Pilgrims vs Puritans: Difference and Comparison

The common ground between Pilgrims and Puritans is that these people both originated from England with a history of a link with the Anglican church.

Their origin and history have reformation and formation that differ from each other in terms and aspects. They have different scriptures aiming at the almighty and where Christ is the centre of faith.

They both have different strict disciplines and faith to follow even when they are praying to one God, Jesus Christ, along with final authority on all religious matters.

The faith and disciplines came through generations of reading, examining, and interpreting the Bible: the holy book of Christianity divided between pilgrims and Puritans.

Key Takeaways

  1. Pilgrims were a group of English separatists who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620, while Puritans were a group of English Protestants who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.
  2. Pilgrims sought religious freedom and were more tolerant of other religions, while Puritans sought to reform the Church of England and were more strict in their religious beliefs.
  3. Pilgrims had a peaceful relationship with Native Americans, while Puritans had a more hostile relationship with them.

Pilgrims vs Puritans

The Pilgrims were a group of English Separatists who wanted to separate from the Church of England and establish their own church. The Puritans were a group of English Protestants who wanted to “purify” the Church of England from within, believing in strict adherence to religious doctrine.

Pilgrims vs Puritans

In 1620, pilgrims boarded the Mayflower from the Netherlands and embarked on a destined journey to the United States. They first settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, but the accompanying team rarely sailed in the vast ocean.

Even though Puritans came a decade later with a much large mass and a number of ships, it is said to have outnumbered the pilgrims. Moreover, Democracy was practised by the pilgrims’ community.

The pilgrims also developed a covenant with many resemblances with the concept of democracy. In the pilgrim’s community, the leaders and the members are treated as equals.

However, there is still a concept of separation between the State issues and the Church issues as a whole.

Ten years after the arrival of the pilgrims, the Puritans specifically landed in the United States in 1630 and are known to have settled down in the commonly known Massachusetts Bay Colony.

They came in a huge number of ships with much greater mass than the pilgrims. The Puritans have and follow the concept of theocracy, opposite of that of the pilgrim’s faith.

They are known to have retained the English system when they started their mass living in America, and their leaders attained the divine right to rule and pose authority.

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Issues from their Church and State clashed with each other, unlike the pilgrims’ community.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonPilgrimsPuritans 
Definition Pilgrims are known as separatists who first settled down in America in 1620. Puritans are known as non-separatists who came to America in 1630. 
LeadershipPilgrims were under the leadership of Robert Browne. Puritans were under the leadership of John Foxe.
Faith and PracticePilgrims practiced the concept of democracy. Puritans practiced the concept of theocracy, unlike pilgrims. 
Status Pilgrims consist of mostly working men in their community.  Puritans consist of highly educated and higher social-economic status men in their community. 
Equality The State and the church are separated and the leaders and members are equal. The state and church issues overlap each other and there is no equality in leaders and members. 

What are Pilgrims? 

The history of the pilgrims originating as a community and settling down in America is definitive and has shown the progress of growth among the Native Americans through their teachings, preachings, faith, and virtues towards Christ and the people around them.

As mentioned earlier, their settlement started in 1620 when they were led under the leadership of Robert Browne and settled down in Plymouth, Mass.

It is said that when they settled in Plymouth, they were a few in the number who came through a hard journey across the ocean. Since their arrival, they have played a significant role throughout American history, and many faiths are followed even today.

Pilgrims, as Puritans, had one mission in hand, is to reform the Church of England. But they differ in the way they approach reform. The term pilgrim means someone who takes a long journey with the purpose of religion or any moral notion.

When it comes to the pilgrims we are talking about here, it also means the community of people who settled down in Plymouth from Mayflower by distinguishing religious freedom.

These pilgrims were known to want to reform the Church of England quickly and quickly became known as a separatist. Their work is dedicated to the reform and insists on separating ideas and beliefs from those of the Church of England.

Some virtues of the pilgrims mostly include influencing and emphasizing an individual’s righteousness before the almighty. The pilgrims’ migration was influential but was later found by other English settlers in the 1620s and quickly adapted to them.

Such reformation happened because the pilgrims, who were also called separatists, rejected the Church of England. The impactful path of Catholicism that the Church of England represented was the main motive of the Reformation.

What are Puritans?

When it comes to Christian reformists in the history of America, puritans are an essential part of it. Puritans came a decade later, since the arrival of pilgrims, in 1630, and their community had a much larger mass that came in ships and settled down in Massachusetts Bay Colony.

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According to historical facts, puritans are known to have escaped to Holland in 1608, and their reformation mission from the Church of England began since then.

Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, Puritans were meant for anyone in England willing to seek “purity” through worship and doctrine, which is enshrined in their motive.

The Puritans who emigrated to the new world of America in the 1630s are known as non-separatists or non-separating Puritans even though they also shared Calvinists beliefs such as original sin as the pilgrims.

However, the new Puritan community already regarded them as the new British. Their community or colony was known as a “city on a hill” with a biblical point of view of the state and their church.

Unlike pilgrims, Puritans believed in the importance of collective rather than individual justice. The Puritans didn’t believe inequality in the state and the church to immaculate to the new world.

The community of Puritans mostly consisted of a higher social and economic status standard, which influenced the living standards of the colony.

Despite their differences in these aspects, Puritans were equally impactful in the convictions of their religion. Moreover, they were committed to the reformation of the Church of England, as said before, but they were also committed to the restoration of the early Christian society.

Main Differences Between Pilgrims and Puritans

  1. Pilgrims came to America in 1620 and settled first in Plymouth, Mass, whereas the Puritans came in 1630 to America and settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony.
  2. Pilgrims were practising their faith under the leadership of Robert Browne, whereas Puritans put their faith and virtues under the leadership of John Foxe.
  3. Pilgrims are known to have started the holiday Thanksgiving which celebrates the cooperation between the Native Americans and the pilgrims that settled in later. The Puritans were famous for conducting witch trials.
  4. Pilgrims practised democracy when it came to governance and community, whereas the Puritans followed theocracy in their community.
  5. Pilgrims’ communities mostly consisted of working men, whereas Puritans were mostly of higher social and economic status.
  1. https://www.pilgrimhall.org/pdf/Pilgrim_Puritan_A_Delicate_Distinction.pdf
  2. https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA17963269&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00346551&p=AONE&sw=w

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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13 thoughts on “Pilgrims vs Puritans: Difference and Comparison”

  1. Very insightful explanation of the differences between Pilgrims and Puritans. The comparison table provides a clear picture of their contrasting beliefs and practices.

  2. The historical context is well-explained. It’s important to understand the origins and philosophies of these two groups.

  3. The influence of these groups on American history is undeniable. Both the Pilgrims and Puritans played significant roles in shaping the nation’s beliefs and practices.


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