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"For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world."
WINTHROP, JOHN (1588 - 1649), a Puritan leader and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Edwardston, Suffolk, on the 12th of January (O.S.) 1588, the son of Adam Winthrop of Groton Manor, and Anne (Browne) Winthrop. In December 1602 he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, but he did not graduate. The years after his brief course at the university were devoted to the practice of law, in which he achieved considerable success, being appointed, about 1623, an attorney in the Court of Wards and Liveries, and also being engaged in the drafting of parliamentary bills. Though his residence was at Groton Manor,
much of his time was spent in London. Meanwhile he passed through the deep spiritual experiences characteristic of Puritanism, and made wide acquaintance among the leaders of the Puritan party. On the 26th of August 1629 he joined in the "Cambridge Agreement," by which he, and his associates, pledged themselves to remove to New England, provided the government and patent of the Massachusetts colony should be removed thither. On the 20th of October following he was chosen governor of the "Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England," and sailed in the "Arabella" in March 1630, reaching Salem (Mass.) on the 12th of June (O.S.), accompanied by a large party of Puritan immigrants. After a brief sojourn in Charlestown, Winthrop and many of his immediate associates settled in Boston in the autumn of 1630. He shared in the formation of a church at Charlestown (afterwards the First Church in Boston) on the 30th of July 1630, of which he was thenceforth a member. At Boston he erected a large house, and there he lived till his death on the 26th of March
Winthropís history in New England was very largely that of the Massachusetts colony, of which he was twelve times chosen governor by annual election, serving in 1629-s634, 1637-1640, in 1642-1644, and in 1646-1649, and dying in office. To the service of the colony he gave not merely unwearied devotion; but in its interests consumed strength and fortune. His own temper of mind was conservative and somewhat aristocratic, but he guided political development, often under circumstances of great difficulty, with singular fairness and conspicuous magnanimity. In 1634-1635 he was a leader in putting the colony in a state of defence against possible coercion by the English government. He opposed the majority of his fellow-townsmen in the so-called "Antinomian controversy" of 1636-1637, taking a strongly conservative attitude towards the questions in dispute. He was the first president of the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England, organized in 1643. He defended Massachusetts against threatened parliamentary interference once more in 1645-1646. That the colony successfully weathered its early perils was due more to Winthropís skill and wisdom than to the services of any other of its citizens.
Winthrop was four times married. His first wife, to whom he was united on the 16th of April 1605, was Mary Forth, daughter of John Forth, of Great Stambridge, Essex. She bore him six children, of whom the eldest was John Winthrop, Jr. (q.v.). She was buried in Groton on the 26th of June 1615. On the 6th of December 1615 he married Thomasine Clopton, daughter of William Clopton of Castleins, near Groton. She died in childbirth about a year later. He married, on the 29th of April 1618, Margaret Tyndal, daughter of Sir John Tyndal,
of Great Maplested, Essex. She followed him to New England in 1631, bore him eight children, and died on the 14th of June 1647. Late in 1647 or early in 1648 he married Mrs Martha Coytmore, widow of Thomas Coytmore, who survived him, and by whom he had one son.
Winthropís Journal, an invaluable record of early Massachusetts history, was printed in part in Hartford in 1790; the whole it, Boston, edited by James Savage, as The History of New England from 1630 to 1649, in 1825-1826, and again in 1853; and in New York, edited by James K. Hosmer, in 1908. His biography has been written by Robert C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop (2 vols., Boston, 1864, 1867; new ed. 1869); and by Joseph H. Twichell, John Winthrop (New York, 1891). See also Mrs Alice M. Earle, Margaret Winthrop (New York, 1895).
contributed by Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911
15 August 2006