Colonial Experience with Government and Economics
When European colonists came to North America, they faced the challenge of establishing societies that reflected their identity and mission. Part of that challenge would include structuring their compacts in ways that would support the kinds of life they were seeking. Among the first Europeans to arrive in what is now Massachusetts were the Puritans. This group of people wished to worship in their own way, and also wanted the Church of England to follow their example and be “purified” of Catholic influence.
The Puritans understood each individual in terms of his membership in the faith community. Each person had a sacred responsibility not only to serve God, but also to those in God’s community. At first, the colonists at Plymouth Plantation believed that their communal mission would be best served by communal farming. But Governor William Bradford reported that the system, though intended for the betterment of the community, actually caused “confusion and discontent.” The strongest young men felt resentful that they had to do more work; wives did not like having to prepare food for men other than their husbands—and oftentimes, neither did the husbands!