What did John Winthrop mean when he spoke of his “city upon a hill”? To what extent were the Puritans successful at building this city?
During a time period of religious intolerance in England many people sought acceptance of their beliefs. In the early 1600’s a group of English emigrants, led by John Winthrop set to further purify the Christian faith. These colonists came to be known as the Puritans and settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with the help of Winthrop as a leader.
Winthrop acted as an astounding governor for these settlers during the early years. He also had a unique view on how a nation should be organized. All of Winthrop’s principles were based on his writings in, “A Model of Christian Charity”. The overriding concept of his was that Puritans should act as if they were a “city upon a hill”. Because of the Puritans’ advancements in education and other things, they were able to set a good example and successfully create John Winthrop’s ideal of a “city upon a hill” that has carried a lasting impression into the modern world.
This idea of a “city upon a hill” was the founding ideal that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was based on. The main meaning behind this concept was that the colonists should act as if the eyes of the entire world were on them. Winthrop believed that his “people” should put their own interests to a lower purpose than that of God. In this process they would effectively make a “harmonious, godly community”. Of many beliefs in his “Model of Christian Faith“ one example of the points was related to the structure of his colony. He pointed out that there would always be rich, there would always be poor and it was God’s hand so the wealthy should be merciful to the poor and the peasants should accept their role in society as it was God’s will. He believed that this would help set base for a strong community that the entire world would be inspired by. That is in short what was meant by John Winthrop when he talked about his city upon a hill. A colony that could be admired and used as inspiration for other peoples and nations to look upon. There were many reasons that made the colony successful in portraying John Winthrop’s ideal city. The Puritan societies had many qualities that made them a great influence to other people.
The first was their view on education. In minds of the Puritans education was of the utmost importance. It only made sense that people should be able to read the Bible in order to be an active participant in the church. However they did not only regard theological education as important they knew it was also vital for people to be educated in areas of law, business, medicine etc… due to their views on education there were many higher forms of education made available by the Puritans. Many of the modern Ivy League schools were developed by puritans. Among the first to be created were: Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton. Princeton was founded later by an Enlightenment speaker named George Whitefield. This education system also set a path for the first public education system that gave the Puritans a smart thriving society. Another advancement that allowed the MA Bay Colony to portray the city upon a hill was the development of the Massachusetts General Court coupled with the beginning of a democratic society where more people had a voice. All of these foundations set by the early settlers made for a very successful colony led by governor Winthrop.
The ideas generated by puritans in the 17th century have provided a template for governments in the modern world. The concepts written into the Declaration of Independence by Ben Franklin, John Adams and other members of the continental congress even today set the model for other upcoming nations. More and more now countries are incorporating the United States’ ideas shown in our Bill of Rights. As a more modern example President Ronald Reagan would always mention the “city upon a hill” in his public speeches and sermons. The most common interpretation today is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Idea composed after the second world war included many ideas like a democracy from the U.S. Constitution. World War II represented the final attempt by Europe to keep a non democratic government and with the institution of the Universal Declaration of Independence this was abolished in most parts of the world. All of the examples set by the early Puritans and John Winthrop have grown the idea of a “city upon a hill” into more of a global concept. Looking at the pressure on non-democratic nations today the ideas have become one of the strongest influences in the modern world. These examples throughout history and written in this essay show how the Puritans were successful in interpreting John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill”.
Cite this City upon a hill Apush
City upon a hill Apush. (2016, Oct 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/city-upon-a-hill-apush/