Winthrop: Controlled by a Power Within or by a Power Without?

On May 28th, 1849, Robert C. Winthrop (1809–1894), descendant of Governor John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, addressed the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Bible Society in Boston with these words:

All societies of men must be governed in some way or other.

The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government.

The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint.

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.

It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.1

1 Cited in Verna M. Hall, ed., The Christian History of the American Revolution (San Francisco, CA: Foundation for American Christian Eduction, 1976), 20.

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