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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1611
AUTHOR: John Winthrop (1588–1649)
QUOTATION: For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. Soe that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.
ATTRIBUTION: JOHN WINTHROP, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, “A Modell of Christian Charity,” discourse written aboard the Arbella during the voyage to Massachusetts, 1630.—Robert C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop, p. 19 (1867).

Robert C. Winthrop was a representative from Massachusetts, 1840–1850, and was Speaker of the House 1847–1849; he was a senator from Massachusetts 1850–1851.

Walter F. Mondale referred to the “city on a hill” in a presidential campaign speech in Cleveland, Ohio, October 25, 1984; The Washington Post account notes that this quotation from Winthrop is a favorite of President Reagan’s.—October 26, 1984, p. 1.

President-elect John F. Kennedy said, in an address to the Massachusetts Legislature on January 9, 1961, “During the last 60 days I have been engaged in the task of constructing an administration…. I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arabella [sic] 331 years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a government on a new and perilous frontier. ‘We must always consider,’ he said, ‘that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.’ Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, State, and local, must be as a city upon a hill—constructed and inhabited by men aware of their grave trust and their great responsibilities.”—Congressional Record, January 10, 1961, vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169. For another portion of this speech, see No. 1494.
SUBJECTS: Responsibility