Governor John Winthrop in Old England

THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.

A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.

VOL. XIII.—JANUARY, 1864.—NO. LXXV.

OUR magazine was introduced to the world bearing on the cover of its first number a vignette of the portraiture of the ever honored and revered John Winthrop, first Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. The effigies expressed a countenance, features, and a tone of character in beautiful harmony with all that we know of the man, all that he was and did. Gravity and loftiness of soul, tempered by a mild and tender delicacy, depth of experience, resolution of purpose, native dignity, acquired wisdom, and an harmonious equipoise of the robust virtues and the winning graces have set their unmistakable tokens on those lineaments. That vignette, after renewing from month to month before our readers, for nearly four years, as gracious and fragrant a memory as can engage the love of a New-England heart, gave place, in the month of June, 1861, to the only emblem, no longer personal, which might claim to supplant it. The national flag, during a struggle which has seen its dignity insulted only to rouse and nerve the spirit which shall vindicate its glory, has displaced that bearded and ruffed portraiture.

The visitor to the Massachusetts StateHouse may see, hanging in its SenateChamber, tolerably well preserved on its canvas, what is believed, on trustworthy evidence, to be Vandyck’s own painting of Winthrop. Another portrait of him — not so agreeable to the eye, nor so faithful, we are sure, to the original, yet reputed to date from the lifetime of its subject—hangs in the Hall of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester. Those of our readers who have not lovingly pored and paused over Mr. Savage’s elaborately illustrated edition of Governor Winthrop’s Journal do not know what a profitable pleasure invites them, whenever they shall have grace to avail themselves of it. But who that knows John Winthrop through such materials of memory and such fruits of high and noble service as up to this time have been accessible and extant here has not longed for, and will not most heartily welcome, a new contribution, coming by surprise, unlocked for, unhoped for even, but yielding, from the very fountain-head, the means of a most intimate converse with him in that period of his life till now wholly unrecorded for us? We had known his character as displayed here. We have now a most authentic and complete development of the process by which that character was moulded and built abroad. The President of the Massachusetts Historical Society has been privileged to do a service which, with most rare felicity, embraces his indebtedness to his own good name, to his official place, and to the city and State which have invested him with so many of their highest honors.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.

The Honorable Robert C. Winthrop, a descendant in the seventh generation from our honored First Governor, seizing upon a brief vacation-interval in the course of his high public service, made a visit to England in the summer of 1847. He was naturally drawn towards his ancestral home at Groton, in Suffolk. The borough itself, with its own due share of historic interest, from men of mark and their deeds, is composed of one of those clusters of villages which are sure in an English landscape to have some charm in their picturesque combinations. The visitor had the privilege of worshipping on a Sunday in the same parish church where his ancestors, holding the right of presentation, had joined in the same form of service, to whose font they had brought their children in baptism, and at whose altar-rails they had stood for “ the solemnization of matrimony,” and knelt in the office of communion. The second entry made in the parish register, still retained in the vestry, records the death of the head of the family in 1562. Outside the church, and close against its walls, is the tomb of the Winthrop family, which, by a happy coincidence, had just been repaired, as if ready to receive a visitor from a land where tombs are not supposed to have the justification of age for being dilapidated. The father, the grandfather, and perhaps the great-grandfather of our John Winthrop were committed to that repository. The family name and arms, with a Latin inscription in memory of the parents of the Governor, are legible still. ”Beatisunt pacifici” is the benediction which either the choice of those who rest beneath it, or the congenial tribute of some survivor, has selected to close the epitaph. Only traces of the cellar of the mansion-house and of its garden-plot are now visible to mark the home where the Chief Magistrates of Massachusetts and Connecticut, father and son, had lived together and had matured the “ conclusions” on which they exiled themselves.

A monstrous and idle tradition, heard by the visitor, as he surveyed the outlines of his ancestral home, prompted him to that labor of love which he has so felicitously performed, and with such providential helps, in a biography. The absurdity of the tradition, equally defiant as it is of the consistencies of character and the facts of chronology, is a warning to those who rely on these floating confoundings of fact and fiction, which, as some one has said, “ are almost as misleading as history.” Two hundred years and more had seen that manor-house deserted of its former occupants. The neighboring residents had kept their name in remembrance, more, probably, through the help of the tomb than of the dwelling. Speculation and romance would deal with them as an extinct or an exiled family, The Story had become current on the spot, that the Winthrops were regicides, and had tied to America, having, however, buried some precious hoard of money about their premises before their flight. Our author suggests the altogether likely idea that a suspicion might have attached to him as having come over to search for that treasure. Little may he have imagined what thoughts may have distracted the reverence of some of his humble fellow-worshippers in Groton Church who whispered the nature of his errand one to another. Our honored Governor and his son of Connecticut had been near a score of years on this soil before Charles I. was beheaded. Mr. Savage informs us that he was once asked by a descendant of the father whether he had received before his death tidings of the execution of his old master. The annotator is able to quote a letter from Roger Williams, “ to his honored kind friend, Mr. John Winthrop at Nameag,” [New London,] lettered on the back, “ Mr. Williams of ye high news about the king.” This letter, conveying recent tidings, was dated at Narragansett, June 26, 1649, two months after the elder Winthrop had died in Boston.

It was but natural that even the absurdity of the tradition lingering around the traces of the Groton manor should have served, with other far more constraining inducements, to excite in the visitor a purpose to employ his first period of relief from official service in rendering an act of public as well as of private obligation to the memory of his progenitors,—especially as there existed no adequate and extended biography, but only scattered and fragmentary memorials of them in our copious literary stores. Happily for him, and surely to the highest gratification of those who were to be his readers, materials most abundant, and of the most authentic and self-revealing sort, in journals and letters, were attainable, to give to the work essentially the character of an autobiography, and that, too, of the most attractive cast. A second visit of the author to England in 1859-60, and the most opportune reception of a large collection of original papers, preserved in another line of the Governor’s descendants, put his fortunate biographer in possession of the means for completing a work surpassed by no similar volume known to us in the gracious attractions and in the substantial interest of its contents. The book may safely rely for its due reception upon the noble character, complete and harmonious in all the virtues, and upon the eminent public services, of its subject It has other strong recommendations, affording, in style, method, and spirit, a model for books of the same class, and embracing all those paramount qualities of thoroughness, research, accuracy, good taste, incidental illustration, and, above all, an appreciative spirit, which stamp the worth of such labors.

