Immigration and Puritanism
By Marcus L. Hansen (Volume IX: Page 1)
A strange and undefined authority pervades American social and intellectual life, and occasionally its influence extends into the realm of politics. This sovereign force bears the name Puritanism. It has no definition and every person gives it his own meaning. Whenever a patriot honors great men and mighty deeds he says that they were inspired by Puritanism; whenever a critic of society or art bemoans the dullness and uniformity of the national scene he traces them back to the blighting effects of Puritanism. Any sort of restraint established by the government or decreed by the customs of the community is Puritanism. Any intolerance in the world of ideas is Puritanism. A human prejudice, a stern injustice, an annoying regulation are all derived from the same source. And then, when occasionally a robust pioneer society breaks all the bounds of propriety and runs into license, the evildoers are personally excused on the plea that this was merely a reaction to Puritanism.
The scholars whose field is literature have had more to say about Puritanism than the theologians and the historians. That, perhaps, accounts in large part for the vogue of the interpretation. In New England literary culture attained its earliest and fullest development. The figures that loom largest in the history of fiction, poetry, and popular philosophy are New England men who flourished when Boston was the intellectual capital of the United States. For better or for worse, historians of literature have adopted the
policy of interpreting authors and their works in terms of social environment. A poem is no longer the outpouring of an individual's despair or aspirations, and fiction is no longer the imagination having an exciting time. The author must be considered an unconscious scribe jotting down whatever his neighbors and their foibles dictated. Emerson and Longfellow, Hawthorne and Lowell are not individuals. They are Puritan essayists, poets, or novelists; and American literature, taking them as models, has been thoroughly artificial because certain standards as to what was fit to print have narrowed the range of emotions that a writer would dare to depict.
Until recently most of the critical work that has been done in American church history has come from the pens of investigators who have started their labors in an iconoclastic mood. The breaking of images has proceeded with such vigor that now the popular heroes and heroines of New England are colorful characters who suffered persecution at the hands of the Puritan divines. American religion, according to this opinion, started out with an emphasis upon things that were trivial and things that were seen. Outward appearances were the test of piety. Accordingly, hypocrisy was bred into the moral nature and pettiness took the place of that broad sympathy for human weakness that should be the basis of all religion. Occasionally, when the contrast between the inside and the outside of the cup became too scandalous, some revivalist would wash it out with a flood of emotionalism. Then excitement would take the place of reason, and finally there would come a reaction and a lethargy that encouraged an even greater contradiction between profession and deed.
Custom has reserved for the historian the sphere of politics, but in recent times he, also, has widened his interests to cover the broad background of man's varied activities. It is no longer enough to know what happened. One must
know why; and the more subtle and personal a factor is, the more weight it can claim as a determining force. Consequently, Puritanism has appeared as an explanation in the most unexpected places. The reform campaigns that periodically overturn municipal administrations are presented, not as a plain revolt of civic decency, but as a sudden reawakening of the primitive American conscience. Candidates for office must expect to find traits of character that have absolutely no bearing upon official fitness exhibited in the limelight to the public view. In the past, at least, clergymen have exercised a remarkable influence in determining the availability of men who desired political preferment and the "Methodist vote" and the "Baptist vote have been angled for as consistently as the vote of the farmers or laborers. There are some who consider the abolitionist phase of the antislavery movement a nineteenth-century manifestation of the Puritan spirit. By this reasoning the Civil War was only an episode in the history of that cult.
The term Puritanism has also been applied to administrative policies which have sometimes been expressed in state and federal legislation and sometimes have been the product of judicial decisions or the decrees of officials. What this means is well known: the censorship of literature by a customs inspector; the censorship of the theater by a policeman temporarily taken off his regular beat; the interpretation of what is art and what is indecency by a judge who knows nothing about the canons of culture. In the same category fall the state laws and city ordinances that have laid down precise rules as to how the Sabbath day is to be kept holy; and, finally, the legal code adopted to preserve temperance, ending in a prohibition amendment to the Constitution. This is what the average citizen refers to as Puritanism: a program that seeks to regulate morals by preventive legislation. Such an attempt has not been unknown in other countries, but in the United States it has been more
persistent and more drastic; and out of its presence have come many of the predominant features of American social life.
So obvious has this national distinction been that the popular mind possesses a standard explanation of its origin and development. It runs about as follows: the most successful colonizers of the North American continent were English Puritans who left the decadent society of the homeland to plant a Bible commonwealth beyond the sea. Permeated through and through by Calvin's theology, they found in the Old Testament the spirit of their government and the text of many of their laws. To preserve this ideal state they did not hesitate to hang Quakers and drive dissenters into the wilderness; and their sons and daughters were reared in an ecclesiastical atmosphere as harsh as New England's climate. Time softened somewhat the administration of these ideals, but the spirit remained. From its home in the
northeastern states Puritanism was introduced to the West and Southwest by migrating settlers, and the wealth that the merchants accumulated was devoted to the establishment of colleges. From these institutions came one generation of ministers after the other who gradually captured control of most of the Protestant churches and stamped their teachings upon the pattern of village and country life. The Civil War (which in many ways was an attempt of the South to escape this domination) was a great victory for the ministers and, elated by success, their ambitions led them on until at last morality was written into the fundamental law of the land in the Eighteenth Amendment.
It is this view of Puritanism that is to be subjected to investigation and the analysis properly begins with a consideration of the Puritan regime as it was in its native New England.
