John Winthrop


Aesthetic Education | John Winthrop | Cotton Mather | Benjamin Franklin | Alexander Hamilton | Roosevelt VS British Colonialism

John Winthrop and the Founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

American System

Part 2 of The Aesthetic Education of America

The story of the Aesthetical Education of America starts in 1630 with the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, although colonies had been previously established in Virginia and in New England at Plymouth Rock. The founding of Massachusetts Bay marked the beginning of a remarkable development of the principles of self-government. Lawfully, this colony was also the first society in the world to require universal education of its populace. 

The establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with a charter allowing for self-government, is a story in itself, which is reported in depth in H. Graham Lowry's seminal {How the Nation Was Won.}@s9 The founders of the colony obtained from King Charles I, a charter which allowed the ``freemen'' of the company to elect their own officers. Although nominally under the rule of the government of England, Massachusetts Bay practiced self-government under this charter, until Charles II revoked it in 1684. 

John Winthrop was the colony's most influential founder. Born in 1588, the son of a wealthy landowner, he was educated for two years at Trinity College, Cambridge. Elected the first governor, in October 1629, before the colonists set sail from England, he held office for approximately twelve years, until his death in 1649. More important than his official position, however, was his intellectual leadership. 

Winthrop was a member of the Puritan faction within the established Church of England. In 1629, he wrote his ``Arguments for the Plantation of New England,'' in which he explained why a wealthy man like himself would choose to abandon his position in England, for a place in the wilderness. In this statement, Winthrop exposed an anti-human outlook widespread in England:

It is come to pass that children, servants & neighbors (especially if they be poor) are counted the greatest burden, which, if things were right, it would be the chiefest earthly blessings.|... This land grows weary of her inhabitants, so as man who is the most precious of all creatures is here more vile and base than the earth we tread upon, and of less price among us, than a horse or a sheep, masters are forced by authority to entertain servants, parents to maintain their own children, all towns complain of the burden of their poor though we have taken up many unnecessary, yea unlawful trades to maintain them.  

Winthrop argued that this anti-human outlook would be overturned by the establishment of colonies, where the colonists would follow the injunction in Genesis 1:28  

The whole earth is the Lord's garden & he hath given it to the sons of men, with a general condition, Gen:1.28. Increase and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it, which was again renewed to Noah, the end is double, moral and natural, that man might enjoy the fruits of the earth ...  

Winthrop and the first colonists set sail from England in the Spring of 1630. On the ship Arbella, he delivered perhaps his most important statement, the lay sermon ``Modell of Christian Charity.'' In this sermon, he proposed to his fellow colonists that their new colony must set an example that would transform the world: ``For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.'' Winthrop argued that the very survival of the colony would depend upon establishing a society coherent with the Golden Rule. This is, of course, what Schiller understood to be required for the success of a republic. 

He began his sermon with the observation that, although God had created divisions in mankind between rich and poor, and between those eminent in power and dignity and others mean and in subjection, the colony's very survival demanded that the conventional class structure be circumvented, and that all men and women work together, rich and poor alike. He compared the colony to a body, where {love} is the ligament that binds the body together. He defined love as  

the bond of perfection. First it is a bond, or ligament. Truly, it makes the worke perfect. There is noe body but consists of partes, and that which knitts these partes together gives the body its perfection, because it makes eache parte soe contiguous to other as thereby they doe mutually participate with each other.  

Winthrop argued that each must show the same concern for others, as that which ``makes hime carefull of his owne good.'' He outlined rules for giving and lending, and argued that ``wee must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others' necessities.'' 

Lastly, Winthrop argued that the colonists had formed a special covenant with God, to live by these principles. ``Thus stands the cause between God and us, wee are entered into Covenant with him for this worke.'' Winthrop stated that man must meet his obligations to God for society to prosper. ``Now if the Lord shall please to heare us, and bring us in peace to this place wee desire, then hath hee ratified this covenant and sealed our commission, [and] will expect a strickt performance of the Articles contained in it.'' From this statement springs the covenant theology which became a common theme among New England preachers. 

It is today a commonly held prejudice that the Puritans were staunch followers of the Calvinist ideology of predestination. However, Winthrop's polemics in two major controversies in Massachusetts Bay demonstrate that he was seeking to establish a positive conception of freedom, similar to that recognized by Schiller. 

