The Puritan Dilemma: John Winthrop

Rohan, Josh, Sidra, Joe - 4th period


  • Born January 12, 1587

  • Died March 26, 1649

  • One of the several important figures of the founding of Massachusetts colony

  • Governed Massachusetts Bay (2nd largest colony following Plymouth in New England) for 12 of the first 20 years of its entity (between 1629 and 1649)

    • Political Affiliations -

      • Although Winthrop was a well-respected political figure, his approach to governance was very strict and dictorial

      • Disagreed mainly with the more conservative side - Thomas Dudley, as well as the more liberal Roger Williams and Henry Vane

    • Short Family History -

      • Born into a very wealthy family (landowners and merchants)

      • Practiced law, and became Lord of the Manor at Groton in Suffolk

    • Religious impact -

      • Banished many individuals -

        • ROGER WILLIAMS - Winthrop as well as the Massachusetts dealt with a highly individualistic Williams, who demonstrated separatist religious tendencies in Salem

        • ANNE HUTCHINSON - was less sympathetic towards Hutchinson; as early as 1636, almost two years after she arrived to enjoy the preaching of the Reverend John Cotton, Winthrop recorded all of her theological errors throughout her weekly teachings

          • Her fundamental teaching said that apparently the holy ghost dwells within select people (went so far as to declare Cotton and John Wheelwright were the only two select ministers)

    • Other important points -

      • Wrote one of the leading historical accounts of the early colonial periods

      • His writings continue to influence many politicians to this day

John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay Colony


  • A major leader as a Puritan.

  • Thought of as a very good and fair leader although he banished people from the colony on multiple occasions.

  • He was elected into ofice on 12 different occasions. Was so involved that he died in office.



(n.) - the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles:moral uprightness, incorruptibility

  • Gave a sermon underscoring the degree of obligation and duties that the people had an untenable right to pay back to God-this shows his degree of morality despite the common belief of the marginally Puritan community.

  • Served as a balance between political stability and religious fortitude by retaining the position of governor consecutively for Massachusetts:despite incoming death he carried the role of governor inexhaustibly and rationally.

  • Relegated his friend Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson to life outside of Massachusetts to retain the tranquility and better living conditions for those in Massachusetts-sacrificed on happiness to help those he governed pursue their own happiness.

  • Because of experience growing up with Puritan prejudice surrounding him, Winthrop developed a sense of sympathy and magnanimity for those he governed and ensuring specific rights to citizens despite religious and sometimes social backgrounds.

A Model of Christian Charity by Governor John Winthrop

“The eyes of all people are upon us.”



(n.)- the quality of an individual's response to membership in a community

  • He was elected governor of Massachusetts on multiple occasions.

  • He was seen by many to be a good, Christian leader.

  • He was said to have unwearied devotion.

  • He also gave up his fortune to help the community.

  • It is said that he was the main reason that the colony could survive in the beginning.

  • On the 26th of August 1629 he joined in the "Cambridge Agreement", by which he, and his associates, pledged themselves to go to New England.

“Liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is liberty to that which is good, just, and honest.”