Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds
Francis J. Bremer
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John Davenport, who cofounded the colony of New Haven, has been neglected in studies that view early New England primarily from a Massachusetts viewpoint. Francis J. Bremer restores the clergyman to importance by examining Davenport’s crucial role as an advocate for religious reform in England and the Netherlands before his emigration, his engagement with an international community of scholars and clergy, and his significant contributions to colonial America. Bremer shows that he was in many ways a remarkably progressive leader for his time, with a strong commitment to education for both women and men, a vibrant interest in new science, and a dedication to upholding democratic principles in churches at a time when many other Puritan clergymen were emphasizing the power of their office above all else.
Bremer’s enlightening and accessible biography of an important figure in New England history provides a unique perspective on the seventeenth-century transatlantic Puritan movement.
leaders feared that the English Parliament would aggressively promote the Presbyterian system recommended by the Westminster Assembly not only in England but perhaps in the colonies as well. The Bay colonists had tolerated some aspects of Presbyterian polity in the Hingham and Newbury congregations, but Parker and Noyse had continued to complain of the colonial system to their English friends. Adding to that concern was a petition presented to the Massachusetts General Court in 1646. The
“appeared amongst ourselves . . . have denied the ordinance of magistracy and the lawfulness of making war.” The General Court decreed that any who advanced such views were to be banished.52 Numerous English correspondents criticized the colony’s action, including John Winthrop’s son Stephen, who wrote from England that there “is great complaint against us for our severity against Anabaptists. It doth discourage any people from coming to us for fear they should be banished if they dissent from
of the New Haven church. It was a somewhat tortured response. He reported that the New Haven church had originally decided that they “could not resign him up to you by any immediate act of ours” and that this was still their position. Street did, however, acknowledge that “the last clause in their previous letter, . . . is capable of a strained interpretation of a virtual dismission.”62 He was referring to the fact that in their initial response to the Boston Church in August 1667, New Haven had
Boston elders, 28 August 1667, in Hill, South Church, 20. 64. Scottow’s account in Hill, South Church, 31. 65. Nicholas Street to First Church Boston, 12 October 1668, in Hill, South Church, 34–36. 66. Nicholas Street to First Church Boston, 12 October 1668, in Hill, South Church, 36. 67. Boston Church Records, 62. 68. Scottow’s account in Hill, South Church, 36–37. 69. Scottow’s account in Hill, South Church, 37. 70. Scottow’s account in Hill, South Church, 37–38. 71. Scottow’s account
Exeter and Samuel Maverick, another clergyman from the region, to become their ministers, and upon their acceptance, ordained them in their posts, thus forming a congregation even before they departed for America. When they arrived, they settled the town of Dorchester.20 In the end, as the historian Stephen Foster has argued, “quite simply, the earliest New England ecclesiastical foundations were the only way according to both theology and practice (at about 1630) that professing Christians [in