No, the Puritans Did Not Found the Country

One of the little rhetorical tricks that the Christian nation apologists love to use is to point to the Puritans who settled the Plymouth Bay Colony and pretend that they founded the United States. But they didn’t. They created a brutal theocratic British colony that was repudiated by the Constitution. Warren Throckmorton tuned in to that class on the Constitution that they wanted to teach at a school in Ohio and found them doing exactly that.

In the first part of the session, Peroutka discusses what he believes are contributions of the Puritans to American law and government. Generally, he attempted to draw a straight line from the Puritans to the American Constitution. For instance early in the program, he said, “Civil government has jurisdiction over our actions but not our conscience. Conscience is between God and man.” Peroutka claims this principle comes from the Puritans. However, in my opinion, his effort to find liberty of conscience in the Puritan theory of government fails because he ignores what the Puritan government did.

While it may have been fashionable at one time to link the Puritans to liberty (and some Puritans did speak about “liberty of conscience” — e.g., British clergy William Perkins), a review of basic events will contradict that notion. It is well documented that non-Puritans were not well tolerated in Massachusetts. For instance, Roger Williams was exiled to Rhode Island and set up real religious freedom there. Of course, there is problem of the witch trials. Furthermore, Quakers were often tortured and sometimes killed for their beliefs.

Anyone who claims that there was anything remotely like religious freedom or “liberty of conscience” under the Puritans in Massachusetts is either an ignoramus or a liar. In Peroutka’s case, I’m betting on liar.

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