North and South photo

USA: North and South

The cotton industry

Cotton was the main crop in the South and the first industry in Georgia. Georgia planters exported their cotton to England but it was not treated.

Thanks to Whitney”s invention, the “Cotton Gin” (Cotton Engine – 1793), which separated the seeds from the fibers, a huge increase in the amount of cotton produced was made possible. In 1820, the output was 8 000 times higher than in 1791.

The increase was achieved by bringing in more slaves to pick the cotton. The prosperity of the planters depended more and more on slavery and Southerners broke away from the US.

Slavery is the root of Southern wealth and industry. It is an institution in the South, as well as their peculiar way of life. The “Cotton Gin” brought about slavery and civil war.

In 1810, there were 7,2 million people in the USA and among those people 1,2 million black slaves.

Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, owned slaves himself and had a black mistress with whom he had children. G. Washington, as a land owner, owned slaves too.

Southerners defending the right of slavery asked an unanswerable question: how could they cultivate their fields of tobacco, rice, and cotton without slave workers?

The situation was different in the North: the climate was cooler and the farms were smaller so there was no need of slaves. Many Northerners were abolitionists.

By the 19th century, many Northern states had passed their own laws to abolish slavery inside their own boundaries. In 1808, they persuaded Congress to make it illegal to bring in new slaves from Africa. Gradually, North and South opposed each other.

The Missouri Compromise

In the 1830s, Northern and Southern politicians kept arguing: is slavery permitted in the new territories being settled in the West? The discussion focused on Missouri, which was part of the Louisiana purchase.

Southerners argued that slaves should be allowed (will to expand slavery). Northerners objected strongly to it for moral and economic reasons: competition would be unfair between Northern and Southern farmers (easier with slaves).

They finally reached a compromise – the Missouri Compromise:

  • slavery was permitted in Missouri and Arkansas territories
  • but banned in the West and North of Missouri

It did not end the dispute. The South began denying the right of slaves to own land and the threats of secession on both sides foreshadowed the secession of the South, prefiguring the Civil War.

Import duties and the States’ rights doctrine

In the early 1830″s, another argument was going on about import duties, the North standing for it and the South opposing it because they were afraid of competition (it would rise the price of Southern goods).

The Southern politician J.C. Calhoun claimed that a “state had the right to disobey any federal law if the state believed the law should harm his interests”. This was supported by the Southerners and it became known as the “States’ rights doctrine”.

That claim was strongly denied by the North and by Webster, senator of Massachusetts who answered that “the power to decide if the federal authority is right or wrong belongs to Supreme Court and not to independent states”.

Webster warned the Americans that the States’ rights doctrine could be a serious threat to the unity of the USA.

In the 20 years afterwards, the USA grew much bigger. In 1846, it divided the Oregon territory with Britain and in 1848, it took vast areas in the South-West from Mexico.

Obtaining these new lands, raised again the question already asked during the Missouri Compromise of 1820: should slavery be allowed on new American territories. North refused, South agreed.

The Fugitive Slave Act

In 1850, Congress voted in favor of another compromise:

  1. California was admitted in the US as a free state
  2. people living in Utah and Mexico had the right to decide by themselves whether or not to allow slavery

To persuade the South to agree to these arrangements, Congress passed a law: the Fugitive Slave Act. That new law made it easier for Southerners to recapture slaves who escaped and fled for safety in free states.

The new law called for “severe penalties for anyone assisting Negroes to escape from bondage. Slave owners had long offered rewards to get their slaves back. This has created a group of men called bounty hunters, who searched escaped slaves in free states.

This law angered many Northerners and some northern judges refused to enforce it. Some Northerners provided hiding places for fugitives, mapped out routes, and moved runaway slaves by night from one secret hiding place to another.

The final stop was Canada where fugitives could be pursued neither by federal laws nor by bounty hunters.

As the railway was the modern way of traveling at that time, they modeled their vocabulary on it: the “underground railroad” represented the people, people providing money were “stock-holders”, guides were “conductors” and hiding places were “depots”.

Many conductors were former slaves and they often traveled deep into slave states to get in touch with runaways. If captured, they ended up as slaves again or dead. the number of slaves increased.

In 1854, the senator Steven Douglas persuaded Congress to end the Missouri Compromise. There was no slavery in the West of Missouri and in Kansas, people were free to decide to permit or not slavery.

A “race” between pro-slavery and anti-slavery began: pro-slavery immigrants poured from the south and anti-slavery immigrants poured from the North to outnumber the other group. Result: fightings and killings.

Pro-slavery raiders from Missouri burnt a town called Lawrence and killed part of the population. In reply, the abolitionist John Brown led a raid in which supporters of slavery were killed. We were in 1859.

Some said that Brown was a madman. A Virginia Court tried Brown for treason: he was hanged with 5 other men. The South was horrified by the threat of a slave revolt and blamed the North for it by calling the North “Black Republicans”.

Americans began referring to it as “Bleeding Kansas”. Neither side controlled Kansas and Congress delayed its admission in the US.

The Dred Scott case

In 1858, the pro-slavery won a victory of another sort, the Dred Scott decision. Dred Scott was a slave who had been taken by his master to live in a free state. He asked the Supreme Court to declare this had made him legally free. The Supreme Court refused because:

  • Black slaves had no rights as American citizens
  • Congress had gone beyond its constitutional powers in claiming the right to prohibit slavery in the Western territories

This was quite a stir in the US: the South was delighted and the anti-slavery were horrified.

The Supreme Court seemed to say that free states had no right to forbid slavery within their boundaries: slaveowners could put their slaves to work anywhere.

The anti-slavery created a party: the Republican Party.

West to the Pacific photo

America: West to the Pacific

A westward expansion

Expansion is both commercial and territorial. American expansion was always as sort of global attitude involving territorial growth and commercial expansion, exactly like a body that grows. America has always been perceived as a body.

The growth is so huge that nobody can do anything about it: unlimited development, though only extending to the West.

In 1800, the Western Boundary/Border was the Mississippi River. Beyond it, stood great areas of land, not very known: 600 miles to the Rocky Mountains.

Louisiana was still a French territory (and France was then ruled by Napoleon). Napoleon sold Louisiana to the Americans for 15 million dollars to make war in Europe with Britain. As Louisiana was a huge territory, the American territories doubled over the night. Thanks Napoleon!

Jefferson had sent explorers to the West to find an easy way to the Pacific. Louis and Clark left in 1804 and set off up the Missouri River. They marched for 10 weeks in the Rocky Mountains and ate their horses.

They finally reached the Columbia River, on which they floated down to the Pacific.

In December 1805, they reached the Pacific, after 4 000 miles. They failed to find an easy way but they showed the journey was possible and indirectly favored expansion thanks to the useful information they brought back.