We must leave almost unnoticed the author’s elaborate chapter on the pedigree and the early history of the Winthrop family. He is content to begin this side of those who “ came over with the Conqueror,” and to accept for ancestry men and women untitled, of the sterling English stock, delvers of the soil, and spinners of the fabrics of which it affords the raw material. He finds almost his own full name introducing a record on the Rolls of Court in the County of York for the year 1200. Adam Winthrop, grandfather of our Governor, himself the father, as he was also the son of other Adams, was born in Lavenham, Suffolk, October 9, 1498, six years after the discovery of this country by Columbus, and in the same year in which occurred the voyage of Vespucius, who gave his name to the continent. This second Adam Winthrop, at the age of seventeen, went to London, binding himself as an apprentice for ten years under the well-esteemed and profitable guild of the “clothiers,” or clothworkers. At the expiration of his apprenticeship, in 1526, he was sworn a citizen of London, and, after filling the subordinate dignities of his craft, rose to the mastership of his company in 1551. The Lordship of the Manor of Groton, at the dissolution of the monasteries, was granted to Adam Winthrop in 1544. Retaining his mercantile relations in the great city, and probably residing there at intervals, he seated himself in landed dignity at his manor, and there he died in 1562. His memorialist now holds in his possession the original bronze plate which was put upon his tomb three hundred years ago, and which was probably removed to give place to the new inscription connected with the repairs already referred to. This ancient sepulchral brass bears in quaint old English characters the following inscription : — “Here lyeth Mr. Adam Wynthrop, Lorde & Patron of Groton, whiche departed owt of this Worlde the IXth day of November, in the yere of owre Lorde God MCCCCCLXII.” His widow, who had been his second wife, married William Mildmay ; and his daughter Alice married Mr. Mildmay’s son Thomas, who, being afterwards knighted, secured to the cloth-worker’s daughter the title of “ Lady Mild may.” In the cabinet of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, the visitor, on the asking, may be gratified with the sight and touch of a curious old relic which will bring him almost into contact with a most agreeable family-circle of the olden time. It is a serviceable possetpot, with a silver tip and lid, both of which are gilded, the cover, still playing faithfully on its hinge, being chased with the device of Adam and Eve in the garden partaking of the forbidden fruit. An accompanying record reads as follows : — “At ye Feast of St. Michael, An°. 1607, my Sister, ye Lady Mildmay, did give me a Stone Pot, tipped & covered wth. a Silver Lydd.” How many comforting concoctions and compounds, alternating with herb-drinks and medicated potions, may have been quaffed or swallowed with wry face from that precious old cup, who can now tell ? Probably it ministered its more inviting contents to the elders of the successive generations in the family, while it was known by the younger members in their turn in connection with certain penalties for overeating and chills got from hard play. While having the relic in hand, the other day, the prompting was irresistible to bring it close to the appropriate organ, to ascertain, if possible, what had been the predominant character of its contents. But, faithful as the grave, it would reveal no secrets; having parted with all transient and artificial odors, it has resumed, as is most fitting, the smell of its parent earth.

The writer of that record accompanying the “ Stone-Pot ” with its “ Silver Lydd ” was Adam Winthrop, father of our Governor, and son of the last-mentioned Lord of Groton. This third Adam Winthrop — the sixth child of his father’s second wife, and the eleventh of his thirteen children — was born in London, “ in the street which is called Gracious,” (GraceChurch,) August 10, 1548. Losing his father at the age of fourteen, he was early bred as a lawyer in London, but soon engaged in agricultural interests at Groton, to the lordship of which he acceded by a license of alienation from an elder brother. There are sundry authentic relics and tokens of this good man which reveal to us those traits of his character, and those ways and influences of his domestic life, under the high-toned, yet most genial training of which his son was educated to the great enterprise Providence intended for him. There are even poetical pieces extant which prove that Adam sought intercourse with the Muses by making advances on his own part, though we must confess that he does not appear to have been fairly met halfway by that capricious and fastidious sisterhood. Many of his almanacs and diaries, with entries dating from 1595, and from which the author makes liberal and interesting transcripts in an Appendix, have been happily preserved, and have a grateful use to us. They help us to reconstruct an old home, a pleasant one, in or near which three generations of a good stock lived together after the highest pattern of an orderly, exemplary, prospered, and pious household. We infer from many significant trifles, that, while the bid English comfortloving, generous, and hospitable style prevailed there, the severer spirit of Puritanism had not attained ascendancy. Intercourse with the metropolis, though embarrassed with conditions requiring some buffeting and hardship, was compensated by the zest of adventure, and it was frequent enough to quicken the minds and to add to the bodily comforts and refinements of the family. Adam Winthrop must have been a fine specimen of the old English gentleman, with all of native polish which courtly experiences might or might not have given him, and with a simple, high-toned, upright, and neighborly spirit, which made him an apt and a faithful administrator of a great variety of trusts. His old Bible, now in the possession of Mr. George Livermore of Cambridge, represented the divine presence and law in his household, for all its members, parents and children, masters and servants. He entertained hospitably his full share of “ the godly preachers,” who were the wandering luminaries, and, in some respects, the angelic visitants of those days. He was evidently a very patient listener to sermons, though we have not the proof in any surviving notebooks of his that one of his excellent son John’s furnishes us, that he took pains to transcribe the heads, the savory passages, and the textual attestations of the elaborate, but utterly juiecless sermons of the time. The entries in his almanacs afford a curious variety, in which interesting events of public importance alternate with homely details touching the affairs of his neighborhood and the incidents in the domestic life of his relatives and acquaintance. One matter, as we shall soon see, on which a fact in the life of Governor Winthrop depends, finds an unexpected disclosure from Adam’s pen. Here are a few excerpts from these entries :— “ 1597. The VIth of July I received a privie seale to lend the Q. matie [Elizabeth] £XX. for a yere.” — 1602. Sept, the 27th day in ye mornying the Bell did goe for mother [a conventional epithet] Tiffeyn, but she recouered.” This decides a matter which has sometimes been disputed,—that, while with us, in our old times, “ the passing bell” indicated the progress of a funeral train, anciently in England it signified that a soul was believed to be passing from a body supposed to be in extremis. And a doleful sound it must have been to those of whom it made a false report, as of “ mother Tiffeyn.” — “ Decem. ye XXI day my brother Alibaster came to my house & toulde me yt he made certayne inglishe verses in his sleepe, wh. he recited unto me, & I lent him XLs.” — “ 1603 April ye 28th day was the funeralles kept at Westminster for our late Queene Elizabethe.” — “1603. On Munday ye seconde of Maye, one Keitley, a blackesmythe, dwellinge in Lynton in Cambridgeshire, had a poore man to his father whom he kepte. A gentleman of ye same Towne sent a horse to shoe, the father held up the horses legge whilest his soonne did shoe him. The horse struggled & stroke the father on ye belly with his foote & overthrewe him. The soonne laughed thereat & woulde not helpe his father uppe, for the which some that were present reproved him greatlye. The soonne went forwards in shoinge of ye horse, & when he had donne he went uppon his backe, mynding to goe home with him. The horse presently did throughe him of his backe against a poste & clave his hed in sonder. Mistress Mannocke did knowe ye man, for his mother was her nurse. Grace judicium Dei in irrisorem patris sui.” These little scraps of Latin, sometimes running into a distich, are frequent signs of a certain classical proclivity of the writer. Any one who should infer, from the good man’s arbitrary mode of spelling many words, that he was an illiterate person, would be grievously mistaken, in his ignorance of the universal characteristic and license of that age in that matter. The Queen herself was by no means so good a “ speller,” by our standard, as was Adam Winthrop. The extraordinary way in which letters were then left out of words where they were needed, and most lavishly multiplied where no possible use could be made of them, is a phenomenon never accounted for.

