"Considerations for the Plantation"[Massachusetts Bay Colony] John Winthrop Fair Copy of Considerations for the Plantation [of New England]. Three pages, 7.5" x 12", n. p, 1629. By the mid-1620s, with the ascension of Charles I and his subsequent appointment of William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury, the English Reformation teetered on the verge of collapse and led to an intolerant, repressive attitude toward all non-conformist groups. Groups like the Puritans began to search for a means to escape the persecution and establish their own colonies based on their own ideals. During this time, groups of investors would pool their money and set up trading companies. These companies would receive charters granted by the king to establish new colonies and would begin to send workers to bring resources back to England for a profit.
In 1629, John Winthrop (1587/8-1649), himself a Puritan who had recently lost his position in the Court of Wards and Liveries after Charles I began his crackdown on Puritans, became involved with one such company, the mostly Puritan Massachusetts Bay Company, which had been established in 1628 as a profit venture. He soon emerged as a leader within the group and, in August of 1629, he began to circulate a paper he had written, titled General Considerations for the Plantation of New England, with an Answer to several Objections, in which he validates the Puritans intention to transfer to the New World by offering reasons for the migration and refuting possible objections to the move. By October of that year, he was elected governor; a position he would hold twelve times between 1630 and 1649.
What follows is a retained copy of Considerations for the Plantation by T. Mayist. It is not a word for word copy of that which is found in Governor Thomas Hutchinson's Collection of Original Papers relative to the History of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay. Parts have been excluded or changed slightly. It is interesting to note that the location of the original copy of Winthrop's paper is not known. The copy held by the Library of Congress is also a retained copy.
What follows is a letter by letter transcription of Mayist's copy:
"Considerations for the Plantation
"1. It will be a service to the Church of great Consequence to carry the Gospell into those parts of the world & to raise a Bulwarke against the Kindome of Antichrist which the Jesuits Labour to reare upp in all places of the world.
"2. All other Churches of Europe are brought to desolation, & it cannot be but feared like Judgement is coming uppon us, and whoe knows but that god haith provided this plan to be a refuge for many whome hee meanes to save out of the general destruction.
"3. This Land growes wearye of her inhabitants, so that man who is the most precious of all Creatures, is here made vile & baser than the earth they tread uppon. Soe as children, neighbors & friends (especially of the poore) are counted the greatest burthens, which if things were right, would be the highest earthly blessings.
"4. Wee are growne to that height of intemperance in all excese of Riott, as no mean estate almost will suffice to keepe faile withe his equals, and hee that failed in it must live in feare and contempt. And hence it comes to passe, that all arts and trades are carryed in that decietfull & unrighteous course, as it is allmost impossible for a good & upright man to live comfortably in any of them.
"5. The Mountaines of all learning & Religion are soe corrupted (as besides the unsupportable charge of their education) most children even the best wittiest of fynest hopes are perverted corrupted & utterly overcome by the multitude of evill example & licentious goverment of those Semnaries.
"6. The whole Earth is the Lo. Garden, and hee haith given it to the sons of men to bee tilled and improved by them; why then should wee stand starving here for places of habitation (many men spending as much labour and cost to recover or keepe sometyme an acree or 2 of ground as would procure him many hundreds of acres as good or better in an other place) and in the meane tyme suffer whole Countryes as fruite full to lye waste without any improvement.
"7. What can bee a better worke & more noble & worthy a Christian then to helpe rayse & supporte a particular Church, while it is in the infancye & to joyne our forces with such a companye of fruitfull people as by a tymelye assistance may growe strong & prosper; And for want of it may hee putt to great hazard, if not wholly ruined.
"8. If any such as are known to be godlye & live in wealth& prosperity here shall forsake all this to joyne themselves with this Church & to run a hazard to them of a hard & meane Condition, it wille be an example of great use of bothe to the removing of scandall, and worldly & sinister respects to give more lyfe to the faith of gods people in their prayers for the plantation & also to encourage others to joyne the more willingly in it.
"Ob.1. It will be a great wrong to our owne Church & Country to take away the good people & wee will lay it the more open to the Judgement feared.
Ans. 1st. The number will be nothing in regard of those that are lost. 2ly. May that live to no use here ore then to their owne private families, may be imployed to a more common good in an other place. 3ly. Such as are of good use here may yet bee soe imployed as the church shall receive no loss. And since Christs tyme the Church is to be considered as universall without distinction of Countries, so as hee that doeth good in any one place, serves the Church in all places in regard to the unity. 4ly. It is the revealed will of god that the Gospell should bee preached to all nations. And though we knowe not whether the Indyans will receive it or not, yet it is a good worke to observe gods will in offering it to them, for god shall have glorye by it though they refuse it.
"Ob.2. Wee have feared a Judgement a long tyme, but yet wee are safe. It were better to stay till it come; either wee may flee them, or if wee be overtaken in it, we may well content ourselves to suffer with such a Church as ours is.