Oregon was a territory stretching from Alaska to California and to the Rocky Mountains to Louisiana.

In 1804, it was claimed by 4 countries: US, Britain, Spain (owning California) and Russia (owning Alaska). The US and Britain had the strongest positions because they had sent people scout to recognize the land and to settle trading posts.

Among those people, there were trappers (called “mountain men”) who spent their lives wandering for furs. In the 1830s, Britain had more settlements than the Americans:

  • FEAR !
  • American politicians made great effort to persuade Americans to start farms in Oregon.

The journey was terrible, expensive and lasted for months. In 1832, settlers began travelling by land. The route was called the “Oregon Trail”, the first overland route to the Pacific and to the American expansion.

It was not an easy journey because of the many dangers: floods, blizzards, prairie fires, accidents, diseases and starvation took many lives. But settlers continued.

In 1843, the Oregon Fever came to many parts of the US and contaminated thousands of people who set off in the West with wagons.

Gradually, they grew and outnumbered the British. It is typical of the process the Americans are going to use to claim that the territories are potentially theirs:

  1. settling down
  2. outnumbering the opponents
  3. indexing territories

Manifest destiny

“Manifest Destiny” was an expression coined by O”Sullivan in 1845. It will become the motto of the American expansion. The idea existed before the phrase was coined: it expressed the fundamental belief in America that the destiny of America was special because of the overruling Providence.

The fate of America is planned by God: it consists in expanding naturally. The first stage of this ideology is religious, Calvinistic (chosenness and election). Then it is a secular ideal: instead of being divine, it becomes manifest so that everybody can see it.

Manifest Destiny became the natural ideology of the expansionists, demanding that the US should take the whole of Oregon to Alaska (54° 40″). Another motto was “54-40 or fight!”.

In 1844, James K. Polk was elected President on a Manifest Destiny platform. In his inaugural address, he said that “the American claim of the whole of Oregon is clear an unquestionable”.

At war with Mexico and Britain

As a result, a double war with Mexico and Britain broke out. In June, Polk agreed to divide Oregon in 2 parts on the 49th parallel of latitude. In 1846, the Americans were at war with Mexico.

That was the first real colonial war and it grew out of events having taken place in Texas. Thousands of Americans had settled in Texas, which was ruled by Mexico since the 1830s.

Texan Americans gradually opposed the Mexican rules and rebelled in October 1835. The Texans won against the Mexicans in 1836 at the Battle of San Jacinto. Texas became an independent republic.

Most Texans did not want their independence to last too long: they wanted to join the American territories. In 1845, Texas is part of the US.

In April 1846, there are some fights between American and Mexican soldiers along the Southern border between Texas and Mexico. American soldiers invaded Mexico and defeated the Mexican army and occupied Mexico City in September 1847.

That Tex-Mex war ended in February 1848. Mexico lost big stretches of territory: California, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

This indexation completed the Manifest Destiny of the USA and the process of continentalization. The result is the USA but the process is not yet completed.

Years of Growth photo

Years of Growth

Moving west

In 1783, more and more settlers had set in the new territories between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.

Settlers journeyed across the mountains to create new settlements out of the wilderness.

The problem was that Indians already lived there: settlers were perceived as thieves and this led to a struggle for land in the late 18th century.

The new Government tried to keep peace with the Natives by treaties but they were never respected, for obvious reasons.

President James Monroe wrote that the Natives’ hunting way of life “required a greater extent of territory that is compatible with the progress of a civilized life and must yield to it. If the Indian tribes do not abandon that state and become civilized, they will decline and become extinct”.

Therefore, the only way to survive for Natives is to be moved further West in “Indian territories”. In 1830, the American Government passed a law to put this policy in practice, the Indian Removal Act.

One of the most tragic examples is that of the Cherokees, who were the first to suffer from this policy. The Cherokees had evolved into a civilized community and had followed the White rules: they had their own newspapers and their own constitution, modeled on the American one. But none of this saved them.

In the 1830’s, Congress decided their land belonged to Georgia and that it had to be sold to White settlers. The Cherokees were forced to march hundreds of miles to reach Oklahoma. With the terrible winter of 1830, their journey turned out to a nightmare that lasted 5 months. A quarter of the Cherokee nation perished: it was called the “Trail of Tears“.

The Federal Government started to organize the land for settlement: land should be surveyed and divided into square units called “townships” (about 6 x 6 miles). It marked the beginning of the gigantic expansion.

The War of 1812

In June 1812, Congress declared war to Britain. American ships won a number of battles at sea but the British Navy gained complete control and blockaded American harbors.

The Americans also tried to invade Canada (territory ruled by the British) but they failed. British forces captured and burnt the city of Washington, capital of the USA: symbolic defeat.

In December 1814, the peace was signed in Europe but two weeks later, British forces attacked New Orleans because they did not know peace was signed.

That was a lesson for the Americans, especially for the industry: Americans began to make their goods on their own. America was to become a manufacturing industry.

Even Jefferson, who was against manufactory, turned about when he realized how much important it was. War became an economic development and there was a need to “place the manufacturer at the side of the agriculturer”.

“Old Hickory” : Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson was a hero of the Frontier and was nicknamed “Old Hickory”. He differed from the former Presidents, who were all rich and coming from the Atlantic settlements.

Indeed, he was from a poor family from the West Coast who fought for the Frontier and who became a rich land-owner.

Jackson was elected in 1828 and he is one of the founders of the Democratic Party: the Government should be organized to benefit the “Great Body” of the USA.

He was mainly elected (and re-elected in 1832) by planters, farmers, mechanics, and laborers because the keyword of his policy was “cheap”:

  • money: low rates of interests
  • land: forcing Indians West
  • manufacturing goods: reducing import duties

Jackson was responsible for the slow annihilation of the Natives. His attitude is controversial today: some historians think he was concerned with his own interest (a populist).

Those who stand for him, on the contrary, highlight the fact that Jacksonian Democracy was an important landmark in American history.

The New Nation photo

America: The New Nation

The Treaty of Paris (February 10th, 1763) recognized America as an independent nation. The Americans had to found the institutions to support their system.

The problem was that the Government was weak and America was not respected internationally. Americans were still afraid.

Therefore, the Americans changed the articles of the Confederation and organized a meeting in Philadelphia.

In 1787 took place the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention. George Washington led the discussion with 55 other people. They worked out a completely new system of government: a federal government (power to rule shared) based on a Constitution.

The Supreme Court was created to interpret the laws and the constitution. It is the basis of the system: the balance of power between the branches of the federal government. Soon appeared a conflict about federalism: many people feared the Government would be too strong compared to the States.

It was then decided that the Constitution should be approved by the people (and by at least 9 out of 13 states). In 1788, the state of New Hampshire was the 9th to accept.

