Religious freedom soughtConcurrently, during the religious upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a body of men and women called Puritans sought to reform the Established Church of England from within. Essentially, their program called for the more complete protestantization of the national church, particularly insofar as church responsibility for individual conduct was concerned. Their reformist ideas threatened to divide the people and to undermine royal authority by destroying the unity of the state church. A radical sect, known as Separatists believed the Established Church could never be reformed to their liking. During the reign of James I, a small group of these-humble country folk-left for Leyden, Holland, where they were allowed to practice their religion as they wished. Some years later, a part of this Leyden congregation decided to emigrate to the new world where, in 1620, they founded the "Pilgrim" colony of New Plymouth.
Soon after Charles I ascended the throne in 1625, Puritan leaders in England were subjected to what they viewed as increasing persecution. Several ministers, who were no longer allowed to preach, gathered their flocks about them and followed the Pilgrims to America. Unlike the earlier emigrants, however, this second group, which established Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, included many persons of substantial wealth and position. Within the next decade, a Puritan stamp had been placed upon a half-dozen English colonies.
But the Puritans were not the only colonists driven by religious motives. Dissatisfaction with the lot of the Quakers in England led William Penn to undertake the founding of Pennsylvania. Similar concern for English Catholics was a factor in Cecil Calvert's founding of Maryland. And many colonists in Pennsylvania and North Carolina were dissidents from Germany and Ireland who sought greater religious freedom as well as economic opportunity.
Political considerations, together with religious, influenced many to move to America. The attempted personal and arbitrary rule of England's Charles I gave impetus to the migration to the new world in the 1630's. And the subsequent revolt and triumph of Charles' opponents under Oliver Cromwell in the following decade led many cavaliers-"king's men" -to cast their lot in Virginia. In Germany, the oppressive policies of various petty princes, particularly with regard to religion, and devastation from a long series of wars helped swell the movement to America in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.