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Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.

Vol. I. The Transplanting of Culture: 1607–1650

John Winthrop

JOHN WINTHROP, the most cultured and philosophic of the early New England settlers, was born of wealthy and scholarly ancestry, at Edwardston, England, in 1588, and died at Boston in 1649. He was educated at Cambridge, and proving himself exemplary for grave and Christian deportment, was made a Justice of the Peace in the year that he reached his majority. Repeated domestic bereavements deepened his naturally serious temperament, but he resisted an inclination to the ministry and gained some distinction in law. In 1618 he married his third wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir John Tyndall, a knight, of Great Maplestead in Essex, who shared for thirty years his arduous and eventful life. Their letters sufficiently attest the beautiful sympathy that characterized their domestic life. Eleven years later he took part in the formation of the Massachusetts Bay Company, and the next year, 1630, sailed for America as Governor of the Puritan colonists at Salem, Charlestown, and Boston. He was the completest representative of the Puritan spirit. With the exception of seven years, he governed the colony till his death, and in the intervals of administration he was always actively engaged in public affairs. The colony owed much to his wisdom and courage. Historians feel hardly less indebted to his History of New England from 1630 to 1649. It is unpretentious, simple, personal, not without credulity often, not without a touch of humor sometimes, but its very homeliness adds to its effectiveness. He seems to bring us nearer the heart of colonial life, nearer the reality of the Puritan religion and conscience, than does any contemporary writer. To him it is a great providence when Mr. Glover’s house blew up, that the children had gone out to play “though it was a very cold day.” It will be a “providence,” too, if ungodly men left upon an oyster bank are drowned by a rising tide, though they might have waded out had they known the way. This is characteristic of an attitude of mind much bent on justifying the ways of God to men, but when Winthrop turns to larger horizons he is dignified, impartial, and shows a philosophic grasp of affairs that could come only from a noble and trained mind that was capable of a high idealism. Politically he was a conservative. Universal suffrage and unlimited democracy did not appeal to him. The best part of a community, he wrote, was always the least, and of that best part the wiser part was always the lesser.

The book from which most of our extracts are taken had a curious history, which suggests the even more remarkable fate of Bradford’s History. It too was in the library of Old South Church at the Revolution. Two of its volumes were found after the peace in the hands of the Connecticut Winthrops. Noah Webster edited these in 1790. The third volume lay undiscovered in the church until 1816, and while a new edition was being prepared, the second volume was burned. Of this, therefore, we have only Webster’s carelessly executed edition.

A Puritan Election.
[From Winthrop’s “History of New England.”]

[1637. May 17.] Our court of elections was at Newtown. So soon as the court was set, being about one of the clock, a petition was preferred by those of Boston. The governor would have read it, but the deputy said it was out of order; it was a court for elections, and those must first be despatched, and then their petitions should be heard. Divers others also opposed that course, as an ill precedent, etc.; and the petition, being about pretence of liberty, etc., (though intended chiefly for revoking the sentence given against Mr. Wheelwright,) would have spent all the day in debate, etc.; but yet the governor and those of that party would not proceed to election, except the petition was read. Much time was already spent about this debate, and the people crying out for election, it was moved by the deputy, that the people should divide themselves, and the greater number must carry it. And so it was done, and the greater number by many were for election. But the governor and that side kept their place still, and would not proceed. Whereupon the deputy told him, that, if he would not go to election, he and the rest of that side would proceed. Upon that, he came from his company, and they went to election; and Mr. Winthrop was chosen governor, Mr. Dudley deputy, and Mr. Endecott of the standing council; and Mr. Israel Stoughton and Mr. Richard Saltonstall were called in to be assistants; and Mr. Vane, Mr. Coddington, and Mr. Dummer, (being all of that faction,) were left quite out.

There was great danger of a tumult that day; for those of that side grew into fierce speeches, and some laid hands on others; but seeing themselves too weak, they grew quiet. They expected a great advantage that day, because the remote towns were allowed to come in by proxy; but it fell out, that there were enough beside. But if it had been otherwise, they must have put in their deputies, as other towns had done, for all matters beside elections. Boston, having deferred to choose deputies till the election was passed, went home that night, and the next morning they sent Mr. Vane, the late governor, and Mr. Coddington, and Mr. Hoffe, for their deputies; but the court, being grieved at it, found a means to send them home again, for that two of the freemen of Boston had no notice of the election. So they went all home, and the next morning they returned the same gentlemen again upon a new choice; and the court not finding how they might reject them, they were admitted….

