Middle School

William Penn and His “Holy Experiment” in Religious Tolerance, the Colony of Pennsylvania

October 12, 2017
The Founding

William Penn was one of America’s most notable advocates and movers for religious freedom.  Penn believed everyone had the God-given right to choose what to believe and how to peaceably worship.  As a Quaker in England who believed in the “Inner Light of Christ” and criticized formal external religion, Penn was expelled from the Church of England.  He was sent to France by his father to shake his non-conformist views but there, studying among persecuted Huguenots (or French Protestants), became a stronger dissenter.  Penn traveled Europe visiting Quakers and met philosopher John Locke.  When non-conformists were persecuted in Britain, he became an advocate for religious freedom and was imprisoned.  He corresponded with Roger Williams of Rhode Island and protested to colonial authorities when Quakers in Massachusetts were mistreated.

William Penn

In 1670, Penn wrote A Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture, and Antiquity in support of freedom of belief and against religious coercion and persecution as violating the Bible and human rights.  Some of Penn’s views reflected those of Martin Luther and Roger Williams.  Penn argued that coercion discredits the honor of God, the meekness of the Christian religion, the authority of Scripture, the privilege of nature, the principles of common reason, the well-being of government and society, and the teachings of wise men in historical and modern times.  One early historian called Penn’s treatise “the completest exposition of the theory of toleration of the time.”

In 1681, Penn was granted a charter and title of land in colonial America by King Charles II to repay a debt to Penn’s father and to remove Penn and his protests from England.  King Charles named the land Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn’s woods” or “Penn’s forest,” to honor Penn’s father, Sir William, who had been a friend of the Crown.  In founding a new colony, Penn hoped for revenue to pay off debts and to create a “tolerance settlement” in America for persecuted Christians.  He called this colony a “Holy Experiment” in religious tolerance and hoped it would be an example for Christians everywhere.

The Birth of Pennsylvania, 1680, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Penn’s ideas of religious tolerance, like Williams’s, differed from those of others who sought a conformed religious society that followed a state church.  Penn wanted to allow differences in Christian belief and worship.  He thought believers’ doctrinal differences were less important than their shared, fundamental Christian belief.

Penn’s colony of Pennsylvania was self-governing, had no state church, and allowed religious pluralism.  It forbid irreverence against God but did not impose conformity to one sect.  One had to be a Christian to be a citizen or hold public office, but no denominational restrictions existed.  The government maintained peace, order, and other necessary affairs.  Penn placed power in the hands of the people and in their consent of governance and laws.  Pennsylvania’s Frame of Government of 1682 declares, “Any government is free to the people under it where the laws rule, and the people are a party to those laws, and more than this is tyranny, oligarchy, or confusion.”  The colony provided, says lawyer David Gibbs, Jr. in his book One Nation Under God, “not freedom from religion but freedom of religion—not a separation of government from all religion, but a government that respected the religious consciences of all its citizens.”  Penn hoped the environment would allow colonists to pursue and find true faith in God.

Penn recruited Christians of all sects from England and Europe.  Refugees came from many parts of Europe who were affected by the Protestant Reformation, European religious wars, and English Civil war.  Such Christian groups included Mennonites, Lutherans, Reformists, Moravians, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Huguenots, Baptists, Dunkers, Quakers, Methodist Episcopalians, and others.  Colonists often described the settlers as “a great mixt multitude.”

Pennsylvania became one of the most religiously tolerant places in New England and the world at that time.  It became an example for the future nation of the United States of America.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  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.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1 of 2, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion…

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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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Roger Williams and His Quest for Religious Purity

October 5, 2017
The Founding

Roger Williams:  His Quest for Religious Purity, Founding of Rhode Island, and Bible-Based Defense of Freedom of Belief

Puritan dissident Roger Williams was a pioneer of religious freedom in America.  Williams, a Puritan pastor in Salem, Massachusetts, believed in God’s supreme rule and the limitation of human power.  Yet he differed from traditional Puritan thinking and Governor John Winthrop in several ways, though the two men liked one another.  Much like the Pilgrims, Williams thought it was necessary to separate from the existing church (in his case from the Puritans’ official Congregational Church in Massachusetts) in order to form a more pure one.  Thus he separated himself from both the Anglican and Congregational state churches.

