Religious Freedom in the 13 Colonies

Areeb Ahmed September 22, 2011 APUSH – Block 5 Essay #1 Prompt: Analyze the extent to which religious freedom existed in the British North American colonies prior to 1700. Religion, one of the main reasons America is what it is now. Ever since the beginning of Jamestown, Europeans came to the Americas for a common reason; they sought religious freedom. The Middle Colonies were mostly Quakers with a mixture of Catholics and Jews. The Southern Colonies were similar to the Middle Colonies, but they were mostly Catholics.

However, the New England colonies were mostly Puritans which led to strict laws when it came to religion. The majority of the colonies did indeed have religious freedom to a pretty large extent with the exception of the New England Colonies. The New England Colonies were primarily composed of Puritans. This particular group of people believed in strict religious principles and had a strong passion for religion. If one were to break any of their religious laws, they received a strict punishment.

For example, Anne Hutchinson was a strong and intelligent woman who took to extremes the Puritan doctrine of predestination. She stated that those who were already destined to go to heaven need not live a holy life because he/she will be guaranteed a spot in heaven regardless of their actions in this life. Due to this, she was eventually banished to Rhode Island. Another example is with Roger Williams who was the founder of Rhode Island. He believed in religious freedom which, for the most part, was not popular among the Puritans for which he was banished from Massachusetts.

Overall, the Puritans opposed the idea of religious freedom and strongly supported their own ways of strict religious principles. The Middle Colonies were the complete opposite and were mainly composed of the Quakers of Pennsylvania. Founded by William Penn, a fellow Quaker, his aim was to build a place where freedom of religion was acceptable. With the grant of a huge plot of land, he was able to do so. Pennsylvania was grounds for many people with different religions, races, and social class. He stablished religious tolerance to everyone except Jews and Christians due to pressure by London. Along with the establishment of religious tolerance, Penn had a very healthy relationship with Indians. He had previously bought land from them and treated them with utmost respect and kindness. Sadly, as more and more non-Quakers arrived, there was more mistreatment of Indians. Overall, Pennsylvania was founded on a basis of religious tolerance where anyone can come and be of any religion except for Jews and Christians.

The Southern Colonies, specifically Maryland, was somewhat of a religiously tolerant colony. Founded by Lord Baltimore (Cecilius Calvert), Maryland was a place for Catholics. However, with cheap prices for land, Protestants arrived and bought large portions of it eventually making themselves the majority population. As time went on, religious tension grew between the two religions which pushed Baltimore to establish the Act of Religious Tolerance. It fixed the immediate problem, but the Protestants gained control and oppressed the chance of Catholics to vote.

They repealed the act and made Maryland a Protestant colony before Baltimore regained control. It then became a land of religious toleration to all Catholics and denounced the death penalty on those who didn’t believe in Jesus. Overall, there was religious freedom in the Southern Colonies for all Catholics, maybe not as much as the Middle Colonies, but definitely more than the New England Colonies. Religious freedom existed in most colonies except for the New England Colonies. In both the Middle and Southern Colonies, there was religious tolerance.

The Catholics were able to establish a colony where there was religious tolerance for all Christians. The Quakers were able to establish a colony where there was religious tolerance for all people except for Jews and Christians. But in the New England Colonies, the Puritans established a colony where they allowed only Puritans to practice Puritanism. Overall, depending on which colony you were in, there was at least some extent to which religions were being tolerated, but there was never one colony where you can be part of any religion and still not be punished.

Bibliography * Kennedy, David M. , Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey. The American Pageant: A History of the Republic. 11th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998. * “Religion and Church in the 13 American Colonies. ” Social Studies for Kids. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <http://www. socialstudiesforkids. com/articles/ushistory/13colonieschurch. htm>. * “Religion in Colonial America. ” Academic American History. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <http://www. academicamerican. com/colonial/topics/religion. html>.