The Winthrop Fleet was a group of eleven sailing ships under the leadership of John Winthrop that carried approximately 700 Puritansplus livestock and provisions from England to New England over the summer of 1630. The Puritan population in England had been growing for many years leading up to this time. They disagreed with the practices of the Church of England, whose rituals they viewed as superstitions and attempted over many years to modify religious practice in England to conform to their views. King James wished to suppress this growing rebellious movement. Nevertheless, the Puritans eventually gained a majority in Parliament. James' son King Charles came into the greatest possible conflict with the Parliament, and viewed them as a threat to his authority, temporarily dissolving parliament in 1626, and again the next year, and finally dissolving parliament permanently in March 1629. Motivated by these political events, a wealthy group of leaders obtained a Royal Charter in March 1629 for a colony at Massachusetts Bay.
The initial migration took three phases. A fleet of five ships had departed a month previously for New England that included approximately 300 colonists, led by Francis Higginson. Later that year, the remaining investors elected John Winthrop as governor, who then led a fleet of 5 ships, followed by 6 more several weeks later, totaling nearly 700. Additionally, an existing settlement, Salem, was established in 1626. Winthrop's colony and authority extended control over Salem, previously run by John Davenport.
The Great Migration of Puritans to New England continued for nearly a decade. They came in family groups, rather than as isolated individuals, and were motivated chiefly by a quest for freedom to practice their Puritan religion.
Meanwhile, other Puritans and members of Parliament, namely Oliver Cromwell, fought a series of civil wars from 1642-1651. They deposed, tried, and eventually executing Charles I.* The English Civil War led to the establishment of a Commonwealth government that lasted until 1660, and the Puritan-dominated Parliament actually banning Christmas celebrations.
The above information was modified from various Wikipedia entries.
John Winthrop's Model of Christian Charity - delivered on board the Arbella as members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony sailed toward the New World - describes the struggle of Puritans and their "errand into the wilderness." Their struggle? How can a group of outcasts who have a habit of quarreling with authority construct a strong society without fighting amongst themselves?
As you know from your reading of Chapter 3, John Winthrop (1588-1649) was governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony - a group that left England in search of trade opportunities in the New World. Like most members of the Colony, Winthrop was a Puritan. This group claimed that the Church of England was corrupted by selfish leaders and petty squabbles. In contrast, Puritans envisioned an idealized community in which all citizens would focus their lives on the word of God. Ironically, the Puritans' almost single-minded pursuit of a perfected society based on biblical teachings resulted in impressive success in secular affairs. This success is often explained by the so-called "Puritan Work Ethic" - the ability to sacrifice personal ambitions for larger goals. Puritans also believed that they could be a blessed people - chosen by God to set an example for others.
Both of these aspects have Puritan New England, and Winthrop's sermon have infused themselves into the American Identity. What it means to be an American, for generations, has involved hard work (especially on the East Coast [though, since the 18th century, this has constantly been diminished by increased technology]). Furthermore, the idea that the Puritan community that settled Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 was to be an example for others to follow has truly been one of the things that America has stood for since that time, and increasingly so since the American Revolution. To this day, the United States of America constantly redefines how it will be an example to others, whether through its own actions, or acting on the behalf of other peoples and nations. Some might not like it, but it is truly, what the identity of the United States of America has become: hence, American Identity.
The AssignmentA. Read the excerpt from John Winthrop's A Model of Christian Charity, in regards to being a "City upon a hill."
B. Following the commenting guidelines, answer ANY of the following questions (choose 2 or 3), and respond to them in the comments section of this post.
- To what extent did John Winthrop’s “A Model of Christian Charity” provide a powerful and workable founding vision for his colony? For what would become the United States of America?
- What does John Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” sermon explain about the beliefs and goals of the Puritans?
- One way to read the lay sermon A Model of Christian Charity is as a kind of a “peptalk” or “motivational speech.” What points does Winthrop seem to want to make his audience feel good or motivated about?
- The most lasting, final image from A Model of Christian Charity is that of the “city on a hill." Think carefully about this image. What sorts of things does it suggest to you, literally—that is, what is important about a literal city on a literal hill? Then, think about why Winthrop is turning to that image in this particular context—what does he want to suggest about his Puritan community and their sense of mission?
- The phrase “city on a hill” is still used by politicians today in speaking about America. Why? What does this image still suggest about America’s conception of itself?
C. Return in a few days and read through the responses of others. Again, following the commenting guidelines, provide feedback, criticism, or ask questions. Also, if somebody responds to your comment, feel free to comment back, of course, being polite. It will help promote positive dialogue in class later this year.
*The execution of Charles I is of particular interest to those of us living around New Haven. The charges against the king were repeated against George III at the start of the Revolution. Meanwhile, after the restoration of Charles II, he attempted to eliminate those involved in the trial and execution of his father. Three judges, John Dixwell, Edward Whalley, and William Goffe fled to New Haven, Connecticut. Whalley and Goffe hid in what is known as Judges Cave in West Rock Ridge State Park, in New Haven. For those that are interested in this, and its significance in American history, and America's republic, there is a fascinating article from HistoryToday. There's also a docu-drama on the Trial, Judges, and their own executions. I'd personally read the article. It's better. But still, here you go.