Williams was an advocate of freedom of conscience (or belief) and of greater distinction between church and civil government.  The official church in Massachusetts, to him, was impure due to its combined church and government and its oppressive practices to regulate religious beliefs and doctrine.  Such characteristics, to Williams, did not accurately reflect…

The separation Williams sought between church and government, say some scholars, turned over the understandings of the time not only of state church establishments but of the church itself.  Williams was banished from the colony of Massachusetts for his dissident beliefs and in 1643 founded the religiously tolerant colony of Rhode Island.

Rhode Island was “a shelter for persons distressed of conscience.”  This experimental colony supported freedom of belief and greater separation of church and government.  The colony did not have a state church, allowed peaceable differences of religious opinion, and viewed God alone as ruler of conscience.  Though Catholics, Jews, and atheists did not have full rights, their beliefs were tolerated.  Rhode Island’s government was “democratical,” held by the consent of all and by majority rule in secular matters.  The colony became a refuge for religious minorities–Quakers, Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Antinomians, etc.–who fled from religious intolerance or persecution.

In 1644, Williams wrote The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience (The Bloody Tenet) in support of freedom of belief and against religious coercion and persecution.  The Bible was the foundational source of his arguments, and some of his arguments were similar to reformer Martin Luther’s.  Williams advocated for free thought and belief because it was, he believed, the only means to true faith and religion.  His ideas raised questions and challenges but endured and solidified over time.  In response to Williams, Puritan pastor John Cotton wrote in 1647 The Bloudy Tenent, Washed and Made White in the Bloude of the Lambe to argue against some of Williams’s views.  Cotton supported, for example, the implementation of Old Testament law and religious conformity.  In response to Cotton, Williams wrote his 1652 The Bloody Tenent yet More Bloody: by Mr. Cotton’s Endeavor to Wash it White in the Blood of the Lambe in which he reasserted his views.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Related Blog:  What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

Source:  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.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

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Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1 of 2, Activity 6:  Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion, p. 147.  MS-HS.

Thinking About Freedom of Conscience and Religion…

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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

What were the first experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America?

September 28, 2017
The Founding

Religious Freedom:  The First Experiments in Freedom of Belief and Religious Tolerance in America were based on the Bible and changed History

While the idea of freedom of conscience—freedom of belief and conviction—was advanced by the Reformation and existed in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s, it was not embraced by everyone and was very restricted in actual practice, manifesting in only partial, contested, temporary ways.  However, the Bible-based arguments made for it by reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin were quite similar to those later made by individuals who directly impacted American thought and settlement in the 1600s and 1700s.

AHEF President and author Angela Kamrath speaks on religious tolerance in early America at HBU-AHEF Teacher Workshop, “The History and Foundation of Religious Freedom in America”

American Puritan dissenter Roger Williams, Quaker William Penn, Catholic colonizer Cecil Calvert, and British philosopher John Locke played important roles in advancing freedom of conscience and religious tolerance in America during this time.  Their arguments for freedom of belief and religious tolerance were strongly rooted in the Bible.  Their tolerance writings and colonies would significantly influence future views and practices in England and America.

Williams, Penn, Calvert, and Locke would be the first movers to defend and experiment with greater freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America.  Their first experiments in religious tolerance took place in the colonies of Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Carolina: 

Houston Baptist University Professor of Government Dr. John Tyler speaks on John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration at HBU-AHEF Teacher Workshop, “The History and Foundation of Religious Freedom in America”

Based on conviction, these movers attempted to practice and experiment with freedom of belief and tolerance by forming new, tolerant colonies.  Their experiments were notable and real, if imperfect and incomplete, testimonies for the world in this largely unpracticed idea.  These colonizers and colonies brought the issue of freedom of conscience to the forefront of the American mind.