Who were the Puritans of New England? Much learning has failed to yield satisfactory answers to questions
regarding their education, material possessions, and practical motives in seeking new homes. Perhaps they were fanatics; on the other hand, they may have been ordinary individuals who, not being deeply concerned with religion, left discipline to the leaders. But whatever they were in spiritual matters, in temporal affairs they were colonists, settlers who were obliged to devote most of their time, thought, and energy to chopping down forests, building homes, and planting and reaping harvests. They were immigrants, and most of their policies must have been typical immigrant reactions. Whether the European crossed the Atlantic in 1680, 1730, or 1830, the all-absorbing problem that faced him was that of getting settled, with the result that his social life, in all of its aspects, was colored by the needs of his pioneer status. In a group of settlers these individual needs, multiplied many times over, inevitably became an essential part of community policy.
If an investigator will make a thorough study of the experiences of the millions of nineteenth-century immigrants, saturate himself in their problems, and then turn back to the original records of seventeenth-century Massachusetts and study the pages without the assistance of any traditional interpretations, he will be amazed to note how familiar the passages sound. Every one of the later immigrant settlements was troubled by its Roger Williams and its Anne Hutchinson, who had to be cast out for the sake of religious peace. Each group had its statesmen who sacrificed to build a college lest the people be left to an illiterate ministry. Each had its fanatics in social philosophy and religious practice, and Puritanism was the spirit that permeated all. So striking is the parallel that one hesitates to doubt that the Germans, Swedes, Finns, and all the rest of them would have been just as intolerant in their laws if they had possessed the same legal rights of self-government as the Fathers of New England. The vocabulary of Calvin may have provided the
phrases in which the ideals were expressed but those ideals were only an outgrowth of the necessities of daily life.
The Journal of John Winthrop, many times governor of Massachusetts Bay, provides an enlightening passage which may be taken as a starting point. Winthrop is remembered as one of the milder and more humane of the Fathers and the regime of which he was a part never had his complete approbation. But crime and disorder appeared in a startling degree among the settlers. The authorities were obliged to take action; dispute arose as to how severe the action should be. The ministers went into conference, and the passage continues, "The next morning they delivered their several reasons, which all sorted to this conclusion, that strict discipline both in criminal offences and in martial affairs, was more needful in plantations than in a settled state, as tending to the honor and safety of the gospel."
To repeat the significant words: "strict discipline . . . more needful in plantations than in a settled state." This is the clue to immigrant Puritanism.
Why a stricter discipline? In the Old World a person was more likely to lead a respectable life because he was surrounded by the restraints of family and tradition. But in the New World these restraints were gone; no one knew him; life was harder and former pleasures were not available. Moral standards had been an outward prop, not an inner support, and now the prop was gone. Law had to do for the individual what he could not do for himself; and law did it, not primarily for the individual's good but for the protection of society. Every frontier lived through its period of lawlessness before government caught up; and when the miners of California formed vigilance committees and hanged horse thieves and claim-jumpers they were merely being puritanical in their own way. The famous Blue Laws are also understandable. No person to smoke more than
two pipes a week --- because the few acres already cleared must be planted to wheat, not tobacco, or starvation might be the result; no cooking on Sunday, because during the long hours when the family was in church the embers might flare up and put the whole settlement ablaze; no loitering or fishing in the woods on the part of the young men, because the Indians might fall upon them, seize their rifles, and have the settlers at their mercy. Thus we can page through the code and reason out a practical, every-day explanation of the regulations that now seem so strange.
Occasionally a reader chances upon one of the intimate diaries in which a Puritan recorded the duties and pastimes of his fleeting hours. Before many paragraphs are covered there comes the inevitable exclamation: "But these saints weren't so puritanical after all." There were picnics and dinner parties and courtships and ordinations --- especially ordinations. The bill for refreshments (port, sherry, and also the harder varieties) always amounted to a total that certainly would have eared for all the poor of the parish for many years. When a church was dedicated, when the ministers gathered in annual conference, when the judges met in conclave, there were not many restrictions or inhibitions evident.
All this illustrates what may be called the practical aspect of Puritanism. Regulations were adopted not so much for the moral good of those who did the regulating but because there were many in society who could not be trusted to restrain themselves. The first temperance society in America was founded in 1789 by the farmers of Litchfield County, Connecticut, who took the pledge; but note what they pledged: they agreed not only to abstain themselves but also to refuse their hired hands any liquor as part of the
rations. That was the essence of practical Puritanism --- restriction of others.
New England Puritanism had its ups and downs. As the influx of colonists ceased and life became more settled the early regime was relaxed, only to be revived in a more bitter and unnatural form whenever some danger loomed. Shortly before 1700 war with France and the threat of invasion led to a Puritan outburst that sought to free the land of all the evil spirits that had lodged in the mortal frames of old women.
In the 1740's there was again war with France, and every frontier community lived in terror of Indian massacre. Again the ministers could preach the need of reformation, and the Great Awakening sought to restore the piety of earlier days. But when the emergency had passed and the evangelizing zeal had cooled, sinners could continue along the broad way in peace.
After the expulsion of the French from North America and the achievement of independence New England reached social maturity. Puritanism was still a tradition that provided the ideal for many of the forms of life but officials and public opinion condoned scenes and standards that give to the age an aspect of unrestrained license. There was religious indifference. The Sabbath was desecrated. Business morals were low and Yankee traders bore an unsavory name in most of the ports of the seven seas. Drunkenness was a prevailing vice.
John Harriott, whose Struggles through
Life presents a varied picture of a seaman's career in the latter days of the eighteenth century, found in Boston "more private debauchery than I ever knew in any other part of the world."
Contemporary moralists blamed the condition onto the laxness attending the war of the Revolution, and others ascribed the degeneration to the vogue of French philosophy and infidelity. Is it not more realistic to suppose that the conditions that had nourished Puritanism had disappeared and the Puritan Age had run its course?
