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The Puritan Dilemma, Term Paper Example

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Term Paper

Introduction

One of the most enduring works of Edmund Morgan, ‘The Puritan Dilemma’, which was published in 1962, is still regarded as a good starting point for the understanding of the motivations or reasons behind the migration of the Puritans to America and the political and ideological challenges they encountered when they arrived. Winthrop is the one who said that the new territory would be like a city on a hill, a new example of a society for the whole western world. The author demonstrated that this expression covers the Puritan’s somewhat miserable neglect of the political revolution that was brewing back in England. He also examines the cost of the search for true society in terms of personal freedom as well.

The contradiction and incongruity in Winthrop himself reflect those of the whole Puritan colony and further America, that is, what does freedom mean? And what is the correct role of the person or individual in the community? How could it happen that a group of people seeking for freedom of worship cast Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson out of the community? The author examined the issue of freedoms severally, most perfectly in the American Slavery- American freedom; however, this short brief biography lays bare major American problems with elegance, conciseness, and a constant perception debunking the simplistic use of he puritan label by our culture.

Body

Puritanism was superficially just a belief that the hierarchy of the Church of England should be changed as well as the ceremonies and traditions that were inherited from Rome. However, those who had been seriously involved in the belief knew well that Puritanism demanded more of the person than just the church. Immediately it took possession of an individual, it was hardly ever shaken off and would actually shape, some would refer to it as warping whole life. Puritanism was a strong and undeniable power. It did great and wonderful things for America and England, but only crating tension in men and women it affected which was an unbearable pain.

Mr. Morgan examines how John Winthrop battled the dilemma, the first one was internal, that is, his dealing with the issue of whether to going to the New World signified a selfish form of separatism, the need of separating or isolating himself from the dirty or impure England, or whether as he ultimately determined, it provided an exclusive opportunity of setting an example for all people by building a shining city on a hill, a pure Christian society in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

What the author is successful in showing in the text is that even three hundred and years ago, Winthrop was already dealing with most of what would be lasting challenges and themes of the American experiment. Nonetheless, the struggle over the way the democratic America need to be, has been at the center of American politics. Separationism would ultimately result to revolution, thus leading to the split with the Great Britain and would then come out most devastatingly during the civil war. Elitism has actually been evident in the tough history of America’s race relations together with the periodic bouts of xenophobic anti-immigrant zeal or fervor.

The twentieth Century nihilism or the Antinomianism would in fact prove far more powerful and strong compared to the Seventeenth Century variant. Isolationism has been a continuous temptation, and it has mainly been working to our advantage, even though leaving us unwary of things such as the 9-11 attack and Pearl Harbor. As noted by Mr. Morgan in the introduction, the Puritans are not really regarded in the modern American history.

If one comes with an open mind to Mr. Morgan’s account of Winthrop’s life, it might not be easy to imagine not being impressed by how he together with his friends succeeded in what they intended to do. The New England was mainly to show the world a society whereby the laws of God were strictly followed by the state and church, as nearly a mortal human beings could follow them.

To an almost dispiriting level, we should say that we still face several of the same challenges that were faced by Winthrop, and that, for all our disparagement of the Puritans; we are not meeting the challenges the way they did. Definitely, the commission of God to America does not have terminal date and, even though it remains to be a shining city on a hill to the entire world and though as mortal human beings, we will never perfect the society, the effort of even trying to come any closer to the kingdom has gone. Mr. Morgan’s book and the example of Winthrop should serve well as reminders that we have been very close and should commit ourselves to again coming closer.

The story of Winthrop is caught between the ideas of the laws of God and the sensible needs of humans, Winthrop actually walked a tight rope that very few could do. In each aspect of the current community, there are seen the workings of the apprehension between the demands of the authority and personal freedom. This is a story of the individuals who brought this idea to our shores. The author tries to relate the difficulties and success of the movement of the Puritan through this dramatic account of its most powerful leader who is John Winthrop.

Always portrayed as a fundamentalist devotee, Mr. Morgan’ story of John Winthrop is a more practical puritan, one ready to make negotiations or compromise in favor of diplomacy, trade or even popular support. Winthrop’s fight with his own people are also discussed or mentioned throughout the book, mostly in roller coaster of the on-again, off-again leadership between him and his opponents.

Moreover, the book explains the objectives as well as various types of Puritanism, which can be very important or useful to the history students, that is, it can greatly help them in the understanding of the religious landscape of both new and old England. The only problem in the work is its style of writing or presentation. Being the first works of Mr. Morgan, we find that he still had not found the persuasive, conversational voice which he is currently recognized or known for, hence resulting to an academic voice or tome that makes reading somehow boring at times, anyway, it is the comprehensive research together with interesting subject that matter more than the make-ups.

Conclusion

This short and dense history of John Winthrop is a must-read for those interested in knowing more about the colonial life in America. Starting with the creation of the Massachusetts Bay Company in England, and then following them to the so-called New World together with the new struggles accompanying their arrival. Edmund Morgan, a historical juggernaut paints a strange picture of Winthrop. For sure, Mr. Morgan is an unmatched historian who is very different from his colleagues; this is because he is able to write in an engaging way that attracts the average reader.

Work cited

Morgan E. M., The Story of John Winthrop. 3rd edition, Longman, 2006: 7-45

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