America’s unique, free environment and new colonies made such experiments feasible.  According to Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner in their text, Never Before in History: America’s Inspired Birth, “The Protestant Reformation in Europe and in the American colonies forced people to reexamine the traditional merger between church and government.  America in particular was to become the test case for resolving the tension between religious freedom and social conformity.”  The arguments for and experiments in freedom of belief and religious tolerance in America significantly advanced American and Western thought and practice on this issue and laid the groundwork for future religious freedom in the United States.

From AHEF, Dr. John Tyler, and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source info:  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.

Additional Reading/Handout:  Why Religious Freedom Became an Unalienable Right & First Freedom in America by Angela E. Kamrath, American Heritage Education Foundation.  Paper available to download from member resources, americanheritage.org.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 1 of 2, Activity 5:  Williams, Penn, and Locke:  Arguments for Religious Tolerance and Freedom Emerge in the 1600s, p. 147, 349.  MS-HS.

Williams, Penn, and Locke:  Arguments for Religious Tolerance and Freedom Emerge in the 1600s…

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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

What led to religious tolerance in early America? The Two Kingdoms Doctrine

September 21, 2017
The Founding

Reformers in Europe Recognize Two Kingdoms–Civil and Spiritual

Before and during the 1500s in Europe, countries were ruled by church states, and men had little religious freedom.  Religious tolerance did not widely exist.  The church and the civil state were combined and worked together to rule over the people and to regulate people’s religious beliefs and practices.  People were forced to conform to the official state church of their country and monarch or else suffer persecution and punishments.

The idea of freedom of conscience—freedom of belief and conviction—was advanced by the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s and existed in Europe in the 1500s and 1600s.  During the Reformation, reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin called for religious reform in the church but, in doing so, touched on political matters.  They broached ideas of freedom of conscience, and thus tolerance, and greater distinction between church and civil state.  In the spirit of Augustine of Hippo who wrote about two cities, earthly and heavenly, in his The City of God (c426); Luther and Calvin recognized two kingdoms by which God rules—civil and spiritual—that concern the life of man.  The civil kingdom is the earthly, temporal realm of man and concerns man’s physical life and relationship to others.  Man under God has some authority in this kingdom.  The spiritual kingdom is the heavenly, eternal realm and concerns man’s beliefs and relationship with God.  God alone has authority in this kingdom.  To the reformers, these two kingdoms have distinct jurisdictions.

Houston Baptist University Professor of Government Dr. John Tyler speaks on the Two Kingdoms Doctrine at HBU-AHEF Teacher Workshop, “The History and Foundation of Religious Freedom in America”

In his 1520 Appeal to the Ruling Class of German Nationality as to the Amelioration of the State of Christendom and 1523 Secular Authority:  To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed, Luther of Germany says that…

To be sure, freedom of conscience was not embraced by everyone and was very restricted in actual practice in Europe at this time, manifesting in only partial, contested, temporary ways.  Yet the Bible-based ideas of Luther and Calvin in favor of freedom of belief were asserted by later European and American political thinkers who impacted American thought and settlement in the 1600s and 1700s.

From AHEF, Dr. John Tyler, and Angela E. Kamrath.

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More source info:  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.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 4, Part 2 of 2, Activity 3:  History and Current Events:  Religious Regulation and Persecution, p. 161.  MS-HS.

History and Current Events:  Religious Regulation and Persecution…

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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

What were the challenges in the early Puritan colonies?

September 14, 2017
The Founding

Challenges in the Early Puritan Colonies:  The Dilemma of Religious Laws & Religious Dissent

When the Puritans set up their colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut in the early 1600s, they sought to create Bible-centered commonwealths, or civil states, to reflect their deeply-held religious beliefs.  In undertaking this goal, they were undoubtedly affected by their experiences in Europe as well as by the model of the ancient Israelites in the Bible, which presented both benefits and challenges for the Puritans in their own time and unique circumstances.  One challenge that the Puritans struggled with was in creating and enforcing religious laws and religious conformity.

