The Puritan Conception of Freedom in the July 3, 1645 Speech of Governor John Winthrop

On July 3, 1645 Governor John Winthrop gave a speech to the Massachusetts Legislature This speech explained the Puritans conception of freedom. This primary source expressed the ideas of John Winthrop between the two kinds of liberty. John Winthrop strongly believed there was two kinds of liberty which he explains within his speech. John Winthrop’s speech intended to clarify the questions about liberty which had troubled the country. In New England the early settlers were mostly Puritans. Puritans also known as English Protestants, which believed the Church of England held on to too many elements of Catholicism.

Puritans traveled to America in search of liberty. Puritans mostly searched for the right to govern themselves and worship. John Winthrop explained the difference between “Natural” liberty and “Moral” liberty. Winthrop describes natural liberty as acting without restraint, “liberty to do evil”. Moral liberty is described as following God’s law and the law of rulers, “liberty to do only good”.

Winthrop’s opinion between natural and moral liberty has been used by other religious groups who were afraid that Americans were becoming immoral and selfish.

Important questions about the authority of the magistrates and liberty of the people troubled the country.

Winthrop believed that we all receive our authority from God. The covenant between the people and the magistrates is the oath individuals have taken, agreeing that the magistrates will govern you and judge your causes by the rules of God’s laws and their own. Winthrop possessed his beliefs about natural and moral liberty because he believed that individuals granted with natural liberty had the liberty to do evil.

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Winthrop believed natural liberty was the same as our nature which he felt was now corrupt. He believed natural liberty was inconsistent and incompatible with authority. He believed exercising this liberty causes men to grow more evil, soon to be worse than brute beasts. He believed moral liberty was good, just, and honest. This liberty if maintained, he believed it was the same kind of liberty in which Christ had made them free.

This primary source revealed a lot about their society in 1645. It revealed that their society wanted to live by the word of God. Their society wanted to live by the same liberty that Christ granted them with. The society believed natural liberty was the liberty to do evil. The society wanted faithfulness, if failed they must answer for it accordingly. This primary source played a huge part in history because if it wasn’t for John Winthrop’s speech, no one would have known that natural liberty causes men to become evil. It is significant today because if everyone in society followed natural liberty, soon individuals would act like animals. This source is important to know for the world today because without following God’s laws we would create chaos by acting like beasts.

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The Puritan Conception of Freedom in the July 3, 1645 Speech of Governor John Winthrop. (2022, May 13). Retrieved from

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