perhaps beyond his most extravagant dream, was the enterprise of William Penn in Philadelphia.