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co-founder and Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony
John Winthrop was born in Edwardston, Suffolk, England, on January 12 (old style), 1588. He attended Trinity College at Cambridge in 1602, but did not graduate. About 1623, he was appointed an attorney in the Court of Wards and Liveries, where he was also engaged in the drafting of parliamentary bills; for reasons unknown to history, however, he lost his appointment in 1629.
On August 26, 1629, Winthrop joined in the "Cambridge Agreement," in which he and his associates pledged themselves to move to New England, provided the government and patent of the Massachusetts Colony should be removed there. On October 20, 1630, he was chosen Governor of the "Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England." He and a large colony of Puritan immigrants departed in the Arbella in March 1630, and arrived at Salem, Massachusetts on June 12 (old style). After a brief sojourn in Charlestown, the immigrants settled at present-day Boston in the autumn of 1630.
Winthrop went on to be chosen Governor 12 times, serving in 1629-1634, 1637-1640, 1642-1644, and 1646-1649. He was usually Deputy Governor, and always Assistant, when not actually Governor. As Governor, Winthrop was conservative and somewhat aristocratic, but just and magnanimous at the same time. In 1634-1635 he was a leader in putting the colony in a state of defense against possible coercion by the English government. He opposed the majority of his fellow-townsmen in the so-called "Antinomian Controversy" of 1636-1637, which resulted in the expulsion of Anne Hutchinson from the colony. He was the first president of the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England, organized in 1643. And, he defended Massachusetts against threatened parliamentary interference in 1645-1646.
John Winthrop died in Boston on March 26 (old style), 1649.
Winthrop's Journal, an invaluable record of early Massachusetts history, was printed in part in Hartford in 1790; the whole in Boston, as The History of New England from 1630-1649, in 1825-1826.
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This page was last updated on January 12, 2019.