A Cruel School-Master of 1639.
[From the Same.]

AT the general court at Boston, one Mr. Nathaniel Eaton, brother to the merchant at Quilipiack, was convented and censured. The occasion was this: He was a school-master, and had many scholars, the sons of gentlemen and others of best note in the country, and had entertained one Nathaniel Briscoe, a gentleman born, to be his usher, and to do some other things for him, which might not be unfit for a scholar. He had not been with him above three days but he fell out with him for a very small occasion, and, with reproachful terms, discharged him, and turned him out of his doors; but, it being then about eight of the clock after the Sabbath, he told him he should stay till next morning, and, some words growing between them, he struck him and pulled him into his house. Briscoe defended himself, and closed with him, and, being parted, he came in and went up to his chamber to lodge there. Mr. Eaton sent for the constable, who advised him first to admonish him, etc., and if he could not, by the power of a master, reform him, then he should complain to the magistrate. But he caused his man to fetch him a cudgel, which was a walnut tree plant, big enough to have killed a horse, and a yard in length, and, taking his two men with him, he went up to Briscoe, and caused his men to hold him till he had given him two hundred stripes about the head and shoulders, etc., and so kept him under blows (with some two or three short intermissions) about the space of two hours, about which time Mr. Shepherd and some others of the town came in at the outcry, and so he gave over. In this distress Briscoe gate out his knife, and struck at the man that held him, but hurt him not. He also fell to prayer (supposing he should have been murdered), and then Mr. Eaton beat him for taking the name of God in vain.

After this Mr. Eaton and Mr. Shepherd (who knew not then of these passages) came to the governor and some other of the magistrates, complaining of Briscoe for his insolent speeches, and for crying out murder and drawing his knife, and desired that he might be enjoined to a public acknowledgment, etc. The magistrates answered, that they must first hear him speak, and then they would do as they should see cause.

Mr. Eaton was displeased at this, and went away discontented, etc., and, being after called into the court to make answer to the information, which had been given by some who knew the truth of the case, and also to answer for his neglect and cruelty, and other ill usage towards his scholars, one of the elders (not suspecting such miscarriages by him) came to the governor, and showed himself much grieved, that he should be publicly produced, alleging, that it would derogate from his authority and reverence among his scholars, etc. But the cause went on notwithstanding, and he was called, and these things laid to his charge in the open court. His answers were full of pride and disdain, telling the magistrates, that they should not need to do any thing herein, for he was intended to leave his employment. And being asked, why he used such cruelty to Briscoe his usher, and to other his scholars (for it was testified by another of his ushers and divers of his scholars, that he would give them between twenty and thirty stripes at a time, and would not leave till they had confessed what he required), his answer was, that he had this rule, that he would not give over correcting till he had subdued the party to his will.

Being also questioned about the ill and scant diet of his boarders (for, though their friends gave large allowance, yet their diet was ordinarily nothing but porridge and pudding, and that very homely), he put it off to his wife. So the court dismissed him at present, and commanded him to attend again the next day, when, being called, he was commanded to the lower end of the table (where all offenders do usually stand), and, being openly convict of all the former offences, by the oaths of four or five witnesses, he yet continued to justify himself; so, it being near night, he was committed to the marshal till the next day. When the court was set in the morning, many of the elders came into the court (it being then private for matter of consultation,) and declared how, the evening before, they had taken pains with him, to convince him of his faults; yet, for divers hours, he had still stood to his justification; but, in the end, he was convinced, and had freely and folly acknowledged his sin, and that with tears; so as they did hope he had truly repented, and therefore desired of the court that he might be pardoned, and continued in his employment, alleging such further reasons as they thought fit.

After the elders were departed, the court consulted about it, and sent for him, and there, in the open court, before a great assembly, he made a very solid, wise, eloquent, and serious (seeming) confession, condemning himself in all the particulars, etc. Whereupon, being put aside, the court consulted privately about his sentence, and, though many were taken with his confession, and none but had a charitable opinion of it; yet, because of the scandal of religion, and offence which would be given to such as might intend to send their children hither, they all agreed to censure him, and put him from that employment. So, being called in, the governor, after a short preface, etc., declared the sentence of the court to this effect, viz., that he should give Briscoe £30, be fined 100 marks, and debarred teaching of children within our jurisdiction. A pause being made, and expectation that (according to his former confession) he would have given glory to God, and acknowleged the justice and clemency of the court, the governor giving him occasion, by asking him if he had aught to say, he turned away with a discontented look, saying, “If sentence be passed, then it is to no end to speak.” Yet the court remitted his fine to £20, and willed Briscoe to take but £20.

