Freeman - Position of Status in the Massachusetts Bay Colony

To understand the position of Freeman, it’s necessary to understand the historical and social context of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

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The Massachusetts Bay Colony was settled around 1630 by the Puritans who left England in order to set up their own version of a purified church in the colony. There was no separation of church and state; one authoritarian body governed each settlement in the colony. This body exercised power over every aspect of an individual’s life and there were harsh punishments for those who broke the rules.

Entry into a Puritan settlement required approval. New settlers were watched closely for some time and were not considered “free”. They needed to prove themselves by joining the church, paying one’s debts, and following the rules. If a settler became a member of good standing, he could be allowed to take the Freeman’s oath, an oath of loyalty in which one swore to “be subject to the government”, “be true and faithful”, and “not plot or practice evil against it”. Only men could become Freeman. A Freeman had the privilege to vote, participate in government, and nominate magistrates, deputies and other representatives.