Adam Winthrop was for several years auditor of the accounts of Trinity and St. John’s Colleges, Cambridge, and records his visits to the University in the discharge of his duties. We have specimens of a pleasant correspondence between him and ins sister. Lady Mildmay, also with his wife, marked by a sweet and gentle tone, the utterance of a kindly spirit, — fragrant records of hearts once so warm with love.

It must have been with supreme delight that Adam entered in his diary, that on January 12, 1587, [January 22, 1588, N.S.,] was born his only son, John, one of five children by his second wife. John came into the world between the years that marked, respectively, the exccution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the visit of the Spanish Armada. We can well conceive under what gracious and godly influences he received his early nurture. His mother died only one year before he, at the age of forty-two, embarked for America, his father having not long preceded her. Evidence abundant. was in our possession that John Winthrop had received what even now would be called a good education, and what in his own time was a comparatively rare one. It had generally been taken for granted, however, that he had never been a member of either of the Universities. His present biographer tells us that long before undertaking his present grateful task he had never been reconciled to admit the inference which had been drawn from silence on this point. He remembered, by references in his own reading, that by some oversight there had been an omission of names in the Cambridge University Register from June, 1589, to June, 1602, and that no admissions were recorded earlier than 1625. John Winthrop might, therefore, have at least “gone to college,” if he had not “ gone through college.” His biographer had also noticed in the Governor’s “ Christian Experience,” drawn up and signed by him in New England on his forty-ninth birthday, 1636-7, an allusion to his having been at Cambridge when “about 14 yrs of age,” and having had a lingering fever there. An entry in the records of his father must have been a most grateful discovery to the Governor’s descendant in the seventh generation. “ 1602. The 2d of December I rode to Cambridge. The VIIIth day John my soonne was admitted into Trinitie College.” But the old mystery vanishes only to give place to another, which has a spice of romance in it. John Winthrop did not graduate at Cambridge. He was a lawful husband when seventeen years of age., and a happy father at eighteen.

In a time-stained and most precious document from his pen and from his heart, relating his religious experience, to be referred to more particularly by-and-by, he charges himself in his youth with grievous sin. What we know of his whole life and character would of itself forbid us to accept literally his severe self-judgment, much more to draw from his language the inference which like language would warrant, if used in our times. Those who have even but a superficial acquaintance with religious diaries, especially with such as date from or near that age, need not be told that their writers, when sincerely devout by the Puritan standard, aimed to search and judge their own hearts and lives with all that penetrating, selfrevealing, unsparing scrutiny and severity which they believed were turned upon them by the all-seeing eye of infinite purity. They wished to anticipate the Great Tribunal, and to avert the surprise of any new disclosure there by admitting to themselves while still in the flesh the worst that it could pronounce against them. Men and women who before the daily companions and witnesses of their lives would stand out stoutly, and honestly too, in self-defence. against all imputations, and might even boast themselves — as St. Paul did — of a surplusage, of merits of some sort, when registering the barometer and the thermometer of their religious experience were the most unrelenting self-aceusers. It is safe to say, as a general thing, that those who in that introspection, in the measurement of their heats and chills of piety, grieved most deeply and found the most Ingenious causes for self-infliction were either the most calculating hypocrites or the most truly godly. To which of the two classes any one particular individual might belong could not always be infallibly concluded from what he wrote. That comfort-loving and greedindulging, yet picturesque, old sinner, Samuel Pepys, Esq., did not profess to keep a religious diary. But many such diaries have been kept by men who might have covered alternate pages with matter similar to his own, or with worse. We must interpret the religious diaries of that age by aids independent of those which their contents furnish us. John Winthrop, writing of his youth when he had grown to the full exalted stature of Christian manhood, and though sweetly mellowed in the graces of Ins character by genial ripening from within his soul, was still a Puritan of the severest standard theologically, and, by principle, charges himself with heinous sin. We feel assured that he was not only guiltless of any folly or error that would deserve such a designation, but that he even overstated the degree of his addiction to the lighter human faults. Only after such a preliminary assertion of incredulity as to any literal truth in them, could we consent to copy his own words, as follows : — “In my youth I was very lewdly disposed, inclining unto & attempting (so far as my heart enabled me) all kinds of wickedness, except swearing & scorning religion, wh. I had no temptation unto in regard of my education. About ten years of age I had some notions of God : for, in some frighting or danger, I have prayed unto God, & found manifest answer: ye remembrance whereof, many years after, made me think that God did love me : but it made me no whit the better. After I was twelve years old, I began to have some more savor of religion : & I thought I had more understanding in divinity than many of my years,’" etc. Yes, he evidently had. And though the kind of “divinity” which had trained his soul was of a grim sort, his own purity and gentleness of spirit softened it while accepting it. He adds,—“ Yet I was still very wild & dissolute : & as years came on, my lusts grew stronger, but yet under some restraint of my natural reason, whereby I had that command of myself that I could turn into any form. I would, as occasion required, write letters, &c. of mere vanity ; & if occasion was, I could write savoury & godly counsel.” Seeing, however, that he was made a Justice of the Peace when eighteen years of age, the inference is a fair one —his own self-accusation to the contrary notwithstanding—that he was known in his own neighborhood as a youth of extraordinary excellence of character.

