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Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia by E.…

Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia (1979)

by E. Digby Baltzell

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A thorough, detailed sociological analysis of the Puritan and Quaker mindsets and the influence they exerted over the respective cultures they founded in Boston and Philadelphia even long after their obvious dominance had subsided.

Both denominations were lower-class English utopian sects generated by the Protestant Reformation seeking a return to basic primitive purity and self-reliance in the wilderness Garden of Eden of the New World. The Calvinist Puritans set great store in education, and became accustomed to being governed by the leaders of their congregations. Quakers, on the other hand, carried Pietist individualism to the extreme with deliberate absence of governing authority and even structure. While the Puritan clergymen became educated statesmen in the communities of Massachusetts Bay, the individualistic Quakers let their consciences be guided by personal revelations, refraining from interfering in anyone else's affairs. This attitude was also congenial to the Pietist German Protestant utopian sects recruited to populate an outer belt of counties surrounding Philadelphia.

The authoritarian Puritans of Massachusetts Bay guarded their religious dogma jealously and imposed it upon all members of their communities. Creating educational institutions which reinforced their intellectual orthodoxies, their leadership formed a hereditary ruling caste which even became known as Brahmins after the Indian clerical parliamentary estate. When they converted from Puritan to Unitarian, their entire communities converted in lockstep, adhering to the European concept of religious uniformity within each State. Their evangelistic temperament and forceful educational institutions came to dominate not only other colonies which they spawned, but also neighboring cultures and even eventually the United States as a whole.

Quaker educational institutions, on the other hand, tended to stress practical scientific and vocational rather than philosophical training, which Quakers considered responsible for misleading students into erroneous beliefs. Philadelphia high society (soon becoming predominantly Anglican/Episcopalian, as did the proprietary Penn family) grew accustomed to ceding its government to outside strongmen and political machines which left them free to pursue their individual interests. Relatively few of the upper class ever sought or achieved the widespread personal acclaim so avidly pursued by their Massachusetts counterparts.

Strains of these two contrasting creeds both continue to assert themselves in control of U.S. culture to the present day.
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Explores the distinct differences between the Boston Brahmin and the Proper Philadelphian.

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