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Why the Puritans Elected Representatives to Govern in their American Colonies

August 24, 2017

Moses Elects the Council of Seventy Elders by Jacob de Wit, 1737

The Puritans elected civil officers to govern in their colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut rather than have their rulers rule absolutely or by hereditary succession as often occurred in Europe.  The people’s practice of choosing representatives to govern followed practices in the Bible and the ideas of consent and popular sovereignty, in which the people hold and grant power.

In elections, some civil officers might be confirmed by covenant or agreement, voted in, selected by draw, or otherwise directly chosen by the people.  Other officers might be appointed by the chosen leaders—and thus indirectly elected by the people.  Both methods are forms of election.

Puritans John Winthrop, Thomas Hooker, and John Cotton cited…

In keeping with these principles, the Puritans chose religious leaders for their churches even before they came to America, and they followed the same practice when electing civil leaders for their commonwealths in America.  The Puritans, like the Israelites, also made a point to elect godly, moral leaders to govern and administer justice.

Later, in the U. S. Constitution, the American Founders continued the practice of electing representatives for the new nation and emphasized the importance of choosing moral representatives.  Such representative government demonstrates the main characteristic of a “republic”—a country governed by elected representatives of its people.

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source for more information:
Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Related articles/videos:
1.  The Principle of Popular Sovereignty
2.  Who were the Pilgrims?  Why did they come to America?
3.  Why the Pilgrims Identified with the Israelites
4.  The Mayflower Compact:  The Pilgrims’ First Self-Governing Act in America
5.  The Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact as Covenant
6.  The History of Thanksgiving Day in America
7.  The Pilgrims & Private Property:  What the Pilgrims Might Have Thought About Communism & Socialism
8.  Three P’s That Led to Freedom in the West:  Printing Press, Protestant Reformation, & Pilgrims
9.  A City on a Hill:  Why John Winthrop and the Puritans Came to America
10.  How the American Puritans Were Like the Bible’s Israelites
11.  Why the Puritans Favored Limited Government (and Why the U. S. has Three Branches of Government)
12.  Why the Puritans in America Favored Rule of Law
13.  Why Puritan Thomas Hooker Favored Democracy Over Aristocracy
14.  Challenges in the Early Puritan Colonies:  The Dilemma of Religious Laws & Religious Dissent

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Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 3, Part 2 of 3, Activity 5:  Predicting What the Puritans’ New Colony Might Be Like, p. 119, 344.  MS-HS.

Predicting What the Puritans’ New Colony Might Be Like…

To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

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Published by: The Founding

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