It would appear from the entries in his father’s diaries that he was a member of college some eighteen months. Why he left before completing his course is to find its explanation for us either in the extreme sickness before referred to as visited upon him there, or in the agreeable “ change in his condition,” as the awkward and sheepish phrase is, which immediately followed. The latter alternative leaves scope and offers temptations for such inventiveness of fancy about details and incidents, whys and wherefores, as the absence of all but the following stingy revelations may justify. The good Adam, after recording, in November, 1604, and in the ensuing March, two mysterious rides with his son, has left this, under date of March 28th, 1605 :— “ My soonne was sollemly contracted to Mary Foorth, by Mr. Culverwell minister of Greate Stambridge in Essex cum consensu parentum.” Another ride into Essex, this time by the son alone, is entered under April 9th, and then on the 16th his marriage, “Ætatis suœ 17 [annis] 3 mensibus et 4 diebus completis.” This reads pleasantly:—" The VIIIth of May my soonne & his wife came to Groton from London, & ye IXth I made a marriage feaste, when Sr. Thomas Mild may & his lady my sister were present. The same day my sister Veysye came to me, & departed on ye 24th of Maye. My dawter Fones came the VIIIth & departed home ye XXIIIl of Maye.” An expeditions closing up, with honey-moon and marriage-feast, of an evident love-passage, whose longer or shorter antecedents are not revealed. The biographer leaves his readers their choice of assigning the abrupt close of the college course of John Winthrop either to his grievous sickness, or to his love for Mary Forth, daughter and sole heir of John Forth, Esq., of Great Stambridge. We incline rather to the latter alternative as the stronger one, inasmuch as love for Mary may not only have been the direct cause of his loathing Cambridge, but may even have been the cause of his sickness, which in that ease becomes so secondary a cause as hardly to be a cause at all. One thing is certain: our honored Puritan ancestors had no scruples against short engagements, early marriages, or rematings as often as circumstances favored.

The young bridegroom himself, in tlie record of his experience, which we quote again for another purpose, reserves the confession of any haste on his own part to enter the married state, and would seem delicately to insinuate parental influence in the case. “ About eighteen years of age, being a man in stature & understanding, as my parents conceived me, I married into a family under Mr. Culverwell his ministry in Essex, &, living there sometimes, I first found ye ministry of the word come home to my heart with power (for in all before I found only light) : & after that, I found ye like in ye ministry of many others: so as there began to be some change: wh. I perceived in myself, A others took notice of.”

Six children were born to John Winthrop and his first wife, — three sons and three daughters. John, the eldest of these, afterwards Governor of Connecticut, was born February 22,1606. Mary, the only one of the daughters surviving infancy, also came to this country, and married a son of Governor Thomas Dudley. In less than eleven years after her marriage, Mary Forth died, the husband being not yet twenty-eight years old, and the eldest child but nine.

The earliest record of his religious experience appears to have been made under date of 1606. Read with the allowances and abatements to which reference has already been made, all that this admirable man has left for us of this self-revelation—little dreaming that it would have such readers—is profoundly interesting and instructive, when estimated from a right point of view and with any degree of congeniality of spirit. Those who are familiar with his published New-England Journal have already recognized in him a man of a simple and humble spirit, of a grave, but not a gloomy temperament, kindly in his private estimate and generous in his public treatment of others, most unselfish, and rigidly upright. The noble native elements of his character, and the peculiar tone and style of the piety under which his religious experience was developed, mutually reacted upon each other, the result being that his natural virtues were refined and spiritualized, while the morbid and superstitious tendencies of his creed were to a degree neutralized. He seems to refer the crisis in his religious experience to a date immediately following upon his first marriage. But, as we shall see, a repeated trial in the furnace of sharp affliction deepened and enriched that experience. He tells us that during those happy years of his first marriage he had proposed to himself a change from the legal profession to the ministry. By a second marriage, December 6, 1615, to Thomasine Clopton, of a good family in the neighborhood, he had the promise of renewed joy in a condition which his warm-hearted sociability and his intense fondness lor domestic relations made essential to his happiness, if not to his virtue. But one single year and one added day saw her and her infant child committed to the tomb, and made him again desolate. His biographer, not without misgivings indeed, but with a deliberation and healthful ness of judgment which most of his readers will approve as allowed to overrule them, has spread before us at length, from the most sacred privacy of the stricken mourner, heart-exercises and scenes in the death-chamber, such as engage with most painful, but still entrancing sympathy, the very soul of the reader. We know not where, in all our literature, to find matter like this, so bedewed and steeped in tenderness, so swift in its alternations between lacerating details and soothing suggestions. The author has put into print all that remains of the record of John Winthrop’s “ Experience,” in passages written contemporaneously with its incidents, — a document distinct from the record of his “ Christian Experience,” written here. The account of Thomasine’s death-bed exercises, as deciphered from the perishing manuscript, must, we think, stand by itself, either for criticism, or for the defiance of criticism. What we have had of similar scenes only in fragments, and as seen through veils, is here in the fulness of all that can harrow or comfort the human heart, spread before us clear of any withholding. It was the same year in which Shakspeare died, in a house built by Sir Hugh Clopton. a member of the same family-connection with Thomasine. Hour by hour, almost minute by minute, the stages of her transition are reported with infinite minuteness. Her own prayers, and those of a steady succession of religious friends, are noted; the melting intonations of her own utterances of anxiety or peace ; the parting counsels or warnings addressed to her dependants; the last breathings of affection to those dearest; the occasional aberrations and cloudings of intelligence coming in the progress of her disease, which were assigned to temptations from Satan: all these are given to us. “ Her feaver increased very violently upon hir, wh. the Devill made advantage of to moleste hir comforte, but she declaringe unto us with what temptations the devill did assault hir, bent hirselfe against them, prayinge with great vehemence for Gods helpo, & that he would not take away his lovinge kindnesse from hir, defyinge Satan, & spitting at him, so as we might see by hir setting of hir teethe, & fixinge her eyes, shakinge hir head & whole bodye, that she had a very greatt conflicte with the adversarye.” The mourner follows this scene to its close. Having transfigured all its dreariest passages with the kindling glow of his own undismayed faith, he lets his grateful spirit crown it with a sweet peace, and then he pays a most tender tribute to the geutle loveliness, fidelity, and Christian excellence of her with whom he had shared so true, though so brief, a joy.

