Archaeological evidence of an ice age, and hunters from the Ice Age crossed the Bering Land Bridge to the Americas. (40,000 years ago)
Over centuries the people migrated south (to Central and South America)
Europeans arrived (in the mid 15th century [1400s]) and started writing about their expeditions.
Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca (a Spaniard who arrived in 1528 on the western coast of modern day Florida. His fleet of ships and crewman eventually left for Mexico, but were lost in the Gulf near Texas. Cortez’s writings of his journeys and wanderings through modern day Texas are a first-hand account of the habits of some of North America’s oldest indigenous groups).
Group 3 The Puritans
The writings of the Puritans are central to the development of the American literary tradition, unlike the writing of the European explorers.
The American “character” has been shaped by the moral, ethical, and religious convictions of the Puritans.
The real commerce of the Puritans was heaven, so their goal was to found a new society.
“Puritan” is a term for the Protestant groups (1560) who sought to purify the Church of England.
They wished to return simpler forms of worship & church organization.
Their religion was a personal/inner experience. They believed clergy and government could not act as an intermediary (between God and man).
They suffered persecution: some escaped to Holland but feared they would lose their identity (culture); a small group set sail to the New World (USA) in 1620 to build a new society patterned after God’s word.
Puritans believed that Adam and Eve damned most of humanity for eternity.
They also believed Jesus came to Earth to die for only certain people (a particular group/set; not all)
Puritans tried to behave in as exemplary a manner as possible.
Group 4 Puritan Politics and the Bible in America
In Puritan views, a covenant existed between God and humanity.
They believed that people could enter freely into agreements concerning their government (without obligation).
Example: the Puritans signed and composed the “Mayflower Compact”; with this compact they prepared the ground for American Constitutional democracy.
(However, Puritans believed in the “elect” [A specific group of people whom God would save from damnation] and therefore were mostly undemocratic in their political views])
They believed the Bible was the literal word of God.
The Puritans believed education was important, thus they established Harvard College (today: Harvard University) in 1636 to train Puritan ministers for the expanding colonies.
Group 5The Age of Reason and Enlightenment
New ideas that fermented (developed) in Europe presented a challenge to the unshakeable faith of the Puritans.
This is when Rationalism was developed.
“Rationalism” is the belief that human beings can arrive at truth by using reason rather than by relying on the authority of the past (government), on religious faith, or on an institution.
Rationalists like Sir Isaac Newton compared God to a clock maker; that He made the world and then left His creation to run on its own like a clock.
Group 6 The Smallpox Plague
A ship from the West Indies (collection of islands in the Caribbean/Atlantic Ocean: modern day Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Jamaica etc…) came to America and carried the Smallpox disease.
A minister named Cotton Mather discovered the cure for Smallpox: inoculation.
(“Inoculation” is the term for vaccination. Cotton Mather had heard of the process of developing and administering vaccines from a Turkish physician and attempted, successfully, to implement it with the Smallpox plague in the Americas.)
People did not want the inoculation/vaccination because it was an idea from the Muslim community.
Due to the controversy and anger, Mather’s home was bombed.
Despite this, Mather continued to work and heal 300 people.
A devout Puritan (dedicated/religious) could also be a scientist.
The ability to try and experiment things no matter what the authority (government) says: (This idea would go on to shape American thought, philosophy, and politics for many decades to come).
Group 7 Deism
American deists came from a different religious background. (They were not Puritans, they were immigrants from other nations/people groups).
Their desire was to unite all religions.
They believed the universe was naturally orderly and good. (This differs from Puritans who believed that because of the Fall of Man, all humans were inclined to do evil).
After the Revolutionary War, the new nation (USA) had problems organizing and governing themselves.
The Age of Reason, being the time period when people thought for themselves and did not rely on an institution or authority for information, (produced one great piece of writing: Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. Franklin copied the Puritan writing style but left out the religious elements. He used this autobiography as a platform to develop the idea of the “self-made American”, which would also go on to shape American thought, philosophy, and politics.)