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Colonial Massachusetts

Massachusetts around the 1640's
Boston was founded in 1630, when a great number of Puritans moved to what would be Massachusetts. Governor Winthrop was one of them. However, four years later it was discovered that Massachusetts' charter was missing and that Winthrop had taken it with him when he left England. The General Court of Massachusetts looked at the charter and decided to use the processes (such as yearly elections) described in it rather than continue with the ways they had created when they had been unable to see the charter.

As the Puritans became stronger in Massachusetts, they also grew in the General Court. In 1635, it announced a fine for anyone who did not go to church every week. A year later, churches required potential members to present a “conversion narrative,” or stirring description of how and why they had decided to join the Puritan church. This meant that those who were unable or unwilling to provide such a narrative could not join the church. Because membership in the church was a requirement to be able to vote, this effectively limited voters to those who would agree with the Puritans, further strengthening their hold on the government.

At around the same time, Anne Hutchinson was seen as a threat to the government because of her ideas, including equality of all people, and the fact that she led people in Bible studies in her home. Because both men and women met in her home, the judges declared that the meetings were “lewd,” and she was exiled from the colony on November 17. The church and the government were so closely interconnected that a threat to one was immediately seen as a threat to the other.

In a move to cut the powers of the Puritans, however, in 1644 the General Court became "bicameral," or made up of two separate legislative branches. Because of this, a single Puritan or small group of Puritans could not take total control of the court. This was the beginning of further laws to limit the power of the Puritans, and their power diminished.



“Anne Hutchinson.” Travel And History. Online Highways. 12 Oct. 2009 < http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h577.html>.

Colonial Era Timeline. In Jaycox, Faith. The Colonial Era, An Eyewitness History.
New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2002. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. 9 Oct. 2009. <http://www.fofweb.com/NuHistory/>.

1850's Colonial America
The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorne; he began it in 1849 after he left the Custom House. The movement of the day was something called Transcendentalism. Transcendentalism was a movement that emphasized the idea that divinity can be found in all places, in all forms. There are many examples of this idea throughout the Scarlet Letter, such as Hester's portrayal as good, even though she is a sinner.
By the 1850’s, many of the social “norms” of the 17th Century were long gone. For example, the predominant religion was no longer the strict Puritanical Religion of the 17th Century, but a more open Christianity, much closer to what we now consider modern Christianity.
During this time period the Women's Suffrage movement began to receive more notice. This is crucial in understanding the importance of how someone in this era would view a Puritanical society that oppressed the rights of women. People of this time looked down on that type of behavior and gained respect for the oppressed, the women of the novel.

Answers.com Contributors. "The Scarlet Letter (Historical Context)." Answers.com. Web. 13 Oct. 2009. Editors. “SparkNote on The Scarlet Letter.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2003. Web. 9 Oct. 2009.
Wikipedia contributors. "Transcendentalism." Wikipedia. 13 Oct. 2009. Web. 13 Oct. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendentalism#Influence_on_other_movements>.