Henry Louis Mencken: “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
Puritans first stepped off the Mayflower and onto the shores of the New World in 1630. Many historians accuse Puritans of being religiously intolerant, harsh, reactionary bigots. However, the Puritans are really the builders of early American democracy, and should be symbols of hard work, discipline and education.
Henry Louis Mencken once stated that “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
From one perspective this is a cynical and humorous definition of Puritanism. This means that the characteristic of the Puritans looked to their neighbors and other citizens is suspicious, because they believed that if anyone who was happy and enjoying himself, he or she should be sinning. They were much more interested in other homes in sin, than in theirs.
But also Puritans are often accused of being opposed to having “fun” and activities such as sports. In fact, the Puritans encouraged sports that glorified God. They also only opposed sexual activity outside of marriage, something that is still considered immoral by many today. Puritans also allowed drinking in moderation, and opposed a law disallowing the sale of alcoholic beverages to Native Americans, because they felt it was “not fit to deprive Indians of any lawfull comfort aloweth to all men by the use of wine.”
The Puritans were also very hardworking people, setting a precedent that many Americans would follow for centuries to come. The Pilgrims were able to survive the long, grueling winter and poor farming season of New England because they were dedicated to hard work, discipline and family. Despite the difficult conditions in New England, statistics show that life expectancy in the New England colonies was much higher than in England and the Middle Colonies. Men were expected to live for 69 years and women 62 years in New England, while male colonists in Virginia were only...