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A Journal Of The Transactions And Occurrences In The Settlement Of Massachusetts And The Other New ESummary and Reviews of A Journal Of The Transactions And Occurrences In The Settlement Of Massachusetts And The Other New England Colonies, From The Year 1630-1644
The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649Summary and Reviews of The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649
Short Story of the Rise, Reign and Ruin of the Antinomians, Familists and Libertines that Infected tSummary and Reviews of Short Story of the Rise, Reign and Ruin of the Antinomians, Familists and Libertines that Infected the Churches of New England
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John Winthrop

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John Winthrop (1588-1649) was born in Groton, England at a time when England was on the verge of economic crisis and religious conflict that would combine to make New England the destination of many emigrants.  Winthrop didn’t waste any time moving past his childhood, entering Trinity College at fourteen, marrying at sixteen, and becoming a Justice of the Peace by eighteen.  Winthrop was one of a few thousand wealthy men in England in the 1620s, but he was sympathetic to the plight of those who were victims of unemployment and unfair taxation and legal systems that resulted in poverty.  He himself felt the burden of injustice as a Puritan during a time when tolerance of anyone who did not agree with the official Church line was at an all time low.

The Massachusetts Bay Company elected Winthrop governor soon after the Cambridge Agreement established the Company’s official intention to establish a colony in New England.  The Company’s charter authorized the Company to establish their colony with relative autonomy, and in 1629, the Arabella sailed for the New World with almost 400 passengers.  Many historians see a conflict in how Winthrop governed.  They see a conflict between the desire of the colonists aboard the Arabella, including presumably Winthrop, to escape England for economic prosperity and the portion of Winthrop’s sermon, Modell of Christian Charity, delivered on board the ship in which he said “God Almightie in his most holy and wise providence hath soe disposed of the Conicion of mankinde, as in all times some must be rich some poore…”  The sentence continued, “some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjection.”  These historians, furthermore, believe that this conflicts with the colonists’ desire to get away from the unfair taxes and legal system in England.  Other historians prefer to see these as paradoxes based on Winthrop’s later assertion that civil authority grants the people the freedom to do what is “good, just, and honest.”  Thus, the colonists could choose to follow their natural liberty to do evil or they could follow their civil liberty to obey civil authority.  More evidence for the idea of conflict in this debate appears in the Antinomian “Crisis” and Winthrop’s handling of it.  Read Winthrop’s writing and decide for yourself whether he was a hypocrite or a good Christian governor.


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