The Puritans in America desired religious freedom to worship as they chose and welcomed all who shared their beliefs

The Puritans came to America for the freedom to set up their own church and community according to their own beliefs, rather than be forced to conform to an official church with which they disagreed.  In America, they made their Congregational Church the state church.  To be sure, the Puritans, like their European forbears, initially supported religious conformity in their colonies.  Those who chose to come and live in their colonies had to abide by the same religious views and practices.  Religious conformity was, the Puritans thought, the only way to preserve their faith and to keep the community pure and moral.  It was necessary, they thought, to protect the church from heresy and corruption and to maintain peace.  In this sense, the Puritans did not tolerate different religious sects in their community.  However, Puritans like minister Nathan Ward responded to qualms about intolerance by stating that those with differing beliefs “have free liberty to keep away from us.”  Unlike in Europe, no one was forced to reside in their colonies and conform against one’s will and beliefs.  In this sense, the colony was indeed a free one.

In time, some Puritans with differing religious views emerged in the community and began to vocalize their dissenting opinions and beliefs.  These dissenters had to keep quiet on their views or else leave the community.  The Puritans in Massachusetts banished a number of dissenters including Roger Williams, who later founded the colony of Rhode Island, and Anne Hutchinson, who later moved to Rhode Island.

In their attempt to follow the example of the ancient Israelites, the Puritans directly applied the practices of ancient Israel in their commonwealths.  As such, they adopted Old Testament religious laws for their colony.  This approach led to…

Despite these challenges in their new colonies, the Puritan lifestyle had many benefits.  High moral standards characterized Puritan life.  The church was central to society, and the church hall was centrally located for public worship.  The sermon was the most influential form of communication in New England, and the Bible was the main source of sermons.  Puritan beliefs and lifestyle positively influenced values of family, community, work, law, and reverence for God.  In fact, daily life naturally supported the laws of the colonies.  The Puritans’ morality was so rigorous, says historian Mark Noll, that “almost all Americans since have been forced to react to it in some way.”  The Puritans would make radical Protestantism normal in America and give the future nation of the United States a strong moral rigor.

Though the Puritans struggled with issues of religious law and dissent, many of their Bible-inspired governing principles and civic values proved democratic, effective, and enduring.  The Puritans implemented (as discussed in earlier posts in this Puritan series) the principles of God’s sovereignty, covenants, constitutions, rule of law, popular sovereignty, consent of the governed, representative and limited government, literacy and education, and a strong moral and work ethic.  Such principles would lead to freedom, equality, individual rights, and constitutional republicanism in America.  These ideas and practices would become the Puritans’ valuable legacy.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  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.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 3, Part 3 of 3, Activity 3:  Understanding the Puritans’ Desire for and Practice of Religious Freedom, p. 130.  MS-HS.

Understanding the Puritans’ Desire for and Practice of Religious Freedom… 

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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Early Americans Valued a Bible-Inspired Work Ethic

September 7, 2017
The Founding

America is a country that was built upon hard work.  The first settlers in what would become the original thirteen colonies of the United States were instrumental in creating a culture of work that would characterize our future nation.  Much of their inspiration for work came from the Bible.

Engraving of Captain John Smith, 1616

In the first of the thirteen colonies of the United States, Virginia in the early 1600s, colony leader Captain John Smith had encouraged a strong, Bible-inspired work ethic among settlers because hardship, idleness, and greed had plagued many of those first colonists.  Many settlers did not want to work or lacked proper skills and experience to survive in the harsh environment.  Many spent their time searching for gold rather than farming.  Such challenges threatened the colony’s success and existence.  As a result, Smith implemented a Christian work ethic based on 2 Thessalonians 3:10 in which the Apostle Paul says to believers, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”  Smith likewise announced to the settlers, “You must obey this now for a law, that he who will not work shall not eat (except if by sickness he is disabled), for the labors of thirty or forty honest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintain one hundred and fifty idle loiterers.”  Smith’s Christian view of work was shared by the Puritans who arrived in America a few years later.

