John Winthrop, Jr.


Public life

Occupation 1

Puritan leader

Occupation 2

Governor of Connecticut


NA/New England region


Europe's Reconnaissance (1351-1640)








Oldest son of John Winthrop, leader of the Puritan migration to New England in 1630 and governor of Massachusetts Bay for most of the 1630s and 40s. John Jr. briefly attended Trinity College, Dublin and Inner Temple, then embarked on two sea voyages -- one on a naval expedition against La Rochelle and the other a commercial venture throughout the eastern Mediterranean. (Two of his younger brothers also acquired seagoing experience, with one being urged by his father to consider a maritime career.

John Jr. followed his father to Massachusetts in 1631, where he became involved in the settlement of the coastal village of Ipswich, north of Cape Ann. In 1633 he returned to England as the Bay Colony's agent and brought back a patent for settling the area around the mouth of the Connecticut River. Patent named him governor and involved him in hiring Lion Gardiner to construct a fort at Saybrook, the scene of the climactic battle of the Pequot War.

He then involved himself in plans for this settlement, including a 1636 trip there aboard his father's Blessing of the Bay , just before the breakout of the Pequot War. He returned in 1646, after a decade trying to get an iron works launched in Massachusetts, and acquired title to Fishers Island, just off what later became the coastal town of New London, then under the authority of the colony of New Haven.

In 1657, he was elected governor of Connecticut, thereby aligning himself against the continuation of a separate New Haven colony. He moved his family to Hartford, 40 miles up the Connecticut River from Long Island Sound. When the Restoration occurred in 1660, Winthrop was again dispatched to England, this time to try to secure a charter for Connecticut, one that would assure its future and clarify its contested boundaries with RI, Massachusetts and the Dutch to the west and across Long Island Sound. Winthrop secured such a charter (that included the absorption by Connecticut of the New Haven colony) and returned to America, this his 8th transatlantic trip. He also picked up an original membership into the prestigious Royal Society, and accordingly conducted some scientific measurements on the passage home.

There still remained negotiations with the Duke of York's officials when the english displaced the Dutch in 1664 and some fence-mending with his New Haven neighbors. He died in 1675, just as King Philip's War, which ended with the destruction of aboriginian culture in southern New England, commenced. John Winthrop Jr was the very model of adaptability in new circumstances.

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Early Connecticut political leader