superstition and idolatries of the church of Rome'.2 The story of Christianity in colonial North America is the story of old-world religion taking on a life of its own in the contingencies of the new world.


The first French and English settlements in the new world lagged considerably behind the Spanish - more than a century after Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492 with the hope of converting the Indians, and decades after Bartolome de las Casas began his Christian attempt to mitigate the Christian destruction of the Indians. Two bands of Huguenots did attempt settlements in the early 1560s on the Atlantic coast, but they were soon wiped out by a Spanish force from St Augustine, Florida.

Permanent settlement ofwhat became the United States and Canada began only in the first decade of the seventeenth century: 1604 with the French in Acadia (the Atlantic provinces of modern Canada); 1607 with an English colony at Jamestown in Virginia; and 1608 with the establishment of Quebec by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain. Soon thereafter the Recollets, an order of reformed Franciscans, were active in the French settlements, and in 1625 they were joined by the Jesuits. Early religious life in Acadia and Quebec featured attempts at reaching the Indians and persistent difficulties in controlling French trappers and traders. The number of colonists with families remained small.

In the British colonies, by contrast, settlement that displaced the Indians and a religious life that was centred on the settlers constituted the norm. Virginia experienced great difficulties in its first years, but the colony's governors did succeed in planting the Church of England and providing it with a meagre supply of clergyman. The established Anglican presence in Virginia was later replicated in other southern colonies and the West Indies. New-world Anglicanism was eventually bolstered by two societies created under the leadership of Thomas Bray, who served as a minister for a short period in Maryland - the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK, 1698) that provided books for colonial ministers, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG, 1701) that carried out missions among Native Americans but eventually sent more missionaries to colonies (like Massachusetts) where the Church of England was weak. Despite the commendable work of these societies, colonial Anglicanism could never fully overcome a debilitating series of obstacles. The immense size of parishes posed problems for which church life in England provided little guidance. The colonial American south was also dominated by a culture of personal honour, including duelling and exalted notions

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