In the ``Antinomian'' religious controversy, Winthrop defended the existence of free will in man; those who opposed it, tended to promote the dissolution of the republic. The controversy was provoked when, in 1634, Anne Hutchinson arrived from England and began factionalizing among the colonists with her doctrines. 

Hutchinson and her followers, who were labelled Antinomians, believed that God's grace was presented free and unconditionally to a handful of souls at the Creation. Therefore, good works could have no effect on whether one obtained or failed to obtain salvation. In this she was following the predestination doctrine of John Calvin. Hutchinson rejected the importance of following the moral law contained in the Bible, as taught by the colony's ministers, claiming instead that her actions were governed directly by the Holy Spirit. 

A comparison of the dispute between Winthrop and the Antinomians, to the dispute between Erasmus and Martin Luther over a hundred years earlier, shows Winthrop to be in the Platonist camp of Erasmus. In 1524, Erasmus wrote ``On Free Will,'' in answer to Luther. Erasmus charged that a doctrine which denies that men possess free will, will lead to the condition where God is seen as the cause of both good and evil in man. A consequence of this doctrine is, that God must punish man for evil which man, in fact, has no control over. This doctrine would encourage Godlessness:

How many weak ones would continue in their perpetual and laborious battle against their own flesh? What wicked fellow would henceforth try to better his conduct? Who could love with all his heart a God who fires a hell with eternal pain, in order to punish there poor mankind for his own evil deeds, as if God enjoyed human distress?  

Luther's response, ``The Bondage of the Will,'' reaffirmed his rejection of the freedom of the will, with an argument that compared man to a beast. Luther stated,  

Thus the human will is like a beast of burden. If God rides it, it wills and goes whence God wills; as the Psalm says, ``I was as a beast of burden before thee'' (Psalm 72:22). If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan wills. Nor may it choose to which rider it will run, nor which it will seek. But the riders themselves contend who shall have and hold it.  

Winthrop denounced Hutchinson and her doctrines with arguments similar to those of Erasmus. He called the Antinomians ``Libertines,'' stating that ``many prophane persons became of her opinion, for it was a very easie and acceptable way to heaven,'' and ``indeed most of her new tenets tended toward slothfulness.'' 

In a second controversy, Winthrop developed the two different conceptions of freedom: natural liberty, and civil or federal liberty. In the ``Little Speech on Liberty,'' Winthrop responded to accusations that he had overstepped his authority in an incident involving the appointment of a captain for the militia. He defined natural liberty as that of a brute beast, which is ``a liberty to do evil as well as good.'' He said:  

There is a Liberty of corrupt Nature, which is affected both by Men and Beasts, to do what they list; and this Liberty is inconsistent with Authority, impatient of all Restraint; by this Liberty, we are all the worse. 'Tis the Grand Enemy of Truth and Peace, and all the Ordinances of God are bent against it.  

Winthrop contrasted civil or federal liberty to this:  

But there is a Civil, a Moral, a Federal Liberty, which is the proper End and Object of Authority; it is a Liberty for that only which is just and good; for this Liberty you are to stand with the hazard of your very Lives; and whatsoever Crosses it, is not Authority but a Distemper thereof.  

Winthrop argued, as Schiller would later do in the {Aesthetical Letters,} that the success of a republic requires that the citizens reject bestial natural liberty, in favor of liberty based on doing the good:  

If you stand for your natural corrupt liberties, and will do what is good in your own eyes, you will not endure the least weight of authority, but will murmur, and oppose, and be always striving to shake off that yoke; but if you will be satisfied to enjoy such civil and lawful liberties, such as Christ allows you, then will you quietly and cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over you.  

The Development of Education in New England

The Massachusetts Bay Colony grew rapidly. Within ten years, fifteen to twenty thousand people settled in the region. The educational level of the settlers was remarkably high. In a New England population of not more than 25,000 by 1645, there were 130 university alumni, or approximately one university graduate to every 40-50 families. In addition, a large number of men had received a sound Classical education in the English grammar schools, and saw eye-to-eye with the university men on intellectual matters. The university alumni, such as John Winthrop and Cotton Mather's ancestors, John Cotton and Increase Mather, assumed leading positions in both the Church and government. 