In March 1789, everything was working fine. In 1791, 10 amendments were added and were known as the Bill of Rights, which granted:

  • freedom of religion,
  • free press,
  • right to bear arms,
  • fair trial,
  • protection against “cruel and unusual punishment”

In 1801, John Adams, succeeding G. Washington, appointed a new head of the Supreme Court: John Marshall, who was to be Chief Justice for 35 years.

The Supreme Court had the power to decide whether particular American laws were constitutional according to the Constitution: the “power of judicial review”.

Marshall established the most important basic idea in American constitutional law: the Supreme Court is the final authority in deciding the meaning of the Constitution, which is a huge power.

The first political parties emerged from the conflict between the federalists and the anti-federalists: people needed a strong-central authority and wanted their rights secured.

The Federalist party favored a strong federal government, appealing to the rich, whereas the Democratic-Republican party attracted the less wealthy.

Introduction to Puritanism and Expansionism photo

Introduction to Puritanism and Expansionism


Puritanism is a radical version of Protestantism, which is rooted in the movement called the Reformation (16th century).

American Puritanism and English Puritanism are fairly different. American Puritanism became the ultimate, most coherent of Protestantism because it grew in a virgin soil. It is an experiment in America with European roots.

The most famous characters are Luther and Calvin, who both had a great influence first in Europe and then in America.

The most radical movement was led by the Separatists. For them, the Church was hopelessly corrupted. Only the elect, “God’s invisible saints”, could be Church members. They believed in personal religious rebirth and to the regenerating experience.

This puritan version is prompted by the notion of sin: people are sinful, especially women. It is the basic corrupt notion of human nature. For Puritanism, it is impossible to reach perfection: “in Adam’s fault we sinned all”.

Puritanism is not only a matter of theology but also a matter of social organization: God also rules the collective life of the people. Man is linked up to God with a covenant. By respecting this covenant, man could get rid of his depravity (covenant of Grace).

These notions were puritan before America. Puritans were looking for a place to experiment with this system.

In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America: they were separatists and belonged to a cult (kind of sect). What they did is to sign a covenant: the “Mayflower Compact”, which is not only religious but also civic and political.

Between 1630 and 1640, 20 000 English puritans settled down in the Massachusetts colony. Many people were University trained, especially in theology. The power of the Church was so profound that some people talked about “Theocracy” (Government of God).

The puritans moved to America because they were persecuted in Europe. Theocracy was so strict that there were a growing discontent in the colonies: settlers started to criticize and question the system.

Roger Williams was for the separation of the State and the Church. In 1635, Williams was banned. He created his own colony called “Providence”, who became the heaven of religious tolerance (later known as Rhode-Island).

Anne Hutchinson arrived in America in 1634. She organized private meetings, commented on sermons, and stressed the importance of “inner light” (private experience of Grace towards genuine regeneration) stating that the Church was too formal. She had followers called Antinomians (against the laws).

In 1638, she was trialed and she had to find refuge in Providence.

How long did Puritanism last in America?

Until the late 16th century but Puritanism went on and on in American mentality. It had many factors for its decay, the most important were:

  1. the religious competition
  2. people’s belief in freedom and tolerance
  3. 1692 knew a witch hysteria in Salem. Thousands of witches were burnt in Europe in the Middle-Ages in Germany and in England (some in France). The immigrants who came to America brought with them this fear of witchcraft. In 1692, some 20 people were sentenced to death for witchcraft.

All these reasons embodied and materialized the decay of Puritanism. It can be interpreted as a desperate effort to resist change (die-hard Puritanism) and to block the emergence of a more open and tolerant society.

This is the first failure in the American system.

The link between Puritanism and Expansionism

Puritan settlements were located on the East Coast and all the rest of the territory was part of the “terra incognita”.

This was a dilemma for the puritans: the big question of that time could be resumed by ‘should I stay or should I go?”, showing the hesitation of the settlers to expand. Indeed, the wilderness was devilish and dangerous. It was a no-man’s land inhabited by nothing but Indians and animals.

But the puritans had a mission: converting the Indians and trespassing their border. This turn-over was made possible thanks to William Bradford and the propagation of the Gospel. The Puritans believed they were entitled to settle this land.

Civilization had a religious definition: “the Lord’s Gardens”. Bringing civilization to wilderness was like converting the Indians and settling God’s Gardens in the Wilderness.

The main goal was enlarging the Kingdom of Christ. Hence, expansion had a religious basis and 3 levels:

  1. hesitation
  2. the temptation to go beyond the settlement
  3. the desire to form a civilization

But most puritans refrained this idea because they were frightened. American civilization is based on FEAR.

From the Puritan settlements to the American Civil War (1787-1877)

Birth of a Nation photo

USA: Birth of a Nation


After France’s defeat in Canada, Britain remained the only power left in Eastern North America. The colonies were now free to spread over the vast continent and increase their wealth.

Therefore, for the British Government, it was natural that the colonists, whose prosperity was increasing, should contribute to the British economy.

The financial measures affecting trade and the arbitrary taxes decided in London soon became intolerable to the colonists. They now have the opportunity and the financial means of standing on their own feet and managing their own affairs.

Instead of being treated as equal partners, the American colonists were considered by the Prime Minister as second-rate citizens or children :

“This is the mother country. They are the children, they must obey and we prescribe”. (William Pitt)

More than a rebellion against patriarchal authority, the War of Independence, was in fact the first modern political revolution.

It started with the universal democratic slogan: “no taxation without representation“.

By rising against Britain the colonists exploded the myth of English liberty while using at the same time the principles that the people of England themselves had established one century before in the Glorious Revolution.

Origins of the Revolution

Several circumstances had put a strain on Anglo-American relations in the 18th century.

First, Britain merchants manipulated the House of Commons into voting a series of protective acts that were detrimental to the colonial economy.

Further restrictions were imposed through arbitrary taxation decided in London.

Another dissatisfaction came from the costs of the British European wars to which they were forced to contribute.

1763: the Royal Proclamation prohibited any British settlement west of the Appalachians, which created a major land problem in the colonies and restricted economic expansion.

So economic and patriotic motivations were closely linked in creating a feeling of rebellion.

The insurrection in New England

In May 1765, the Virginia Colonial Assembly voted a series of resolutions to tax the colonists. The latter started to organize themselves into activist groups such as the “Sons of Liberty” led by Samuel Adam.

Britain answered by a demonstration of strength and sent mercenary troops to various American cities. Several resistance groups denounced that measure as a hostile invasion.

In March 1770, the Boston”s Sons of Liberty attacked the British local garrison. British soldiers opened fire upon the crowd. This tragic incident, known as the Boston Massacre, is one of the triggers of the War of Independence against Britain.

In 1772, a new tax was imposed on tea: the Tea Act was interpreted as another demonstration of authority from the part of Britain.

