A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Papers of the Winthrop Family, Volume 3

John Underhill to John Winthrop1
Underhill, John Wintrhop, John
To the honourable gouerner John Winthrupp att his kowse in Boston give these

Yow knowe how powerfully our Lord Jesus hath lately appeared in the ministrye exhorting vs to passe by personall wrongs: nay though they were such as mightt greately redounde to the dishonour of a mans Calling, yett as Moses mekely to overlooke them. And to the ende deare and honoured ser, that we mightt once more (if itt be the will of god) enjoye our wonted hermonye without any alieonation in affection, I presume to acquaint yow with certaine objeckts which for the preasentt doe hinder the free passage of thatt Christian Love, thatt should be founde amongst vs. Ser yow know I once tould yow in regarde of my inward troubles and myne absence three moneths I was almost a nuter betwene booth, nott well knowing where the differences lay, further then god was pleased to teach me by his word and spiritt. And therefore was the more silentt, hopinge that god in his owne tyme would lighten the minds of men soe as to be convinsed of the trueth, att leastt some, for though Israell were as the sand, yett a remnant shall returne. And the god of peace now begininge to appeare amongst vs to cause peace to abounde amongst vs booth in Church and Comunewealth, giue me leaue a litle to sertifie yow of the speach of people, nay should I make itt my humblest request I should expresse noe more then the earnest desire of my hearte: and thatt torn first to putt yow in mynde thatt Mr. Whelewrightt being convented before the Judgementt seate, in the behalfe of Christ and the peace of his church which of vs all is much desired, thatt yow would sweetely lett his censure faull, and manifest the forbearance of god in that particular the matter now depending but in poyntt of honour: yow knowe Contempt consernes your persons and sopose yow should be offended that way which I see nott soe to be yett passe itt by: for prefering the honour of Christ and his spouses peace, and I dare say itt wilbe safer to forfitt your honour then proseede to disunion for sedition: yow see he intented noe disturbance amongst vs, how ever accidentally all this shaking followed vpon itt, for we may easilie disscerne thatt where the sworde of the worde comes sharpened itt seperats a man from himselfee, therefore lett this suffice thatt itt hath donne more good then evill, many haue endeavored to manifest there vnion more 461and more, and because god onely can bringe good outt of evill giue him leaue to take his owne way: which doubteles we must doe we whatt we cann. Ser giue me leaue to make a serious protestation for yow withoutt any Instornation. I haue seene thatt in yow thatt hath confirmed me that yow are as deare to god as the Aple of his eye, though these late passages haue much stumbled me, yett I hould yow the same man as before as deare to god as ever, though perhaps for the tyme being yow were left to temptation as Hezechia to see whatt was torn yow therefore good ser goe on in pursueing peace to pur torn se itt. Ser to an vnmortified heartt my bouldnesse might seem teadyous, espetially your selfe being Gouernour and generall of our forces: and my selfe butt a meane Captaine, butt when I meete with the spiritt of Christ I dare be the boulder.

2. My second request is yow would be pleased in the bowells of mercie alike to consider the estate of Stephen Greenesmith:2 yow partly knowe the infirmityes of the man which I hope will moove yow to a serious pondering of his praesentt Condition, remember itt is a day of Jubille wherein we are to lett the oppressed goe free.

Yow knowe itt is nott an offence against Christ, butt the Callings of men, and I hope for peace sake god will moove your hearte to preferre the peace of his Church before the rightt of your owne Cause.