A more pleasing aspect of the change was the liberalism that appeared in all intellectual circles. A theater was opened in Boston and (what would probably have shocked the ancestors more) a Catholic chapel was erected. Tolerance of opinions and practices was the mark of a gentleman. The pioneer Catholic clergy of New England were elected to learned and select societies, and Protestants flocked to the services to hear the creed of the church expounded.
Puritan doctrine was softened into Unitarianism and Unitarianism was further softened into Universalism. Many gave up all religion and became humanitarians of the literary variety. For over a generation this spirit reigned and finally in the 1830's and 1840's it blossomed out into the so-called "golden age" of New England --- a period of literature and philosophy when continental scholars received a welcome in the universities that had hitherto been narrow in personnel and teaching, and their theories were eagerly absorbed by the clergymen who no longer found satisfaction in the spiritual food of their fathers.
Perhaps it was too good to last. New England was doomed to be something other than an agricultural commonwealth. Nature had provided power, and two centuries of industry and parsimony had accumulated capital. In the
years that followed the War of 1812 commercial ports and rural villages were industrialized. Local capitalists constructed cotton and woolen mills, and every country girl spent a few months or a year or two tending the spindles until she had earned a dowry. But there was other labor to be done --- heavy, dirty work that no New Englander would perform for the pittance offered: canals to be dug, foundations to be laid, dams to be constructed. And so the Irishman came.
In no other part of the United States at the time would the Irishman have felt himself more of a stranger and received less of a welcome. Two hundred years before, twenty thousand Englishmen had founded the Puritan colonies. Since that first influx the current of immigration had practically passed them by.
A few hundred families from Ulster had come shortly after 1700 but their descendants could not be counted upon to extend a cordial greeting to the Catholic Celt. Nevertheless, no hardship could daunt them and no ridicule discouraged their persistence. The son sent for his father and the father for his wife and children. They crowded together in the garrets of the cities and built "shanty towns" wherever a vacant lot and discarded boxes and timbers could be discovered.
No matter how sympathetic one might feel towards these new colonists he could not overlook the practical problems created by their presence. Passage from Ireland was not expensive. Often fifteen shillings secured a berth in a
timber vessel bound for New Brunswick. A few shillings more brought the immigrant in a coasting schooner to Boston. Thence transportation was on foot and usually food was provided by the charity of kind housewives. When at last the newcomer reached the vague destination, too often the expected work was not available or the job was done. There was no use in proceeding further. Penniless and hungry and often sick, the new resident's first acquaintance in the community was the officer whose duty it was to relieve the poor. Even when employment was obtained, the Irishman remitted such a large percentage from the small wage that he received to his native land that poverty and squalor seemed to be his perpetual state. In the eyes of his American neighbors he was the representative of a thriftless and improvident race whose coming had destroyed the standards of living and the aspect of comfort that had previously prevailed.
Honest poverty the Yankee might have condoned but this unfortunate state, he believed, was the result not of divine affliction but the working of the devil drink. The immigrant gulped American whisky and found it excellent in taste and effective in results. Not the least of the virtues was its price. In a letter in which he described the advantages of the New World, one of them wrote, "Give my very kind love to Father, and tell him if he was here he could soon kill himself by drinking if he thought proper . . . I can go into a store, and have as much brandy as I like to drink for three half-pence, and all other spirits in proportion."
This advantage the immigrants did not hesitate to make the most of. The fatigue of heavy labor demanded a stimulant; fever
and ague wanted an antidote; homesickness had to be dispelled. For all these ailments whisky provided a universal remedy. It was, however, a remedy that was taken socially and produced the reckless conviviality that exiles always inspire in one another when they meet over the cup in a foreign clime. Payday was Saturday night, which Puritan custom considered part of the Sabbath; but on that evening shouts of happiness and sounds of strife came from the hovels and arose from the streets of shanty town.
As has been indicated, this was a time of intemperance in New England, but the Yankee drunkard was of the Rip Van Winkle type, the easy-going, humorous village character, the friend of children and dogs. He became more and more stupefied and finally reached a fitting end. Immigrant drunkenness was violent and as dangerous to innocent bystanders as to the circle of drinkers. For this description it is not necessary to depend upon the biased criticism of the natives. Catholic priests who followed parishioners to the labor camps fought against intemperance as the supreme immigrant vice and their warnings and sermons are source materials as vivid as the complaints of any outraged Congregational clergyman.
At first the only official measures prompted by this situation were directed against the burden of poverty. Every incoming foreign passenger was forced to pay a head tax, and from the fund thus accumulated the towns were reimbursed for any expense incurred.
The social difficulties were neglected on the theory that American institutions would cure anything. In the meantime the immigrants established their
own institutions, and by 1850 New England was the home of two peoples, each of whom possessed its own manner of living, its own standards of conduct, and its own intense hostility towards the other. With the large invasion of hungry Irishmen in 1847 and thereafter, the natives arose in revolt. Economic jealousy, religious bigotry, and simple, unprejudiced worries united in secret societies collectively designated in history the "Know-Nothing Movement."
The title was an unfortunate choice. Every American schoolboy can explain that it received its name because the participants replied, "I don't know," when quizzed regarding their objectives. The objectives, however, did not long remain secret. Politically, the movement sought to restrict immigration and hinder naturalization. Unofficially, it aimed to curb the growth of the Catholic church. But socially it became a part of the revival of Puritanism that occurred at this time, and it was one of the strongest factors leading to that revival.
Earlier in this discussion attention was drawn to the distinctive feature of American Puritanism: the regulation of the morals and actions of those whom the regulators considered dangerous to society because they were unable to take care of themselves. Here was a situation that would encourage the reapplication of this principle, and the statute books of every New England state record the revival.
