Under its stern exterior, Puritan polity was fragile in nature

No, I didn’t expect to be feeling some sympathy for the Puritan authorities in America.

In fact, I had assumed they were a pretty formidable front.

But then, in researching my new book, Quaking Dover, I was rather amazed by the range of developments they faced in the 1630s, their first decade in the New World. It’s like they were being hit on all sides.

In addition, they had no direct representation in Parliament. And they didn’t necessarily represent the majority of the residents in their own towns.

In their tribulations with the Crown, the place was ripe for Revolution from the very beginning, rather than having to wait for Paul Revere’s midnight ride.

The Quaker challenge of the late 1650s hit at some intrinsic flaws in the Puritan mindset. As one challenge voiced it, the flaws were essentially theological rather than focusing on the unfolding news events. The title of the pamphlet?

An examination of the grounds or causes which are said to induce the Court of Boston in New England to make an order or law of banishment, upon pain of death, against the Quakers

As also

Of the grounds and considerations by them produced, to manifest the warrantableness and justness both by their making and executing the same; which they now stand deeply engaged to defend, having already put two of them to death

As also

Of some further grounds for justifying the same, in an appendix to John Norton’s book (which was printed after the book itself, yet part thereof); whereof he is said to be appointed by the General Court

And likewise the Arguments briefly hinted, in that which is called, “A true Relation of the Proceedings against the Quakers, &c.”

Whereunto somewhat is added about the Authority and Government Christ excluded out of his church; which occasioneth somewhat his true Church-Government

By Isaac Penington, the Younger



It’s a remarkable document, actually, well worth reading, even in light of the headlines and news flashes we encounter. It argued, essentially, that the Puritans were falling far short of their true goals and potential.

As for the full title?

It would never sell today.

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