The church at Cambridge, taking notice of these proceedings, intended to deal with him. The pastor moved the governor, if they might, without offence to the court, examine other witnesses. His answer was, that the court would leave them to their own liberty; but he saw not to what end they should do it, seeing there had been five already upon oath, and those whom they should examine should speak without oath, and it was an ordinance of God, that by the mouths of two or three witnesses every matter should be established. But he soon discovered himself; for, ere the church could come to deal with him, he fled to Pascataquack, and, being pursued and apprehended by the governor there, he again acknowledged his great sin in flying, etc., and promised (as he was a Christian man) he would return with the messengers. But, because his things he carried with him were aboard a bark there, bound to Virginia, he desired leave to go fetch them, which they assented unto, and went with him (three of them) aboard with him. So he took his truss and came away with them in the boat; but, being come to the shore, and two of them going out of the boat, he caused the boatmen to put off the boat, and because the third man would not go out, he turned him into the water, where he had been drowned, if he had not saved himself by swimming. So he returned to the bark, and presently they set sail and went out of the harbor.

Being thus gone, his creditors began to complain; and thereupon it was found, that he was run in debt about £1000, and had taken up most of this money upon bills he had charged into England upon his brother’s agents, and others whom he had no such relation to. So his estate was seized, and put into commissioners’ hands, to be divided among his creditors, allowing somewhat for the present maintenance of his wife and children. And, being thus gone, the church proceeded and cast him out. He had been sometimes initiated among the Jesuits, and, coming into England, his friends drew him from them, but, it was very probable, he now intended to return to them again, being at this time about thirty years of age, and upwards.


1640.] Mr. Nathaniel Eaton, of whom mention is made before, being come to Virginia, took upon him to be a minister, but was given up of God to extreme pride and sensuality, being usually drunken, as the custom is there. He sent for his wife and children. Her friends here persuaded her to stay awhile, but she went notwithstanding, and the vessel was never heard of after.

Items from Winthrop’s History.

1631. JUNE 14.] At this court one Philip Ratcliff, a servant of Mr. Cradock, being convict, ore tenus, of most foul, scandalous invectives against our churches and government, was censured to be whipped, lose his ears, and be banished from the plantation, which was presently executed.

1632.] At Watertown there was (in the view of divers witnesses) a great combat between a mouse and a snake; and after a long fight, the mouse prevailed and killed the snake. The pastor of Boston, Mr. Wilson, a very sincere, holy man, hearing of it, gave this interpretation: That the snake was the devil; the mouse was a poor contemptible people, which God had brought hither, which should overcome Satan here, and dispossess him of his Kingdom.

1633.] Two little girls of the governor’s family were sitting under a great heap of logs, plucking of birds, and the wind driving the feathers into the house, the governor’s wife caused them to remove away. They were no sooner gone, but the whole heap of logs fell down in the place, and had crushed them to death, if the Lord, in his special providence, had not delivered them.

Aug. 6.] Two men servants to one Moodye, of Roxbury, returning in a boat from the windmill, struck upon the oyster bank. They went out to gather oysters, and not making fast their boat, when the flood came, it floated away, and they were both drowned, although they might have waded out on either side; but it was an evident judgment of God upon them, for they were wicked persons….

1634.] One Abigail Gifford, widow, being kept at the charge of the parish of Wilsden in Middlesex, near London, was sent by Mr. Bull’s ship into this country, and being found to be sometimes distracted, and a very burdensome woman, the governor and assistants returned her back by warrant, 18, to the same parish, in the ship Rebecca.

1639.] There happened a memorable thing at Plymouth about this time. One Keysar, of Lynn, being at Plymouth in his boat, and one Dickerson with him, a professor, but a notorious thief, was coming out of the harbor with the ebb, and the wind southerly, a fresh gale; yet, with all their skill and labor, they could not in three hours, get the boat above one league, so as they were forced to come to an anchor, and, at the flood, to go back to the town, and, as soon as they were come in, the said Dickerson was arrested upon suspicion of a gold ring and some other pieces of gold, which, upon search, were found about him, and he was then whipped for it,… These and many other examples of discovering hypocrites and other lewd persons, and bringing them under their deserved punishments, do (among other things) show the presence of power of God in his ordinances, and his blessing upon his people while they endeavor to walk before him with uprightness.

