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Papers of the Winthrop Family, Volume 2

General Observations: Higginson Copy1
Winthrop, John Higginson, Francis
Generall considerations for the plantation in New England, with an answer to several objections.

First, it will be a service to the church of great consequence, to carry the gospell into those parts of the world, and to raise a bulwarke against the kingdom of Antichrist which the Jesuits labour to rear up in all places of the world.

Secondly, all other churches of Europe are brought to desolation, and it 118may be justly feared that the like judgment is coming upon us; and who knows but that God hath provided this place to be a refuge for many whom he meanes to save out of the general destruction.

Thirdly, the land growes weary of her inhabitants, so that man, which is the most precious of all creatures, is here more vile and base than the earth they tread upon; so as children, neighbors and friends, especially of the poore, are counted the greatest burdens which, if things were right, would be the highest earthly blessings.

Fouthly. Wee are growen to that excess and intemperance in all excess of riot as no meane estate almost will suffice to keep saile with his equals, and he that fayles in it must live in sorrow and contempt. Hence it comes to passe that all arts and trades are carried in that deceitful manner and unrighteous course as it is almost impossible for a good upright man to maintayne his chardge and live comfortably in any of them.

Fifthly. The schools of learning and religion are so corrupted, as (besides the unsupportable chardge of this education) most children, (even the best wittiest and of fayerest hopes) are perverted, corrupted and utterly over powered by the multitude of evill examples and licentious governors of those seminaries.

Sixthly. The whole earth is the Lord's garden and hee hath given it to the sons of Adam to bee tilled and improved by them, why then should we stand starving here for places of habitation (many men spending as much labour and cost to recover or keepe sometymes an acre or two of lands, as would procure him many hundreds of acres, as good or better in another place) and in the meane tyme suffer whole countryes as profitable for the use of man, to lye waste without any improvement?

Seventhly. What can bee a better worke and more noble and worthy a Christian, than to helpe to raise and support a particular church while it is in its infancy, and to join our forces with such a company of faithfull people, as by a tymely assistance may grow stronger and prosper, and for want of it may be put to great hazzard if not wholly ruined?

Eightly. If any such as are known to bee godly and live in wealth and prosperity here, shall forsake all this to joyn themselves with this church, and runne in hazard with them of hard and meane condition, it will be an example of great use both for the removing of scandall and sinister and worldly respects, to give more lyfe to the faith of God's people in their prayers for the plantation and also to encourage others to joyne the more willingly in it.

119 Objections.

Object, 1. It will be a great wrong to our owne church and country to take away the best people; and we still lay it more open to the judgments feared.

Ans. 1st The number will be nothing in respect of those that are left. 2dly, Many that live to no use here, more than for their own private familyes may bee employed to a more common good in another place. 3dly, Such as are of good use here may yett be so employed as the church shall receive no losse. And since Christ's coming the church is to be conceived as universall without distinction of countryes, so as he that doth good in any one place serves the church in all places, in regard of the unitye. 4thly, It is the revealed will of God that the gospell should be preached to all nations, and though we know not whether the Indians will receive it or not, yet it is a good worke to observe God's will in offering it to them; for God shall have glory by it though they refuse it.

Obj. 2. Wee have feared a judgment a long tyme, but yet we are safe; therefore it were better to stay till it come, and either we may flie then, or if we be overtaken in it wee may well be content 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 and Rochel, etc. to sit still at home, and not look out for shelter while they might have found it, but the wofull spectacle of their ruine may teach us more wisdome to avoid the plague while it is foreseene, and not to tarry as they did till it overtooke them. If they were now at their former liberty wee may be sure they would take other courses for their safety. And though most of them had miscarried in their escape, yet it had not been halfe so miserable to themselves, or scandalous to religion, as this desperate backsliding and abjuring the truth, which many of the antient professors among them, and the whole posterity that remayne are plunged into.

Obj. 3. Wee have here a fruitfull land with peace and plenty of all things.

Ans. Wee are like to have as good conditions there in tyme; but yet we must leave all this abundance, if it bee not taken from us. When we are in our graves, it will be all one whether we have lived in plenty or in penury, whether we have dyed in a bed of downe or lockes of straw. Onely this is the advantage of the meane condition, that it is a more freedom to dye. And the lesse comfort any have in the things of this world, the more liberty they have to lay up treasure in heaven.


Obj. 4. Wee may perish by the way or when wee come there, having hunger or the sword, etc. and how uncomfortable will it be to see our wives and children and friends come to such miserie by our occasion?

Ans. Such objections savour too much of the flesh. Who can secure himselfe or his from the like calamities here? If this course be warrantable, we may trust God's providence for these things. Either he will keepe those evils from us, or will dispose them for our good and enable us to beare them.

Obj. 5. But what warrant have we to take that land, which is and hath been of long tyme possessed of others the sons of Adam?

Ans. That which is common to all is proper to none. This savage people ruleth over many lands without title or property; for they inclose no ground, neither have they cattell to maintayne it, but remove their dwellings as they have occasion, or as they can prevail against their neighbours. And why may not Christians have liberty to go and dwell amongst them in their waste lands and woods (leaving them such places as they have manured for their corne) as lawfully as Abraham did among the Sodomites? For God hath given to the sons of men a twofould right to the earth; there is a naturall right and a civil right. The first right was naturall when men held the earth in common, every man sowing and feeding where he pleased: Then, as men and cattell increased, they appropriated some parcells of ground by enclosing and peculiar manurance, and this in tyme got them a civil right. Such was the right which Ephron the Hittite had to the field of Machpelah, wherein Abraham could not bury a dead corpse without leave, though for the out parts of the countrey which lay common, he dwelt upon them and tooke the fruite of them at his pleasure. This appears also in Jacob and his sons, who fedd their flocks as bouldly in the Canaanites land, for he is said to be lord of the country; and at Dotham and all other places men accounted nothing their owne, but that which they had appropriated by their own industry, as appears plainly by Abimelech's servants, who in their own countrey did often contend with Isaac's servants about wells which they had digged; but never about the lands which they occupied. So likewise betweene Jacob and Laban; he would not take a kidd of Laban's without speciall contract; but he makes no bargaine with him for the land where he fedd. And it is probable that if the countrey had not been as free for Jacob as for Laban, that covetuous wretch would have made his advantage of him, and have upbraided Jacob with it as he did with the rest. 2dly, There is more than enough for them and us. 3dly, God hath consumed the natives with a miraculous plague, whereby the greater part of the country is left voide of inhabitants. 4thly, We shall come in with good leave of the natives.


Obj. 6. We should send our young ones and such as can best be spared, and not of the best of our ministers and magistrates.

Ans. It is a great worke, and requires more skilfull artificers to lay the foundation of a new building, than to uphold and repayre one that is already built. If great things be attempted by weake instruments, the effects will be answerable.

Obj. 7. Wee see that those plantations that have been formerly made succeeded ill.

Ans. The fruit of any public designe is not to be discerned by the imediate success: it may appear in tyme, that they were all to good use. 2dly, There were great fundamental errours in others, which are like to be avoided in this: for 1st there mayne end and purpose was carnall and not religious. 2d, They aymed chiefly at profitt and not at the propagation of religion. 3d, They used too unfitt instruments, a multitude of rude and ungoverned persons, the very scums of the land. 4th, They did not stablish a right fourme of government.


Original lost; Thomas Hutchinson, Collection of Original Papers (1769), 27–31, from the papers of Francis Higginson and ascribed to him; Hutchinson Papers (Prince Society, 1865), I. 29–34. Discussed above as draft D.