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John Winthrop

John Winthrop was born in Suffolk, England, and grew up at Groton Manor, his father's estate in the English countryside. Preparing to take his father's place as the lord of Groton Manor, Winthrop studied law. He wanted to obtain the expertise needed to handle landlord-tenant disputes, collect rents, and deal with government authorities.

Winthrop grew dissatisfied with the Anglican Church and the Monarchy. The level of worldliness and corruption in both institutions generally disturbed him, but most offensive to Winthrop was the Monarchy's appointment of incompetent or ungodly bishops and imposition of a liturgy that contained secular elements. Although Winthrop was convinced that the church needed to cast off this tyranny, he realized that they could not prevail in a head-on confrontation with the Monarchy and the established Anglican Church. The Massachusetts Bay Company presented Winthrop with an excellent opportunity to avoid this confrontation.

Unlike most charters, the Massachusetts Bay Company's charter did not require the direct supervision and involvement of the king's authorities. They were free to establish their own autonomous government. This meant that, in effect, they had legal authority to move to New England and build an independent and free society in which they could govern themselves according to the dictates of their conscience. But the Massachusetts Bay Company needed a leader. They needed a man of Christian faith and vision who could lead them to the New World and govern them once they arrived. They recognized John Winthrop as this man of ability, maturity, and faith. The Massachusetts Bay Company elected Winthrop as the governor of their colony in 1629, and they arrived in the New World in 1630.

Over the next ten years, twenty thousand settlers poured into Massachusetts. Winthrop governed them as if they were his own children. During one of the early winters, Winthrop sold Groton Manor to buy food and other necessities for the colonists who were starving and freezing to death. No one denies that the Massachusetts Colony survived in a large part because of the courage, faith, and sacrifice of their governor. To the contrary, historians marvel at Winthrop's kindness, wisdom, and leadership, and many agree that John Winthrop was one of the princes of the civilization in the United States of America.

Sources: “John Winthrop: First Governor of Massachusetts,” http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner/X0526_Bios-_John_Winthrop.html ; Joseph Schafer, “John Winthrop,” http://dylee.keel.econ.ship.edu/ubf/winthrop.htm