Within ten years of the founding of Massachusetts Bay, the New England Puritans had established the institutions to ensure the intellectual development of the entire population: a school system, a college, and a printing press. 

The educational system of New England was developed on the Erasmian model. Ironically, this took place while the anti-Renaissance ideologies of Descartes and the British empiricists increasingly dominated the educational institutions of Europe. This fact should present the reader with a paradox. The popular stereotype of the Puritans is, that they were hard-working fundamentalists, with little use for art, science, or culture. For example, the 1642 decision by the Puritan government of England to close the theaters, effectively banning Shakespeare and Marlowe, strengthens this impression. But the New England Puritans developed a Classical educational system, at the very moment that such a system was being dismantled in England. 

Only twelve years after its founding, Massachusetts Bay became the first organized state in history to pass a law mandating that every (male) child be taught to read. The Massachusetts School Law of 1642 delegated to the head of each household, responsibility for the elementary education of children and servants; required that every town appoint men to ensure this be done; and specified penalties for failure to do so. The Law required that all children be educated, ``especially of their ability to read & understand the principles of religion & the capitall lawes of this country, and to impose fines upon such as shall refuse to render such accounts to them when they shall be required''; and to see to it that they were kept constantly employed in some useful occupation. When this law was re-enacted in the revision of the colony laws of 1648, the preamble began, ``Forasmuch as the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth.'' 

This act was copied by the other colonies in New England. A New Haven law of about the same time was equally explicit: ``For the better training up of youth of this towne, that through God's Blessinge they may be fitted for publique service hereafter, either in church or commonweale.'' Two years later, in its first code of laws, Connecticut copied the Massachusetts law, with its preamble, almost verbatim; and Plymouth Colony followed suit, considerably later, in 1677. 

Only five years later, the Massachusetts School Law of 1647 was passed, mandating that every town of fifty families should appoint a common schoolmaster, ``to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read''; his wages were to be paid either by the parents or the town, as the town should elect; and towns of a hundred families or more should ``set upon a Grammer-School, the masters thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the Universitie.'' The law did not mandate that boys must attend grammar school, but that schools had to be available for any boys wanting to attend them. 

The Act of 1647 was copied by Connecticut in her code of 1650, and applied to New Hampshire and Maine. By 1672, all the settled territory of New England--with the exception of Anne Hutchinson's Rhode Island--was under a system of compulsory education. (Rhode Island--the colony of ``religious liberty,'' ``democracy,'' and ``intense individualism''--had no school system or compulsory educational law throughout the colonial period. Only one boy from Rhode Island attended college in the entire Seventeenth century.)

Classical Curriculum

In the Aesthetical Letters, Schiller describes the degeneration of education under the influence of utilitarian ideology, which stunts the development of the entire individual and reduces man to a mere occupation or position:

Eternally chained to only a single fragment of the whole, man only develops himself as a fragment, eternally only the monotonous noise of the wheel, that he revolves, in the ear, he never develops the harmony of his being, and instead of impressing humanity upon his nature, he becomes merely an imprint of his business, of his science.

Schiller insisted that the men of his period compare themselves to the Greeks, so that they would be better able to recognize the shallowness of their age.

New England's grammar schools were based on a Classical curriculum that aimed at the education of the whole personality. They took a boy between ages six and eight, who had already learned basic reading and writing, and taught him Latin grammar and literature, and some Greek. Graduates were prepared to enter college at the age of fourteen to sixteen.

The most famous such school was the Free School or Free Grammar School of Boston, which has had a continuous existence from 1636 to today. Its curriculum from 1712 is indicative of the curriculum of most grammar schools, and is similar to the description of Cotton Mather, who studied there in the 1670's. In the first three years, students studied basic Latin. Texts included Cato, Corderius, and Aesop's {Fables.} In later grades, students studied Ancient Greek, reading Homer and the New Testament. Also emphasized were the works of the Roman Platonist Cicero, with his Epistolae (Letters), De Officiis (Morals), and Orationes (Orations) studied in the last three years. Remarkably, works by Erasmus, the great Catholic reformer, were included among the basic texts used in the Puritan grammar schools.