3. my third request is that yow would soe farre respectt the glory of god and the safetie of vs all as to pardon thatt same vnaduised speach of his in Corte and that by his sodaine returne to England he may stopp the Clamors may there be rased. ser I doubte nott if the man had vnderstood him selfe he would nott haue vttered such provoakeing speaches, for he might himselfe gesse that the kings eare will not be opne to resceiue every Clamour. for my owne partt I am aptt to thinke he lookes att itt as a part of his honour to haue such a people vnder his soueraintye and soe much the rather seeing he is not charged by vs and we acknowledge him our Kinge, and therefore good ser consider the mans Ignorance which is pardonable from all lawes booth of heauen and earth. Itt is the first offence of this nature he ever fell into, and being the man came hether to seeke after Christ, and torn his corse he hath ronne vpon this shelfe, lett itt suftorn the potorn that is past, least if he lye longe in prisson, booth he and others who are vpon the poynte of closinge 462with Christ, be driuen torn much sorrowe the treasure of Christ be sand swallowed, torn shipwrack be made of Cause and persons booth att once. Therefore ser be pleased in the behalfe of Christ to release the prisoner and to let the oppressed goe free which is the true purtrature of a solomn fast. Esai. 5 8. 6. otherwise to be zealous for god with neglectt of mercie will prooue noe lesse dangerous then sinfull Eccl. 7. 16. mercie and pittie espetially to Ignorantes which by reason of that infirmity are gone oute of the way is soe approved booth of god and Nature as thatt Alexander could sing the prases of these prinses that ruled a free people with a spiritt of mercie, nay further Cirus an hethen prince yett in regarde of thatt mercie and Cleamencie he showed to his Captiues, they were forsed to blesse the god of heauen, Thatt seing they were fallen torn that itt was there happ to fall into the hands of soe kinde torn Therefore thatt all may be att peace manifested by the torn day of humiliation,3 lett me once more craue your Chtorn and afforde me your Juditious eare, in these propositions which till torn be torn my spiritt will remaine still burthened. And the first is whether yow thinke itt according to rule to deale in Corte with an officer as torn were torn to doe. To chose me to the place of a muster master, and come to torn hopefull way of subsistance and then because it appeared thatt a muster masters place was more superior then the former had almost broughtt me to noethinge when yow all pretended my aduancement. ser I knowe not myne owne heartt, butt suer I am itt is proane to all evill, natural as torn is to fall downeward, which Judgementt is just from god vpon the asptornd beames of pride, butt yett I hope the Lord will mortifie and treade downe Sathan vnder all our feete shortely: therefore blame me nott for speaking, butt vpon whatt just grownde yow should be soe fearefull to aduance me I knowe nott when as yow haue had soe many pledges of my fidellity.

1. as first my deepe ingagementt in Corte openly promissing to stand for the libertie of gods ordenances against all vnlawfull powers.

2. My returne from my Natiue Cuntrye and refusinge profers of prefermentt there. Thirdly my open subscribing the last yeare to repell all vnlawfull power that should come against vs. Ser I haue ever professed your enemyes to be myne, And will yow yett be afeard of me. I professe ser till I know the Cause I shall nott be satisfied, butt I hope god will subdew me to his will, yett this I say thatt such handeling of officers in forraine parts hath soe farre subuerted some of them as to cause them turne publique rebbells against theire 463state and kingdome, which god forbid should ever be founde once soe much as to appeare in my breast, for as for personall wrongs and Impedyments to Callings are nott soe much to be stood vpon. Butt make itt your owne Case, would itt nott trouble your spiritt, to spend all your dayes aboute a Callinge and hauing noething else to Hue vpon, and yett booth to be slighted: and such as never serued onely aduansed. nay would itt nott be a greater tryall to haue tornge castt in a mans dish to his dishonour. I pray yow consider of itt, and judge charitablye of my expressions. And further (good ser) lett me tell yow the trueth of my hearte, to avoyd those desperate temptations I haue hereby bene exposed too, since I haue bene the lands seruantt, I would farre rather lay downe my place then be exposed to such miseries, as I haue knowne many Commanders faull into. Thus humblye craving pardon for my Rudenesse, I leaue you to god and resting yours att commande

John Vnderhill Ca. August, 1637

W. 3. 43; 4 Collections , VII. 170–174. For Underhill, see L. Effingham de Forest and Anne L. de Forest, Captain John Underhill, Gentleman, Soldier of Fortune (New York, 1934); Henry C. Shelley, John Underhill, Captain of New England and New Netherland (New York, 1932); D.A.B. This letter is not in Underhill’s handwriting.


The Massachusetts General Court had taken strong action against Stephen Greensmith in March, 1637, “for affirming that all the ministers (except Mr. Cotton, Mr. Wheelwright, and he thought Mr. Hooker) did teach a covenant of works.” His case hung fire until August, when, in spite of his appeal to the King, the General Court ordered him to be put in prison. Records of Massachusetts, I. 189, 196, 200; Journal, I. 211, 228.


“A day of humiliation” to be observed in all the churches was set by the elders and magistrates for August 24, 1637. Journal, I. 230.