Winthrop's "City" Was Exceptional, Not ExceptionalistRoundup
tags: American exceptionalism, early American history, John Winthrop
Jim Sleeper, a writer and teacher on American civic culture and politics, is a lecturer in political science at Yale and the author of The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York (Norton, 1990) and Liberal Racism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).
IF I TOLD YOU that today’s America needs instruction from 17th-century Puritans, you’d probably think I was joking. We’ve heard enough about their depravity and their violence toward themselves, religious dissenters, and Native Americans to laugh off any suggestion that some of them may have been far ahead of us in facing the hard realities that we prefer to finesse or ignore as our own society becomes more violent, addictive, deranged, and depraved than theirs ever was. The truth is complicated, as the intellectual historian Daniel T. Rodgers shows in his new book, As a City on a Hill: The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon. It may be even more complicated than Rodgers’s rendering of it.
In the winter of 1629–’30, John Winthrop — Puritan lawyer; owner of Groton Manor in Suffolk, England; and soon to be the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony — was composing “A Model of Christian Charity,” a 6,200-word tract presenting the venture’s religious, political, and economic rules. His “Model” — which evangelical historian Michael Parker called “the most famous lay sermon in all of American history” — projected a “civil and ecclesiastical” regime binding its members to one another and to God in a covenant of Christian charity that would remain in force until 1684, when their charter was annulled.
comments powered by Disqus
- Top Ten differences between the Iraq War and Trump’s Proposed Iran War
- Woodrow Wilson Foundation Releases Findings on Why Americans Don't Know History
- How will Obama be remembered? A massive new oral history project will help shape his legacy.
- 30 Years Later, Making Sense Of The MOVE Bombing
- They Resisted Hitler. They Were Executed. At Last, They Lie at Rest.
- Historians Argue That The History Major Won’t Go the Way of the Dodo
- Tenure, Twitter and Taking Her Board to Task
- The new Statue of Liberty Museum is a quiet paean to America’s embrace of immigrants—but what is there to celebrate?
- McCullough’s new book on pioneers’ history draws criticism
- What to Do With Richmond’s Confederate Statues