Higher Education

The commitment of the founders of Massachusetts to education is dramatically demonstrated by their founding a college in 1636, within six years of their arrival, with a legislative appropriation of L 400. Although the opening of the college was delayed by the Antinomians, the first freshman class began its studies in the summer of 1638. That September, John Harvard died, leaving his library of about 400 volumes and half his estate to the college, which was then named after him.

The purpose of the college was, ``The advancement of all good literature, artes and sciences,'' ``the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature Artes and Sciences,'' and ``all other provisions that may conduce to the education of the English and Indian youth of this Country in knowledge: and godliness.'' It used the same Erasmian approach as was practiced in the grammar schools. Greek and Hebrew were each studied one day a week for four years. Greek texts included the New Testament, Homer, and Sophocles. Students were expected to have mastered Latin in grammar school. Studies centered on Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and ancient history. Students studied metaphysics, ethics, and natural science. Although almost half of the students became ministers, the study of theology began only after the bachelor's degree.

For its first eighty years, the ranking of students was based on scholastic merit, rather than social distinction. Circa 1650, tuition was L 2, and the cost of board, approximatley L 10. This was generally paid in kind with a variety of farm products, including wheat, malt, livestock, meat, firewood, lumber, tallow, wax, turnips, live goats, and shoes. In 1644, the New England Confederation requested that every family in New England give a quarter bushel of wheat, or a shilling in currency, each year, ``for the maintenance of poor Schollars at the College at Cambridge.''

Printing and Publishing

The New England Puritans were prompt in setting up a printing press in 1638, the first in North America outside of Mexico. Intended to be beyond the reach of the censors in England, the press was also used in efforts to educate the indigenous Indian tribes. The first major project was publication of a 1,200-page Bible in the Algonkian language. Printing grew rapidly as a result of the efforts of republicans, such as Increase and Cotton Mather, who were prolific writers, to educate the population. In 1700, Boston, was second only to London, and ahead of even Cambridge and Oxford, in the number of books published. Increase in General Literacy

This emphasis on universal literacy resulted in New England's having the highest literacy rate in the world at the time. The literacy level in the other colonies, although significantly lower than New England, was higher than England. In England, the opposite trend was at work, leading to stagnation, and possibly even a decrease in literacy among the working classes.

Estimates of male literacy levels during the colonial period, while inexact, nonetheless demonstrate this. Immigrants to all of the North American colonies were more literate than the general population of the countries they left. In New England, the literacy rate was over 50 percent during the first half of the Seventeenth century, and it rose to 70 percent by 1710. By the time of the American Revolution, it was around 90 percent, certainly the highest on earth.

This rise in the literacy rate was achieved through a sharp increase in literacy of the farmers, artisans, and laborers, who made up more than three-quarters of the population. Literacy among farmers rose from 45 percent in 1660, to 60 percent in 1710, to 80 percent in 1760. This had a powerful effect in ending social distinctions, and allowed the common man to participate in the political debates that led to the Revolution.

In the middle colonies, education was not promoted as rigorously as in New England. Schools were generally attached to churches, and were usually supported by charitable donations. Poor youth were often educated through apprenticeship, which generally imposed educational requirements, such as one quarter's schooling each year. This led to the establishment of evening schools in the larger towns during the Eighteenth century.

In the south, apprenticeship was the leading method for educating the poor, while the children of wealthy planters were educated by tutors or through private, fee-supported schools.

The level of literacy in early New York and Pennsylvania was high, owing to the very high rate of literacy among their immigrants, particularly the Dutch and Germans. Although the literacy level in these colonies and the south increased more gradually than in New England, nonetheless their literacy level of approximately 65 percent at the time of the Revolution was higher than England. Not surprisingly, in the less literate South, Toryism was also stronger.

During this same period, on the other hand, the educational system in England was deliberately degraded, especially among the common people. As the financial oligarchy increased its control over the country, a strong brake was applied to further efforts to educate the lower classes. Just as republicans sought to promote literacy, the opponents of republicanism sought to restrict it. The neo-Aristotelean Francis Bacon told King James I, that the education of the working class would cause a shortage of farmers and artisans, and fill up the kingdom with ``indigent, idle and wanton people.'' Bacon advised:

Concerning the advancement of learning, I do subscribe to the opinion of one of the wisest and greatest men of your kingdom: that for grammar schools there are already too many, and therefore no providence to add where there is excess.

