{\rtf1\ansi \deff0{\fonttbl{\f16\froman Times New Roman;}}\margb1800\margl2520\margr2520\sectd\footery1080\pard\tx90 \plain\f16 The Puritan Tradition and American Memory\par \par

The Puritan Tradition and American Memory

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\par As part of the iconography and symbology by which a sense of American past is constructed, the infusion of the Puritans into 17th century New England has been interpreted and re-interpreted through an historical, retrospective viewpoint as a shaping force of what has been recurrently--but now must be only provisionally and hesitantly--described as that peculiar and essential figure, the being somehow common to every component of a nevertheless immeasurably diverse culture, the "American" himself. Never mind, if this shared self seems to waver and blur under scrutiny; the past out of which it is made is just as elusive, just as dependent upon the plasticity of its popular conception. It is easier and perhaps in its way necessary to do as has been done with the waves of immigrants that fixed the European presence in New England in 1620 and 1630, to jumble two groups into, depending upon one's mood, either a stern but strong figure of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence, or a stark, superstitious, grim-faced symbol of abstinence and fatalism. On one side, we have the Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock, the blunderbuss and the turkey--a good-natured and benign collage of historical images that help fill the nation's collective past with reassuring facts, help establish one's sense of tradition by allowing it key moments of adherence. But then the commonly-held 'dark side,' the Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans: witch-hunts, elitism, intolerance, narrow-minded zealotry; a paradigm used to understand and explain moments of its perceived recurrence within our society, such as with the Communist-purging McCarthyism of the 1950's.

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Of course, the painting, the fresco and the scene within the frieze, all ornamenting the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, all there to help explain through representative moments of American history just what \i America\i0 means, evoke not the culture whose influence had the greater effect and which indeed swallowed the other not long after either of their establishment; rather, one is given in each image the counterpart to the conception most readily available to Americans, the one fixed in a National holiday, Thanksgiving. But again, that the Pilgrims seem to stand as representative of our 'Forefathers,' does not necessarily mean that the Puritans are forgotten; paradoxically, in name at least, the opposite may be true. As Michael Kammen points out, the first group is more often than not conflated with the second, and seen to be a small community within it. If the symbolism of the Pilgrims occupy the foreground of popular memory, the idea of Puritanism has served as a kind of frame for it, allowing a title and a context, which, when taken notice of, may be safely understood as incidental to the \i meaning\i0 of the tradition seen.

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Two Histories

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The Pilgrims and Plymouth Plantation
\par The Massachusetts Bay Colony

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The Blending of the Two

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The Plymouth Bicentennial
\par The Plymouth Tercentenary

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Tradition as Cultural Tool
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Misreadings of the Mayflower Compact
\par The Question of Primacy: Antebellum Differences, Divisions in Reconstruction
\par The Literary Puritan
\par The Pilgrims in the U.S. Capitol

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Works Cited

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Bradford, William. \i Of Plymouth Plantation\i0 . Ed. Samuel Eliot Morison.

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Dawson, Jan C. \i The Unusable Past: America's Puritan Tradition, 1830 to 1930\i0 . Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984.

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Fisher, Herbert A.L. \i The Bay Colony\i0 : \i A Tercentenary Address\i0 . Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press, 1930.

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Gill, Crispin. \i Mayflower Remembered: A History of the Plymouth Pilgrims\i0 . New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1970.\par

Hall, David D. \i Puritanism in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts\i0 . New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1968.

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Heimert, Alan, and Andrew Delblanco, eds. \i The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology\i0 . Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1985.

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Kammen, Michael. \i Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture\i0 . New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

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Miller, Perry, and Thomas H. Johnson, eds. \i The Puritans\i0 . 2nd ed. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.

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Erikson, Kai T. \i Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance\i0 . New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1966.

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Johnson, Ellwood. \i The Pursuit of Power: Studies in the Vocabulary of Puritanism\i0 . New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1995.

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sea2u@virginia.edu\par }