There were religious exchanges that occurred in England during the 1500s. , Henry VIII who used to be a strong Roman Catholic separated the church by seeking to persecute the Tudor monarchs. Despite the presence of an English Dependant Church, religious people remained divided for many years. The Church of England had differences with the Catholic Church and the only thing that united them was the allegiance to the Pope. Some of the Englishmen felt that the English Revolution from the Roman Catholic had not achieved much.
The Puritans emerged from the Church of England and they had the main aim of separating the Church of England from any resemblance to the Roman Catholic Church. After the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 the new King James I decided to assert his divine right to rule and decided to support English Catholics businesses and careers. Many angered many Puritans started developing thoughts of escaping. In 1630 The Puritans sailed to Massachusetts Bay and maintained that they were not separatists.
The Separatists were English Protestants who were a radical minority of the puritans who lived on the wing of Puratism. They criticized the Church of England and were willing to destroy it. They claimed that the Church maintained many Roman Catholic Church elements such as clerical vestments, kneeling practice and altars. The Separatists also criticized public behavior such as drunkenness and failure of the people to keep Sabbath day holy. The Separatists referred to themselves as saints and they were afraid of spiritually mingling with people who were not of their congregation. In the year 1608, a group of English Separatists decided to move to Holland because they feared persecution. The Separatists were welcomed warmly by the Dutch that they feared that their children were going to lose their moral values so in 1620 they decided to move to a remote area so that they could protect themselves from moral degradation. Their movement resulted in the formation of the Plymouth community (Demos 48).
Differences between the Puritans and the Separatists
One of the differences between the Separatists and the Puritans was that the Separatists wanted to completely separate themselves from the Anglican Church while the Puritans wanted to remain in the Anglican Church but change some practices practiced by the Anglican Church. This Separatists’ desire to separate themselves from the Anglican Church was what made them leave for Holland. The Puritans also supported the idea of a structured church organization which was being practiced in Scotland known as Presbyterianism while the Separatists preferred a congregational approach.
The other main difference between the two was the size. The Separatists in Plymouth were fewer than the Puritans who settled in Massachusetts. The main reason for this is that only one hundred and two Separatists arrived in Plymouth with half of them dying during the winter while the Purists who moved to Massachusetts were a thousand. After a decade the population at Massachusetts had risen to twenty thousand while that at Plymouth was merely about two thousand five hundred only.
The economic and social status between the two is also a major difference. The Separatists at Plymouth were working people while the Puritans in Massachusetts were more educated and successful in economic and social status. The Separatists in Plymouth practiced true democracy in that after selecting their leaders the members of the colony referred to their leaders as covenants the same way as they referred to themselves. This meant that both the leaders of the community and their leaders were equals. In Massachusetts, the leaders of the community were elected by the people but once they were elected they ruled with divine authority. The Puritan leaders were referred to as governors by the people they governed.
The Puritans divided the church institution from the state but maintained that the state had the responsibility of giving the church support and protection. The government made sure that the church never interferes with civil and political rights. Puritans’ church members could not lose their church membership by voting and holding official positions. The vice versa was practiced by the separatists in Plymouth. The difference in attitude between the Puritans and the Separatists also existed. Generally, the Puritans were arrogant while the separatists in Plymouth were gentle there gentle nature was considered to may have been considered by the exile and the terrifying journey they had during their movement to Plymouth (John 93).
Demos John: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. New York: Oxford University Press. 1970 PP 23-51.
John, Paul. A History of the American People: New York: HarperCollins. 1997 PP 68 101.