1640.] At the court of assistants, one Hugh Bewett was banished for holding publicly and maintaining that he was free from original sin and from actual also for half a year before, and that all true christians after … are enabled to live without committing actual sin.

1640.] About this time there fell out a thing worthy of observation. Mr. Winthrop the younger, one of the magistrates, having many books in a chamber where there was corn of divers sorts, had among them one wherein the Greek Testament, the Psalms, and the Common Prayer were bound together. He found the Common Prayer eaten with mice, every leaf of it, and not any of the two other touched, nor any other of his books, though there were above a thousand.

1641.] A young man, a tanner in Boston, going to wash himself in a creek, said, jestingly, I will go and drown myself now, which fell out accordingly; for by the slipperiness of the earth, he was carried beyond his depth, and having no skill to swim, was drowned, though company were at hand, and one in the water with him.

1642.] Nine bachelors commenced at Cambridge; they were young men of good hope, and performed their acts, so as gave good proof of their proficiency in the tongues and arts. The General Court had settled a government or superintendency over the college, viz. all the magistrates and elders over the six nearest churches and the president, or the greatest part of these. Most of them were now present at this first commencement, and dined at the college with the scholars’ ordinary commons, which was done of purpose for the students’ encouragement, etc., and it gave good content to all.

1645.] Mr. Hopkins, the governor of Hartford upon Connecticut, came to Boston, and brought his wife with him (a godly young woman, and of special parts), who was fallen into a sad infirmity, the loss of her understanding and reason, which had been growing upon her divers years, by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing, and had written many books. Her husband, being very loving and tender of her, was loath to grieve her; but he saw his error, when it was too late. For if she had attended her household affairs, and such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way and calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are stronger, etc., she had kept her wits, and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place God had set her. He brought her to Boston, and left her with her brother, one Mr. Yale, a merchant, to try what means might be had here for her. But no help could be had.

1645.] At Ipswich there was a calf brought forth with one head and three mouths, three noses, and six eyes. What these prodigies portended the Lord only knows, which in his due time he will manifest.

1646.] Mention was made before of some beginning to instruct the Indians, etc. Mr. John Eliot, teacher of the church of Roxbury, found such encouragement, as he took great pains to get their language, and in a few months could speak of the things of God to their understanding; and God prospered his endeavors, so as he kept a constant lecture to them in two places, one week at the wigwam of one Wabon, a new sachem near Watertown mill, and the other the next week in the wigwam of Cutshamekin near Dorchester mill. And for the furtherance of the work of God, divers of the English resorted to his lecture, and the governor and other of the magistrates and elders sometimes; and the Indians began to repair thither from other parts.

His manner of proceeding was thus: he would persuade one of the other elders or some magistrate to begin the exercise with prayer in English; then he took a text, and read it first in the Indian language, and after in English; then he preached to them in Indian about an hour (but first I should have spoke of the catechising their children, who were soon brought to answer him some short questions, whereupon he gave each of them an apple or a cake); then he demanded of some of the chiefs, if they understood him; if they answered, yea, then he asked of them if they had any questions to propound. And they had usually two or three or more questions, which he did resolve.

At one time (when the governor was there and about two hundred people, Indian and English, in one wigwam of Cutshamekin’s) an old man asked him, if God would receive such an old man as he was; to whom he answered by opening the parable of the workmen that were hired into the vineyard; and when he had opened it, he asked the old man, if he did believe it, who answered he did, and was ready to weep….

The Indians were usually very attentive, and kept their children so quiet as caused no disturbance. Some of them began to be seriously affected, and to understand the things of God, and they were generally ready to reform whatsoever they were told to be against the word of God, as their sorcery (which they call powwowing), their whoredoms, etc., idleness, etc. The Indians grew very inquisitive after knowledge both in things divine and also human, so as one of them, meeting with an honest plain Englishman, would needs know of him, what were the first beginnings (which we call principles) of a commonwealth. The Englishman, being far short in the knowledge of such matters, yet ashamed that an Indian should find an Englishman ignorant of any thing, bethought himself what answer to give him, at last resolved upon this, viz., that the first principle of a commonwealth was salt, for (saith he) by means of salt we can keep our flesh and fish, to have it ready when we need it, whereas you lose much for want of it, and are sometimes ready to starve. A second principle is iron, for thereby we fell trees, build houses, till our land, etc. A third is, ships, by which we carry forth such commodities as we have to spare, and fetch in such as we need, as cloth, wine, etc. Alas! (saith the Indian) then I fear, we shall never be a commonwealth, for we can neither make salt, nor iron, nor ships.

