John Winthrop

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In 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Company was created to oversee the affairs of colonists in New England. The following year, on board the Arabella, John Winthrop and others sailed to America. In the 20 years that he governed Massachusetts, he imposed his ideas on the citizens of the colony, and its subsequent success came to reflect his leadership and decisions. Among the countless number of aspirations he held for the colony, he hoped for widespread education, and universal practice of the "Golden Rule." He also desired Massachusetts to become a "city upon a hill," that is, he wanted the colony to become a model society that the rest of the world would strive to emulate.

In 1588, John Winthrop was born in Suffolk County, England, to Anne and Adam Winthrop. During his infancy, he moved with his family to Groton, England, onto a large manor that was previously owned by John's grandfather.1

The only son in a relatively wealthy family, he long expected to inherit the manor and preside over it as his predecessors had done for decades. However, at the age of fifteen, he was sent to Cambridge for two years to receive a formal education. While there, he was exposed to a radical new religion that had been gaining impetus throughout Europe among scores of worshippers that had grown upset with the Anglican Church: Puritanism.

The first Puritans emerged during the reign of King Henry VIII. A small group of Protestants, they believed that the Church of England needed to be purified of Catholic influence. In a certain sense, Puritanism was simply a belief that the Church of England needed to rid itself of the traditions and ceremonies bequeathed from the Catholic Church. On the other hand, Puritanism as it had evolved demanded more from the individual than...