A group of Bostonians wearing Indian costumes went on board a tea clipper in Boston harbor and managed to throw several thousand pounds of tea into the sea: the “Boston Tea Party” was followed by severe punishment.

A continental congress of the colonies answered by prohibiting British imports and militias were formed to resist British troops.

The Loyalists, i.e. the colonists who wanted to remain British were very often badly treated by the Patriots: they were caught, whipped, tarred, and feathered to expose their shame.

The first real battle took place in June 1775, outside Boston at Bunker Hill. There, the American volunteers managed to resist and to succeed over British troops for the first time.

The Spirit of 1776

In January 1776, the Englishman Thomas Paine published a pamphlet against Britain: it launched the spirit of 1776.

His book, Common Sense questions the necessity for America to remain within the British colonial empire:

“Does America be America of shop-keepers and farmers benefit by remaining under British rule? The plain answer of common sense is no.”

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

The book immediately sold over 120,000 copies.

In May, the American Congress adopted a resolution inviting the colonists to establish independent State Governments.

In June, the delegates for Virginia submitted to Congress a resolution for independence.

Therefore, the Founding Fathers appointed a committee to elaborate a Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft in his highly rhetorical style. A revised version was finally approved by Congress on July 4th, 1776, by the delegates of all the 13 colonies, except for two New York representatives who abstained.

The Meaning of the Declaration of Independence

The American Declaration of Independence represents a revolutionary vision both of mankind and its institutions.

In its preamble, it insists on the vital necessity of separation and independence, seen as part of the natural evolutionary process inherent to human nature:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to separate…

It also clearly states the principle of “equality” and the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as natural human rights.

Yet, Jefferson”s intention of putting slavery out of law as contrary to human rights was not carried into the final version because of the opposition from the Southern states.

The text of the Declaration of Independence consists of a list of criticisms against the British state, represented by the King. The form of this document is the same as the British Bill of Rights of 1689.

Moreover, both texts protest against autocracy, religious and political tyranny, and unfair representation. The conclusion finally declares the united colonies as “free and independent states”.


Thanks to the Declaration of Independence, a decisive step was taken towards the future, as one of the Founding Fathers, John Adams stated it: “the river is passed, the bridge is cut away”.

But the conflict with Britain lasted for 7 more years before General G. Washington”s victory, thanks to French help, brought about Britain”s final acceptance of the colonies’ independence at the Treaty of Paris on September 3rd, 1783.

The 13 states were formerly acknowledged as one nation, whose territory extended from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River.

A federal constitution was made public in 1787: it established a model of interstate relationships according to the principle of divided sovereignty. It also set up a republican system in which no branch of the government could exercise any despotic authority over the others.

Yet, the major contradiction remained in the nation of the rights of man in the late 18th century: the first modern democracy had 20% of slaves in its population.

Sommaire de la série From the Reformation to the birth of the American nation (1534-1776)

  1. The Reformation in the British Isles
  2. English Expansionism
  3. The Glorious Revolution of 1688
  4. The American colonies : Religion and Politics
  5. USA: Birth of a Nation
The American colonies : Religion and Politics photo

The American colonies : Religion and Politics


175 years after the arrival of the first English-speaking settlers in North America until the Declaration of Independence laid the foundation of a new model of nation.

The distinctive characteristic ideals and contradictions of colonial America shaped the civilization of the United States until very recently.

The Puritans’ Promised Land

Those who migrated to New England for religious reasons after the Pilgrim Fathers believed that they had been called to take part in an event of both historical and spiritual importance.

They thought that God had kept America secret and hidden until the day when it would provide mankind with one last chance for regeneration.

The Puritans insisted on individual effort and morality as the only way of achieving both economic success and personal salvation. They also insisted on saving money and sizing opportunities in what they considered as a hostile environment.

Therefore, by providing a refuge from the corruption of Old England, America was to become a New World of opportunities, the last Promised Land for the new people of God who saw their voyage across the Atlantic as a new biblical exodus.

Politically speaking, the Puritans also brought with them the foundations of new institutions: mixture of democracy and authoritarian theocracy.

Their community was to be organized by contract between responsible individuals but under God’s eyes.

As soon as they saw the American coast, the Pilgrim fathers of 1620, while still onboard their ship, the Mayflower- signed the first political agreement.

The Mayflower Contract was approved by all three men but excluding women and servants. The contract secured the colonies’ legal existence beyond the Royal Charter by insisting on the individual free decision to enter a contract with each other and with God.

The contract also gathered very different groups of migrants. Thus, the colonists had organized a form of freedom both collective and individual from the American forms of government.

Similarly, in 1629, before migrating to America, 20 Puritans, members of the Massachusetts Bay Company, signed an agreement by which they intended to protect themselves against any outside control.

John Winthrop, first governor of the new colony based in Boston, also insisted on the providential nature of the colonial experience: “we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us because we profess ourselves to be a people in relation with God”. Winthrop decided that only church members would become citizens. –

Freedom, as expressed in the covenant, was restricted by a religious ideal, a theocracy that imposed the responsible and holy authority of a religious elite. In that context, political differences were unthinkable.

In 1635, when the minister of the town of Salem, Roger Williams, claimed the right to every man to follow his own conscience, he was banished by the General Court and forced to leave the country. He took refuge among the Indians, from who he bought land. He later obtained a Royal Charter for a colony he called “Rhode Island”, granting freedom of consciousness to all.

In the 1690s, in Salem, after two young girls became ill, 400 people were arrested, 20 executed and 5 died in prison for disturbing public order conscience on suspected allegations of witchcraft.

In protestant churches, it resulted in two opposite trends:

  • Independence, responsibility and contractual freedom
  • Intolerance and authoritarianism

New experience

Expansion and opportunities

In the New World, a relative material abundance and the spreading of wealth enabled a majority of white citizens to live in relative comfort in a land of plenty.

American society was a fluid structure in which origins counted for less than individual achievement, except in the South for there was no privileged class and upward mobility was possible. America was a land of opportunities. Education was available to a greater number of people than in England.

Instead of Oxford and Cambridge, which opened to Anglicans only, several institutions were created in the early days of the settlement to answer the need of the population for further education:

  • 1636: Harvard College in Boston
  • College of William and Mary in Virginia founded by the Anglicans
  • Brown College outside Providence, by the Baptists
  • Princeton in New Jersey, by the Presbyterians

The new institution which started as training colleges for ministers evolved into centers of political reflection in which the 18th century’s ideas of national freedom and universal happiness soon influenced the cultural elite of the colonies.

Several Founding Fathers of American democracy like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams attended these institutions.

But the American colonists were often self-made and self-educated men such as Benjamin Franklin, the son of a Boston soap maker, who became a scientist, an inventor, and also a prominent statesman.


The American experiment very often started as a movement of emancipation from European religious establishment but the persecuted soon became persecutors.