In 1851, Maine adopted a law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor; that is, state prohibition. During the next five years practically every northern state battled over similar proposals and many of them borrowed the "Maine Law" as a weapon against intemperance. This, it is true, was not
an official plank of the Know-Nothing program and the agitation had arisen apart from that movement. But it appealed to the moderate and most practical element who followed the advice of a writer in the sedate magazine, the New Englander. Persecution of aliens, he urged, will do no good; ostracism cannot change their habits. "Beget about them a pure moral atmosphere," he wrote, "so they and their children will grow up strong in the virtues that constitute a good citizen."
Both the temperance agitation and the Know-Nothing Movement met an inevitable reaction. But the spirit of Puritanism that both had fostered was again breathed into the life of the churches. When many of the states repealed the prohibitory laws, the clergymen and their faithful cohorts were not discouraged. A return to state-enforced prohibition remained a constant hope. An impetus was given by the hard times that followed the panic of 1857. Moralists pointed to the hardships and suffering that immigrant families, in particular, endured, and blamed the difficulties upon the improvidence of a drinking father. The despair of the period also strengthened religious zeal, and the outburst of enthusiasm known as the "revival of 1858" stamped the reborn Puritanism upon a rising generation of ministers and people. For the time being, the full effects could not be seen because the anti-slavery crusade obscured everything but the status of the Negro. But ten years later, when that issue had been fought out in the Civil War, the churches returned to the earlier conflict and inaugurated a new era of reform with the nation, instead of the state, as the object of their endeavors.
In this new offensive the churches that had been Puritanized by the New England influence were aided by allies who came from a quarter in which little assistance would
normally have been expected. Thus far, New England has dominated our thoughts. There were, however, immigrants other than the Irish. Germans and Scandinavians colonized the rising West, and wherever they settled, personal and community problems appeared to vex immigrants and natives alike.
The foreigner who set out to establish a home in a pioneer agricultural region obviously found himself in an environment different from that which surrounded the New England Celt. Out on the prairie or deep in the forest American institutions were often entirely lacking or, if present, they were too weak to be effective in enforcing any local standards. Many of the settlers were as respectable in conduct as any eastern deacon, but the tide of migration had carried in a class of native Americans who rejoiced in the freedom of the West and disported themselves riotously in the crossroads taverns.
It was with this social class that the immigrant from abroad was naturally thrown. Here was American liberty with a vengeance, and he proceeded to cast off all the restraints that European society had bred into him. As elsewhere, homesickness and dreary labor were incentives to conviviality and the comradeship offered by the native rowdies was eagerly accepted. The physical and social mortality among people unaccustomed to such ways of living was high, and in a large number of cases immigration, instead of being a step upward, was a plunge downward. As successive groups of any nationality arrived, the young men among them at once accepted the company and adopted the standards of their predecessors. The history of every immigrant settlement reveals that at some time it passed through this stage of drunkenness and revelry.
When the first clergyman of the faith that these foreigners had professed at home appeared upon the scene, his work was cut out for him. To baptize and confirm was not so important as to conduct a clean-up campaign. Irrespective of his past inclinations this clergyman was forced to adopt a program of reform and to forbid pastimes and pleasures that the ecclesiastical rules of his early training had condoned. Thus the immigrant church was started out upon a career of Puritanism which, at first, had absolutely no connection with the saints at Boston, the fountain head from which all such American tendencies are supposed to flow.
In dealing with the immigrant church a distinction must be made between the Roman Catholic church, a world-wide organization with more than a thousand years of experience in pioneering, and the Protestant denominations that were suddenly called upon to enter into undertakings for which no machinery existed. This latter group may be considered first.
A continental state church looked with no favor upon emigration. As an organ of the government it often sought to discourage expatriation. Among the arguments presented to the head of a family who was anxiously considering the step was the danger involved in bringing up sons and daughters in a country which was described as a spiritual waste.
Every letter that came from across the Atlantic with its account of the drunkenness and misery in the immigrant settlements illustrated this point. These same letters prompted others to urge that clergymen, supported by church funds, be sent out to gather together the scattered faithful and organize congregations that would restore the moral atmosphere of the homeland. These requests were refused.
Action of this kind, it was stated, would be interpreted as governmental encouragement of emigration. The more hardhearted among officials argued that those who deliberately separated themselves from their native country and its benevolent institutions should suffer the consequences of their folly.
What state churches refused to do was, therefore, undertaken by benevolent and serious individuals. Sometimes it was the enterprise of a private person, sometimes of an association formed for the purpose. Methods that had been evolved for subsidizing missionaries in India and China were now applied for the benefit of benighted emigrants.
Among the clergymen, candidates offered themselves for this field as others had volunteered for service in heathen lands; and, as in the latter case, they tended to be men of more zeal, with stricter standards of conduct, than their fellow ministers who remained at home in the comfortable security of an ecclesiastical position as strong as the state. As a result, the immigrant church started out under the leadership of men with a strong bent towards Puritanism.
This inclination was firmly fixed as a permanent trait when the missionary entered upon his duties. Responsibility rested heavily upon the shoulders of the Lutheran or Reformed pastor who found himself the moral leader in a settlement of fellow countrymen intoxicated with the ideas
and the liquor of the Republic. His coming was welcomed by the sober members of the colony. They organized themselves into an ecclesiastical body, sacrificed to build a church, and set out to restore the good name of German, Swede, or whatever it might be.
In this endeavor Puritanism received another impetus. To be successful, even among its own constituency, an immigrant institution had to have the good will of the native Americans. But the respectable, middle-class American looked with suspicion upon an organization which was, he thought, a branch of a monarchical government. In his opinion a state church was no church because the individual was born into it. But every American church was a union of believers who, deliberately, under no compulsion, chose to belong to it, to contribute to its support, and to pattern their daily life upon the code of morality that it decreed. These American churches undertook to proselyte among the immigrants and they argued that the adopted citizen, along with his new-found glory as a political individual, should also acquire religious individuality and separate himself from the group that had no meaning except as an association of people who happened to be of the same blood.