This renewed affliction is turned by the still young sufferer to uses which should assure and intensify his piety according to the best Puritan type of it. He continues his heart-record. He subjects his mode of life, his feelings, habits and aims, the material of his daily food, and the degree of his love for various goods, as they are to be measured by a true scale, to the most rigid tests. He spares himself in nothing. The Bible does him as direct a service in rebuke and guidance as if every sentence in it had been written for himself. It is interesting to note that his quotations from it are from a version that preceded our own. His rules of self-discipline and spiritual culture, while wholly free from unwholesome asceticism, nevertheless required the curbing of all desires, and the utter subjection of every natural prompting to a crucial test, before its innocent or edifying character could pass unchallenged.

Vain would be the attempt in our generation to make Puritanism lovely or attractive. Its charms were for its original and sincere disciples, and do not survive them. There is no fashion of dress or furniture which may not be revived, and, if patronized as fashion, be at least tolerated. But for Puritanism there is no restoration. Its rehabilitated relics do not produce their best influence in any attempt to attract our admiration, — which they cannot do, — but in engaging our hearts’ tolerant respect and confidence towards those who actually developed its principles at first-hand, its original disciples, who brought it into discredit afterwards by the very fidelity of their loyalty to it, Puritanism is an engaging and not offensive object to us, when regarded as the characteristic of only one single generation of men and women and children. It could not pass from that one generation into another without losing much of what grace it had, and acquiring most odious and mischievous elements. Entailed Puritanism being an actual impossibility, all attempts to realize it, all assumptions of success in it, have the worst features of sham and hypocrisy, The diligent students of the history and the social life of our own colonial days know very well what an unspeakable difference there was, in all that makes and manifests characters and dispositions, between the first comers here and the first native-born generation, and how painfully that difference tells to the discredit of the latter. The tap-roots of Puritanism struck very deep, and drew the sap of life vigorously. They dried very soon; they are now cut; and whatever owed its life exclusively to them has withered and must perish. A philosophy of Nature and existence now wholly discredited underlay the fundamental views and principles of Puritanism. The early records of our General Court are thickly strown with appointments of Fast-Days that the people might discover the especial occasion of God’s anger toward them, manifested in the blight of some expected harvest, or in a scourge upon the cattle in the field. Some among us who claim to hold unreduced or softened the old ancestral faith have been twice in late years convened in our State-House, by especial call, to legislate upon the potato-disease ami the pleuro-pneumonia among our herds. Their joint wisdom resulted in money-appropriations to discover causes and cures. The debates held on these two occasions would have grievously shocked our ancestors. But are there any among ns who could in full sincerity, with logic and faith, have stood for the old devout theory of such visitations ?

But if it would he equally vain and unjust to attempt to make Puritanism lovely to ourselves, — a quality which its noblest disciples did not presume to make its foremost attraction, — there is all the more reason why we should do it justice in its original and awfully real presentment, in its single generation of veritable discipleship. What became drivelling and cant, presumption and bigotry, pretence and hypocrisy, as soon as a fair trial had tested it, was in the hearts, the speech, the convictions, and the habits of a considerable number of persons in one generation, the most thoroughly honest and earnest product of all the influences which had trained them. We read the heartrevelations of John Winthrop with the profoundest confidence, and even with a constraining sympathy. We venture to say that when this book shall be consulted, through all time to come, for the various uses of historical, religious, or literary illustration, not even the most trilling pen will ever turn a single sentence from its pages to purposes of levity or ridicule. Here we have Puritanism at first-hand : the original, unimitated, and transient resultant of influences which had been working to produce it, and which would continue their working so as to insure modifications of it. Winthrop notes it for a special Providence that Iris wife discovered a loathsome spider in the children’s porridge before they had partaken of it. His religious philosophy stopped there. He did not put to himself the sort of questions which open in a train to our minds from any one observed fact, else he would have found himself asking after the special Providence which allowed the spider to fall into the porridge. His friend and successor in high-magistracy in New England, Governor John Endecott, wrote him a letter years afterward which is so characteristic of the faith of both of them that we will make free use of it. The letter is dated Salem, July 28th, 1640, and probably refers to the disaster by which the ship Mary Rose “ was blown in pieces with her own powder, being 21 barrels,” in Charlestown harbor, the day preceding.1

“ DEAREST SIR, &EMDASH; Hearing of ye remarkable stroake of Gods hand uppon ye shippe & shippes companie of Bristoll, as also of some Atheisticall passages & hellish profanations of ye Sabbaths & deridings of ye people & wayes of God, I thought good to desire a word or two of you of ye trueth of what you have heard. Such an extraordinary judgement would be searched into, what Gods meaninge is in it, both in respect of those whom it concernes more especiallic. in England, as also in regard of ourselves. God will be honred in all dealings. We have heard of severall ungodlie earriadges in that ship, as, first, in their way overbound they wld. constantlie jeere at ye holy brethren of New England, & some of ye marineers would in a scoffe ask when they should come to ye holie Land ? 2. After they lay in the harbor Mr. Norrice sent to ye shippe one of our brethren uppon busincs, & hee heard them say, This is one of ye holie brethren, mockinglie & disdainefullie. 3. That when some have been with them aboard to buy necessaries, ye shippe men would usuallie say to some of them that they could not want any thinge, they were full of ye Spiritt. 4. That ye last Lords Day, or ye Lords Day before, there were many drinkings aboard with singings & musiek in tvines of publique exercise. 5. That ye last fast ye master or captaine of the shippe, with most of ye companie, would not goe to ye meetinge, but read ye booke of common prayer so often over that some of ye company said hee had worne that threed-bare, with many such passages. Now if these or ye like be true, as I am persuaded some of them are, I think ye trueth heereof would be made knowen, by some faithfull hand in Bristoll or else where, for it is a very remarkable & unusuall stroake,” etc., etc.