In 1639, Thomas Hooker was forced to move from the Boston colony to the Connecticut by the moral rulers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Tolerance spread progressively, simply because religious persecutions proved to be impractical. New settlement needed man power. They couldn’t avoid turning away immigrants for religious reasons. Trading companies soon found it easier to welcome all the “able-bodied”, whatever their beliefs or origins.

Therefore, away from the English model of Church-State, the colonies started to elaborate on the theory of the separation between the Religious Church and the Secular State.

Yet, the religious factor remained an essential feature of a society, as demonstrated in the American motto: “in God we trust”.


Because of the new conditions created by the colonial experiment, both in the economic and social themes but also in the organization of the independent churches, a relatively high percentage of white adults male had access to political participation.

Most colonists were free holders and not tenants. Individual liberty and belief in equality were wildly accepted. At the same time, the colonists shared a colon frustration because they were forced to accept British legislation and taxation without being represented in Parliament.

Local organization was encouraged. Each of the 13 colonies was supervised by governors appointed by the King. The colonies’ charters made it possible for them to make laws if they did not contradict acts of Parliament.

Because of the diversity of their charters and population, the colonies were strongly attached to their local independence from each other. However, they experimented the benefits of the union on several occasions.

Twice between 1640 and 1680, the King and the British board of trade invited the Northern colonies to form the United Colonies of New England, in order to put their forces together against the dangers of Native and Dutch invasions.

Later, in July 1754, when Britain was at war against France both in Europe and in Canada, the colonies took the opportunity to draft a plan of union and presented it at the Albany Congress assembled by the British. But the colonies’ representatives finally refused to delegate their political power to a central body of government as B. Franklin had hoped it.

This early attempt at federalism ended in failure and the British government dismissed the Congress soon after the war. But the idea of a common central government became increasingly popular as a criticism of British centralism took a more and more violent form.

The settlers’ original dream of reforming old institutions and establishing a new civilization was both unique and dual.

On the one hand, the Puritans, inspired by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, wished to set up an authoritarian and Christian commonwealth.

On the other hand, the Founding Fathers, inspired by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, dreamt of creating a perfect political and social model of utopia.

In both cases, America wanted to become, in Shakespeare’s own words, “a brave new world in the face of the world”.

Sommaire de la série From the Reformation to the birth of the American nation (1534-1776)

  1. The Reformation in the British Isles
  2. English Expansionism
  3. The Glorious Revolution of 1688
  4. The American colonies : Religion and Politics
  5. USA: Birth of a Nation
The Glorious Revolution of 1688

The Glorious Revolution of 1688


Civic liberties and parliamentary institutions represent one of the major cultural legacies England left to the civilization of the world.

The first document protecting individual liberty and the prototype of modern Parliament appeared in England as early as the 13th century. But effective protection against arbitrary power and the first parliamentary regime emerged much later in the 17th.

However, the modern notion of democracy, which implies full political citizenship for everyone (no one deprived of the right to vote) took a much longer time to take route in Britain than elsewhere in the world.

The pioneer of Parliamentarism took the slow road to universal suffrage. As the American claim for independence and liberty showed in the late 19th century, English liberty celebrated by the most famous philosophers (Voltaire and Montesquieu) was more a myth than a reality.

Origins of Parliament and Civil liberties

In Britain, there is no written constitution to protect civil liberties and define the rules of the political game. Yet, several traditions, constitutional agreements and political conventions exist and constitute the pillars of the regime.

One of those documents is the Magna Carta (Great Charter) granted by King John in 1215 under the pressure of his aristocracy and clergy. This document excluded very early in English history the practice of political absolutism and excessive use of the royal prerogative).

Moreover, after Magna Carta, no excessive demand for money could be made by the King without the consent of the aristocracy and clergy. British and American tradition of the vote on taxation finds its origin in this event.

Finally, concerning individual freedom, after Magna Carta, no arrest in prison or punishment could be performed on aristocrats and clergymen without a trial by similar kinds of people, according to the law of the land. It is the starting point of the notion of trial by peers.

Later on, in 1265, Edward I was forced by his aristocracy to assemble (summon) the first Parliament in English history, which took the name of Model Parliament. The very notion of Parliament, from the French word “parler” implies a discussion on every legislative decision and therefore, the possibility for a diversity of opinions.

The English Parliament was the first to include representatives from outside the clergy and aristocracy. It was established in a very pragmatic way, simply for the King needed the support of the whole nation for his military campaigns against Wales, Scotland and France.

Thus, it was necessary for him to raise money through taxation. So, before being a full legislative body where the law is made, Parliament rests on the principle of no taxation without political representation.

From its origin, the Parliament started to meet in two separate chambers located in the Palace of Westminster:

  • The Upper House or House of Lords, organized according to the principle of heredity (by birth, not by elections).
  • The Lower House or House of Commons, organized by elections and receiving the representatives of taxpayers and landowners (= the rich).

The Parliamentary institutions founded in the Middle Ages have a paradoxical nature.

The Model Parliament was the first representative political body in Europe, England was called the Mother of Parliament but the right to vote (= the Franchise) and the right to be elected (= Eligibility) were defined as a privilege either of birth or property and money, not as a universal right.

It took several centuries for England to reform this initial trend.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688

In the first part of the 17th century, abuse of authority from the King led to a re-statement of rights whose origins could be found in English history.

At the end of the 17th century, after a period of Civil War and a peaceful revolution, the tradition of parliamentary sovereignty became part of the legal framework of the English constitution.

In 1628, the Parliament opposed a petition of rights to the King, claiming for political guarantees against money for Charles I’s European and colonial wars. The King’s refusal to renounce this prerogative led to a civil war and to the King’s execution in 1649.

The principle of the petition re-emerged in the events of 1688, called the Glorious Revolution for it was bloodless.

The current King James II was forced to leave the country and was replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband William on the condition that the two would accept a declaration of rights in exchange for the throne.

The contract was instituted: political power against rights. After it was approved, the declaration was known as the Bill of Rights in 1689, which constituted the first constitutional monarchy in the world by stipulating once for all:

  1. The King can’t suspend a law voted in Parliament
  2. The King can’t raise taxes or maintain a permanent army in time of peace without a vote in Parliament.

The new institution created the notion of Government by the leaders of the country’s majority and led to the formation of two political parties alternating in power as the majority and the opposition.

The name of the first party is the Whigs: they supported the new regime and represented the world of business and commerce. In the 19th century, the Whigs became the Liberal Party.

The second party was the Tories, who supported a more authoritarian definition of the monarchy. They represented the class of agricultural landowners. In the 19th century, the Tories became the Conservative Party.

In the field of individual rights, before the Glorious Revolution, a piece of legislation passed in 1679 and called the Habeas Corpus aimed at protecting subjects against royal absolutism alongside the lines first defined by Magna Carta.

