Webster's dictionary defines freedom as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action as well as liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another. American history has been, in essence, a huge struggle for those very principles. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind" (Qtd. In Sime and McCambridge, 225). The integrity of your own mind is the purpose for which nearly every social battle in this country, as well as abroad, has been fought. America has made a history of fighting for the right to have every principle of freedom a part of each person's daily life, in fact, it was the idea of freedom that resulted in the founding of the nation. From the day that the religiously persecuted set sail for the new world from the "old" to escape religious oppression to the day of the passing of the Civil Rights Act, America's past abounds with stories of freedom both won and lost as people of every race and sex fought and continue to fight to obtain the right to act and think as individuals. .
It was King Henry VIII of England that inadvertently ignited the separatist-flame that would eventually lead to the population of America. He did this through his public and official break from Catholicism in the 1530s, which had previously been the religion most widely practiced in his kingdom. His marital problems however brought him to realize that the catholic religion was not the proper religious niche for him, and along with him came many who believed separation was the correct path. This separation however would have left Henry and his followers religion-less had he not elected to replace Catholicism with his own Church of England. His action powerfully stimulated some English reformers to undertake a total purification of English Christianity (qtd. In Bailey, Kennedy, and Cohen, 43). These reformers came to be known as Puritans, and even more extreme was a group of puritans known as Separatists whom desired not purify but to break completely from the Church of England.