1648.] … God will be sanctified in them that come near him. Two others were the children of one of the church of Boston. While their parents were at the lecture, the boy (being about seven years of age), having a small staff in his hand, ran down upon the ice towards a boat he saw, and the ice breaking, he fell in, but his staff kept him up, till his sister, about fourteen years old, ran down to save her brother (though there were four men at hand, and called to her not to go, being themselves hasting to save him) and so drowned herself and him also, being past recovery ere the men could come at them, and could easily reach ground with their feet. The parents had no more sons, and confessed they had been too indulgent towards him, and had set their hearts overmuch upon him.

This puts me in mind of another child very strangely drowned a little before winter. The parents were also members of the church of Boston. The father had undertaken to maintain the mill-dam, and being at work upon it (with some help he had hired), in the afternoon of the last day of the week, night came upon them before they had finished what they intended, and his conscience began to put him in mind of the Lord’s day, and he was troubled, yet went on and wrought an hour within night. The next day, after evening exercise, and after they had supped, the mother put two children to bed in the room where themselves did lie, and they went out to visit a neighbor. When they returned, they continued about an hour in the room, and missed not the child, but then the mother going to the bed, and not finding her youngest child (a daughter about five years of age), after much search she found it drowned in a well in her cellar; which was very observable, as by a special hand of God, that the child should go out of that room into another in the dark, and then fall down at a trap-door, or go down the stairs, and so into the well in the farther end of the cellar, the top of the well and the water being even with the ground. But the father, freely in the open congregation, did acknowledge it the righteous hand of God for his profaning his holy day against the checks of his own conscience.

Winthrop on Liberty.
[From the Same.]

1645.] THE COURT of elections was held at Boston. Mr. Thomas Dudley was chosen governor, Mr. Winthrop, deputy governor again, and Mr. Endecott, Serjeant major general. Mr. Israel Stoughton, having been in England the year before, and now gone again about his private occasions, was by vote left out, and Herbert Pelham, Esquire, chosen an assistant.

This court fell out a troublesome business, which took up much time. The town of Hingham, having one Emes their lieutenant seven or eight years, had lately chosen him to be their captain, and had presented him to the standing council for allowance; but, before it was accomplished, the greater part of the town took some light occasion of offence against him, and chose one Allen to be their captain, and presented him to the magistrates (in the time of the last general court) to be allowed. But the magistrates, considering the injury that would hereby accrue to Emes (who had been their chief commander so many years, and had deserved well in his place, and that Allen had no other skill but what he learned from Emes), refused to allow of Allen, but willed both sides to return home, and every officer to keep his place until the court should take further order. Upon their return home, the messengers, who came for Allen, called a private meeting of those of their own party, and told them truly what answer they received from the magistrates, and soon after they appointed a training day (without their lieutenant’s knowledge), and, being assembled, the lieutenant hearing of it came to them, and would have exercised them, as he was wont to do, but those of the other party refused to follow him, except he would show them some order for it. He told them of the magistrates’ order about it; the others replied that authority had advised him to go home and lay down his place honorably. Another asked what the magistrates had to do with them. Another, that it was but three or four of the magistrates, and, if they had been all there, it had been nothing, for Mr. Allen had brought more for them from the deputies than the lieutenant had from the magistrates. Another of them professeth he will die at the sword’s point if he might not have the choice of his own officers. Another (viz., the clerk of the band) stands up above the people, and requires them to vote whether they would bear them out in what was past and what was to come. This being assented unto, and the tumult continuing, one of the officers (he who had told them that authority had advised the lieutenant to go home and lay down his place) required Allen to take the captain’s place; but, he not then accepting it, they put it to the vote whether he should be their captain. The vote passing for it, he then told the company it was now past question; and thereupon Allen accepted it, and exercised the company two or three days, only about a third part of them followed the lieutenant. He, having denied in the open field that authority had advised him to lay down his place, and putting (in some sort) the lie upon those who had so reported, was the next Lord’s day called to answer it before the church; and, he standing to maintain what he had said, five witnesses were produced to convince him. Some of them affirmed the words, the others explained their meaning to be that one magistrate had so advised him. He denied both. Where, upon the pastor, one Mr. Hubbert (brother to three of the principal in this sedition), was very forward to have excommunicated the lieutenant presently; but, upon some opposition, it was put off to the next day. Thereupon the lieutenant and some three or four more of the chief men of the town inform four of the next magistrates of these proceedings, who forthwith met at Boston about it (viz., the deputy governor, the serjeant major general, the secretary, and Mr. Hibbins). These, considering the case, sent warrant to the constable to attach some of the principal offenders (viz., three of the Hubbards and two more) to appear before them at Boston, to find sureties for their appearance at the next court, etc. Upon the day they came to Boston; but their said brother the minister came before them, and fell to expostulate with the said magistrates about the said cause, complaining against the complainants, as talebearers, etc., taking it very disdainfully that his brethren should be sent for by a constable, with other high speeches, which were so provoking, as some of the magistrates told him, that, were it not for respect to his ministry, they would commit him. When his brethren and the rest were come in, the matters of the information were laid to their charge, which they denied for the most part. So they were bound over (each for other) to the next court of assistants. After this five others were sent for by summons (these were only for speaking untruths of the magistrates in the church). They came before the deputy governor, when he was alone, and demanded the cause of their sending for, and to know their accusers. The deputy told them so much of the cause as he could remember, and referred them to the secretary for a copy, and for their accusers he told them they knew both the men and the matter, neither was a judge bound to let a criminal offender know his accusers before the day of trial, but only in his own discretion, least the accuser might be taken off or perverted, etc. Being required to give bond for their appearance, etc., they refused. The deputy labored to let them see their error, and gave them time to consider of it. About fourteen days after, seeing two of them in the court (which was kept by those four magistrates for smaller causes), the deputy required them again to enter bond for their appearance, etc., and upon their second refusal committed them in that open court.

