A couple of summers ago my family and I took a trip to Boston, Massachusetts. We watched a live reenactment of the Boston Tea party, webwalked through the historic districts, visited old style printing shops, and experienced hundreds of years of pure history. The air smelt of patriotism. Of all the American history we witnessed, one piece still impacts me this present day. It embodies strong families, the humble people who came over on the Mayflower: the National Monument to the Forefathers.
The Mayflower finally reached what would become Boston Harbor in November of 1620. One-hundred and two colonists unloaded and faced winter on their own, in the wilderness. Most would die within the next few months. These brave few were mainly European Puritans.
In an effort to keep the peace, the Mayflower Compact was written. A forerunner to the modern constitution, the compact was the first American document establishing self-government.
The Puritans built most of their laws around what they believed to be a universally held set of morals. A common example of Puritan law being enforced is the scarlet letter. In extreme cases citizens could be exiled, as was the founder of Providence, Rhode Island.
What They Stood For
As the Puritans were fleeing from religious persecution in Europe, they held little respect for those who could not stand up for their beliefs. In Plymouth, Puritan life centered on religious freedom and humility, with a new aspect of day-to-day survival. Puritans often married young and raised their many children to follow the laws of their society.
Puritans strove to be the best that they could be within their circumstances. Whether in dealing with Indians or fellow Europeans, integrity was upheld. Surviving in the wilderness and building a city from scratch caused tensions and death, but the Puritan society succeeded.
How They Did It
After a short period of what some might call socialism, the people of Plymouth decided it was time for change. Rather than simply rationing produce, everyone was allotted a piece of land on which to grow food. By providing each and every family an equal opportunity to grow food, productivity rose. One would not eat if one did not work. This system allowed for harder working farmers to be more successful. These men would then trade produce for goods, establishing an economy.
By dividing the people of the colony into families, and assigning bachelors or orphans to family units, the Puritan family generally grew together. Puritans realized the importance of strong family units in the process of self government. Like individual links create a chain, the Puritans believed the key to a strong government was a strong family.
The Family Map
Located in a Massachusetts neighborhood is one the most forgotten of American monuments. This Civil War era, solid granite statue, depicts the secret to a strong family, from the view of a Puritan.
The monument is divided into five sections, each relating to a specific aspect of family life. The Puritan recipe for a strong family is as follows: faith, education, morality, law, and freedom.
The tallest point of the world’s largest freestanding granite statue is Faith. Faith points directly up, presumably to heaven, and holds a copy of the Geneva Bible. Puritans believed that without faith, there was no basis for any other aspect of civilization. Most Puritan laws were based on faith, as was their work ethic. They believed without faith society could not stand. A family not only strengthened their unit, but the rest of society as a whole through faith. By teaching faith to a child and discussing it on a family level, children learned to reason, and more importantly learned how to confidently defend themselves and others.
Education is also a fundamental of society. Puritan children were taught while working or after farm chores were completed. Everyone worked towards a common goal together, regardless of experience, allowing the young to learn skills required for surviving in early American society. This hard work and time spent with elders quickly turned young boys into men.
An uneducated people can not advance, nor stand. Without teaching children history, the very reasons for fleeing England, the American Revolution may have been nothing more than a handful of confused men, unsure of what was being fought over.
By educating children, not only did the young learn about their society, but became a part of it, as they developed a sense of morality. This classical style of education was often the core of a patriot or hero.
Without education or faith, morality could not have thrived in Puritan society. By teaching children both how to think and by passing on faith, an understanding of morality became embedded in society. Without a common set of morals, society stood no chance, especially in a republic. A lack of morals in just a handful of people can devastate society. A government without morals is a government without fair law. A land without fair law becomes anarchy.
The Puritans established laws with equal punishments for all. By living according to morals and creating integrity, a society of respectful citizens took shape.
A government is the very embodiment of the social contract. The social contract is a government theory in which people set aside individual rights, and group together, in order to protect each other and prosper.
Without a common sense of faith or morality, a law can not be agreed on, and without an education, it can not be understood or upheld. These citizens would become the very leaders of society.
The end result of the puritan family recipe is freedom. The monument is divided into three more sections, one of which holds a large statue, while the other two depict specific definitions or results of the heading they fall under. Under the statue of Freedom is a facade entitled, Tyranny Overthrown, and one of peace. According to Puritan thinking, peace, and therefore freedom, was a lack of tyranny or oppression. By ridding society of these hindrances, a citizen is free to act as they wish. The only things meant to be feared were God and the law.
The Benefits of Strong Families
By promoting strong families, the new society lasted beyond the Plymouth generations. A family that can not rely on each individual family member is not a stable family. A reliable government is therefore far from possible if a reliable family is impossible. By encouraging the attributes above, Puritan society survived. By raising up children, and thus society, in an educational and integrity rich manner, hard-working, model citizens are forged. It is these citizens that continue making the American dream a possibility, and it is these citizens that will continue to shape society for years to come.
It Takes A Village.