John Winthrop

By Alice An, Natalie Allen, Angela Abraham, and Grace Lee

"We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us."

Biography Addresses

Family History:
  • Born in Suffolk, England in January 22nd, 1588 into a financially wealthy family and highly ruling class called "the gentry," which was a dominant force in England society during the mid 16th century. He was educated by a private tutor and enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge by age fifteen.

  • The only son of Adam Winthrop, a successful lawyer and businessman, and Anne Winthrop who also had an affluent family with many properties.

  • His father was also the lord of Groton Manor, which had been bought from Henry VII during the period of Reformation.

  • John Winthrop was always exposed to a numerous religious discussion between his father and clergymen that affected the exploration of colonial development later in his life.

John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Political Affiliations/Loyalties with Explanations of Views

  • Although he studied law and worked in the court, John Winthrop became fully Puritan because he was a devoted Christian. The religious knowledge that he gained reinforced his elite status as well as social activist. He believed that God had called him to correct the imperfections of the world.

  • He believed that the English church should abolish relics of Roman Catholic

  • In 1692, John’s Puritan convictions led him to pursue the Massachusetts Bay Company, a group set on planting a royal colony in the New World. He wanted to erect a totalitarian religious Puritan state under the theocracy.

  • While other religious leaders struggled to develop a compatible Puritan belief government, John had other ideas. Through these disputes over unorthodox leaders, it was lucid that John’s government was more forbidding and harsh since he executed or banished unorthodox followers including Anne Hutchinson.

  • Winthrop had become the security guard of Massachusetts orthodoxy of Puritan. Skeptical of innovative ideas, he convinced citizens that God favored his community above all others.

Contribution to Participation in Colonial Development/Colonial Independence

  • Most of the members of the company were Puritans. He mentioned to his crews that the purposes of travelling to the New World are to carry the gospel to the New World, to escape the corrupted church of England and heal the bruises that poverty and overpopulation had bestowed on society. He wanted to build a society under the type of theocracy rather than broad democracy.

  • John Winthrop was chosen as the leader of this adventure by the consent of all since most eminent person undertook the role for building a design of carrying colony.

  • As a Puritan political leader, Winthrop’s colony prospered and flourished due to his efforts and character. His leadership skills and ability to incorporate human values and obligations through the Christian religion contributed overall to the colony’s citizenship as a whole. Although his first efforts were discouraged by the countless deaths of those who arrived by ship to their new home, he invested money into purchasing supplies that would help establish their new colony, which indeed did create a solid, stable community.

  • Morally, Winthrop encouraged and sustained a successful colony through religion and placing values such as liberty and freedom from their mother country to gain their sense of independence as a community. By announcing that God favored their colonies above all else, the colony’s morales were raised, thus contributing to colonial independence by its success.

  • He was chosen twelve times as a governor for annual election from 1631 to 1648. He was conservative and aristocratic on developing his new colony in Massachusetts. When the settlers and he had fallen into the disputes over religious and political conflicts, he demonstrated a strong conservative attitude toward the controversy (Antinomian Controversy). He ardently defended his government to stand against the coercion of English government. All his achievements allowed him to be the first president of the Commissioners of United Colonies of New England, organized in 1643. He enthusiastically kept defending Massachusetts from interference of parliamentary.

He published Journal when he served as a public governor and his Journal played a significant role in establishing a firm orthodoxy colony for the first two decades of settling.


Definition: Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. It is meant by firmly abiding to a code of moral or artistic values.

Examples/Explanations: Known for writing his sermon titled “Model of Christian Charity" in 1630, it can be inferred that Government John Winthrop is an individual that demonstrated integrity. He was an example of an actively religious person. Even as a young teenager, Winthrop devoted his time to prayers and scriptural studies. As years went by, Winthrop prepared himself to become a full-fledged Puritan. Through his spiritual experience, he was convinced that God had chosen him to “salvation.” His religious experience played a role in modeling his look as a high-ranking person. Winthrop had a positive character because he did well in all his conduct both in his public and private life. Around the year 1629, when the Massachusetts Bay Company acquired a royal charter to establish a colony in New England, Winthrop pledged to sell his entire English estate just to join the ride with the company and to move his family to Massachusetts.

Upon finding the colony of Massachusetts Bay, Winthrop rose to prominence by becoming the colony’s first governor. As a strong leader, he attempted to form a society that was established around a moral code that was rooted in the Bible. His idea that New England was to be perceived as “city upon a hill” became a more important moral belief in the face of American history, and his examples such as [Christian PIETY; Puritan colony’s success and righteousness] began paving paths for Americans and other communities who began seeing themselves as models for the rest of the world.


Definition: Citizenship is the character of an individual viewed as a member of society, through one’s behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen.


  • Religious Duty - Winthrop argued for a foundation of a society or a community built upon the religious covenant with God and with each other, creating a strong sense of unity and a lasting success of prosperity. With this, Winthrop’s actions brought a sense of citizenship and of bringing together the community as a whole, thus being viewed as an essential individual of society through his unification. As an extremely religious person, Winthrop believed it was through God that the colony would prosper and under his leadership to guide them as he fervently studied the Bible and scriptural study.

  • Values and Obligations - One of Winthrop’s most important roles as a political leader and governor during the colonization times was his representation of the colonies’ values and obligations. In his speech, he defined the two kinds of liberties that are essential in a colony’s values: civil, the obligation to do good, and natural, the obligation to do both good and evil (in which he states natural liberty to be restrained). By establishing values within the community and creating a foundation in which the colonies can abide by and build their lives upon functioned ultimately to be a successful community in the long run. Winthrop placed his duties as a political spokesman and helped found the others’ duties as citizens, collaborating as one and whole.

The Two Perspectives: From the colonists’ perceptions, John Winthrop is viewed as a saintly social activist as opposed to the English society from their mother country who view him as an elitist heretic, manipulating religion as a way to sustain the colony’s morale, values, and faith in not only God, but as a community together to prosper in an unknown land. As some critics say, he was viewed as both a visionary emissary and a social reactionary, or someone who opposes and reforms.