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Identify the links between the political principles and practices developed in ancient Greece and such political institutions and practices as written constitutions and town meetings of the Puritans.

Focus Question: How did political principles and practices from Ancient Greece develop in the American colonies?

Topics on the Page

The Puritans and Ancient Greece
Colonial Constitutions
Town Meetings as a Form of Government

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Links between Puritans and Ancient Greece

A fair Puritan / E. Percy Moran. Print 1897
A fair Puritan / E. Percy Moran. Print 1897

Quill_and_ink.pngTop influential ancient Greeks, including Solon, Cleisthenes, Perciles, and Demosthenes.

Take a look at this timeline of Greek Politics

This video explains the classical Greek society and culture. This video explains the society and religion in the New England colonies.

-Both had a system of social hierarchy.
-Only freemen (those were heads of families) could be part of church and town meetings and have any say in making laws.
-Political power was held within a council
-Puritan men in the council controlled taxes
-When a woman married, she gave all her property to her husband
-Puritans believed that a father’s more distant authority check on the mother’s tenderness once a male child reached the age of 6 or 7, similar to that of the Spartans; a child was taken away from its mother and put through a rigorous military training like his father.
-Puritans found it important to be able to read the Bible in its original form; Latin, Greek,
Hebrew and Aramaic.

Backgroundon Puritans in New England

multicultural.pngHere is a link to an article which discusses whether or not there may have been a Black Pilgrim in Plymouth Plantation in 1627.

Colonial Constitutions

The importance of a written constitution from Brian Risman, The Law Journal UK.
  • The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony. Note that all the signatories were male.
mayflower compact.jpg
Mayflower Compact

Link to The Massachusetts Constitution as a model for the federal constitution

lessonplan.jpgHere is a lesson plan for building a constitution for your classroom!

Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy

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Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 3.55.03 PM.pngViral Meme Says Constitution Owes Its Nation of Democracy to the Iroquois, Politifact (December 2, 2014)

Town Meetings

For more on town meeting as a democratic practice, see United States Government 3.10.

Encyclopedia Britannica's definition of Town Meeting
  • The first town meeting was held, October 8, 1633 in Dorchester, Massachusetts by citizens who wanted to address issues that affected the "common good."
  • America's oldest town hall in continuous use for town meetings is in Pelham, MA. Read about it here.

primary_sources.PNGSee page 3 of the Dorchester Town Records from the "Fourth Report of the Record Commissioners" (1880) for a record of the meeting.
  • Citizen's Guide to Town Meetings from the Massachusetts Office of Secretary of State gives information about the town meeting form of government.
  • According to the New Rules Project (Institute for Local Self Reliance), "the New England town meeting and the school district meeting are the only direct democracy institutions in the United States involving lawmaking by assembled voters."
  • Compare the Town Meeting to the Athenian Assembly by reading about the Assembly.
Multimedia.pngVideo excerpt from the movie The Patriot on what a colonial "town meeting" could have looked like.

CT town meeting.jpg
Modern Town Hall Meeting in Connecticut

New England Town Scene
New England Town Scene

Ancient Greek Women

This link includes ten notable women of Ancient Greece
This link explains the role of women in Puritan society


[2] Feldmeth, Greg D. "American Puritanism," U.S. History Resources. <http://www.polytechnic.org/faculty/gfeldmeth/USHistory.html/lec.pur.html> (Revised 21 June 2004).
[3]Finley, Gavin (2003 September). Puritan History; Past, Present, and Future. Retrieved April 3, 2007, from Puritans Web site: http://endtimepilgrim.org/puritans.htm.
[4]Massachusetts Bay Colony. In Wikipedia [Web]. USA: Retrieved 04, 03, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_Bay_Colony

Image IDs from left to right

1. Famous Puritans Wikimedia Commons, "Puritan Gallery".
2. Dorchester, MA Wikipedia, "Lower Mills MA".