Accordingly, in self defense, the immigrant church was forced to adopt standards that conformed to the ideals of the prevailing denominationalism. An illustration or two are in order. It was a hot July Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1857. Fifty or sixty Scandinavians attended religious services and then rowed across the lake and enjoyed a picnic afternoon and evening --- eating, probably drinking, singing and, probably, engaging in some country dances. The event was observed by many, but the picnickers were not prepared for the barrage of criticism that appeared in the local paper, warning them to behave like respectable
Americans if they wanted to enjoy the privileges of the country. A worse blow followed when their own clergyman sided with the natives and forbade the faithful to repeat the enjoyment. Thereupon a debate ensued in the columns of the Norwegian paper. The revelers asked: such Sunday pastimes are a common custom in Norway; the clergymen do not condemn; in fact, they partake therein; why does the church forbid in America what is encouraged in Norway? Is not a sin in one place a sin in another? The reply of authority was: we do not argue this on the basis of intrinsic right or wrong; the fact is clear that such practices bring our church into disrepute and whatever weakens the position of the church is wrong.
The second incident is drawn from the autobiography of one of the immigrant missionaries. He came to the New World at considerable personal sacrifice in order that he might organize the scattered congregations into some uniformity in theology and administration. It was not long before he became aware that his success was being hindered by the rumor that he was a drunkard and a Sabbath-breaker. Investigation revealed the origin of these charges. The first was based upon his habit of stopping while on long horseback journeys to refresh himself with a glass of wine at a country tavern; the second was the result of his calling together a congregational meeting on a Sunday afternoon to consider the worldly question of how much salary the church could raise for the support of a settled minister. Being a practical person he at once "reformed" and determined, at the first opportunity, to reveal the strictness of his code. The opportunity came. In the ranks of one congregation was a member who had fallen into evil ways. Admonition did no good and so he was excluded from the fellowship of the church. This was a procedure which in Europe was reserved for only the most despicable of conduct and which rendered
the victim almost a social outcast. This stigma the accused one refused to bear and argued that the congregation had no authority to exclude. To maintain his point he boldly appeared at the next business session. The minister who presided announced that when all strangers had withdrawn they would proceed. No one left. Thereupon, the minister, addressing him by name, told him (in proper ecclesiastical language) to get out and stay out. He didn't budge. At once the clergyman descended from his place, seized the sinner by the collar, and hurled him through the door out into the world. This was not the last of the incident. The minister was summoned before the nearest justice of the peace, charged with assault and battery, found guilty and fined. In recording the outcome he made no complaint regarding American justice. On the contrary, there is a note of triumph in the account, for never again did anyone in the community say there was no discipline in the Lutheran church. The conduct of its members was as irreproachable as any Methodist, Baptist, or Presbyterian could demand.
This is what may be described as spontaneous immigrant Puritanism. It was reinforced by a closer association with the American churches. The problem of money was preeminent. Comparatively little support was received from Europe and when the undenominational American Home Missionary Society offered a struggling pastor a subsidy of a hundred dollars a year there was no reason for him to refuse. But this society insisted that only earnest souls were to be tolerated in the membership of the congregation that received help, and although no definition of "earnestness" was provided prudent pastors knew that conduct was considered a necessary quality and exercised discipline accordingly."
From this beginning the relations with the institutions
of the country were expanded. Young men who were educated for the ministry were often sent to a theological seminary in New England, and when the immigrant churches founded colleges to train pastors for their congregations those institutions could not escape the forms or the spirit that prevailed at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
The process of Puritanization can be followed by anyone who studies the records of a congregation or the minutes of a synod. Discipline became more and more strict. One after the other, social pleasures that were brought from the Old World fell under the ban. Temperance and Sunday observance were early enforced. Then card playing and dancing were prohibited. Simplicity in dress and manner of living were praised as virtues. The children of the immigrants were the object of much concern. When they began to forget the language of their parents and absorb the culture of their American contemporaries an effort was made to prevent all mingling in surrounding society by decreeing the sinfulness of any pastime that tempted such association. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Protestant immigrant churches had adopted so much of the New England atmosphere that clergymen who came from the European seminaries of the various denominations were strangers in theology and ecclesiastical practice.
That part of the Irish immigration that settled in the West and the large number of Germans who were of the Catholic faith were subjected to a regime mild in comparison with that of their Protestant neighbors. When the settlers arrived upon the scene the Catholic church was already present. Over a century before, missions had been established among the Indians and the flexible framework of the church was ready to expand as soon as the need for another kind of
service was apparent. When the immigrants arrived priests were not far behind. Sometimes they were in the van of the movement, provided with funds with which to build a church that would act as a magnet encouraging the newcomers to locate within sight of the steeple. The rapid multiplication of dioceses in the region beyond the mountains testifies to the efficiency of the system.
Accordingly, the church was more concerned with prevention than with cure and less drastic measures were necessary. The person who went astray could not so universally blame his fall upon the absence of spiritual advisers. Once lost, he was lost for good. Those who from the beginning identified themselves with the church at once felt at home, and all the restraining influences of their native village were in operation. No new prohibitions were added to the commandments they had known from youth. Moreover, the Catholic church was less sensitive to the opinion of the Americans. It realized that it was viewed with suspicion. A certain amount of persecution was taken for granted. The oldest institution in western civilization was not going to revise its program because a few Yankees looked upon it with disfavor.
