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John Winthrop as a Justice of the Peace

It has often been writen that John Winthrop (1588-1649) was a Justice of the Peace in England, that statement frequently being amplified by the "fact" that he presided over his first court at the age of eighteen. The latter claim actually is based on Winthrop presiding over a manorial court session, which he was empowered to do not by being a Justice of the Peace but by virtue of his status as lord of Groton manor.

"JPs" were members of the Commission of the Peace, appointed by the crown and no documentation of Winthrops being on the Commission has previously been provided. Employed by the Winthrop Papers Project, Ms Sue Sadler was able to search the appropriate runs of documents in the Public Record Office and as a result has been able to establish Winthrop's tenure on the Commission for Suffolk.

According to J. H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History, third edition (London, 1990), the system operated as follows: "At intervals a commission of the peace was drawn up for each county, listing the substantial knights and gentry of the area and taking care to include the sages et apris de la leye, charging them both to keep the peace and to enquire into, hear and determine' a long list of crimes, ranging from felonies to economic offences and sorcery. The first of these 'charges' imposed an individual police responsibility on each justice; justices could arrest suspects and commit them to gaol, and could require anyone to give surety for keeping the peace.... The second was in effect a general commission of oyer and terminer to any two or more of the justices (with a 'quorum' of lawyers), and empowered the justices collectively to hold their sessions of the peace. Directed by statute to be held at four seasons (Michaelmas, Epiphany, Easter and the Translation of St Thomas), these were known as the general quarter sessions of the peace. The jurisdiction of quarter sessions was in theory virtually coterminous with the criminal side of the assizes, but in practice inferior." Quorum meant "of whom"; in the judicial part of the commission the list of justices was followed by a quorun clause.

John Winthrop was appointed to the Commission of the Peace for Suffolk in 1615 and seems to have served continuously till omitted at some point in the mid-1620s, probably the accession of Charles I. He was reinstated in June of 1626 and continued to be listed through 1631 – despite his having left England for Massachusetts.

The relevant documents follow.


C 231/4/2v

"Anno 13 & 48 Jacobi: R 1615 A Commission of peace for the Countie of Suff for placeinge of John Winthrop Esquier theerin. Teste apud r Westm primo die Junny 13 et 48 prod/ m/ t/"


J 13 C 66/2083/21 (1615/16)

"Winthropp Vicesima octavus pars
R primo die Sept com Johi Winthropp, et Adamo Winthropp ar licen Maner de Groton et al in Com Suff Willi Clopton ar et al"

J 16 C66/2195/104

"Winthorp R primo die Aprilis con John Winthorp licen al tria mesaug et al in Groton et alibi in Com Suff deane Tindall et al"

C 5 C66/2522/45

"Wynthorpe R primo die Decembris con John Wynthorpe licen al maner de Groton et al in Com Suff Deane Tyndall et al"

C 7 C66/2853/19

"Winthropp primo die Septembris con John Winthropp et al lic alien vide deane mil"

Libri Pacis

C 193 13/1

5-8 Nov 1621 to July 1622
p 90v
q Johes Epus Lincoln Custos
Comes Middelsex
q Lionellu
q henr hiecomes Mandeville du presidems
q Edrus Comes Wigom Custos

p 91r
q Lodovicus Duc Lenox Senescallus
q Willus Comes Pembr Cawar losp[?|?]y
Q Thomas Comes Arundell et Surr Comes Mar
qp Thomas Comes Suff
q Samuel Epus Nor
q Theophilus Duc howard de Walden
q Robsus Dus Cary
q Johes Suckling iml Contrurulator hospiry
q Jacobus hey mil et Baronettus capt
q Johes Dodridge mil Justice
q Nichus Bacon mil et Baronettus
q Edrus Peiton mil et Baronettus

p 91v
q Lionellus Tallemarch mil et Baronettus
q Robtus Hitcham mil Serviens read Legum
q Arthurus Hebemingham mil
q Henr Blenham mil
q Willus Woodhouse mil
Willis Pooley mil
q Johes Crofte miles
q muzt
Johes hevemingham miles
q Johes Tasborough mil
q Johes Wentworth mil
q Thomas Jenkinson mil
q Georguis Wallgrave mil

p 92r
q Martinus Stutevil
q Robtus Crane mil
q Georgus Le Hunt mil
q Willus Springe mil
q Willus Soame mil
q Rogerus North mil
Nathaniel Barnardiston miles
Thomas Blecuhoim mil
Geo Meriton Sacre Theologie doctor
q Thomas Eden Legum Doctor

p 92v
q Drugo Drewrue
q Johes Gourdon
Nichus Garnish
q Nichus Rivett
q Johes Laury
q Samuel Blenerhassett
q mort
q mort
q Jacobus Smyth
Antonius Hemying
q Thomas Clench
q Thomas Bedingfield

p 93r
q Nichus Bacon de Dymington
Thomas Wolrich
Johes Calxton
Francis Brewster
Josias Fawether
Georguis Brooke
q Willus Mason
Thomas Goodwyn
Johes Wintrop
Edrus Ward
q Willus Gooch
q Thomas Bayles

p 93v
q Johes Sherman
Carolus Crofte
q Thomas Wingfield
q Willus Dench
Johes Clench de Burgh
Robtus Wigerous
Johes Scrivenor
Johes Thurston
q Thomas Cutler