Governor Winthrop, who was a man of much milder spirit than Endecott, faithfully records this judgment under its date in his Journal, with additional particulars. The explosion took place “about dinner time, no man knows how, & blew up all, viz. the captain, & nine or ten of his men, & some four or five strangers. There was a special providence that there were no more, for many principal men were going aboard at that time, & some were in a boat near the ship, & others were diverted by a sudden shower of rain, & others by other occasions.” The good Governor makes this startling record the occasion for mentioning “ other examples of like kind.” Yet the especial providential significance which both he and Endecott could assign to such a calamity would need a readjustment in its interpretation, if compelled to take in two other conditions under which the mysterious ways of that Providence are manifested, namely : first, that many ships on board which there have been no such profane doings have met with similar disaster ; and second, that many ships on board which there has been more heinous sinning have escaped the judgment.

But, as we have said, Puritanism was temporarily consistent with the philosophy of life and Nature for one age. It held no divided sway over John Winthrop, but filled his heart, his mind, and his spirit. If, by its influence over any one human being, regarded as an unqualified, unmodified style of piety, demanding entire allegiance, and not yielding to any mitigation through the tempering qualities of an individual, — if, of itself and by itself, Puritanism could be made lovely to us, John Winthrop might well be charged with that exacting representative office. We repeat, that we have no abatement to make of our exalted regard for him through force of a single sentence from his pen. Most profoundly are we impressed by the intensity and thoroughness of conviction, the fulness and frankness of avowal, and the delicate and fervent earnestness of self-consecration, which make these ancient oracles of a human heart fragrant with the odor of true piety. He uses no hackneyed terms, no second-hand or imitated phrases. His language, as well as his thoughts, his method, and ideal standard, are purely his own. Indeed, we might set up and sustain for him a claim of absolute individuality, if not even of originality, in the standard of godliness and righteousness which he fashioned for himself, and then with such zeal and heroism sought to attain.

Entering a third time the married state, John Winthrop, in April, 1618, took to wife Margaret, daughter of Sir John Tyndal. The clouds, which had gathered so deeply in repeated bereavement and gloom over his earlier years of domestic life, yielded now, and left alike the sky and the horizon of his prospects, to give place soon to the anxieties of grave enterprises, which animated while they burdened his spirit. This excellent and brave-hearted lady, as she opens her soul, and almost reveals what must have been a sweet and winning countenance, to the reader of her own letters in these pages, will henceforward be one of the enshrined saints of the New-England calendar. Little did she dream at her marriage what a destiny was before her. There was in store for her husband nearly thirty years of the truest heart-love and the closest sympathy in religious trust and consecration with her. We may anticipate our narrative at this point, to say that her situation did not allow her to accompany him on his own removal to this side of the ocean, but she followed him a year and a half afterwards, arriving in November, 1631, with his eldest son and others of his children, having lost on the voyage an infant whom be had probably never seen. Her death, in a prevailing sickness, June 14, 1647, drew from her husband this tribute to her: — “In this sickness the Governour’s wife, daughter of Sir John Tindal, Knight, left this world for a better, being about fifty-six years of age: a woman of singular virtue, prudence, modesty, & piety, & specially beloved & honored of all the country.” Though in the December of the same year we find the Governor again married, now to the Widow Martha Coytemore, we refer the incident to wilderness-straits and the exactions of necessity or expediency in domestic life.

But we must return to Margaret, the bride. It seems that there was some objection offered to Winthrop’s suit by the lady’s relatives. In one of the two charming letters which are preserved as written during his courtship to her, he refers to some “unequall confiicte ” which she had to bear. These two letters, with one addressed to the lady by Father Adam, are unique as specimens of Puritan love-making. Solomon’s Song is here put to the best use for which it is adapted, its only safe use.

The family-letters, which now increase in number, and vastly in their cheerfulness and radiance of spirit, and the birth of more children, present to us the most captivating glimpses of the English life of our first Chief Magistrate. From a will which he made in Groton in 1620, of course superseded after his change of country, it appears that he had then five sons and one daughter. The Lordship of Groton had been assigned to him by his father. This was the year of the hegira of the Plymouth Pilgrims, but we have as yet no intimation that Winthrop was looking in this direction.

For more than a decade of years the family-history now passes on, for the most part placidly, interspersed with those incidents and anxieties which give alike the charm and the import, to the routine of existence to any closely knit fellowships sharing it together. Enough of the fragrant old material, in fast decaying papers, has come to light and been transcribed for security against all future risks, to preserve to us a fair restoration of the lights and shades of that domestic experience. Time has dealt kindly in sparing a variety of specimens, so as to give to that restoration a kaleidoscopic character. Winthrop's frequent visits to London, on his professional errands, gave occasion to constant correspondence between him and Ins wife, and so we have epistles burdened with the intensities and refinements of the purest affection. An occasional reference to church affairs by the Patron of Groton, with extracts from the record of his religious experience, continue for us the evidence that Winthrop was. growing and deepening in the roots of his noble style of life. His piety evidently ripened and mellowed into the richest fruitage which any form of theological or devotional faith can produce. A severe and wellnigh fatal illness in London, which he concealed from his wife at Groton till its crisis was past, was made by him the occasion, as of many other good resolutions, so also of a renouncement of the use of tobacco, in which, by his own account, he, like many men as well as women at that time, had gone to excess. His good wife, though positively enjoined by him not to venture upon the winter’s journey, in the letter which communicated to her the first tidings of his illness, immediately went to him in the great city, attended only by a female servant. In a previous malady from which he had suffered severely in one of his hands while at home, his son John, in London, had consulted in his behalf one of the helpful female practitioners of the time, and the correspondence relating to her advice, her ointments, and their efficacy, gives us some curiously illustrative matter in the history of the healing art. The good woman was sure that she could at once cure her patient, if he could be beneath her bands. She would receive no compensation.

