Analyze the extent to which religious freedom existed in the British North American colonies prior to 1700.

Essay by aznti89titaniumHigh School, 10th grade October 2007

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The New World was first established because a group of people in England did not agree with the religious and political ways of life advocated. Different religious groups left England to pursue more religious freedom in America. As they moved to the New World, the three different regions of the North American colonies greatly impacted not only their lifestyles but also the extent of religious freedom allowed prior to 1700.

The first arrivers in the northern colonies were Puritans who came to America because they didn't agree with the Anglican Church. These early colonist yearned for a place where they could indulge in religious freedom as opposed to the extreme contrast to the strict religious persecutions they experienced in England. But the Puritans had very strict rules regarding membership into the Protestant Church and religion was viewed very strictly. The Puritans believed that they were "a city upon a hill" and were to be a model of a holy society for humankind.

Thus they were very rigid in thought and were also very prejudiced against other religions. This group who had come seeking religious freedom soon became the most religiously intolerant group in the Americas. Quakers, who denied the authority of the Puritan clergy, were persecuted with fines and banishment. Sometimes they were even hanged. Dissenters like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams were banished and Rhode Island was established by Williams as the first colony to have complete freedom of religion. In his "sewer" colony, Jew, Catholics, and Quakers were all sheltered and treated equally.

The Middle Colonies was an extremely religiously mixed region because of the amount of diverse people who settled there. The first to settle the region were the Dutch, in New Netherlands which would later become New York after the English took control. The Dutch practiced...