John Winthrop


John Winthrop
John Winthrop was born into a wealthy Puritan family in Suffolk, England, and as a young man he studied law at Trinity College before becoming Lord of the Manor at Groton in Suffolk. Winthrop later followed his father in becoming a lawyer in London, and he was also appointed to the county commission of the peace. In 1605, He married Mary Forth, who later gave birth to five children, but only three survived to adulthood, and complications from the last birth killed Mary as well. Shortly following her death, John remarried, this time to a far more pious woman named Thomasine Clopton, but his second wife died within the year. In 1618, John was wed a third time, to Margaret Tyndal, whose family initially opposed the match because of Winthropís poor income, but for which he claimed to compensate with his extreme piety.

In 1624, Charles I ascended to the English throne and married a Roman Catholic woman, placing all religious dissidents in danger. At this time, emigration to the New World was just beginning, and Puritan leaders saw the journey to America as a means of escaping persecution. In 1628, a group of settlers led by John Endecott sailed to the east coast, where they established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop himself became involved in emigration plans a year later, and he was chosen as the future governor of Massachusetts Bay. While his pregnant wife remained in England until a year later, John and his son Henry, along with 700 other immigrants, set out for America in 1630. During the journey, Winthrop dictated his famous sermon, A Model of Christian Charity, which described his religious aims for the new colony. In it, he described his ideal settlement as a "city upon a hill," a phrase now famous in literature.

Winthrop served as governor of Massachusetts for twelve of the colonyís first twenty years, and he promoted a tradition of common law in his duties. He was responsible for the banishment of religious radicals such as Anne Hutchinson and Thomas Hooker, but despite his disagreement with their teachings, he never treated them with the cruelty espoused by his fellow leaders. Following the death of his third wife in 1647, he married Martha Rainsborough, who gave birth to one child before John passed away from natural causes in 1649.

Key events during the life of John Winthrop:

Admitted to Trinity College.
Married Mary Forth.
  Began keeping a journal documenting his religious life.
Became Lord of the Manor at Groton.
Death of Mary.
  Married Thomasine Clopton.
Death of Thomasine.
Gave the sermon A Model of Christian Charity while sailing to America.
Served as second governor of Massachusetts.
Served as sixth governor of Massachusetts.
Creation of the Massachusetts Body of Liberties.
Served as ninth governor of Massachusetts.
Served as twelfth governor of Massachusetts.
Married Martha Rainsborough.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
New England Indians  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
First Governor in Boston  in  Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans  by  Edward Eggleston
Founding of Massachusetts  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
Education in the Colonies  in  American History Stories, Volume I  by  Mara L. Pratt

Image Links

Governor Winthrop
 in Indian History for Young Folks

John Winthrop
 in Builders of Our Country: Book I

Short Biography
Charles I Second Stuart king. His quarrels with Parliament led to civil war and his execution.
Oliver Cromwell Military leader of Parliament who headed the Commonwealth government after death of Charles I.
Henrietta Daughter of Henry IV of France, and Queen of Charles I, and mother of Charles II and James II.
William Brewster One of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on the Mayflower. Elder in Congressional Church.
William Bradford Governor of the Plymouth Colony of Pilgrims. Wrote the Mayflower Compact.