Church/State Historical Debate

I ran across an interesting point today that dealt with the separation of church and state issue in American History. I read in A Patriot’s History of the United States, a conservative approach to U.S. History written by history professors, Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen.

Schweikart’s point was that if you look at the various documents (Mayflower Compact) and colonies (Massachusetts Bay) of colonial America, they all require church membership in order for a person to hold stock in the colony. Stock ownership was a large draw for colonists early on (1620’s – 1670’s) in American history, so it is telling that the colonial leaders made church membership a requirement for stock holders. In the words of John Carver, the passengers of the Mayflower would “covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick” for the “Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid.” What were these “Ends aforesaid? you ask.” Carver wrote that the colonists had “undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia.”  In essence then, they sought to advance Christianity, and with that goal in mind they formed a political body. The church and the state do not seem as if they were very separated in the iconic early colony at Plymouth.

Even further, a colonist had to own stock in the colony before they could vote in the various political functions of that colony. The conclusion: a colonist had to be a church member in order to own stock, and they needed to own stock in order to vote. Church membership was the initial requirement for economic and political viability in colonial America. Maybe our country would be better off if America had the same procedures in place today?

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4 thoughts on “Church/State Historical Debate

  1. randomresearcher says:

    I’d say they were, because of their history. For instance, anyone against the established Calvinist church within the colony was treated as an heretic. (eg. Roger Williams, et. al.) They certainly desired to govern their colonies based upon John Calvin’s Geneva. This led to the serious issues that caused “religious” cracks in the foundation such as the Half-Way Covenant and the Salem Witch Trials. The Puritans were no doubt against a separation of Church and State. Other examples would include you had to be a member of the church to vote, have a say in government proceedings, run for office. I’d have to recheck, but I believe all land sales had to be approved by the church also.

    • bewhuebner says:

      I look at it the same way that you do basically and that’s the conclusion I’d draw from their actions. Even if you wanna say that they weren’t completely for the church and state working together, it’s blatantly obvious that they were no where near the place where this country’s leaders are today. It’s amazing to me how people can interpret historical facts so differently, depending on what they want history to mean.

    • bewhuebner says:

      Umm… just a guess really but I’d think that they were probably for them…lol… what do you think?

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