Senior Project Advisor

Stoever, William K. B., 1941-

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2008


Puritanism, Pilgrims, Puritan New England


Puritanism in America is often misunderstood and misrepresented. Popular understanding of Puritan New England is filled with images of “Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, of clustered villages and white steepled churches, of pious founders and stern fathers, of tormented souls... and witchcraft mania.” ‘ The modem masses, if they think of it at all, accept this imagery as representative of early colonial conditions and the sources of these stereotypes are rarely questioned outside of academia. While many of these representations have taken hold of the American imagination in the post-revolutionary era, there is one that owes its existence to the Puritans themselves. The image of New England’s First Fathers, characterized by the unity and achievement of their colonial enterprise, is a representation of the second generation of New England Puritans. Historians agree that this idea of a golden age in Massachusetts Bay first came to expression in the colony’s jeremiad sermons of the 1660s and 70s. Often preached on days of election and humiliation, these sermons point to the commonwealth’s founders as examples of the proper relationship of a covenanted community to God and to one another. The second generation ministers idealized their “pious founders and stern fathers” in contrast to their own generation’s backslidings.


Liberal Studies

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Puritans--New England

Geographic Coverage

New England


student projects; term papers




Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.

Rights Statement