Many Puritans departed New England for the South to avoid the oncoming rush of secular Unitarianism. These New Englanders were no strangers to slavery; they had previously conquered and enslaved the Pequot tribe while appropriating their lands, and sent expeditions to the Cape Fear in the late 1600’s. After befriending local Indians who entrusted their children to Puritan care – the children were sent to West Indian slave markets.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
New England Puritans and Slavery
“Into this rich coastal strip came Puritan settlers establishing a remarkable community. It seemed a strange place for Puritans – one usually thinks of them along New England’s rocky shore or among snow covered valleys – but these Puritans had been wanderers, restlessly seeking the right place for their commonwealth. Their ancestors had left Dorchester, England, in 1630 for Massachusetts, settling there for five years before moving on to Connecticut where they had remained for sixty years.
In 1695 a colony had left for South Carolina. There beneath the great oaks and beside the black waters of the Ashley River they had laid out their village and built their meetinghouse. As with most good Puritans, they had prospered – in spite of a sickly climate – so that within two generations there had been a need for new land.
Commissioners were sent to Georgia and, after some negotiations, a grant of over 31,000 acres had been secured. In this way a colony of 350 whites accompanied by their 1,500 slaves began in 1752 a southward trek to what would become Liberty County.
These wandering Puritans found the Georgia coast a good place to settle and to at last send down deep roots. The rich soil and the tidal rivers offered ample opportunity for the cultivation of rice and sea-island cotton. Yet as God-fearing Calvinists, they were aware of the seductions of such a rich wilderness, and they immediately set about establishing an organized community.
They declared that they had a “greater regard to a compact Settlement and Religious Society than future temporal advantages.” “We are sensible,” they wrote in the Articles of Incorporation, “to the advantages of good order and social agreement, among any people, both for their Civil and Religious Benefit . . .”
They would not be lonely pioneers facing the wilderness on their own, but members of a well-ordered community. For these Puritan settlers, the government of such a community would consist of two coordinate branches: the Church and the Society. The Church would be governed by the male communing members who would administer spiritual affairs; the Society would be composed of all males who would subscribe to the Articles of Incorporation, whether they were communing members of the Church or not, and would administer temporal affairs.
If this were not a “Holy Commonwealth,” it was clearly a Christian Society they wished to establish on the Georgia coast – and not, incidentally, it was just as clearly a society to be governed by white males.”
(“Wrestlin’ Jacob: A Portrait of Religion in Antebellum Georgia and the Carolina Low Country,” Erskine Clarke, University of Alabama Press, 1999, excerpts, pp 4-5)