John Winthrop

By: Erin P., Lauren L., Kara H., & Nick S.

Basic Biography

Family History

  • Born January 22nd 1588 - April 5th 1649

  • Born in Edwardstone, Suffolk, English, Died in Boston Massachusetts Bay Colony.

    John Winthrop’s father, Adam, and Mother, Anne, owned an estate called Groton Manor and several other properties. His family also worked in the merchant and textile industry. King Henry VIII bought this estate so the Winthrop family was able to move up to the Gentry Class. With his wealth in society, Winthrop was able to become a leader. He studied at Trinity College in Cambridge at the age of 15. At 17 John Winthrop married Mary Forth who had a daughter of an Essex Squire. With Mary he had five kids before she died in 1615. John Winthrop then married Thomasine Clopton, in 1615 who died a year later. His next wife was Margaret Tyndal who died in 1647. Later in the year he married Martha Rainsborough. Between his four wives he had sixteen children, the most notable being his oldest son John Winthrop who later becomes the governor of Connecticut.

Political Affiliations

Loyalties and Explanations of Views

Winthrop was a member of the gentry class so it was very natural in his society at the time for him to become a leader. After studying law he became the justice of the peace. Later in life from 1627-1629 he became the attorney at the Court of Wards and Liveries. For twenty years he was also the Country Squire at Groton. This was a career that was just expected of a member of the gentry class during this time period in England.

At first Winthrop was not interested in England’s colonization. However Winthrop was a dedicated puritan. He believed that he had been one of the chosen by God to be saved and given his upper class position in society he had the attitude was superior to others in society. With this attitude he felt that he needed to help others and “remodel the wicked world” and become a social activist.

With the rise of economic problems and Charles I’s Anti-Puritan policies Winthrop realized it was time to leave England. He made an agreement to go to Massachusetts Bay Colony and as elected governor help found colonies in New England. In New England he founded several colonies in hopes of building strong Christian communities in which for the most part he did succeed.

Winthrop’s drive to build colonies were based off his dedication to the Puritan religion and the want to build communities with a close relationship to God and his dream of “a city upon a hill.”

As a member of the Gentry class he had grown up trained for a leadership position and an attitude of superiority with a loyalty to the english magistrate. While he ruled colonies he valued the magistrate's power more than the individual colonies' freedom but nonetheless his colonists liked him as a leader. This can be seen in the fact that he was re-elected as governor of the colony in Massachusetts twelve times and also served on the colony council.

Contributions to Colonial Development

John Winthrop lead the colonial charge and due to his efforts, has been called by some historians “the Lost Founding Father”. When the Massachusetts Bay Company gained a charter for the colony they asked John Winthrop to join them as governor. The first voyage to America contributed to the growth by bringings 700 Puritans to escape religious persecution establishing a safe haven for Moderate Puritans.

He is most remembered for his “Model of Christian Charity” (Shining City on a Hill) sermon he gave on how he felt in his Puritan Massachusetts colony, and his hopes that his people had a covenant with God that would influence the politics and the colonies around his. In the sermon he first theorized of the nature of the American exceptionalism. He furthermore mandated a Puritan church in each town, eventually helping to establish America as a Christian nation.

He contributed greatly to the philosophy and thought of the colony. He weeded new ideas including and especially liberal theologies. Due to his efforts he was considered a custodian of orthodoxy.

As Governor he also acted as “a father figure” to his fellow colonists, serving 12 terms from 1631-1648. In his early years he created tightly organized and planned towns each with its church of self-professed “saints.”


Integrity: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.

-Rodger Williams criticized Winthrop's relations to the church and state yet Winthrop helped Williams flee to Rhode Island secretly. This shows integrity because while Williams criticized his beliefs and doings he still helped him flee to Rhode Island, putting aside his personal opinions.

-Winthrop's attitude toward the Native Americans was one of civility and diplomacy. Winthrop proves his integrity by treating the Native Americans with respect while many people during his time treated Native Americans badly and like they were beneath them.


Citizenship: behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen/the status of a citizen with rights and duties.

-As a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop was most commonly recognized as the the first governor of colony. As well as governor, Winthrop was also recognized as one of the chief figures among the Puritan founders of New England. He was named a father figure among many colonists as well. Thus making him a very model citizen, offering much to his community.