ABSTRACT

On Easter Monday, 1630, John Winthrop, governor of the Company of Massachusetts Bay, set sail aboard the Arbella, the flagship of a fleet carrying colonists to their newly chartered colony in New England. The men, women, and children who embarked upon this venture hoped to build villages and towns, churches and governments that reflected their own vision of godliness and order. Winthrop’s well-known exhortation, that they were to be a “City on a Hill,” a shining example to England and the world, was reflected in plans for a biblical commonwealth to be grounded in laws and principles gleaned from the Scriptures. The colonizers were mostly Puritans, and their identity as Puritans would come to define not only the religious organization but also the cultural climate, social environment, and political structures of New England through the next century. Historians have told the story so often that it has become a simple one: united, dedicated religionists governed by wise, astute leaders always in control of their harmonious society together met challenges posed by the natural environment, the native Americans, as well as troublesome, sometimes antagonistic European outsiders. This oft-told story involved men of intense piety, committed laymen as well as clerics, who had defied the established church and its bishops and left their homes to construct a new Israel in the wilderness. It is a story of governors, ministers, merchants, artisans, and farmers – a story of men.