Jamestown Garden by Sidney E. King, 1957

In their colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Puritans similarly valued and practiced hard work, industry, and diligence.  Work was a central part of Puritan life and society and aligned with the Puritans’ Christian beliefs.  The Puritans believed in living life as a service and glory to God.  In a sermon citing 1 Timothy 1 and 1 Corinthian 7, Puritan pastor John Cotton addressed God’s calling for man to work:  “Faith draws the heart of a Christian to live in some warrantable calling.  …  Paul makes it a matter of thankfulness to God to have given him ability and put him in a place where he might serve God (1 Timothy 1:12).  As God has called every man, so let each man walk (1 Corinthians 7:19-20).  This is the clean work of faith, that a man would have some employment to fill his head and hand with.”  Work was a duty and responsibility, the Puritans saw, that allowed for mankind’s provision and prosperity.  It could benefit the individual, family, society, and God as well as keep man away from the temptations of idleness and sloth.  It could also fulfill God’s assignments and purposes.  The Puritans did, in fact, prosper economically in America.  Some thought this prosperity was due to continued worship and service of Christ.

Title Page of A Description of New England by Captain John Smith, 1616

The American colonies attracted many from Europe because they gave people who were willing to work the opportunity to create better, fulfilling lives for themselves and their families.  In his 1616 Description of New England, Captain Smith writes of the opportunity in America: …

Though the pursuit of wealth later became more important than the pursuit of godliness for some, the church and the Bible continued to play an important role in American society.  The Puritan work ethic influenced ideas of industry and capitalism and became an important part of American life in the future United States.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  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.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 3, Part 2 of 3, Activity 7:  Economic Success in the Puritan Colonies, p. 119, 345.  MS-HS.

Economic Success in the Puritan Colonies… 

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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Why & how did schools begin in the United States?

September 1, 2017
The Founding

The Puritans Supported Education for Bible Literacy

The Puritans in colonial America strongly supported education.  Literacy and education, they believed, were necessary firstly so that people could read and understand the Bible.  The Puritans felt so strongly about Bible literacy that they passed education laws requiring sizeable towns to set up schools and to teach reading and writing.  The Old Deluder Satan Act of 1647, for example, required communities and towns to set up and fund grammar schools and to hire schoolmasters.  This act intended to prevent Satan, the “Old Deluder,” from deceiving people with illiteracy and keeping them from reading the Bible.  The Puritans’ Old Deluder law became the basis for the public school system in America.

A New England Dame School in Old Colonial Times, 1713. Engraving. Bettman Archive.

The Puritans’ support for Bible education and the Old Deluder law were influenced by the Protestant Reformation and their views about the church and the Bible.  The Puritans held the view that…

American schools thus began with the Puritans in the 1600s to insure Bible literacy.  As expected, the Bible was the core of learning in schools.  The New England Primer, the first reader in America, included Bible truths, stories, poems, hymns, and prayers.  The Puritans founded many of the first colleges and universities in America—including Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth—and they did so with a strong Christian purpose.  For example, Harvard’s rules and precepts declared, “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well that the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all knowledge and learning.”  These and future schools shaped the leaders and thinkers of early America including the Founding Fathers of the United States.

The Puritans’ emphasis on education influenced the American public school system, widespread literacy, and the idea of an informed citizenry in America.  This emphasis on literacy and education promoted strong religious convictions among colonists and led to the creation of the most literate, educated society in the world.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  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.

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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Why the United States is a Nation of Elected Representatives

August 24, 2017
The Founding

The Puritans Elected Representatives to Govern in their American Colonies

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.

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

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.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  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.

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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Who Created the First Written Constitution in history?