The Habeas Corpus banned arrest and detention without trial but freedom from custody could only be obtained after came on an amount of money, given as a guarantee and called a bail.

Therefore, by the end of the 17th century, England has become the first representative government in Europe. The King’s right to suspend legislation (= to refuse to give assent to a bill accepted by both Houses of Parliament) became purely theoretical: this right of veto was last exercised in 1707.

Later on, the tradition of cabinet government and the position of Prime Minister progressively emerged and later became an unquestionable right of the British people.

The P.M. was the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. He became the real head of Government: British Kings were said to reign but not to rule.

Yet, this perfect picture of British liberties needs to be corrected by several remarks.

The myth of English liberty

In the 18th century, apart from the Bill of Rights and the Habeas Corpus, no constitution really protected British subjects from political abuses. The King had the full power of creating Lords (= Peers). He therefore had an influence over legislation.

In terms of elections, out of 8 million inhabitants, only 160 000 were voters. Until the middle of this century, parliamentary debates were secret but before 1872, ballot was not secret. Thus, the King could use corruption and intimidation to buy votes.

Radical agitators criticized the fact that the British were subjects instead of being full citizens: parliamentary reforms became more and more advocated both inside and outside Britain:

  • The major group of protesters were the American colonists who were not represented in Parliament for they lived outside Britain but who had to pay taxes to the British government.
  • The second major group of protesters was the middle-class dissenters who were refused access public jobs for religious reasons.

British people had to wait until 1832, i.e. several decades after the American and French revolutions to witness some partial changes in their system of representation.

Under popular pressure, the 1832′ Reform Act abolished unrepresentative seats in Parliament in order to increase representation. For instance, the medieval village of Dunwich, which had totally disappeared from the map still returned an MP to Parliament and the village of Old Sarum had 7 voters who elected 2 MPs!

At the same time, the Act distributed new seats to represent the population of recent industrial centers like Birmingham or Manchester but even after 1832, the numbers of voters represented no more than one fifth of the adult male population.

It is only in the second part of the 19th century that the progressive extension of the franchise opened Parliament to the working class.

Full universal suffrage for men over 21 was finally reached in 1918 but paradoxically, this very late measure was at the same time an early victory for the cause of women’s rights.

British women received the right to vote in 1918, i.e. some 38 years before French women. Voting parity for all citizens, male or female, was finally decided in 1928.

From the experience of the middle ages and thanks to the institutional changes triggered off by the Glorious Revolution, British political culture inspired most modern parliamentary regimes.

However, the long absence of truly democratic representation was one of the origins of the American Revolution and led to the definition of new political models.

Sommaire de la série From the Reformation to the birth of the American nation (1534-1776)

  1. The Reformation in the British Isles
  2. English Expansionism
  3. The Glorious Revolution of 1688
  4. The American colonies : Religion and Politics
  5. USA: Birth of a Nation
English Expansionism photo

English Expansionism


The Anglo-American World is but colonial. Its present extension is the result of England’s self-affirmation and ambition to become a major world power. Therefore, the words “empire” and “imperialism” describe England’s struggle for national and international sovereignty.

The first consequence of English expansionism was the west ward impulse of the Anglo-Saxon element, first into the Celtic periphery of the British Isles, then across the Atlantic and finally into Africa and Australasia.

The second more recent consequence is the emergence in the 20th century of multi-cultural societies both in Britain and in America but also across the British Commonwealth, which is constituted of the former British colonies.

Early English expansionism in the British Isles

The origin of British colonial adventures lies in the early step taken by English Kings towards the political, economic, and religious integration of the British Isles.

The Anglo-Norman enterprise

In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, became the master in England. His successors, the Anglo-Norman Kings, tried to increase their authority and international prestige (especially in front of France) by controlling the British Isles (first Ireland and then Wales).

In 1171, the English King Henry II landed in Ireland and was accepted by the Irish Kings as their overlord (=master). During the 13th century, many Anglo-Norman barons settled in Ireland where they were given land by the King. They introduced the French system of feudalism and forced the native Irish to become serfs.

In 1366, the English Parliament prohibited mixed marriages between Irish and Anglo-Norman and Irish laws and customs were abolished in English controlled areas. The colonization of Ireland had started.

In 1277, Edward I of England invaded Wales after the last Prince of Wales refused to acknowledge his authority. The country soon became part of the English Royal Estate and was re-organized into 5 countries, after the English model. In 1301, the English King became Prince of Wales.

The Anglo-Norman never managed to conquer Scotland. After a series of unsuccessful invasions, the English were finally forced out in 1314. Scottish independence was secured for 4 centuries.

B. Post-Reformation settlements

By consolidating royal power, the reformation indirectly encouraged England to extend her control over the British Isles.

In 1541, King Henry VIII, who has become head of the English church as wall as of the State, was proclaimed King of Ireland. The actual colonization of Ireland started in 1586 with the creation of the Munster Plantation in the South of Ireland.

Later on, in 1608, Scottish and English settlers were encouraged by the Government to cross the Irish Sea and to create farms in Ulster. This new settlement was the origin of contemporary Protestant Northern Ireland. In 1652, 2/3 of Irish land was given to Protestants.

Between 1536 and 1543, a series of administrative measures put Wales under the situation of total dependence on English legislation.

The situation of Scotland was different: between 1603 and 1707, Scotland remained a separate independent Kingdom but under the same King as England.

Formation of the old colonial empire

From trading posts to early settlements

A trading post is a place to carry on commercial business; it may be temporary and doesn’t imply settlement.

Right after the discovery of the New World in 1492, England’s self-affirmation as an independent and dominant European power led her to compete against Spanish and Portuguese colonial monopolies.

In 1494, by the treaty of Tordesillas, Spain and Portugal had divided the Western Hemisphere between Spanish and Portuguese possessions. In answer, England decided to send explorers to the New World.

In 1497, the Italian Sea Captain John Cabot explored the northern coast of America on behalf of the English King. He called the land he had recognized “Newfoundland”.

Later on, in 1577, an English Captain explored the West Coast of America: Francis Drake called the American Pacific sea coast “California”, legendary name of a mythical Eden.

Finally, in 1584, another sea captain, Sir Walter Raleigh, explored the Atlantic American coast for the Queen of England and called the place “Virginia” to celebrate his queen as the Virgin Queen.

In 1588, England took the status of a major sea power after defeating the Spanish fleet, the “Invincible Armada”. This early colonial experience had secured English mastery of the sea. It was the starting point of the Spanish decline.

In economic terms, several colonial joint-stock companies, in which several people invested money to found the colonial empire, were created in England. In 1600, the East India Company was created in order to favor trade with the East.

