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Difference Between Puritans and Pilgrims

Puritans vs Pilgrims

Puritans and Pilgrims are two groups of people that originated from England and its church, the Anglican Church. Both groups are part of Puritanism, an activist movement after the English Reformation. Puritanism advocates strict religious disciplines, the simplification of religious rituals, belief that salvation is by grace alone, Christ is the center of faith, and looking to the Scriptures as the final authority on religious matters.

Both groups look into the scriptures as a guide in their lives. Both groups profess in reading, examining, and interpreting the Bible. In extension, this encourages education and knowledge via reading, comprehension, and sometimes preaching.

Puritans are a group of people that formed under the leadership of John Foxe. Foxe authored a book entitled Book of Martyrs that urges a look and to live the virtues of Christianity. This notion is propelled after the famous action by Martin Luther and Henry VIII’s declaration as the Supreme Head of the Anglican Church.

Puritans are reformers, and their aim is to reform the Anglican Church from within. They have a more rational understanding of the relationship between the Church and the State. Some of their many ideal reforms never materialized and resulted in the existence of the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims are Puritans who believe that they should not compromise in their “purification” especially in the entities of Church and State. Due to conflicting interests, these Puritans, who called themselves Pilgrims, were discontented and decided to leave England and form their own churches.

Pilgrims are also referred to as Separatists. They were lead by Robert Browne, who also authored a book called Reformation Without Tarrying for Any.

Both Pilgrims and Puritans landed in America and played a significant role in American history. The pilgrims landed first on 1620, following a journey from Holland aboard the Mayflower. They settled at Plymouth and were few in number following a hard journey across the ocean. On the other hand, the Puritans arrived almost a decade later and settled in Massachusetts Bay. They came in many ships and outnumbered the Pilgrims.

As people, Pilgrims and Puritans are also different. Puritans give an emphasis to education and religion. They are slightly higher in the social ladder with a good academic education. Meanwhile, Pilgrims are working people or yeomen.

In terms of governance and community, there is also a major difference. The Pilgrims practiced a form of democracy in their community. They developed a covenant that resembles democracy. Leaders and members are equals, and there is the separation of the State and the Church. This is opposite of the system of the Puritans which is a form of theocracy. They retained the English system wherein leaders have a divine right to rule and authority. The Church and State issues also overlapped each other.

Pilgrims and Puritans play a significant role in history. Pilgrims started Thanksgiving, a tradition that commemorates camaraderie and cooperation between Pilgrims and Native Americans; while Puritans are famous for conducting witch trials and burning people on suspicion of witchcraft or heresy.


1.Pilgrims and Puritans have a similar ancestry, shared history, and goals. The Puritans are the original group which aimed to bring back simplicity and virtue in Christianity. On the other hand, Pilgrims are the Separatists who were once Puritans but were discontent at reforms. Both groups look to the Scriptures as their final authority on religion and not the clergy.
2.The Pilgrims came first to America and settled in Plymouth while the Puritans came later and settled in Massachusetts.
3.John Foxe is the leader of the Puritans while Robert Browne is the Pilgrim’s founder.
4.Pilgrims practiced a form of democracy in their community comprised of working men. On the other hand, Puritans are higher in the social and economic status. They also practiced a theocracy form of governance.

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  1. I’m so relieved to know that at least one other person the difference between “lead” and “led.”

  2. There is some good material here, but also some mistakes. First, the Puritans were not theocrats for they did not permit their ministers to hold public office and run the state, which is the defining characteristic of a theocracy. Second, there is no evidence of their burning people in the colonies and I know of none in Britain, though that may be true there. They did not burn people alive as the Catholics did, but they certainly believed in capital punishment.

  3. Taught as a child that I was a decendent of Rev.Thomas Hooker, Original settler of Connecticut.1630’s– I was interested in finding out which he belonged to.
    He is known as the first person to propose Separation of Church and State, and
    commit it to writing. Ironically, he was determined that any State stay out of
    his Church (and so it changed!) I imagine he was therefore a Pilgrim, by this definition.
    Any knowledge of Rev. Hooker would be appreciated.

  4. Yes, I understood that the people accused of being witches were hung, and one man was pressed to death.

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