In the growth of that body of restrictive laws and customs called Puritanism, the Catholic church is usually accounted a retarding force. Never did it enter whole-heartedly into the campaign to make people moral by police regulations. This desirable end could be achieved by other methods.
In the course of time, however, the American hierarchy realized that they were dealing with a situation that had no precedent. Not only did many members of their congregations succumb to the prevailing immigrant vice but some of the most prosperous of the parishioners were key men in the liquor trade. Who could produce better beer than the brewer from Munich? And he was a Catholic. Who was a more genial and efficient bartender than the Irishman? And he was a staunch supporter of his religion. The American Protestant press associated the two facts, and the church, for the sake of its public honor, had no alternative but to take action.
Organized and encouraged by bishops and priests, a temperance agitation which left unaffected no one in the constituency was set under way. The archbishop of St. Paul, in whose province so many Catholic immigrants were settled, assumed the leadership of the movement and under his direction public opinion was changed. Men connected with the liquor trade were retired from their positions as lay leaders and all efforts which sought to secure reform by imposing high licenses and restricting hours received church support. The archbishop was frank in his declaration that if improvement were not secured by these measures he would not hesitate to support the policy of prohibition.
This attitude, it is true, was not generally accepted. The majority had faith in the ultimate success of less drastic means; but the Catholic church, like the other immigrant churches, helped to form that ecclesiastical sentiment which was the largest single element in bringing about the final triumph of national prohibition.
It is not necessary to recount the steps by which this end was achieved. To complete the picture, however, it is necessary to consider a third section of the country --- the South
---from which many of the strongest impulses came. Can that source, also, be related to immigration?
If the theory propounded at the beginning of the discussion, that colonial Puritanism was more practical than theological, is sound, then it should have appeared outside New England. It did. In what phase are we interested? Sunday observance? The resident of Virginia who failed to attend the established service on the Sabbath incurred a penalty of fifty pounds of tobacco. The law of New Netherland decreed that not only were ordinary labor, hunting, and fishing prohibited on that day but also "going on pleasure parties in a boat, car, or wagon before, between, or during divine service" --- a regulation that covered most contingencies. Or shall we consider orthodoxy? A man might be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Maryland as well as in New Haven.
Or is our interest in intolerance? Massachusetts was not the only place where Quakers could expect opposition. In the Virginia records appear items such as, "Quakers whipped," "Quaker fined for entertaining a Quaker," "June 10, 1658, general persecution of Quakers directed."
But south and west of the Hudson the system did not assume any theological aspect and it did not become an honored tradition. New York remained a colony of two parts: the sleepy valley of the Hudson River where Dutch farmers smoked peacefully and, if they ever contemplated any excesses, never got around to action; and the city of New York that was constantly thronged with rowdy sailors --- but no one, not even Puritans, ever attempted to reform sailors on shore leave. New Jersey and Pennsylvania possessed a large Quaker element, of which each person governed himself; and the largest contingent of early immigrants was made up of German sectarians bound together in communistic
societies that were ruled by an authority more severe than any Boston theocracy would presume to decree. The other large immigration was of Presbyterians from Ulster who brought with them a severe code and a strict discipline.
Below the Mason and Dixon Line, however, the evolution is more enlightening. Reference has already been made to some of the legislation in Virginia and Maryland. The statute books of both colonies abound with enactments which, had they appeared in Massachusetts or Connecticut, would have been considered evidences of Puritan bigotry. But the South did not remain Puritan in its society. Laws were allowed to fall into disuse. Virginia, in particular, became the scene of a civilization which in comfort and tolerance is always taken as the direct antithesis of everything Puritan. The horse-racing parson, the plantation master who loved his mint juleps, the gay gatherings of young and old in the provincial capital at Williamsburg are evidences of a society beyond the pioneer state. They are evidences of something else as well. The small farm had been superseded by the large plantation. Economic life revolved around tobacco, and slaves had taken the place of white servants.
In a history of Puritanism in America, slavery deserves a chapter because, from the definition that has been adopted, slavery was Puritanism raised to the nth degree. When the labor class (or it may be designated the lower class) consisted of slaves, no code of moral behavior was necessary. The upper ranks of society curbed the lower, not by state laws but by personal decrees. Every master established the standards of morality to which his Negroes must submit and he determined the punishment to be meted out in ease of infraction. In any matter his will was stronger than the ties of marriage or family and his decisions were superior to the precepts of religion. Only occasionally did the law interfere between owner and slave and then the presumption was that the former was in the right.
It is not surprising that the South with a social system of this nature did not feel the wave of Puritanism that arose in the 1850's. The Maine Law agitation affected it only slightly.
But twenty-five years later the situation was reversed. Then the southern states were the leaders in the movement for prohibition and it was evident that a change of far-reaching influence had taken place. That change, of course, was the abolition of slavery; with its disappearance chaos entered into the relations of black and white, rich and poor, pious and wicked. Restraint of some sort was necessary and, now, in the South as before in the North, the state undertook duties in the realm of moral supervision.
Practically every contemporary who observed the progress of temperance legislation in these states ascribed the new policies to the presence of freed slaves. What the immigrant was in the North the Negro was in the South --- a laborer whose daily life and mental attitude encouraged overindulgence in the cup that cheers. But that is too simple and too sweeping an explanation to cover all. There were men of another color who were in need of social discipline. All standards were deranged by the war and the exaggerated simplicity that former lords of the plantation assumed provided an outlook upon life in which Puritanism could thrive. The gloom of defeat strengthened religious convictions and the missionaries who came down from the North stamped their ideals upon the southern churches as they had impressed them upon the denominations that came from Europe.
