While search for the physical means of sustenance is thus in most cases the principal motive for immigration, and was a principal motive in the case of most of the American colonies, the settlement of Massachusetts does not seem to have been determined to any appreciable extent by such a cause. Neither would it be quite correct to describe the founders of Massachusetts as driven from England by persecution, like the men who settled Plymouth.
[. . .]
They attached such great importance to regular industry and sedate and decorous behavior that for a long time the needy and shiftless people who usually make trouble in new colonies were not tolerated among them. Hence the early history of Massachusetts is remarkably free from those scenes of violence and disorder which so often made hideous the first year of new communities. On the other hand, the strictness with which the Puritan colonists sought to realize their theocratic ideal of society resulted sometimes in reprehensible intolerance.
[...] All things considered, then, the character of emigration to New England appears to have been pre-eminent for its respectability. Like the best part of the emigration to Virginia, it consisted of country squires and yeomen, but with this difference in its favor, that a principle of selection had been at work whereby the squires and yeomen who followed Winthrop had approved themselves men of exceptionally serious and lofty characters, with minds that had been purified through steadfast devotion to a noble and unselfish ideal.
[...] Thus, as regards their social derivation, the people of New England were homogeneous in character to an unparalleled degree, and they were drawn from the sturdiest part of the English stock.
[...] In all history there has been no other instance of a colony so exclusively peopled by picked and chosen men. The colonies knew this, and were proud of it, as well they might be. It was the simple truth that was spoken by William Stoughton when he said, in his election sermon in 1688,"God sifted a nation that he might send choice grain into the wilderness."
[...] Those 21,000 English Puritans, who came over to New England before the meeting of the Long Parliament, have now increased to nearly 13,000,000. According to the most careful estimates, at least one-fourth of the whole population of the United States at the present moment is descended from these men. Striking as this fact may seem, it is perhaps less striking than the fact of the original migration, when we stop to contemplate it in its full meaning."
["From the Harper's Magazine collection, 'New England', 1990. The collected pieces were all written around the turn of the 20th century. The following is from 'Colonial New England', p. 212"]
Ellsworth Huntington documented a sample of the descendants of these Puritan settlers, who, as might be expected, went on to be quite successful. Starting from the example of the Puritan settlement of New England, Huntington draws a perhaps obvious lesson:
The lesson, as we see it, is that by proper selection the people of the United States as a whole, just as they are today, may give rise to descendants who possess unusually high qualities. Selection is the key word of this whole book.
If selection is to accomplish its full work it must be followed by segregation, or better still by continued selection from generation to generation. It is a common and very true saying of anthropologists that individual differences, even among closely related people, are far greater than the average differences between races. We believe that selection on the basis of individual differences is the reason why the New England type stands out so conspicuously. But since the selection occurred mainly in a single generation, segregation of the selected people was absolutely essential to permit them to develop their individuality. If it could produce desirable results by selecting certain person among the people of eastern England three centuries ago, there is no reason why it should not produce still better results if a more rational system of social selection in each successive generation can be devised here in the United States today. [After Three Centuries, p. 184]