In 1606, 2 companies were created to encourage trade with America:

  • Plymouth Company for the Northern part of the coast
  • London and South Virginia Company for the Southern coast.

In 1672, the Royal African Company was given the monopoly of trade with Africa (and slavery). Therefore, the rise of Capitalism corresponds to that of colonial.

In human terms, the first successful and permanent English settlement in America was established in May 1607 with the creation of Jamestown in Virginia by adventurers and merchants in search of fortune.

A totally different experience took place in September 1620, when an English ship called the Mayflower reached the place later called Plymouth Rock with a small group of English dissidents on board, the famous Pilgrim Fathers.

This first successful puritan colony in America was motivated by religious reasons. From 1620 to 1640, some 25000 English independents took refuge in New England. The 3rd category of people who reached America was African slaves.

In 1619, the first shipload of slaves was brought to America on a Dutch ship. Finally, the last category of people in America is Native Americans. They proved to be essential to the survival of settlers in America.

The beginning of the European settlement gave the illusion of peaceful coexistence between European settlers and Native Americans.

In 1640, a rich colonist called John Rolfe married the daughter of a local chief, Pocahontas. Another Indian tribe helped the Pilgrim Fathers to avoid starvation by teaching them how to plant corns.

But the respected interest of both communities soon became opposed. The increase in the European population resulted in several problems over land ownership and the American settlers soon started to displace Indian population and sometimes used military action.

The original dream of peace turned into a bloody nightmare. Americans, however, were relieved to think their treatment of the Natives had never reached the savagery that was typical of Spanish colonization.

Mercantilism or the establishment of the colonial system

Apart from international prestige, the colonists constituted a vast and permanent captive market for English goods. It was also a source of raw materials and finally, it represented a convenient exile for embarrassing subjects.

The colonists played a major role in the definition of the new international economic system called mercantilism.

It was based on strict regulations protecting the home market and establishing monopolies on all exchanges with the colonies.

Between 1651 and 1662, a series of Navigation Acts gave English ships the exclusive control of all trade to and from the colonies.

This excluded all foreign nations and all colonial organizations from trading across the Atlantic: in order to secure new markets and new sources of raw materials, the system demanded a continual expansion through wars and invasions. The struggle for empire had started a long time before the late 19th century, called the Scramble for Africa.

The essential part of trade consisted in the famous “triangular trade” with the New World. Three geographical regions were involved in the triangle:

  • Western Europe
  • Africa
  • North America and the West Indies

Because of mercantilist regulations, most goods including African slaves had to transit either through England or through the West Indies.

This economic situation was considered unfair by a majority of colonists. It was one of the origins of the American Revolution.

The first British colonial empire

Lasted until the American independence, which took place between 1776 and 1783. This empire had two major poses: India and North America.

The stream of emigrants was directed namely towards America but in both cases, England and then Britain became involved in colonial wars against Holland, Spain, and France in order to protect and to extend her trading interests.

England had started trading with India in the late 18th century. The East Indian Company (EIC) was founded in 1600.

The 18th century saw the decline of the Indian Empire (Mogul) and military agreements with local leaders.

After 1757, the EIC controlled all trade with the West Coast of India, Bengal, and with Ceylan (Sri Lanka today).

In 1760, the French were defeated and driven out of India, except for a couple of trading posts that she kept on the coast such as Pondichery.

In 1773, Britain started to control India through a governor based in the town of Bombay.

In 1640, sugar cane agriculture was introduced in Barbados. In 1655, the English took Jamaica from Spain: it marked the beginning of the Spanish decline in the Caribbean.

On the American continent, the 18th century saw total domination of Britain on colonial land. In 1667, England invaded New Amsterdam, which later became New York.

After the 7-year old war with France in 1763, England took control of the French West Indies, of all French Canada, and of the whole French territory between the East Coast of America (New England) and Mississippi. Finally, England took Florida from Spain.

In 1763, the British King George III issued a royal proclamation leaving the rich Ohio valley to the Native American tribes that had helped the British against France. This political measure disappointed the settlers who feared overpopulation in New England. This was the second origin of the American Revolution.

In the 1760’s, the population of New England which was divided into 30 colonies had already reached 2.5 million inhabitants and 275 000 slaves were transported to America during the 18th century. 90 % were to be found in the South.

The loss of the American colonies in 1783 marked the end of the first colonial empire, yet, a second one was already forming in other parts of the world.

The second colonial empire

Australasia. In 1768, the British captain James Cook had already explored the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. After the discovery of Botany Bay that later became Sydney, a penal colony was established in Australia in 1788.

Prisoners and convicts were transported to Australia for hard labor. The settlement started much later in New Zealand, with a treaty with local Maori chiefs in 1840.

Africa. Before the 1880s, i.e. the Scramble for Africa, Britain showed little interest in the African continent. The government’s major occupation, apart from the slave market, was to secure the sea route to India. Therefore, Britain took the Dutch colony at the Cape (South Africa) in 1806.

Then, Britain insisted on receiving Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Later, Britain secured other places on the sea route to Suez (e.g.: the island of Malta). However, Britain accepted to take the responsibility of protecting a colony of liberated slaves in Sierra Leone founded in 1788.

Asia. The expansion started much later when Britain took Singapore in 1824. Later, in 1841, Britain established a trading post in Hong Kong she kept until July 1997.

Sommaire de la série From the Reformation to the birth of the American nation (1534-1776)

  1. The Reformation in the British Isles
  2. English Expansionism
  3. The Glorious Revolution of 1688
  4. The American colonies : Religion and Politics
  5. USA: Birth of a Nation
The Reformation in the British Isles photo

The Reformation in the British Isles

The Anglo-American World is predominantly a Protestant and religious world: reformed Christianity largely influenced the culture and ideals.

But Protestantism is no British creation for it appeared in the 16th century in continental Europe.

A German monk called Martin Luther started a rebellion against the churches’ authority in 1517 and founded a new church: “the Lutheran or Evangelical Church”.

A Frenchman called Jean Calvin rose against authority and influenced indirectly the whole civilization of the English-speaking world.

For them, the only authority in the church should come from the Bible and not from priests, for else the interpretation is open to everybody: the Reformation started a real challenge against authority.

English and American Protestantism were defined by plurality: the Reformation had a tremendous influence on individual freedom and on the development of an atmosphere of tolerance.

In Britain, churches after the Reformation organized themselves as official national churches: one particular protestant church became the established Church [=> rejection & exclusion].

In Ireland, the establishment was the natural elite: that what was called the Ascendancy.

The Church of England

The Church of England was created by the top of the British society in 1534 when Henry VIII decided to separate the English Church from the Church of Rome by his own authority.

His creation took the simple name of Anglican Church (English Church). The King had 3 main reasons for the creation of the Church of England:

1. Personal reason: the King wished to divorce his wife and the Pope refused. There was a problem of power for the King did not want to be ruled by the Pope.