Ans. It is likely that this Consideration made the Churches beyond the seas, as the palatinate Rochell &c to sitt still att home & not to looke out for shelter while they might have found it, but the woefull spectacle of their ruine may teach us more wisdome to avoide the plague while it is foresene, and not to tarry as they did till it overtake us. If they were not at t their former Liberty, wee may be sure they would take other courses for their safety, and though most of them had miscaryed in their escape, yet it hand not beene halfe so miserable to themselves or scandalouse to Religion as this desperate backsliding & abjuring the truth, as many of the ancient professors, and the whole posterity that remayne are now plunged into
"Ob.3Wee have a fruitfull land with peace and plantye of all thinges.
Ans: We are like to have as good conditions there in tyme, yet wee must leave all this abundance, yf it be not taken from us when wee are in our graves, it will be all one to have lived in plentye, or penurie, weither wee have dyed in a bedd of downe, or in a locke of strawe. Onely this is the advantage of a meane condition, that it is all more freedom to dye. And the lesse comfort any have in the things of the world, the more libertye & desyre he may have to lay upp treasure in heaven.
"Ob. 4. But wee may perish by the way or when wee come there by hunger or he sword, & how uncomfortable would it be for our wives, children & freinds [sic] to come to such misery by our occasion.
Ans. Such objections favour too much of the flesh, who can secure himselfe or his, from the same Calamityes here. If this course be warrantable we may trust gods providence for those things, either hee will keepe those evills from us, or will dispose them for our good & inable us to beare them.
"Ob.5.But what warrant have wee to take that land which ys and haith bene of Long tyme possessed by other sones of Adam.
Ans.1. That which is common to all is proper to none. Theise savage people ramble over many countreyes without title or propertye, for they inclose no ground, neyther have then any cattle to manure it, but remove their dwellings as they have occasion or s they can prevaile against their neighbors; and why may not Christians have Libertye to goe & dwell amongst them in their west lands & woods (leaving them such places as they manured for corne) as lawfully as Abraham amonge the Canaanites, Egyptians, or Lott among the Sodomites, for god haith given to the sones of men towfold [sic] right to ye Earth; the first right was naturall when men held the Earth in common, every man sowing & feeding where he pleased. Then as men and their cattle increased, they appointed containe pieces of ground by incloyseing and peculiar manurance. And this tyme gave them a civill right. Such was the right, which Ephron the Hittite had in the feild of Machpelah, wherein Abraham would not burry a dead Corpse without leave, though for the out parts of the Countrey, which lay common, he dwelt uppon them & took the fruite of them att his pleasure. This appeared also in Jacob and his sones who fedd their flocks as boldlye in the Canaanites Land (for he is said to be Lord of the Country) and at Dotham, and all other places where they come as the true inhabitants. And that in these tymes & places men accounted noethinge their owne, but that the appropriated by their industry. It appears plainly by this, that Abimelechs Servants in their own countrey did often contend with Jacobs Servants about wells which they hadd digged, but never aboute the Land which they occupyed. Soe likewise between Jacob & Laban hee would not take a kidd of Labans without special contract, but hee makes noe bargaine with him for the Land where they fedd. And it is probable that if the Countrie had not bene as free for Jacob, as for Laban, the Covetous wretch would have made his advantage for it & upbraided Jacob with it as he did with the rest. 2ly. There is more then ynnough for them & us. 3ly. God haith consumed the Natives with a miraculous plague whereby a great part of ye Countrye is left voyd of Inhabitants. 4ly. We shall come in with good leave of the Natives.
"Ob.6. Wee should send our young ones & such as may best be spared, and not of our best Ministers and Magistrates.
Ans.: Its a greater worke and requires more skillfull Artizans to lay the foundation of a new building then to uphold & repayre one that is already built. If great things be attempted by weake means, the effects will be answerable.
"Ob.7. Wee see that these plantations that have beene formerly made, succeedeth ill.
Ans. The fruite of any publique designe is not to be discerned by the immediate success, it may appeare in tyme that they were all to good use. 2ly. There were great and fundamentall errours in the other which are like to be avoided in this, for 1st There maine end and purpose was carnall & not religious, they aymed cheifely att profitt and not the propagation of Religion. 3ly. They used unfitt instruments, a multitude of rude and misgovernd persons the very n Scume of the Land. 4ly. They did not establishe a right forme of goverment. Finis.
T. Mayist November 12, 1629."
The script is beautiful and is a great example of 17th century penmanship. This document is in very good condition and is perfect for anyone interested in early American history.
Considerations for the Plantation is bound into a larger tome with other documents of interest to early English and American history such as: several letters that make reference to Oliver Cromwell as "Lord Protector"; letters which reference Queen Elizabeth I; a retained copy of Brief instructions for the Church Wardens by Puritan William Prynne; documents pertaining to Edmond Harvey, a judge at the trial of Charles I who was later accused of high treason; a partial copy of Inventory of the Crown Jewel; and many others.
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