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Puritans Leave for Massachusetts

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  • David Sylvester
    http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=106 On This Day... ...in 1630, the last well-wishers stepped off the ship Arbella and returned to shore. More than a
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 7, 2009
      http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=106


      On This Day...

      ...in 1630, the last well-wishers stepped
      off the ship Arbella and returned to shore. More
      than a week after the vessel first set out, the
      winds were finally favorable. The ship weighed
      anchor and sailed for New England. Governor John
      Winthrop and approximately 300 English Puritans
      were on board. They were leaving their homes in
      England to settle in a fledgling colony ­
      Massachusetts Bay ­ on the other side of the
      Atlantic. There they would work "to do more
      service to the Lord." Governor Winthrop
      shepherded the Puritans through 12 years of
      enormous hardship. Under his leadership,
      Massachusetts Bay became the most populous
      English colony and Boston the largest city in North America.

      Background


      John Winthrop and the Puritans who followed him
      across the Atlantic in 1630 were not the first
      English colonists in Massachusetts. In 1626 a
      small group of Englishmen had abandoned a
      short-lived settlement on Cape Ann and moved
      south to an area they called Naumkeag, after the
      Native American people who had farmed there.

      Two years later, they renamed Naumkeag "Salem,"
      which means peaceful in Hebrew. They chose John
      Endecott governor of the new settlement, which
      was formed to provide a place where those who did
      not conform to Church of England doctrine could
      worship in peace. (Unlike the Pilgrims in
      <http://www.massmoments.org/index.cfm?mid=357>Plymouth
      Colony, who chose to separate from the Church of
      England, the Puritans wished to remain within its fold.)

      The following year, a charter from Charles I made
      it official that, as far as the King of England
      was concerned, "the Governor and Company of
      Massachusetts Bay in New England" had rights to a
      large area of land stretching from three miles
      south of the Charles River to three miles north of the Merrimack.

      Under this charter, the Massachusetts Bay Colony
      enjoyed a remarkable degree of independence; the
      governor was to be "chosen out of the freemen of
      the saide Company," rather than appointed in
      England under the watchful eye of the king.
      Hoping to secure these advantages, Puritans in
      England bought control of the company and
      selected 41-year-old John Winthrop to replace Endecott as governor.

      The son of a well-respected lawyer, John Winthrop
      had attended Trinity College Cambridge for two
      years. He at one time seriously considered
      becoming a minister but established a lucrative
      law practice instead. He remained deeply
      religious, and like other English Puritans,
      desired to reform the Church of England. When he
      concluded that reform was not possible, he chose
      to make the long journey to the New World.

      By early 1630, a fleet of 12 ships was ready to
      take roughly 1,000 people to New England. The
      largest vessel, the 350-ton Arabella, carried
      passengers, many heads of cattle, and provisions.
      Bad weather delayed the ship's departure several
      times; after several false starts, on April 10,
      1630 the Arabella sailed into the open waters of the Atlantic.

      It is not known exactly where or when John
      Winthrop delivered his famous "Model of Christian
      Charity" speech, but the intended audience was
      clearly his fellow emigrants. "It is by mutual
      consent [that we] seek out a place of
      cohabitation and consortship under a due form of
      government both civil and ecclesiastical. In such
      cases as this, the care of the public must
      oversway all private respects. . . . "he told
      them. We go "to improve our lives, to do more
      service to the Lord. . . . We have entered a
      covenant with [God] for this work." He continued:
      "For we must consider that we shall be as a city
      upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."

      Winthrop's ship reached Salem on June 12th; two
      days later, the passengers stepped ashore as the
      ship's captain fired a five-gun salute. The rest
      of the fleet arrived in the next few weeks. It
      was the beginning of what became known as the
      Great Migration (1630–1642), during which
      thousands of English families immigrated to Massachusetts.

      After only a few weeks in Salem, Winthrop and his
      followers moved to the north side of the Charles
      River to what they called Charles Town. However,
      because of the scarcity of fresh water there, in
      September they crossed the river again, this time
      establishing a new town, which they named
      <http://www.massmoments.org/index.cfm?mid=270>Boston.

      Life in early Boston was brutal. In a September
      letter to his wife, Winthrop wrote of "much
      mortality, sickness, and trouble." Before the
      first year was out, 200 of the settlers had died.
      Yet Winthop never gave up hope, "putting his hand
      to any ordinary labor," and trusting in God. He
      served as governor of the struggling colony for
      more than a decade and was active in government
      until his death in 1649, almost exactly 19 years
      to the day after his ship sailed out of English waters.

      The Massachusetts Bay Charter remained in place
      until Charles II revoked it in 1684. In 1691, a
      new charter folded Plymouth Colony into a royal
      colony ­ the Province of Massachusetts ­ with a
      governor appointed by the Crown.


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