One of the arguments that could be held against the idea of the Quakers being secessionists is that, instead, the Puritans are the secessionists. They were politically active and changed the English government from a monarchy to a republic. They are the ones who moved away from England to North America and began a new society there. So could the Puritans be considered secessionists?
Yes–Puritan are secessionist, no questions asked.
1. The Puritan movement began to change the Church of England which was seen as remaining too close to their Catholic roots. This seems like a pretty secessionist thing to do–identify problems within an organization and form a movement to try and implement changes, yeah, seems pretty secessionist.
2. A lot of what the Puritans did politically in England smack of secessionism. Many Puritans were members of the Parliament that seized control of the throne during the English Civil War. They were successful rebels as well–they managed to completely overhaul the government with one of their own, Oliver Cromwell, in charge. They changed how the country operated even renaming it the Commonwealth. They felt oppressed by Charles I’s unsympathetic policies towards them which inspired them to leave England and go to North America. The Puritans that remained chalked up the discrimination as just another factor for why Charles should not be king. A lot of the policy that followed in the Puritan-led government was also religiously motivated–the antagonism towards Catholics in Ireland, for example.
3. The Puritans also relocated for their faith quite a bit. They first, like many Quakers, travelled to the Netherlands for safety before deciding to pursue colonization in North America. The Puritans may be considered secessionist to an extent for their move to the New World, in the fact that they physically moved away from the English to live on a new continent. This gives them the justification of, in their move to America, they are able to achieve the label of secessionist. But what about in regards to the situation with the Quakers, once they have settled in America?’
- Were the Puritans ever really secessionist to begin with? They protested the Church of England sure and did have separate practices from them but they never officially broke away from the Church or formed a religion on entirely separate principles like the Quakers did. They wanted to reform from the inside as members of the Church of England. Does that make them secessionist or just motivated reformers?
2. The same argument could be made for their governmental rule in England. They simply changed the rules of operation within a pre-existing system. Did they really secede from England or just reform it? Also, how religiously motivated were the Puritans involved in the English Civil War. It was not an exclusively Puritan movement despite the fact that Oliver Cromwell ended up being leader. So do Puritans taking part in a secession movement necessarily make it a Puritan secession movement?
3. In the struggles within the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Puritans were not trying to remove themselves from a larger oppressive force. Instead, they were trying to forcibly remove the Quakers from the land that they had established as their own. By becoming the oppressor in this situation, and instead of removing themselves or declaring themselves of the other, and in asserting the role of being the main force within the colony, could they still say they were secessionist? They were then simply the force driving the separation of another movement: the Quakers.
So which side won?