The general court falling out before the court of assistants, the Hubberts and the two which were committed, and others of Hingham, about ninety (whereof Mr. Hubbert their minister was the first), presented a petition to the general court….

The day appointed being come, the court assembled in the meeting house at Boston. Divers of the elders were present, and a great assembly of people. The deputy governor, coming in with the rest of the magistrates, placed himself beneath within the bar, and so sat uncovered. Some question was in the court about his being in that place (for many both of the court and the assembly were grieved at it). But the deputy telling them that, being criminally accused, he might not sit as a judge in that cause, and, if he were upon the bench, it would be a great disadvantage to him, for he could not take that liberty to plead the cause, which he ought to be allowed at the bar, upon this the court was satisfied.

The petitioners having declared their grievances, etc., the deputy craved leave to make answer….

Hereupon the court proceeded to examine the whole cause. The deputy justified all the particulars laid to his charge, as that upon credible information of such a mutinous practice, and open disturbance of the peace, and slighting of authority, the offenders were sent for, the principal by warrant to the constable to bring them, and others by summons, and that some were bound over to the next court of assistants, and others that refused to be bound were committed; and all this according to the equity of laws here established, and the custom and laws of England, and our constant practice here these fifteen years. And for some speeches he was charged with as spoken to the delinquents, when they came before him at his house, when none were present with him but themselves, first he appealed to the judgment of the court, whether delinquents may be received as competent witnesses against a magistrate in such a case; then, for the words themselves, some he justified, some he explained so as no advantage could be taken of them, as that he should say that the magistrates could try some criminal causes without a jury, that he knew no law of God or man which required a judge to make known to the party his accusers (or rather witnesses) before the cause came to hearing. But two of them charged him to have said that it was against the law of God and man so to do, which had been absurd; for the deputy professed he knew no law against it, only a judge may sometimes, in discretion, conceal their names, etc., least they should be tampered with or conveyed out of the way, etc.

Two of the magistrates and many of the deputies were of opinion that the magistrates exercised too much power, and that the people’s liberty was thereby in danger; and other of the deputies (being about half) and all the rest of the magistrates were of a different judgment, and that authority was overmuch slighted, which, if not timely remedied, would endanger the commonwealth, and bring us to a mere democracy. By occasion of this difference, there was not so orderly carriage at the hearing as was meet, each side striving unseasonably to enforce the evidence, and declaring their judgments thereupon, which should have been reserved to a more private debate (as after it was), so as the best part of two days was spent in this public agitation and examination of witnesses, etc. This being ended, a committee was chosen of magistrates and deputies who stated the case, as it appeared upon the whole pleading and evidence, though it cost much time, and with great difficulty did the committee come to accord upon it….

