Carl I. Hammer skillfully integrates three incidents at the frontier town of Hadley, Massachusetts—interesting in themselves, but not obviously of more than local importance—into the larger canvas of the evolution of New England during the latter half of the seventeenth century. He contends that ‘declension’ from the founders’ ideals ought to be understood as ‘secular,’ i.e., political and social as much as religious. Not the least appeal of this engaging book is Hammer's account of the further adventures of the regicide William Goffe, the legendary ‘Angel of Hadley.'
A deep dive into the religious debates and political tensions that shaped the founding of this once-influential Massachusetts town, Carl I. Hammer's Pugnacious Puritans tracks the entangled motives of powerful personalities as they navigated imperial, colonial, and local interests. This up-close look at early Hadley is illuminating not only as a case study of town-making in the Connecticut Valley, but also as a window to theology, ambition, interest, and power across seventeenth-century New England.