The term “Puritans” began to be used in the middle of the 16th century, and it was applied to people characterized by great religious and moral earnestness, who were followers of Calvin. An important consequence of Calvin’s theory of presidential was the interpretation of material success and prosperity as signal evidence of divine grace: a successful man was certainly predestined for salvation. This explains why the countries where Calvinism developed, including the USA, have seen an enterprising, thriving middle class, bent on the making of money. A more subtle consequence – which was to have great effect on Victorian moralism – was the tendency to evaluate people from appearance and behaviour.
In the 17th century the Puritans came to represent the new way of life: they were mainly from the emerging middle class of town tradesmen who wanted a larger share in the Government. The odd, conservation element was represented by the ex-feudal landowners who supported the king. This division between middle class and aristocracy was to culminate in the Civil war which saw for a short period, thr triumph of the Puritans. They imposed a very rigid, austere way of life: no pleasure, no amusement, the theatres were closed and acting forbidden (1642): everything – from personal life to workship, business, even recreation was regulated in the light of God’s demand. The Bible was the source of all rule. Church and State became one and the same power.
The Puritans met stern opposition in their country. This is why a group of them decided to look for religious freedom and start a new life in another land. The Puritans who migrated to America in the Mayflower are known as the Pilgrim Fathers.
This is how the American journalist Richard Lingeman described the mentality of the early settlers of New England: “Godly people, the Puritans believed, must live under the constant surveillance of their neighbors if they were to stay godly. They regarded humankind as incorrigibly sinful.”
Even if Puritans domination finished in 1660, it left a mark never to be completely extinguished in British and American society