Thomas Hobbes, writing after the English civil war, attacked, as the cause of the rebellion, the Classical curriculum of the Universities,

especially having read the glorious histories and sententious politics of the ancient popular governments of the Greeks and Romans, among whom kings were hated and branded with the name of tyrants.

This attitude brought about a collapse of educational opportunities for England's lower classes. The England of 1660 would be better provided with secondary schools, many of them free in part, than for the next 200 years, until the Education Act of 1870.

The literacy rate in England hovered around 60 percent throughout the Eighteenth century, until as late as 1815. Meanwhile, the quality of education in England declined, as the Erasmian educational system was replaced by the ideology of British empiricism.

In New England, on the contrary, the elites promoted the education of the children of the lower classes. The greatest resistance to education came from the poorer farmers, because education laws placed a heavy burden on small farming communities. It took a century for the republican elite to convince the community to accept the ideal of tax-supported public education, and a second century elapsed before this principle spread to any extent outside New England.

Agape and the Aesthetical Education of Man

Schiller asks, How can a people who are driven by base emotions, be transformed to be governed by agape, or the emotional commitment to truth and justice? Reason can only promulgate the law; ``it must be executed by the courageous will and the living feeling.'' [Emphasis added] The emotions must be educated to serve the cause of reason.

The instrument that can educate the emotions, says Schiller, is beautiful art:

In the modest stillness of thy heart, educate the victorious truth, set it forth from within thyself in beauty, that not merely the thoughts pay homage to it, but rather also the sense lovingly seizes its appearance.

Schiller is not talking about didactic stories, which moralize that one should suffer by doing what is right, rather than pursue the objects of one's baser emotions. Instead, true art educates the emotions, {so that one will desire to do good.}

Schiller discusses how man's behavior is shaped by two forces, which, since they impel us, he calls instincts. The first of these instincts, which he names the ``sensuous,'' is the drive of man to explore the physical universe through his senses.

The second, the ``form'' instinct, is the desire of the mind to rise above seeing the universe as a collection of individual physical objects (as they are perceived by the senses), to formulate laws that strive to encompass the world in its entirety. The form instinct proceeds from man's rational nature, and strives to set him free from the impressions of his senses, and bring harmony to the diversity of sense impressions.

However, in withdrawing from physical objects, the form instinct withdraws from the physical universe itself. Man, under the influence of this instinct, arrives at a state of abstract contemplation. This state of cold, sterile abstraction, is most people's concept of reason; it is the view of reason promoted by Plato's opponent Aristotle, for example, and the schools that were derived from his outlook.

It is this conception of reason--which Schiller rejected--which rules science to the present day. That is why today's dominant theories of economics, for example, which are derived from empiricist or utilitarian ideology, reject the central principle of true economics: the idea that through human creativity, individuals can make scientific discoveries which, although seemingly causing an infinitesimal change, can in fact transform the curvature of an entire economy.

The Aristotelean view of man reduces him to a mere object, driven by forces or emotions over which he has no control. Society is reduced to little more than a collection of mechanistic interactions between individuals, which can be subjected to analysis by statistical methods. The physical universe is turned into an object which man is incapable of intervening into, to change in any meaningful way.

Denying the central role of human creativity in man's relationship to the universe reduces morality to a mere subject of passive contemplation. As both Erasmus and John Winthrop understood, if man's free will is not seen as the cause of events in the physical universe, man is freed from responsibility for events, because he has no apparent control over them. Man's conception of morality would remain passive, then, as opposed to the active force Schiller understood was required to motivate man to make the transformation required to establish a republic. If this problem seems abstract, just consider how many times you have heard said, or yourself thought, ``Sure, what you are describing would be morally the right thing, but I just don't feel like doing it, since, after all, it won't really make any difference what I do.''

Schiller states that the senses apprehend; reason comprehends:

Where both qualities are united, there will man combine with the highest fullness of existence the highest self-reliance and freedom, and instead of losing himself in the world, he will rather draw this into himself with the entire infinity of its phenomena and subject it to the unity of his reason.

