Why did the Puritans leave Holland? Were their reasons justified.

In Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford says that one of the reasons the Puritans chose to leave Holland for the New World was the negative effects the culture of the Netherlands had on the Puritans’ children.  Bradford says, “But that which was more lamentable, and of all sorrows most heavy to be borne, was that many of their children, by these occasions, and the great licentiousness of youth in that country and the manifold temptations of the place, were drawn away by evil examples into extravagant and dangerous courses…” (108).    This video explains some of the Puritan beliefs that led to their decision to leave England and, eventually, Holland  [Yst_uUL0gqE].  It is interesting to note that Bradford soon realized the Puritans themselves were not always true to their beliefs.  The Pilgrim leader was alarmed to learn that some of the others felt no obligation to respect the rules of the Pilgrims. In his words, they wanted to “use their owne libertie.”  This made the Mayflower Compact necessary.  The male heads of Pilgrim and non-Pilgrim families therefore drew up a compact that bound all signers to accept whatever form of government was established after landing. The compact created a “Civil Body Politic” to enact “just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices.” Every adult male had to sign the agreement before going ashore. The compact remained in effect until Plymouth was incorporated into the short-lived Dominion of New England in 1686 and subsequently absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691 [http://www.history.com/topics/mayflower-compact].

To further answer this question, it is important to learn a little about the Netherlands of the 1600s.  “As the name suggests, this region of Europe (which today is formed of the states of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) was a possession of the Habsburg King of Spain. Nevertheless, the people of the seven northern provinces (the modern Netherlands), who were solidly Calvinist, were in open rebellion against their Spanish Catholic master in what was really a war of independence. The southern provinces (modern Belgium and Luxembourg) did not go to war. Though they were largely Catholic, the people of these provinces were also close to revolt. It was only the tolerance, intelligence and diplomatic skill of the Duke of Parma and, above all, his refusal to use military force against the people which kept them loyal. Meanwhile, the northern provinces, with help from England, were on the point of achieving their independence under the leadership of members of the House of Orange (still national heroes today). Although Spain refused officially to recognise Dutch independence until 1649, it had already been achieved. Very soon this newly independent state was to become not only one of Europe’s great cultural centres, but also a haven of religious tolerance (especially for Jews) in a Europe where thousands of people still suffered and died because of their religious beliefs. The United Provinces, as it was called, would soon demonstrate that it was not only a great centre of trade but also a maritime power to rival both England and France”[http://www.saburchill.com/history/chapters/chap5121.html}.  The Holland of Bradford’s writing was in turmoil.  It was also on the verge of becoming a world economic leader.  This was not a place where the Puritans felt they could raise their children without outside influences.  The decision to  move to the New World may have been a wise one.  A look at the Netherlands today, and especially Amsterdam, shows a culture very different from the Puritan theology.  Youtube videos like the one attached show the Red Light District, an internationally famous road where prostitutes advertise in storefront windows: rsKe3rMc5fo.  Warning: this is not for the Puritan heart!

Bradford, William.  Of Plymouth Plantation. Nina Baym, ed.  The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Seventh Edition: Volume A.  New York: Norton, 2007.  104-138.


About GenacJSU

I am a grandmother, a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a teacher. This is about my journey.
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