2. Financial reason: England was small and poor before colonization and the King needed the Church’s wealth. Hence, the King accepted Luther’s theory about the abolition of monasteries and started the Reformation.

3. Political reason: Henry VIII wanted to be free of appointing the leaders of the church, i.e. the Bishops.

The Reformation is a declaration of independence for the rest of the world (especially for France and Italy).

In terms of doctrine, Anglicanism is a political, practical, and pragmatic compromise between Roman Catholicism and continental Protestantism: several tendencies developed within the Church from the part of the Church called High Church (close to Catholicism) to the low Church (close to Calvinism).

The Church developed in a general atmosphere of tolerance. Yet, in terms of organization and discipline, the Church of England kept an elaborate hierarchy of priests, bishops, and 2 archbishops under the supremacy of the King, the official head of the Church.

Individual access to reading the Bible, which represents a characteristic of Protestantism, was made possible through the publication in 1611 of an English translation of the texts.

But, this was made under a strictly controlled version, known after the very significant name of the authorized version, which is in use nowadays in the USA: King James’s Bible.

From 1563, those who wanted to eliminate catholic survivors from the Church of England were forced to leave it: they were called the Puritans from their wish to purify the Church from popery.

They gave birth to England’s religious pluralism that found an echo in a variety of American churches’ denominations.

The Church of Scotland

In 1559, John Knox founded a popular Calvinist church in Scotland. He rejected papal authority and all kinds of hierarchy but this democratic church imposed strict moral discipline and social order on the people.

It was organized after a system called Presbyterianism in which authority was detained neither by people nor ministers but by a category of members called the Elders.

In 1560, the Scottish Parliament adopted Presbyterianism as the Church of Scotland.

The non-established churches

Contrary to the notions of uniformity and discipline, expressed by the established churches (England and Scotland), the existence and persistence of non-established denominations demonstrate the principles of diversity which is characteristic of the protestant world.

Historically, both Catholics and Protestants dissenters were first persecuted and then excluded from civic life, i.e. they had no access to professions, to trading corporations, to universities (both as students and professors), and to politics.

Protestant independents were finally tolerated in the early 18th century but the formal emancipation of those two groups of people only took place in 182X, when they were given full civil rights.

Roman Catholicism

Because of persecutions, Roman Catholicism had almost disappeared from GB in the 18th century. But in Ireland, it remained the religion of a majority of the population.

Nevertheless, like the British counterpart, until 1829, Irish Catholics were discriminated and the minority Anglican Church was established as the official church of Ireland.

Mainly because of Irish immigration from 1845 onwards, Roman Catholicism has made constant progress in GB, particularly in the big industrial centers of the Northwest (Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow).

In 1921, the major part of Ireland separated from Britain and became the Irish Free State, which later took the name of the Irish Republic or Eire. But the mainly protestant countries of Northern Ireland remained British for political and religious reasons. They formed the province of Ulster.

This close link between religion and politics, between Protestantism and unionism on the one hand and Catholicism and republicanism on the other hand is the main reason for sectarian violence in Ulster.

Other problems are typical of the religious context of Northern Ireland:

  • Absence of residential integration between Catholics and Protestants: the two communities live in separate quarters. This problem is responsible for the presence of ghettos in Belfast or Derry.
  • Persistence of job discrimination for the catholic minority in Northern Ireland. Although discrimination was formerly declared illegal in 1979, Ÿ of the jobless in Northern Ireland are Catholics.

Other protestant denominations

Several denominations still continue to be in the independent tradition that emerged in England and in Scotland against the established churches:

The Congregationalists: emerged as the old puritan separatists. In England and Wales, they have recently merged with the Presbyterians to become the united-reformed church. But this union was impossible in Scotland, where Presbyterianism is established as the official church.

The Baptists: were created in England in 1609 by John Smyth. Their action is very important in the USA (especially in the South). Famous Baptists: Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter.

The Quakers: were founded by the Englishman George Fox in 1650. They have no clergy at all and advocate pacifism (peace and love). Their influence is very important in charities and education. They played a decisive role in business and capitalism: Barclay founded an important banking company and Cadbury a chocolate company. The Quakers also founded two American states: Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, both famous for their religious tolerance and democratic institutions.

The Methodists: were created by an Englishman called John Wesley in the middle of the 18th century. Methodism started as protest against conservatism and formalism in the Church of England. Popular movement insisting on individual freedom and personal enthusiasm.

The Salvation Army: was founded by an Englishman called William Booth in 1865 in a very original protestant church without clergy, yet with a strong military organization. Church insisting on the relief of poverty as essential.

The influence of Protestantism

Protestantism and more especially Bible reading in English represent the major origins of the Anglo-American moral and intellectual traditions. It greatly influenced native traditions but it was also influenced by those different traditions.

The result of these interactions, sometimes violent, is a complex cultural melting pot that is characteristic of the contemporary English-speaking world.

Influence on politics and economics

Protestantism advocated individual freedom and more democracy in Church matters. The Anglo-American tradition emphasizes on the notion of respect for civic liberties and insists on the necessity for minimum intervention from the state in everyday life.

Therefore, both libertarianism and liberalism may be said to be the consequence of Protestantism. Parliamentary institutions were first adopted in England before the Reformation but the progressive desacralization of monarchy and the rule of pluralism through the creation of political parties are legacies of Protestantism.

The coexistence between centralism and delegation of authority was inherited from Protestantism. In Britain, the monarchy persisted as the symbol of state. In the USA, the new presidential institutions lay emphasis on a powerful head of state.

But in both cases, local authorities have their own say in political matters. The American regime is federal while the British system applies the rule of subsidiarity; i.e. decisions are taken at the lowest possible level.

Capitalism may also be attributed to Protestantism, since economic success and accumulation of capital were considered as signs of salvation.

Influence on culture and society

Because of the emphasis put on the individual by Protestantism, Anglo-American societies are strongly individualistic. They expressed the horror of collective structure, the cult of the self-made-man and are very often indifferent to poverty.

Society is also animated by a strong sense of community, in great respect for the organization, responsibility, and public spirit.

Sometimes, the state is committed to social issues: the Welfare State in GB was set up in 1945 to protect national health and social security but there is no Welfare State in the USA.

Hence, opposition of a puritan sense of economy, seriousness, work ethic, counterbalanced by a degree of relativism, distanced humor and nonsense, which are as powerful as the puritan trend.

Because of its religious diversity, the Anglo-American World inherited a great sense of compromise in a general context of striking social and cultural contrast.

Sommaire de la série From the Reformation to the birth of the American nation (1534-1776)

  1. The Reformation in the British Isles
  2. English Expansionism
  3. The Glorious Revolution of 1688
  4. The American colonies : Religion and Politics
  5. USA: Birth of a Nation