5th November 2020

Some twenty-six years before the foundation under fire of the Levellers another sect chose to depart Europe, making landfall on the west side of the Atlantic Ocean at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. Mainly members of the English Separatist Church these intrepid travelers, originally known as Old Comers, then Forefathers and finally two centuries later as the Pilgrim Fathers, decided to escape the perceived oppression of the old world to achieve their goal of religious freedom, to practice their particularly brand of Protestantism, Radical   Puritanism,  without persecution by the prescribed state English faith, that peculiar and seemingly transitory monolith  the Church of England, presently fliting with the Roman Church under the guidance of  sovereign and the Archbishop  of Canterbury William Laud.

 Had those pioneers but waited out the next few years in their home country they would of course have had no need to migrate, Puritanism becoming the major power within the home island by the 1640’s, resultant in two civil wars, the trial and execution of Charles First, and the rise of the general and commoner Oliver Cromwell to  Oliver first, Lord Protector.  

Puritanism is a branch of Protestantism much inclined to sectarianism, cases in point, the Levellers, the Diggers, the Separatists, The Quakers. Of these only the Quakers still exist in their original form, known now as the Society of Friends, devout pacifists, living in accordance with their Inward Light, without clergy or particular creed beyond the word as transcribed in the bible itself.

The downfall of Puritanism could perhaps be foretold by their attitude to their own expansive convictions, and a desire for their precepts to meld with society as a whole. High aspirations are a wonderous starting point, but at some stage vision must give way to practicality, to reality. The Digger philosophy of shared property and wealth was praiseworthy, but against basic human nature. The pacificism of Quakerism wholly desirable but in a combative seventeenth century impractical. Even the Leveller ideal of unfettered religious freedom fell afoul of the Puritan leaders. A philosophically inspired inclusive faith proven unworkable through  the vagaries of its practitioners.

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