John Winthrop

Justin B. Litke

in Twilight of the Republic

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print June 2013 | ISBN: 9780813142203
Published online January 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780813142234 | DOI:
John Winthrop

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John Winthrop's simile that that Massachusetts Bay Colony would be as a “city on a hill” is said to be the locus classicus of claims to imperial American exceptionalism. But this account rests on a misinterpretation of Winthrop's words and the character of the early colony. The covenantal, circumscribed, inwardly focused nature of the colony is evident in the most important documents of the period and belies the idea that the Puritans in 1630 had imperial aspirations. Though many say that Winthrop's words seem to leave the door open to later generations’ imperialism, his full meaning and its Christian context serve as reasons to reject the propriety of this interpretation.

Keywords: “A Model of Christian Charity”; John Winthrop; Puritans; American exceptionalism; covenant; “city on a hill”; role of God; history; universality

Chapter.  12793 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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