John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father by Francis J Bremer - review by Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

America Made Him

John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father


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STRICTLY SPEAKING, JOHN Winthrop (1588-1649) was not one of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England. He did not sail on the Mayjlower in 1620. But ten years later he led, as elected Governor, a fleet of seventeen ships, carrying over 1,000 settlers, which landed at Salem. He founded Boston in 163 1, effectively established the colony of Massachusetts during his first four-year term as Governor, and was then deposed in a political coup, although one carried out under the rule of law. Returned to power in 1637, in the first contested election in American history, he was dismissed or demoted thrice more by the electors but ended his life as Governor in 1649, having served a total of fifteen years in the post. Moreover, he not only published a number of books and pamphlets setting out his views about the colony, but kept a diary, his works serving as a key primary source for the early history of America.

Francis Bremer is wrong to call him 'forgotten'. In my History of the American People (1997) I refer to him as 'the first great American', a title I think moit historians would award Winthrop: thejrst him today. However, Bremer, who has edited

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