From Niebuhr's New Republic article "The Puritan Conscience" (Originally Published August 31, 1953):
Perhaps the most serious defect of Calvinism was its theory of special providence according to which every event in history or in nature, for that matter, was thought of as the fruit of a conscious divine decree. Thus every drought, or other natural disaster, and every civic disturbance was interpreted as the result of God's "wrath." It prompted penance and fasting. Every favorable circumstance, on the other hand, was interpreted as a proof of God relenting against a rebellious people. Naturally the unfavorable first outweighed the favorable ones: but amid the wide opportunities of the new Continent the signs of God's "favor" were bound to be finally more numerous than the signs of his "wrath." The creed therefore operated to hasten the descent from Puritanism to "Yankeeism" in the eighteenth century. Our annual Thanksgiving festivals in which we congratulate God on having such a virtuous people are vestigial remnants of this declension.
The pretension of virtue by the saints offered special, difficulties not only because it was the type of virtue which promised worldly rewards but because it was made the basis of political authority. The Puritan preachers were political oligarchs; their rationalizations and hypocrisies were obvious. Miller, as a good artist, does not belabor, them but merely lets them reveal themselves and records the inevitable cynicism and resentment which their pretensions elicited. These resentments, together with developments in England, where the toleration was established under William and Mary, ultimately undermined their authority.