Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rothbard: "Coercing Morality in Puritan Massachusetts"

By Murray Rothbard here (and newly reproduced here). The whole thing is worth a read. I'm going to reproduce below an interesting quotation discussed in the article from Puritan theologian Rev. Nathaniel Ward’s "The Simple Cobbler of Aggawam in America" (1647).
God does nowhere in His word tolerate Christian States to give toleration to such adversaries of His truth, if they have power in their hands to suppress them … He that willingly assents to toleration of varieties of religion … his conscience will tell him he is either an atheist or a heretic or a hypocrite, or at best captive to some lust. Poly-piety is the greatest impiety in the world.… To authorize an untruth by a toleration of State is to build a sconce against the walls of heaven, to batter God out of His chair.


Elz Curtiss said...

While nothing you write is factually untrue, the impression of a monolithic, single-minded Puritan clerisy falls wide of the mark. Puritanism descended into four very different religions -- Congregationalism, Unitarianism, Presbyterianism, Baptist -- a feat made possible only by divergences among them from the start. The Reverend Ward appears to have been from one of the more centralizing strains; the protest itself attests to the diversity in which his neighbors forced him to commune.

Bill Fortenberry said...

It should be noted that Ward was speaking particularly against the religious freedom of Rhode Island. The context of his statements can be read here: http://books.google.com/books?id=JGGQTJ4l7FMC&pg=PA93. It was this tendency among some of the Puritans in Massachusetts which produced the colony of Rhode Island as a place where those banished from the Puritans could find a welcoming acceptance. The conflict between the Puritans of Massachusetts and the Baptists of Rhode Island provided the Americans with a perfect case study of the two extremes of religious liberty, and the fact that Rhode Island's policy eventually came to be accepted by every state serves to demonstrate that they recognized the superiority of religious toleration in spite of the rantings of men like Nathaniel Ward.

By the way, Cotton Mather had a similar revulsion to the founding of Rhode Island although he was more friendly toward Baptists in general than Ward was.