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Book review
Winthrop's writings
Genealogical link to the Parsons family

John Winthrop, first Governor of Massachusetts

A biography of a 9th great grand-uncle was published by Oxford University Press in 2003, and was reviewed in the Church Times 12 December 2003.

Francis J. Bremer: JOHN WINTHROP: America's forgotten founding father
Oxford University Press 25 (0-19-514913-0)

John Winthrop crossed the Atlantic in 1630 as the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, on of many who went to the New World, following the example of those known to history as the Pilgrim Fathers.

He was 42 years old, apparently settled in a steady and comfortable life in East Anglia, when events in England impelled him to join others seeking a place where they could practise the worship and church order that they regarded as the true way. The account of his early years is worth reading in itself for its insight into the social and religious history of the early 17th century in England, although Bremer tends to fill gaps in the record by conjecture: "he would have seen" or "he may well have known".

The extent of his research becomes more apparent when he writes of all that followed the decision to make a new life abroad. Winthrop already had some experience of administration as a magistrate to help him in the much greater task that lay ahead. The emotional strains and the physical hardships of those early colonists are related vividly, but with a restraint that makes them more moving to read. Winthrop himself lost several children and three wives, some in England and others in Massachusetts.

After some degree of security had been reached, there were problems of law and order, and different factions within the religious life that had first brought the colonists together to make the voyage. It is a recurring fact of history that those who break away from the church of the majority discover further grounds for dissent among themselves. It happened in this settlement, both in matters of faith and in the imposition of a legal system as severe as the one to which they had objected at home.

Winthrop was a moderate man, who did his best to keep the peace. He faced rival challenges to his authority, and more than once lost and regained the governorship. He followed his conscience, guided by deep and continual study of the Bible and fervent prayer.

The Revd Dr Raymond Chapman is Emeritus Professor of English in the University of London.

Writings

While en route to the New World on board the Arabella, John Winthrop wrote a sermon entitled "A Model of Christian Charity," in which he outlined the purposes of God for New England. Winthrop had a deep understanding of God's divine purposes for the colony. "We shall be a city set on a hill," he said of Boston - where the church was the center of life during those early years of the city's history. He described a harmonious Christian community whose laws and government would logically proceed from a godly and purposeful arrangement.

John Winthrop also believed that this new form of government would help bring about a "Golden Age" and that one day all the nations of the world would copy this form of government: "We shall find that the God of Israel shall be among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, 'the Lord make it like that of New England.'"

But Winthrop also gave a warning: "The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause us to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world."

Winthrop set out clearly the revealed purposes of God and warned that the success or failure of their endeavors would depend on their dedication to the ideal of selfless community. History shows us that this ideal was never realized, however, Winthrop laid the foundation for generations yet to come.

Genealogy

Adam Winthrop (1548-1623) m. Anne Browne

John Winthrop (1587-1649) and Lucy Winthrop (1600-1679) m. Emmanuel Downing (1585-1660)

George Downing (1623-1684) m. Frances Howard (b.1630)

Frances Downing m. John Cotton (1650-1680)

Frances Cotton (1677-1756) m. William Hanbury (1667-1737)

Mary Hanbury (1708-1796) m. Revd Martin Annesley (1701-1749)

Elizabeth Annesley (d.1816) m. George Booth Tyndale (1737-1779)

Elizabeth Vere Tyndale (1778-1816) m. Revd Arthur Annesley (1769-1845)

George Annesley (1808-1872) m. Emily Vere Foster

Georgina Cecelia Annesley (1841-1912) m. Charles Ball-Acton (1830-1897)

Evelyn Caroline Annesley Ball-Acton (1873-1965) m. Edward Nixon Wynne 1847-1923

Emily Evelyn Wynne (1902-1997) m. Martin Parsons (1907-1997)

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