The movement for temperance gathered force with each decade that followed the Civil War. The annual influx of foreigners increased rapidly and finally it passed the million mark. A million new inhabitants each year lived through all the temptations and all the disillusionments that had been the lot of their predecessors. The Puritans struggled with a situation that constantly became more difficult. Most of the states experimented with various remedies, but after their failure came a return to the discarded practice of prohibition by state law. In this movement the South, which had done more experimenting than any other section of the country, was the leader. In less than a year four of these states became "dry." In the succeeding period other commonwealths in the North and West followed the same policy.
State prohibition, however, encountered difficulties in enforcement because of the ease of interstate transportation.
Accordingly, the Puritans took their agitation to Congress. Here the representatives of the three elements met: congressmen from the North who had inherited the strict principles of New England forefathers; congressmen from the West who did not dare oppose the desires of the immigrant churches that had such great control over their constituents; congressmen from the South who desired to make national a policy which both religion and practice championed. By 1913, they had secured a law controlling the interstate shipment of liquor but this was an enactment that could be repealed by any change in congressional sentiment.
They argued: while the mood is on let us put it where it cannot be tampered with. So the agitation was continued and, finally, when the war gave an added impetus to governmental
control of life and property the Eighteenth Amendment was adopted.
The Eighteenth Amendment will long be remembered as a social experiment, an experiment of which many of the American people are not proud. But to consider the Puritanism that inspired it the twentieth-century child of seventeenth-century bigotry is the most superficial of views. It was a Puritanism that arose out of nineteenth-century conditions, and in the formation of those conditions the millions of immigrants had as vital a part as any other factor of thought or practice.
<1> Presented as one of a series of lectures on "The Influence of Nineteenth-Century Immigration on American History" delivered at University College, London, in February and March, 1935, under the auspices of the Commonwealth Fund. Ed.
<2> John Winthrop, History of New England from 1630 to 1649, 1:212 (Boston, 1853).
<3> Allgemeine Auswanderungs Zeitung (Rudolstadt), March 15, 1866; Der Deutsche Auswanderer (Darmstadt), 1:537 (1847); Calvin Colton, Manual for Emigrants to America, 141 (London, 1832); H. W. Lawrence, The Not-Quite Puritans, 116 (Boston, 1928).
<4> The drinking habits of the New England clergy are illustrated by Frank O. Erb, The Development of the Young People's Movement, 3-5 (Chicago, 1917).
<5> This pledge is printed in Daniel Dorchester, The Liquor Problem in All Ages, 166 (New York, 1884).
<6> G. L. Kittredge, Witchcraft in Old and New England, 371, 372 (Cambridge, 1928); Richard M. Bayles, History of Windham County, Connecticut, 42 (New York, 1889). The decline in public morals was evident in other colonies as well. Ecclesiastical Records of the State of New York, 2:891, 1108, 1173 (Albany, 1901); "The Memorial of Col. Morris concerning the State of Religion in the Jerseys, 1700," in New Jersey Historical Society, Proceedings, 4:118-121 (Newark, 1850).
<7> History of Middlesex County, Connecticut, 272 (New York, 1884). One of the early nineteenth-century German writers on America warned emigrants that the evil effects of the Revolution were still noticeable. Ernst L. Brauns, Praktische Belehrungen und Rathschläge für Reiserde und Auswanderer nach Amerika, 226 (Braunschweig, 1829).
<8> John Harriott, Struggles through Life, 36 (London, 1808).
<9> The tolerance of the educated New Englanders is commented upon in The Jesuit (Boston), March 19 and July 23, 1831; and in The United States Catholic Intelligencer (Boston), September 21, 1832.
<10> This was the opinion of the last civil royal governor of Massachusetts. See Thomas
Hutchinson, History of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 1:298 (Boston, 1764).
<11> The condition of the Irish in the cities and manufacturing villages is described in Joseph Tuckerman, Second Semi-annual Report of the Third Year of His Service as a Minister at Large in Boston, 17-19 (Boston, 1829); Third Semi-annual Report of the Ministers at Large Addressed to the Executive Committee of the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches, 9, 10 (Boston, 1835); Fitchburg Historical Society, Proceedings, 5:245 (Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 1908); Lowell Old Residents' Historical Association, Contributions, 1: 366; 3:405 (Lowell, 1873-79, 1884). There is a description of "New Dublin" near Lowell in Niles' Weekly Register for August 27, 1831.
<12> M. L. Hansen, "The Second Colonization of New England," in The New England Quarterly, 2:539-560 (Baltimore, 1929).
<13> G. Poulett Scrope, ed., Extracts of Letters from Poor Persons Who Emigrated Last Year to Canada and the United States, 23 (London, 1831). Warnings regarding the disasters that followed cheap liquor are numerous in all immigrant literature. See, for example, S. H. Collins, The Emigrant's Guide and Description of the United States of America, 168 (Hull, Massachusetts, n.d.).
<14> Such disturbances, during the course of one year, are reported in the Boston Courier, January 19, April 8, 11, June 20, August 3, September 5, 12, 1848. Innumerable riots taking place at the railroad camps are also recorded.
<15> The Catholic Herald (Philadelphia), November 5, 1840; The United States Catholic Intelligencer, February 17, 1852; Boston Pilot, September 1, 1838, July 24, 1841.
<16> The shortcomings of this system as it operated in Massachusetts are explained in the "Report on Foreign Paupers" in Massachusetts House Documents, 1835, no. 60 (Boston, 1885).
<17> This antagonism is reflected in the reports of the city missionaries whose attitude had hitherto been distinctly tolerant. Executive Committee of the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches, Seventeenth Annual Report, 21-24, and Eighteenth Annual Report, 24 (Boston, 1851, 1852).
