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03/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today In History: John Winthrop

January 22nd is the birthday of the first governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop. He was a Puritan. Those are the ones who thought everyone was a witch. Pilgrims invented Thanksgiving. In 1630 he gave a famous sermon to the colonists on their way to the New World called "Model of Christian Charity." (Gulliver's Travels was already taken. Also, no one on the boat was named Gulliver.)

Winthrop used the metaphor of a "City on a Hill." He advised the colonists to be a model community, as the whole world was watching them. Even when they showered. Especially when they showered.

While the Spanish explorers thought of the New World as a new Eden, the Puritans saw America as a new Israel -- a land promised to them, the chosen people, by God. Winthrop wanted his fellow settlers to curb their self-interest and focus on their larger, spiritual mission. He warned, "the care of the publique must oversway all private respects" (including, apparently, the respect of learning how to spell.)

He didn't want them to get carried away in a rush to get money and land, since many had left Europe in debt and were coming to America with economic interests. He worried about their "show me the money" attitude. He worried much less about their "show me the black buckled hats" attitude, since black is flattering on everyone.

Winthrop stressed everyone coming together, yet also staying in one's economic station. Rich people usually like these two incredibly contradictory ideas, since they boil down to one idea -- "Let's All Work Together To Keep Me A Gazillionaire." You shouldn't get too huffy about your position, since "God Almighty in His most holy and wise providence, hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor." "And," he continued, "right now and for the rest of my life is the time that I must be rich." Winthrop said that the poor must respect the rich, and not "rise up against and shake off their yoke," while "the rich and mighty should not eat up the poor." Even if they look very delicious.

Winthrop served as governor of Massachusetts 12 times. A few of those times, when he would get elected, someone would be like, "Again? Wait a minute..." but then Winthrop would take that person into a room for a private conversation. Then they'd come out and the guy would say that before he had been "just kidding" and that he got that bump on his head when he "walked into a door."

In 1908, Winthrop's journal was published as The History of New England from 1630 to 1649. It was edited by J. K Hosmer, who felt he should not include the first page, which read, "If you are reading this, you can go to hell!! Especially you, Dave!!" It is one of the most valuable American historical resources. Another is the Hall of Gems at the Museum of Natural History.