August 17, 2017
The Founding

The Puritans in America Created the First Written Constitutions of Law

A constitution is a set of laws or principles which govern a people, country, or state.  Constitutions are based on the principle of the Rule of Law by which all are subject to the law and the law is regularly enforced, not arbitrarily applied.  The practice of written constitutions began in early colonial America.

Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, facsimile, 1934, Connecticut State Library

The Puritans in Connecticut drafted their first framework of written laws in 1639, agreed upon by the colonists, known as the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut.  This document became the first complete, written constitution in the history of the world.  It was also, essentially, the first complete self-government by the people.  The constitution was inspired by a speech delivered by Puritan Rev. Thomas Hooker to the Connecticut General Court in which Hooker argued in favor of popular sovereignty and consent of the governed.  The Puritans consequently created a civil republic/democratic self-government in their colony with a constitution that implemented…

Connecticut would later become known as “the constitution state” for being the first colony in America to develop a complete constitution to govern itself.  The Fundamental Orders would become a model for constitutions in other colonies.  It prompted the colonists of Massachusetts, for example, to create a more formal and complete set of written laws, their own constitution called the Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641.

In creating written constitutions, the Puritans essentially followed the Biblical Israelites’ practice of written laws.  The Israelites’ Ten Commandments, for example, were engraved in stone.  Similarly, the Puritans wrote down all of their civil covenants and constitutions of law.  Indeed, the written word was very important to them.  The Puritans’ practice of written laws would later mean that the founding documents and laws of the United States—including the Declaration of Independence, U. S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights—would also be in written form

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  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.

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.

Copyright © American Heritage Education Foundation.  All rights reserved.

Why did the Puritans in America favor Rule of Law?

August 10, 2017
The Founding

The Puritans practiced the “Rule of Law,” the principle that every person is subject to the law, in their early American colonies in accordance with the Bible.  They implemented Rule of Law in the colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut based on equity and justice as found in the moral law of the Bible and in reformed writings.

Thomas Hooker

Puritan leader Rev. Thomas Hooker supported the need for a constant law based on

The Bible-inspired principle of Rule of Law influenced the Puritans to define their community civil laws with constitutions.  A constitution is an outline of civil laws agreed upon by those in the community and which are regularly enforced, not arbitrarily applied.  This practice was beneficial and necessary because, while the Bible was the Puritans’ primary source of civil law, many civil issues were not literally or directly addressed in the Bible.  Such issues were subject to the interpretation or discretion of their governors.  Some colonists like Thomas Hooker feared that too much judicial discretion might lead to violations of justice and civil rights.  In response, the Puritans created written codes of laws—constitutions—to prevent arbitrary rule and to articulate and secure their freedoms. Indeed, the practice of Rule of Law naturally led to constitutions in America.

From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Source:  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.

Activity:  Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 3, Part 2 of 3, Activity 1:  Drawing Essential Understandings / Answering Guiding Questions (Question 1), p. 113, 118.  MS-HS.

Drawing Essential Understandings/Answering Guiding Questions…

Purpose/Objective: Students learn and answer Essential Understandings/Guiding Questions in this part of the unit.

Suggested Reading: Chapter 3 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text.

Essential Understandings & Guiding Questions to consider:  

Pre-Test/Post-Test:  Writing Warm-up and Wrap-up. At the beginning and close of this part of the unit, students write brief responses to guiding questions in this section.  Students may turn these in and/or share responses in pairs, groups, or whole class.  The writing process should take less than 5 minutes, and sharing can go as long as teacher and class decide.  The Writing Warm-up may serve as a pre-test of students’ current knowledge and understanding.  The Writing Wrap-up may serve as a post-test of students’ learning and understanding of this section’s instruction and content.  In the Writing Wrap-up, students might compare their answers/responses to those they wrote in their Writing Warm-up/pre-test.  How have their answers changed?  What did they learn?  Students might use a comparison chart to write and compare their warm-up and wrap-up responses.

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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