<18> George H. Haynes, "A Know Nothing Legislature," in American Historical Association,
Annual Report for the Year 1896, 1:177-187 (Washington, 1897); "The Doings of the Last Connecticut Legislature on Temperance and Liberty" in The New Englander, 12:449-456 (New Haven, 1854).
<19> Immigration; Its Evils and Their Remedies" in The New Englander, 13:262-276 (New Haven, 1855).
<20> The gloomy religious and moral prospects of the new settlements predominate in the communications sent to the missionary societies. See, for example, The Home Missionary and American Pastor's Journal, 1:10, 29, 48, 88, 167, 168 (New York, 1828-29).
<21> Fredrika Bremer, The Homes of the New World, 1:635 (New York, 1853). A missionary who visited the Norwegian settlement in Dane County, Wisconsin, in 1860, reported, "Such gross immorality I never witnessed before --- it was offensive to come within the sphere poisoned by their breath." The Home Missionary, 23:120 (New York, 1850).
<22> Gunnar J. Malmin, ed., "Bishop Jacob Neumann's Word of Admonition to the Peasants," in Norwegian-American Historical Association, Studies and Records, 1:95-109 (Minneapolis, 1926).
<23> The attitude of the Prussian government is indicated in a memoir by the minister for internal
affairs, dated February 17, 1845, in the Prussian archives at Berlin-Dahlem, under the classification AA III R 1, Auswanderung aus Europa, 11, vol. 1, no. 1458.
<24> The history of the various European Protestant organizations engaged in these activities has not been written. For the work of the two Catholic organizations engaged in labors among the immigrants, see Theodore Roemer, "The Leopoldine Foundation and the Church in the United States (1829-1839)," in United States Catholic Historical Society, Monograph Series, 13:141-211 (New York, 1933), and Roemer, The Ludwig-Missionsverein and the Church in the United States (1838-1918)" (Washington, 1933).
<25> This tendency is illustrated in the career of the Reverend T. N. Hasselquist, one of the founders of the Swedish Augustans Synod. His pietistic leanings were evident at the beginning of his ministry in Sweden. O. F. Ander, T. N. Hasselquist: the Career and Influence of a Swedish-American Clergyman, Journalist and Educator, 7 (Rock Island, Illinois, 1931).
<26> H. R. Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism, 200-235 (New York, 1929). Chapter 8 is entitled "The Churches of the Immigrants."
<27> Emigranten (Madison, Wisconsin), January 20, 1858.
<28> J. W. C. Dietrichson, Reise blandt de norske emigranter i de forenede nordamerikanske fristater, 38, 70 (Stavanger, 1846).
<29> See the letter of Reverend T. N. Hasselquist to the Home Missionary Society dated Galesburg, Illinois, February 3, 1854. Gunnar Westin, ed., Emigranterne och kyrkan, 70-73 (Stockholm, 1932).
<30> Indications of the strictness of the code may be found in G. M. Stephenson, The Religious Aspects of Swedish Immigration, 174, 199, 267 (Minneapolis, 1932). Knut Hamsun was surprised to note that the minister, instead of discussing theology, preached "Boston morals." Knut Hamsun, Fra der moderne Amerikas aandsliv, 210 (Copenhagen, 1889).
<31> The history of the early colonizing activities of the Catholic clergy has not been written but them is contemporary information regarding their efforts in the Boston Pilot, March 13, 1858; May 7, August 20, 1859; The New York Freeman's Journal, September 2, 1854; September 25, 1858; The American Celt (Buffalo), August 18, September 22, December 1, 1855; Berichte der Leopoldinen Stiftung, 12:38; 17:32 (Vienna, 1839, 1844). The drawing power of a Catholic church is described in Kirchliche Mittheilungen aus und über Nord-Amerika (Nordlingen), 1845, no. 1; 1847, no. 1; Theodore Brunet, Katholische Kirchengeschichte Quincy's im Staate Illinois, 25 (Chicago, 1887). The later activities am described in Sister Mary Evangela Henthorne, The Irish Catholic Colonization Association of the United States (Champaign, Illinois, 1932).
<32> "Prohibitory Legislation: Its Cause and Effect" in The Catholic World, 27:182-204 (New York, 1879).
<33> John Ireland, "The Catholic Church and the Saloon," in North American Review, 159:498-505
(New York, 1894).
<34> John Ireland, The Church and Modern Society, 287 (New York, 1897).
<35> Edward Channing, History of the United States, 1:530, 535, 536 (New York, 1917).
<36> Conway Robinson, "Notes from the Council and General Court Records," in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 8:166 (October, 1900).
<37> So accustomed is one to associating the prohibition movement with the energetic activities of the Methodist and Baptist churches, South, that it is startling to read of the indifference and occasional opposition of their clergymen in the period preceding 1861. W. J. Samett, "American Society," in Quarterly Review of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, n.s. 9:402-421 (Richmond, Virginia, 1855); W. S. G., "The Church and Temperance Societies --- Thoughts on a Mooted Question," in Quarterly Review of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 4:205-229 (Louisville, Kentucky, 1850); "The Temperance Reformation in Virginia" in The Southern Literary Messenger, 16:426-438 (Richmond, Virginia, 1850).
<38> Leonard S. Blakey, The Sale of Liquor in the South (New York, 1912). How the presence of Negroes and "poor whites" fostered the growth of prohibition sentiment is explained in an article by John E. White, "Prohibition: The New Task and Opportunity of the South," in The South Atlantic Quarterly, 7:130-142 (Durham, North Carolina, 1908).
<39> E. H. Cherrington, The Anti-Saloon League Year Book, 1909, p. 179-180 (Chicago).
<40> E. H. Cherrington, ed., The Anti-Saloon League Year Book, 1913, p. 20-21; 1914, p. 7-8 (Westerville, Ohio).