A mystery has attached to a certain “ office ” which Winthrop held in London, and to which, in one of his previously published letters, he referred as having lost it. It now appears that that office was an Attorneyship of the Court of Wards and Liveries, an honorable and responsible trust. Its duties, with other professional engagements, separated him so much from his home at one period, that he meditated the removal of his family from Groton. His wife’s letters on the subject are delightful revelations of confidences. It. is still only by inference that we. can assign the loss of his office, to the business of which we have many references, to any especial cause. It may have been surrendered by him because he longed for more home-life, or because the growing spirit of discontent and apprehension as to the state of public affairs, which he shared with so many of his friends, made him obnoxious to the controlling heads in civil life.

We have also some admirable specimens of his correspondence with his son John, who, after his preliminary education at the school at Bury St. Edmund’s, became, in 1622, in his seventeenth year, a member of Trinity College, Dublin, near his uncle and aunt Downing, parents of the famous Sir George Downing. These are beautiful and wise and generous expressions of a father’s love and advice and dealings with a son, exposed to temptation at a critical age, and giving promise of the abilities and virtues which he afterwards exhibited so nobly as Governor of Connecticut. In one of the letters, to which the father asks replies in Latin, he writes, “ I will not limit your allowance less than to ye uttermost of mine own estate. So as, if £20 be too little (as I always accounted it), you shall have £30 ; & when that shall not suffice, you shall have more. Only hold a sober & frugal course (yet without baseness), & I will shorten myself to enlarge you.” In another letter there is this fit commemoration of his father, Adam, dying at the age of seventy-five:— “ I am sure, before this, you have knowledge of that wh., at the time when you wrote, you were ignorant of: viz., the departure of your grandfather (for I wrote over twice since). He hath finished his course : & is gathered to his people in peace, as the ripe corn into the barn. He thought long for ye day of his dissolution, & welcomed it most gladly. Thus is he gone before ; & we must go after, in our time. This advantage he hath of us, — he shall not see ye evil wh. we may meet with ere we go hence. Happy those who stand in good terms with God & their own conscience : they shall not fear evil tidings : & in all changes they shall be ye same.”

There are likewise letters to the student at Dublin from his brother Forth, who succeeded him at the school at St. Edmund’s. It is curious to note in these epistles of the school-boy the indifferent success of his manifestly sincere effort to use the technical language of Puritanism and to express its aims and ardors. The youth evidently feels freer when writing of the fortunes of some of his school-mates. This same Forth Winthrop became, in course a student at Cambridge, and we have letters to his father, carried by the veritable Hobson immortalized by Milton.

The younger John went, on graduating, to London, to fit himself for the law. His name is found on the books as admitted to the Inner Temple in 1624. He appears early to have cherished some matrimonial purposes winch did not work felicitously. Not liking his profession, he turned his thoughts toward the sea. He obtained a secretaryship in the naval service, and joined the expedition under the Duke of Buckingham, designed to relieve the French Protestants at Rochelle, in 1627. He afterwards made an Oriental tour, of the stages of which we have some account in his letters, in 1628-9, from Leghorn, Constantinople, etc. He was thwarted in a purpose to visit Jerusalem, and returned to England, by Holland. Notwithstanding the industrious fidelity of his father as a letter-writer, the son received no tidings from homo during his whole absence of nearly fifteen months. What a contrast with our times !

Before undertaking this Oriental tour, the younger John had had proposals made to him, which seem to have engaged his own inclinations, to connect himself with Endecott’s New-England enterprise. He wrote to consult the wishes of his father on the subject; but that father, who in less than two years was to find himself pledged to a more comprehensive scheme, involving a life-long exile in that far-off wilderness, dissuaded his son from the premature undertaking. It does not appear that the father had as yet, presented to his mind the possibility of any such step. Yet, from the readiness which marked his own earnest and complete sympathy in the enterprise when first we find him concerned in it, we must infer that he had much previous acquaintance and sympathy with the early NewEugland adventurers from the moment that a religious spirit became prominent in their fellowship. He was a man who undertook no great work without the most careful deliberation, and a slow maturing of his decision.

During the absence of John at the East, many interesting and serious incidents occurred in the personal experience and in the domestic relations of his father, which doubtless helped the preparation of his spirit for the critical event of his life. He had that severe and threatening illness in London already referred to. We have many letters covering the period, filled with matter over which, as so full of what is common to the human heart in all time, we linger with consenting sympathy. A wayward and unconverted son, Henry by name, caused his father an anxiety which we see struggling painfully with parental affection and a high-toned Christian aim for all the members of his family. The son’s course indicated rather profitlessness and recklessness than vice. He connected himself with an enterprise at Barbadoes. He drew heavily on his father’s resources for money, and returned him some tobacco, which the father very frankly writes to him was " very ill-conditioned, foul, & full of stalks, & evil-colored.” He came over in the same expedition, though not in the same ship, with his father, and was accidentally drowned at Salem, July 2, 1630. In the first letter which the good Governor wrote to his wife after his landing here, dated “ Charlestown, July 16, 1630,” are these sentences : — “ We have met with many sad & discomfortable things, as thou shalt hear after; & ye Lord’s hand hath been heavy upon myself in some very near to me. My son Henry! my son Henry! ah, poor child!” While the father was writing from London to this son, then supposed to bo at Barbadoes, he had other matters of anxiety. His endeared brother-in-law, Fones, died, April 15, 1629, and four days afterwards, Winthrop was called to part, at Groton, with his venerated mother, who died under the roof where she had lived so happily and graciously with his own family in his successive sorrows and delights.

