Summary: Religions and Their Activities in the Colonies 1600-1700s

This topic combines information from the 1600s and 1700s:

Summary of English Religions (Pre-1700s)


Religious Group

Major Traits

Where in the Colonies

Roman Catholicism

Sacraments; priesthood; hierarchical administration

Maryland (but after 1691, the Catholics lost their religious protections.)

Church of England

Roman Catholic sacraments, simplified and reformed; uses Book of Common Prayer; hierarchical administration (English)

Virginia, Maryland (also the “official faith” in New York, Carolinas, and Georgia, but the laws were not enforced)


Calvinist; separate from the Church of England; Congregationalist administration

(The word Congregationalist means that male church members of the congregation have a vote. Since church and government are one, that also means they vote in governmental decisions. In English law, to vote a man must have property such as land.)

Plymouth Plantation


Calvinist; purify the Church of England; Congregationalist administration

(See the explanation of the word Congregationalist  above.)

Massachusetts Bay


Christian; pacifists; egalitarians and believe all people are equal (thus the “thee” and “thou”); rejection of church administration and church buildings



Additional Religious Groups (Post-1700s)


Religious Group

Major Traits

Where in the Colonies

French Huguenots

Calvinists who left France following Louis XIV’s revocation of the Edict of Nantes, an edict of toleration that had been in place for almost 100 years

New York, South Carolina, and Massachusetts

Dutch Reformed


New York, New Jersey

Moravians and Mennonites (included the Amish)

Frequently classified as similar to Quakers (They were pacifists and rejected oaths.)


Scottish Presbyterian (Scotch Irish)

Calvinists; Presbyterian church administration; settled initially in Northern Ireland (with some migrating to the colonies)

Backcountry of Virginia and North Carolina (The word backcountry means the area of settlement closest to the Native Americans and thus most likely to be attacked. )


Copyright C. J. Bibus, Ed.D. 2003-2015


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