or from Scotland by way of Ireland, were founding Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and on Long Island. These churches were brought together into the first American presbytery in 1706 through the work of Francis Makemie, who was born in Ireland, educated in Scotland, and commissioned in Northern Ireland to serve as a missionary in North America. At about the same time, several different kinds of Baptist churches were taking root in New England, New York, and points further south. The creation in 1707 of the Philadelphia Association of Regular Baptists was the first of the many significant Baptist organizations in America.
The Pietist movements that took shape in Europe during the last third of the seventeenth century also began to establish a presence in America through German migrations from late in the century. The 120,000 German-speaking immigrants who came to North America over the next hundred years included some Mennonites, Moravians, and Brethren, but most were associated with the Lutheran and Reformed state churches. After the arrival of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who came to Pennsylvania from the Pietist centre of Halle in 1742, Lutheran church organization proceeded rapidly.
By the middle years of the eighteenth century, even more Protestants -Sandemanians, Shakers, Free Will Baptists, and Universalists, among others -had appeared on American shores. Especially in the middle colonies of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, a functioning plurality of religion developed with no exact counterpart in Europe. Governor Thomas Dongan of New York in 1687 made an observation about New York City that would soon be apt for other areas as well: 'Here bee not many of the Church of England; few Roman Catholicks; abundance of Quakers preachers men and Women especially; Singing Quakers, Ranting Quakers; Sabbatarians; Antisabbatarians; Some Anabaptists; some Independents; some Jews; in short, of all sorts of opinions there are some, and the most part [are] of none at all.'3 Although almost no one embraced religious pluralism as such, the European ideal of a unified Christendom was nonetheless breaking apart.
Movement beyond the spaces of that Christendom pushed new-world settlers to rethink questions of toleration. Roger Williams, a Calvinist separatist who tormented the Puritan establishment in Massachusetts until it expelled him in 1635, founded the colony of Rhode Island on the principle that government should not coerce religious practice or belief. On a visit to England during the early days of the Puritan rebellion against Charles I, Williams published his famous tract, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed in a Conference Between Truth and Peace (1644). Its argument was far ahead of its time: 'God requireth not an uniformity of Religion to be inacted
Was this article helpful?