The deputies finding themselves now at the wall, and not daring to trust the elders with the cause, they sent to desire that six of themselves might come and confer with the magistrates, which being granted, they came, and at last came to this agreement; viz., the chief petitioners and the rest of the offenders were severally fined (all their fines not amounting to 50 pounds), the rest of the petitioners to bear equal share to 50 pounds more towards the charges of the court (two of the principal offenders were the deputies of the town, Joshua Hubbert and Bozone Allen, the first was fined 20 pounds, and the other 5 pounds), lieutenant Emes to be under admonition, the deputy governor to be legally and publicly acquit of all that was laid to his charge.

According to this agreement, presently after the lecture the magistrates and deputies took their places in the meeting house, and the people being come together, and the deputy governor placing himself within the bar, as at the time of the hearing, etc., the governor read the sentence of the court, without speaking any more, for the deputies had (by importunity) obtained a promise of silence from the magistrates. Then was the deputy governor desired by the court to go up and take his place again upon the bench, which he did accordingly, and, the court being about to arise, he desired leave for a little speech, which was to this effect:—

I suppose something may be expected from me upon this charge that is befallen me, which moves me to speak now to you; yet I intend not to intermeddle in the proceedings of the court, or with any of the persons concerned therein. Only I bless God that I see an issue of this troublesome business. I also acknowledge the justice of the court, and, for mine own part, I am well satisfied, I was publicly charged, and I am publicly and legally acquitted, which is all I did expect or desire. And though this be sufficient for my justification before men, yet not so before the God who hath seen so much amiss in my dispensations (and even in this affair) as calls me to be humble. For to be publicly and criminally charged in this court is matter of humiliation (and I desire to make a right use of it), notwithstanding I be thus acquitted. If her father had spit in her face (saith the Lord concerning Miriam), should she not have been ashamed seven days? Shame had lien upon her, whatever the occasion had been. I am unwilling to stay you from your urgent affairs, yet give me leave (upon this special occasion) to speak a little more to this assembly. It may be of some good use to inform and rectify the judgments of some of the people, and may prevent such distempers as have arisen amongst us. The great questions that have troubled the country are about the authority of the magistrates and the liberty of the people. It is yourselves who have called us to this office, and, being called by you, we have our authority from God, in way of an ordinance, such as hath the image of God eminently stamped upon it, the contempt and violation whereof hath been vindicated with examples of divine vengeance. I entreat you to consider that, when you choose magistrates, you take them from among yourselves, men subject to like passions as you are. Therefore, when you see infirmities in us, you should reflect upon your own, and that would make you bear the more with us, and not be severe censurers of the failings of your magistrates, when you have continual experience of the like infirmities in yourselves and others. We account him a good servant who breaks not his covenant. The covenant between you and us is the oath you have taken of us, which is to this purpose, that we shall govern you and judge your causes by the rules of God’s laws and our own, according to our best skill. When you agree with a workman to build you a ship or house, etc., he undertakes as well for his skill as for his faithfulness; for it is his profession, and you pay him for both. But, when you call one to be a magistrate, he doth not profess nor undertake to have sufficient skill for that office, nor can you furnish him with gifts, etc., therefore you must run the hazard of his skill and ability. But if he fail in faithfulness, which by his oath he is bound unto, that he must answer for. If it fall out that the case be clear to common apprehension, and the rule clear also, if he transgress here, the error is not in the skill, but in the evil of the will: it must be required of him. But if the case be doubtful, or the rule doubtful, to men of such understanding and parts as your magistrates are, if your magistrates should err here, yourselves must bear it.

For the other point concerning liberty, I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal. The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he lists: it is a liberty to evil as well as to good. This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority, and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and in time to be worse than brute beasts: omnes sumus licentia deteriores. This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it. The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions, amongst men themselves. This liberty is the proper end and object of authority, and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard (not only of your goods, but) of your lives, if need be. Whatsoever crosseth this is not authority, but a distemper thereof. This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. The woman’s own choice makes such a man her husband; yet, being so chosen, he is her lord, and she is to be subject to him, yet in a way of liberty, not of bondage; and a true wife accounts her subjection her honor and freedom, and would not think her condition safe and free but in her subjection to her husband’s authority. Such is the liberty of the church under the authority of Christ, her king and husband; his yoke is so easy and sweet to her as a bride’s ornaments; and if through frowardness or wantonness, etc., she shake it off, at any time, she is at no rest in her spirit until she take it up again; and whether her lord smiles upon her, and embraceth her in his arms, or whether he frowns, or rebukes, or smites her, she apprehends the sweetness of his love in all, and is refreshed, supported, and instructed by every such dispensation of his authority over her. On the other side, ye know who they are that complain of this yoke and say, let us break their bands, etc., we will not have this man to rule over us. Even so, brethren, it will be between you and your magistrates. If you stand for your natural corrupt liberties, and will do what is good in your own eyes, you will not endure the least weight of authority, but will murmur, and oppose, and be always striving to shake off that yoke; but if you will be satisfied to enjoy such civil and lawful liberties, such as Christ allows you, then will you quietly and cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over you, in all the administrations of it, for your good. Wherein, if we fail at any time, we hope we shall be willing (by God’s assistance) to hearken to good advice from any of you, or in any other way of God; so shall your liberties be preserved, in upholding the honor and power of authority amongst you.