In order for man to be capable of carrying out the republican transformation of the state, Schiller argues, these two instincts must be superseded by a third, the ``play'' instinct, which brings the emotions into coherence with morality and reason:<pa

The object of the play instinct, represented in a universal scheme, will therefore be able to be called living form; a concept, which serves to designate all aesthetical qualities of phenomena and, in a word, what one calls beauty in the broadest meaning.

All artistic creation which is truly art, whether poetry, music, or the plastic arts such as painting or sculpture, develops the creative powers of the mind. Take the case of poetry, for example, as it has been discussed by Lyndon LaRouche. True poetry is more than a mere collection of images or rhyming phrases. The poet must generate a series of different images in the mind of the listener, which contain a contradiction or dissonance. This provokes the mind of the listener to create a metaphor, an idea that is not contained in the words themselves, but is lawfully generated from them. The reader of the poem generates the same creative breakthrough in his own mind, that the author made in composing the poem.

LaRouche has demonstrated that the principles of creativity are the same in science as in art. The scientist, in exploring the universe, discovers phenomena that contradict man's existing hypotheses. He is presented with a paradox, which can be solved only by coming up with a new hypothesis, a Platonic {idea,} that subsumes both the new evidence and the existing hypothesis, and demonstrates the coherence of the universe on a higher level.

In contemporary culture, creative discovery is seldom encouraged for adults. But, most people have seen a child working at solving a problem, even a simple one, and how the child experiences joy at discovering the solution. This state of mind, the joy of discovery, is to be contrasted with the infantile state, where the child, or adult, fixates on possessing a physical object.

It is in the aesthetical disposition of mind, that the individual is able to develop true freedom. His mind is freed from domination by the passions, and from the trap of sterile formalism, which denies his ability to intervene to transform the universe. Schiller describes how, in the aesthetic condition, man finds ``no individual, either intellectual or moral, purpose,'' and ``no single truth,''

but precisely thereby is something infinite achieved. For so soon as we recall, that precisely this freedom was taken from him by the one-sided compulsion of nature in sensing, and by the excluding legislation of reason in thinking, so must we regard the capacity, which is given back to him in the aesthetical state of mind, as the highest of all gifts, as the gift of humanity.

A true work of art brings out this state of mind. Schiller states,

this lofty equanimity and freedom of mind, combined with strength and vigor, is the state of mind, in which a genuine work of art should set us free, and there is no more certain touchstone of true aesthetical goodness.

In this state of mind, which lifts one above individual and determinate effects, man is able to achieve a morality which encompasses the entire world, rather than narrowly focussing on particular issues of injustice. This is most fruitful in regard to knowledge and morality, for a disposition of mind which contains in itself the whole of humanity, must necessarily contain also every individual expression of the same.

This aesthetical disposition is coherent with the qualities required of citizens to transform a state into a republic. It is by developing this state of mind of experiencing the joy of discovery, that the fixation on sensually perceived objects, or the fixation on ``me'' as a sensually perceived object, is replaced by an identity with agape, the emotion of the pursuit of truth. The person learns to {love}--not to possess, but to create, to make scientific discoveries that enrich all mankind.

When man so masters his own creative ability, he then fully understands what it means to be made in God's image. As Schiller says, ``When he is conscious of both his freedom and his existence, he has a complete intuition of his humanity, and has realized destiny as a representation of the infinite.''

We have now identified the solution to the problem of uplifting a people to become capable of being self-governing citizens. It is the aesthetical disposition of mind, which allows citizens to locate their identity in the positive conception of freedom which both Schiller, and John Winthrop, sought. Egoism is replaced by an identity in which the citizen finds enjoyment in doing that which will benefit his fellow citizens. By training the will, ``he must learn to desire more nobly, thereby he need not, to will sublimely.''


John Winthrop

Introduction and first section of "The Aesthetic Education of America"

Aesthetic Education

Part III: Cotton Mather and the Aesthetic Education of the American Colonies

Cotton Mather

Benjamin Franklin: The Playfulness of the Beautiful Soul

Benjamin Franklin

Section III:
Cotton Mather and the Aesthetical Education of the Colonies

Cotton Mather

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