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The Journal Of John Winthrop 


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Context: John Winthrop (1588-1649) was the political and spiritual leader of the English Puritans who settled in the Massachusetts colony. A deeply religious visionary, he served as the colony’s first governor. In Massachusetts, the church led the colonial government. Conducting elections and trials was therefore within its power.


December, 1640

A wicked fellow, given up to bestiality  fearing to be taken by the hand of justice, fled to Long Island, and there was drowned. He confessed to some that he was so given up to that abomination that he never saw any beast go before him but he lusted after it.


April 3, 1641
A negro maid, servant to Mr. Stoughton of Dorchester, being well approved by divers years experience, for sound knowledge and true godliness, was received into the church and baptized.


June 21, 1641
There arose a question in court about the punishment of single fornication, because, by the law of God, the [guilty] man was only [required] to marry the maid, or pay a sum of money to her father; but the case falling out between two servants, they were whipped for the wrong offered to the master in abusing his house


September 22, 1642
The court, with advice of the elders, ordered a general fast. The occasions were, 1. The ill news we had out of England concerning the breach between the king and parliament. 2. The danger of the Indians. 3. The unseasonable weather, the rain having continued so long, viz., near a fortnight together, scarce one fair day, and much corn and hay spoiled, though indeed it proved a blessing to us, for it being with warm easterly winds, it brought the Indian corn to maturity, which otherwise would not have been ripe, and it pleased God, that so soon as the fast was agreed upon, the weather changed, and proved fair after. . . .


April 13, 1645
Mr. Hopkins, the governor of Hartford upon Connecticut, came to Boston, and brought his wife with him, (a godly young woman, and of special parts) who was fallen into a sad infirmity, the loss of her understanding and reason, which had been growing upon her divers years, by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing, and had written many books. Her husband, being very loving and tender of her, was loath to grieve her; but he saw his error when it was too late. For if she had attended her household affairs and such things as belong to women, and not gone out of her way and calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men, whose minds are stronger, etc., she had kept her wits and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place God had set her.


June 4, 1648
At this court one Margaret Jones of Charlestown was indicted and found guilty of witchcraft and hanged for it. The evidence against her was: 1, that she was found to have such a malignant touch, as many persons (men, women, and children) whom she stroked or touched with any affection or displeasure or etc. were taken with deafness, or vomiting, or other violent pains or sickness; 2, she practising physic and her medicines being such things as (by her own confession) were harmless, [such] as aniseed, liquors, and etc., yet [they] had extraordinary violent effects; 3, she would use to tell such [persons] as would not make use of her physic that they would never be healed, and accordingly their diseases and hurts continued, with relapses against the ordinary course and beyond the apprehension of all physicians and surgeons; 4, some things which she foretold came to pass accordingly; other things she could tell of (such as secret speeches, etc.), which she had no ordinary means to come to the knowledge of; 5, she had (upon search) an apparent teat in her secret parts as fresh as if it had been newly sucked, and after it had been scanned, upon a forced search, that [teat] was withered and another began on the opposite side; 6, in the prison, in the clear daylight, there was seen in her arms, she sitting on the floor and her clothes up, etc., a little child, which ran from her into another room, and the officer following it, it was vanished. The like child was seen in two other places . . . and one maid that saw it, fell sick upon it, and was cured by the said Margaret, who used means employed to that end. Her behaviour at her trial was very intemperate, lying notoriously, and railing upon the jury and witnesses, etc., and in the like distemper she died. The same day and hour she was executed, there was a very great tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many trees, etc.


August 15, 1648
The synod [council of churches] met at Cambridge. . . Mr. Allen of Dedham preached out of Acts 15. . . . It fell out, about the midst of his sermon, there came a snake into the seat, where many of the elders sat behind the preacher. It came in at the door where people stood thick upon the stairs. Divers of the elders shifted from it, but Mr. Thomson, one of the elders of Braintree (a man of much faith), trod upon the head of it, and so held it with his foot and staff with a small pair of grains, until it was killed. This being so remarkable, and nothing falling out but by divine providence, it is out of doubt [that] the Lord discovered somewhat of his mind in it. The serpent is the devil; the synod, the represenve of the churches of Christ in New England. The devil had formerly and lately attempted their disturbance and dissolution; but their faith in the seed of the woman overcame him and crushed his head.


Edited by: Prof. Stephen Duncan


Primary Source Material: Winthrop, John, The history of New England from 1630 to 1649 by John Winthrop, from his original manuscripts; with notes to illustrate the civil and ecclesiastical concerns, the geography, settlement, and institutions of the country, and the lives and manners of the principal planters by James Savage. Boston: Little, Brown, 1853.


"The Journal of John Winthrop" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license by Prof. Stephen Duncan at Bronx Community College.


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.