The deputy governor having ended his speech, the court arose, and the magistrates and deputies retired to attend their other affairs.

Letters to and from Winthrop and His Wife.

A Letter written by John Winthrop to his Third Wife, Margaret, April 3, 1630.

MY love, my joy, my faithful one, I suppose thou didst not expect to have any more letters from me till the return of our ships; but so is the good pleasure of God, that the wind should not serve yet to carry us hence. He will do all things in his own time, and that shall be for the best in the end. We acknowledge it a great mercy to us, that we went not out to sea on Monday, when the wind was fair for one day; for we had been exposed, ever since, to sore tempests and contrary winds. I praise God, we are all in good health, and want nothing. For myself, I was never at more liberty of body and mind these many years. The Lord make me thankful and wise to improve his blessings for the furtherance of his own work. I desire to resign myself wholly to his gracious disposing. Oh that I had an heart so to do, and to trust perfectly in him for his assistance in all our ways. We find him still going along with us. He hath brought in the heart of the master of our ship to afford us all good respect, and to join with us in every good action. Yesterday he caused his seamen to keep a fast with us, wherein the Lord assisted us and our minister very comfortably; and when five of the clock came, I had respite to remember thee (it being Friday), and to parley with thee, and to meet thee in spirit before the Lord….

I am uncertain whether I shall have opportunity to send these to thee; for, if the wind turn, we shall soon be gone. Therefore I will not write much. I know it will be sufficient for thy present comfort, to hear of our welfare; and this is the third letter I have written to thee, since I came to Hampton, in requital of those two I received from thee, which I do often read with much delight, apprehending so much love and sweet affection in them, as I am never satisfied with reading, nor can read them without tears; but whether they proceed from joy, sorrow, or desire, or from that consent of affection which I always hold with thee, I cannot conceive. Ah, my dear heart, I ever held thee in high esteem, as thy love and goodness hath well deserved; but (if it be possible) I shall yet prize thy virtue at a greater rate, and long more to enjoy thy sweet society than ever before. I am sure thou art not short of me in this desire. Let us pray hard, and pray in faith, and our God, in his good time, will accomplish our desire. Oh, how loath am I to bid thee farewell! but, since it must be, farewell, my sweet love, farewell. Farewell, my dear children and family. The Lord bless you all, and grant me to see your faces once again. Come (my dear), take him and let him rest in thine arms, who will ever remain,

Thy faithful husband

Commend my love to all our friends at Castleins, Mr. Leigh and his wife, my neighbor Cole and his wife, and all the rest of our good friends and neighbors, and our good friends at Maplested, when you see them, and those our worthy and kind friends at Assington, etc. My brother Arthur hath carried himself very soberly since he came on shipboard, and so hath Mr. Brand’s son, and my cousin Ro. Sampson. I hope their friends shall hear well of them.

From aboard the Arbella, riding before Yarmouth, in the Isle of Wight, April 3, 1630.

To my very loving Wife, MRS. WINTHROP, the elder, at Groton, in Suffolk, d’ d.

Mrs. Winthrop to Her Husband.

DEAR in my thoughts, I blush to think how much I have neglected the opportunity of presenting my love to you. Sad thoughts possess my spirits, and I cannot repulse them; which makes me unfit for any thing, wondering what the Lord means by all these troubles among us. Sure I am, that all shall work to the best to them that love God, or rather are loved of him. I know he will bring light out of obscurity, and make his righteousness shine forth as clear as the noonday. Yet I find in myself an adverse spirit, and a trembling heart, not co-willing to submit to the will of God as I desire. There is a time to plant, and a time to pull up that which is planted, which I could desire might not be yet. But the Lord knoweth what is best, and his will be done. But I will write no more. Hoping to see thee to-morrow, my best affections being commended to yourself, the rest of our friends at Newton, I commend thee to God.
Your loving wife,
Sad Boston, 1637.
To her honored Husband, these be delivered.