John Winthrop & the Puritans Founded the Self-Governing Colony of Massachusetts
Beginning in 1629, a decade after the first Pilgrims arrived in North America, a large group of English Puritans began a “great migration” to America. The Puritans shared many of the Pilgrims’ radically reformed religious and political views, and they did not find a favorable environment for their views and their hopes for the church in England. Like the Pilgrims, they desired religious freedom and self-government.
In 1629, King Charles in England granted the Puritans a royal charter to plant the colony of Massachusetts Bay in America. The charter granted authority to the Massachusetts Bay Company, a commercial venture overseen by Puritans, to govern the colony. The Puritans—about 700 to 1000 on eleven ships—set sail to America and arrived in Massachusetts, near Plymouth, in 1630. The Puritans founded the colony of Massachusetts which would eventually absorb the Pilgrims’ colony of Plymouth.
In a distinctive move, the Puritans brought their charter with them to America. This move assured those in the company who came overseas that they would manage the company themselves. In bringing along their charter, the Puritans contributed to the creation of a self-governing colony because the charter became the basis for the colony’s first laws. Since the British Crown did not closely supervise activities in America, but allowed for self-government through local governors, the colony operated independently of England.
Puritan John Winthrop, a lawyer with strong beliefs, led this first group of Puritans who migrated to America. During his trip on the vessel Arbella, Winthrop delivered his famous 1630 sermon, A Model of Christian Charity, exhorting the Puritans to fulfill their purpose to become a “city on a hill”—a godly example of a colony for the world to see. Winthrop’s Model sermon would become one of the most well-known sermons of American history.
From AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.
Source: Kamrath, Angela E. The Miracle of America: The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief. Second Edition. Houston, TX: American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.
Activity: Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 3, Part 1 of 3, Activity 3: Learning More About the Puritans, pp. 104, 318-319. MS-HS.
Learning More About the Puritans…
Purpose/Objective: Students learn about the Puritans including their beliefs and practices such as covenants, identification with the Israelites, reasons for migrating to America such as religious freedom, leaders, and desire to form Bible Commonwealths in their colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Suggested Reading: Chapter 3 of Miracle of America sourcebook/text. Students read sections Introduction to 3.4.
Activity: KWL Chart. At the beginning of the unit, students complete the first 2 columns of the chart, writing what they KNOW about the Puritans and what they WANT TO KNOW. After each or both lessons, students complete the 3rd column on what they LEARNED about the Puritans. In class, let students share one point they learned about the Puritans that most surprised or intrigued them. Let students raise any questions they want to know about the Puritans that are still unanswered. If the question is not addressed in the lesson or group discussion, students may optionally pursue the answer with research and write down their findings. The KWL Chart may also be done with the more specific topic of Puritan religious beliefs. See “KWL Chart” in the “Supporting Resources” section of the course guide, pp. 317.
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