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John Winhtrop

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John Winhtrop

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John Winthrop (12 January 1587/8[1] – 26 March 1649)

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2nd, 6th, 9th, and 12th Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

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His birth was recorded in the parish register at Groton. His father's family had been successful in the textile business, and his father was a lawyer and prosperous landowner with several properties in Suffolk. His mother's family was also well-to-do, with properties in Suffolk and Essex. When Winthrop was young his father became a director at Trinity College, Cambridge. When Winthrop's uncle John (Adam's brother) emigrated to Ireland, the Winthrop family took up residence at Groton Manor. Winthrop was first tutored at home, and then most likely went to a grammar school, although there are no records indicating this. He was also regularly exposed to religious discussions between his father and clergymen, and thus came at an early age to a deep understanding of divinity. He was admitted to Trinity College in December 1602, matriculating at the university a few months later. Among the students that he would have interacted with were John Cotton, and John Wheelwright, two men who would also have important roles in New England. He was a close childhood and university friend of William Spring, later a Puritan Member of Parliament, with whom he would correspond for the rest of his life. The teenage Winthrop admitted in his diary of the time to "lusts ... so masterly as no good could fasten upon me." Biographer Francis Bremer suggests that Winthrop's need to control his baser impulses may have prompted him to leave school early and marry at an unusually early age.

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Winthrop struggled with the decision to abandon his homeland. He was keenly aware that hardships had claimed the lives of half the Pilgrims who had settled in Plymouth 10 years earlier. He had no illusions about the difficulties that lay ahead — a hostile climate, bad food, sickness and isolation. When he survived a bad accident with his horse, he took this as a divine signal: God was calling him to create a holy community in the wilderness of New England.

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Born into a wealthy landowning and merchant family, Winthrop was trained in the law, and became Lord of the Manor at Groton in Suffolk. Although he was not involved in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1628, he became involved in 1629 when the anti-Puritan King Charles I began a crackdown on Nonconformist religious thought. In October 1629 he was elected governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and in April 1630 he led a group of colonists to the New World, founding a number of communities on the shores of Massachusetts Bay and the Charles River.

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Between 1629 and his death in 1649, he served 12 annual terms as governor, and was a force of comparative moderation in the religiously conservative colony, clashing with the more conservative Thomas Dudley and the more liberal Roger Williams and Henry Vane Although Winthrop was a respected political figure, his attitude toward governance was somewhat authoritarian He resisted attempts to widen voting and other civil rights beyond a narrow class of religiously approved individuals, opposed attempts to codify a body of laws that the colonial magistrates would be bound by, and also opposed unconstrained democracy, calling it "the meanest and worst of all forms of government

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John's eldest son, John Winthrop the Younger Winthrop and Mary were married on 16 April 1605 at Great Stambridge. Mary bore him five children, of whom only three survived to adulthood. The oldest of their children was John Winthrop, the Younger, became a governor and magistrate of Connecticut.

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Winthrop's earliest publication was likely The Humble Request of His Majesties Loyal Subjects (London, 1630), which defended the emigrants' physical separation from England and reaffirmed their loyalty to the Crown and Church of England. This work was republished by Joshua Scottow in the 1696 compilation MASSACHUSETTS: or The first Planters of New-England, The End and Manner of their coming thither, and Abode there: In several EPISTLES. In addition to his more famous works, Winthrop produced a number of writings, both published and unpublished. While living in England, Winthrop articulated his belief "in the validity of experience&qu