John Winthrop

Unidentified Artistc. 1800, after an original likeness probably painted in England before 1630

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

John Winthrop led the effort to found an English colony in the New World where he and other Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Company could practice their religion free of the oppressive regime of King Charles I. Born to a socially prominent family and trained as a lawyer at Cambridge University, Winthrop was elected the colony's first governor in 1629 and dominated Massachusetts politics for many years thereafter. Although he proclaimed just prior to landing in the New World that his godly community would be a "city upon a hill" for other nations to admire, dissenters in the Puritan colony had no more religious freedom than in England. Despite his charm and modesty, Winthrop could be forceful in argument. He distrusted democracy, however, and believed that God intended him to govern according to his best judgment.

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