C 193 12/2

25 Sept 1626

p 54v
Sr Thomas Coventrey Kt Lo: Keep
James Earl of Marlburgh
henry Earle of Worcester
Wm Earle of Pembroke
Robert Earle of Sussex
Theophilus Earl of Suffolke
William Earl of Salisbury
Robert Earl of Warr
Robert Earl of Monmouth
Thomas Earl Rivers

p 55r
Thomas Vicount Savage
Samuell Bp of Norwich
Sr John Suckling Kt
Sr Robert Naunton Kt
Sir Humphry May Kt
Sr Thomas Trebor Kt
the following (indicated here in parens) are bracketed with a marginal notation "Kt & Bart"
(Sr Edmund Baron
Sr Edward Peyton
Sr Lionell Talmarch
Sr John Barker
Sr Thomas Playfers)
Sr Robert Hitcham Kt
Sr Thomas Jermyn
the following (indicated in parens) are bracketed with marginal notation "Kvs"
(Sr Arthur Hevingham
Sr Henry Glamham
Sr Pooley
Sr John Crofte
Sr John Pooley)

p 55v
the following (indicated in parens) are bracketed with marginal notation "Kv"
(Sr John Heveningham
Sr John Wentworth
Sr George Waldgrave
Sr Martin Statebile
Sr Robert Crane
Sr John Rowse
Sr Robert Brooke
Sr George Le hunt
Sr William Spring
Sr Wim Soame
Sr Roger North
Sr Nathaniel Barnardston
Sr Thomas Glenham
Sr henry Buckingham
Sr Wm harvie)
Gabriell Cuapmt doc of divinity
Thomas Eden doc of Lawe one
the Mr of the Chancery
henry North Esquire

p 56r
the following (indicated in parens) are bracketed with marginal notation "Esqrs"
(Drue Drury
Myles hobart
Nicholas Rivett
John Lang
Anthony Penning
Thomas Bedingfield
Nicholas Baron
Josias Fawether
Thomas Cornewallis
Thomas Goodwyn
John Scrivenor
Brampton Gurdon
John Winthorpe
Edward Warde
John Clench of Burgh
Edward Warde
John Clench of Burgh
Wm Namton)
Robbert Warren Clarke

E 163/18/12

28 Oct 1626

p 74v
q Thomas Coventry mil das Custos
q Jacobus Comes Marleburgh Thes
q Henrie Comes Manchester presidens
q Edrus Comes Wigorn Custos
q Thomas Comes Arundell et Surrey Comes Mariscall
q Willus Comes Pembroke Senescall
q Robertus Comes Sussex
qp Theophilus Comes Suffolk
q Robertus Comes Warr
q Robertus Comes Mounmouth
q Samuel Epus Norwie
q Johes Suckling mil Controrculator hospir
q Humfires May mil Cancellar duratus Lancaster

p 75r
q Ranulphus Crewe Capit Justic duratus Lancastar
q Thomas Trevor mil un Bar 5 a iiij
the following (indicated in parens) are bracketed with marginal notation "Mil et Bar"
(q Edmundus Bacon
q Edrus Peyton
q Lionel Tollmarche
q Johes Barker
q Thomas Playfers)
q Robertus hitcham Mil un Servien Rs ad legum
q Arthursu heveningham Mil
q henericas Glanham Mil
Wilus Pooley Mil
q Johes Crosrey Mil

p 75v
q Johes Pooley Mil
Johes hevninham Mil
q Johes heveningham Mil
q Johes Wentworth Mil
q Georgius Waldgrave Mil
q Robertus Crane Mil
q Johes Roase Mil
q Robertus Brooke mil
q Georgius Brooke Mil
q Georgius Le hunt Mil
q Willus Springe Mil
q Willus Soame Mil
q Robertus North Mil

p 76r
q Nathaniel Barnardiston Mil
q Thomas Glenham Mil
q henrie Buckenham Mil
q Gabriel Graunt Theoology doctor
q Thomas Edwen legum Doctor un Mgrord Cane
Henrie Northe
q Thomas Bedingfeild
q Nicus Bacon

p 76v
q Josias Fawester
q Willus Mason
Thomas Cornwallis
q Thomas Goodwyn
Johes Scrivener
q Bramptonus Gaurdon
Johes Winthrope
Edwardus Warde
Johes Clench de Burgh
q Willes Naunton
q Robertus Warren Clericus


C231/4 p 203v

June 1626
"Suff A Commission of the Peace for the Countie of Suff renude for restoring of John Winthrope Esqr to his former place therin Teste xvii die Junny"

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