The loss or resignation of his office, with the giving up of his law-chamber in London, and his evident premonitions of the sore troubles in affairs of Church and State which were soon to convulse his native land, doubtless guided him to a decision, some of the stages and incidents of which have left no record for 11s. Enough, however, of the process may still be traced among papers which have recently come to light, to open to us its inner workings, and to explain its development. A ride with his brother Downing into Lincolnshire, July 28, 1629, finds an entry in Winthxop’s “Experiences,” that it may mark his gratitude to the Providence which preserved his life, when, as he writes, “my horse fell under me in a bogge in the fennes, so as I was allmost to ye waiste in water.” Beyond all doubt this ride was taken by the sympathizing travellers on a prearranged visit to Isaac .Johnson, another of the New-England worthies, at Sempringham, on business connected with the Massachusetts enterprise. But the first recovered and extant document which proves that Winthrop was committing himself to the great work is a letter of his son John’s, dated London, August 21, 1629, in reply to one from his father, which, it is evident from the tenor of the answer, had directly proposed the embarking of the interest of the whole family in the enterprise. A certain mysterious paper of “ Conclusions,” referred to by the son, had been inclosed in the father’s letter, which appears to be irrecoverable. There has been much discussion, with rival and contested claims and pleas, as to the authorship of that most valuable and critical document containing the propositions for the enterprise, with reasons and grounds, objections and answers. Our author urges, with force of arguments and the evidence of authentic papers, entirely to our satisfaction, that John Winthrop was essentially and substantially the digester and exponent of those pregnant. considerations. The correspondence which follows proves how conscientiously the enterprise was weighed, and the reasons and objections debated. Godly ministers were consulted for their advice and cooperation. No opposition or withholding of any shade or degree, would seem to have been made by any member of Wmthrop’s family; his gentle, meek-hearted, but most heroic and high-souled wife, being, from first to last, his most cordial sympathizer and ally. We next find him entering into the decisive “Agreement,” at Cambridge, with eleven other of the foremost adventurers to New England, which pledged them “ to inhabit and continue there.” It was only after most protracted, and, we may be sure, most devout deliberation, that the great decision was made, which involved the transfer of the patent, the setting up of a self-governing commonwealth on the foreign soil, and the committal of those who were to be its members to a life-long and exacting under-taking, from which there were to be no lookings-back. A day was appointed for the company to meet, on which two committees were chosen, to weigh and present with full force, respectively, the reasons for a removal, and the reasons against it. The “ show of hands,” when these commiltees reported, fixed the purpose of the company on what they did not hesitate to believe was the leading of Providence.

From that moment we find Winthrop busy with cares and efforts of the most exacting character, drawing upon all his great energies, and engaging the fondest devotion of his manly and Christian heart. He gave himself, without stint or regret, with an unselfish and supreme consecration, to the work, cherishing its great aim as the matter of his most earnest piety, and attending to its pettiest details with a scrupulous fidelity which proved that conscience found its provinee there. We seem almost to be made spectators of the bustle and fervor of the old original Passover scenes of the Hebrew exodus. It is refreshing to pause for a moment over a touch of our common humanity, which we meet by the way. Winthrop in London “feeds with letters ” the wife from whom he was so often parted. In one of them he tells her that he has purchased for her the stuff for a “gowne ” to be sent by the carrier, and he adds, “ Lett me knowe what triminge I shall send for thy gowne.” But Margaret, who could trust her honored husband in everything else, was a woman still, and must reserve, not only the rights of her sex, but the privilege of her own good taste for the fitnesses of things. So she guardedly replies,—in a postscript, of course,—“ When I see the cloth, 1 will send word what triminge will serve.” In a modest parenthesis of another letter to her, dated October 29, 1629, he speaks of himself, as if all by the way, as “ beinge chosen by ye Company to be their Governor.” The circumstances of his election and trust, so honorable and dignified, are happily told with sufficient particularity on our own Court Records. Governor Cradock, his honored predecessor, not intending immediate emigration, put the proposition, and announced the result which gave him such a successor.

Attending frequently upon meetings of the Company, and supervising its own business as well as his private affairs, all having in view what must then have been in the scale of" the time a gigantic undertaking, full of vexations and embarrassments, Winthrop seizes upon a few days of crowded heart - stragglings to make his last visit at the dear homestead, and then to take of it his eternal farewell. How lovingly and admiringly do we follow him on his way from London. taking his last view of those many sweet scenes which were thenceforward to embower in his memory all the joys of more than forty years! He did not then know for what a rugged landscape, and for what uncouth habitations, he was to exchange those fair scenes and the ivyclad and -festooned churches and cottages of his dear England. His wife, for reasons of prudence, was to remain for a while with some of his children, beside his eldest son, and was to follow him when he had made fit preparation for her. His last letters to her (and each of many was written as the last, because of frequent delays) alter the embarkation of the company, are gems and jewels of a heart which was itself the pure shrine of a most fond and faithful love. His leave-taking at Groton was at the end of February, 1630 ; his embarkation was on March 22. The ships were weather-bound successively at Cowes and at Yarmouth, whence were written those melting epistles. A letter which he wrote to Sir William Spring, one of the Parliamentary members from Suffolk, a dear religious friend of his, overflows with an ardor and intenseness of affection which passes into the tone and language of feminine endearment, and fashions passages from the Song of Solomon into prayers. One sentence of that letter keeps sharp its lacerating point for the reader of to-day. “ But I must leave you all : our farewells usually are pleasant passages; mine must be sorrowful ; this addition of forever is a sad close.” And it was to be forever. Winthrop was never to see his native land again. Many of his associates made one or more homeward voyages. A few of them returned to resume their English citizenship in those troublous times which invited and exercised energies like those which had essayed to tame a wilderness. But the great and good leader of this blessed exodus never found the occasion, we know not that he ever felt the prompting, to reeross the ocean. The purpose of his life and soul was a unit in its substance and consecration, and it had found its object. For nineteen years, most of them as Governor, and always as the leading spirit and the recognized Moses of the enterprise, he was spared to see the planting and the building-up which subdued the wilderness and reared a commonwealth. He had most noble and congenial associates in the chief magistrates of the other New-England colonies. Bradford and Winslow of Plymouth, Eaton of New Haven, his own son and Haynes and Hopkins of Connecticut, and Williams of Providence Plantations, were all of them men of signal virtue. They have all obtained a good report, and richly and eminently do they deserve it. They were, indeed, a providential galaxy of purehearted, unspotted, heroic men. There is a mild and sweet beauty in the star of Winthrop, the lustre of which asks no jealous or rival estimation.

  1. The letter is given in the valuable collertlon of “Winthrop Papers,” drawn from the same rich repository which has furnished runny of the precious materials in the volume before us. The collection appears as the Sixth Volume of the IVth Series of Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.