John Winthrop (1588-1649) was a wealthy Puritan lawyer who arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. He served as governor for twelve of the colony’s first twenty years of existence. He helped to shape the theocratic policy of the colony and opposed broad democracy. Winthrop condoned slavery and the slave trade. After the war with the Pequot Indians, the males were sent to West Indies as slaves and traded for cotton, tobacco, salt and African slaves. The women and children were divided among the colonists as slaves.
He was considered authoritarian and resisted attempts to widen voting and other civil rights beyond a narrow class of religiously approved individuals, opposed attempts to codify a body of laws that the colonial magistrates would be bound by, and also opposed unconstrained democracy. The authoritarian and religiously conservative attitude of Massachusetts rule was influential in the formation of neighboring colonies, which were in some instances formed by individuals and groups opposed to the rule of the Massachusetts elders.
Tomorrow: Religion in the Mass Bay Colony Rita Bay