Welcome, and thank you for choosing to listen.  Christian Heritage Fellowship is a listener supported organization, dedicated to reclaiming America's Christian Heritage and celebrating the life-changing influence of the Gospel around the world. Our organization remains committed to this purpose through the faithful giving of our friends and ministry family.  If you can help us financially, we would sincerely appreciate it. A podcast of this article may be downloaded by selecting the download icon on the flyout tab of the listen button. And now, here is another episode from our post library, entitled, House Speaker Robert Winthrop Stands for Christ.
November 16, 1894
Death of Robert Winthrop

Robert Charles Winthrop (May 12, 1809 to November 16, 1894) was an American lawyer, politician, and philanthropist who at one point in his political career rose to the office of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Like most who lived during the Founding Era of the United States, Winthrop was concerned about the moral character of America’s development. As was characteristic of many Founding Fathers, Winthrop involved himself in the advancement of Christianity in America—particularly through his political influence, oratory, literary endeavors, and the distribution of the Bible.

Article Contents

A Survey of His Life

“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.”
– Robert Winthrop
Daniel Webster

Born in Boston to Thomas Lindall Winthrop and his wife Elizabeth Bowdoin Temple, he attended the prestigious Latin School of Boston before studying at Harvard University, where he graduated in 1828. After graduating from Harvard, Winthrop studied law with the well-known American statesman, Daniel Webster. As a powerful orator, Daniel Webster left a lasting impression upon the speaking ability of Winthrop. Serving in national politics for forty years, Webster served in the House of Representatives for eight years, in the Senate for nineteen years, and finally as the United States Secretary of State under three presidents.[1] Upon completion of his study of law with Webster, Robert Winthrop was admitted to the bar in 1831 and subsequently established a practice in Boston.

On March 12, 1832, Robert married Elizabeth Cabot Blanchard. Together, Robert and Elizabeth Winthrop had three children. When Elizabeth died after ten years of marriage, Robert married a second wife, Adele Granger Thayer.

Washington Monument

Only a few years after he established his law practice, Winthrop entered into a political career. From 1834 to 1840, he was a member of the lower house of the Massachusetts’ legislature, during which time he was chosen speaker in 1838, 1839, and 1840. In 1840, he was elected to the United States Congress, where he served ten years with distinction, earning himself a reputation as an able debater, orator, and parliamentarian. From 1847 to 1849, he held the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives, and in 1850, he was appointed by the governor of Massachusetts to fill Daniel Webster’s seat in the senate when Mr. Webster was appointed Secretary of State. When defeated in his bid for election to the senate by a coalition of Democrats and Free-soilers, he turned his efforts to an unsuccessful election bid for the office of governor of Massachusetts. Disappointed in political life, he retired from politics to devote himself to literary, historical, and benevolent interests.[2] While still the Speaker of the House, Winthrop received the distinction of being chosen to deliver the dedicatory speech of the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument on July 4, 1848.[3]

He served as the President of the Massachusetts’ Bible Society for several years where he advocated his conviction that Christian morality—as derived from the Bible—was necessary to produce a free society.[4] This sentiment was summarized in his 1849 speech, “The Bible,” in which he stated, “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.”[5]


On November 16, 1894, Robert Winthrop died in Boston and was interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Along with America’s Founding Fathers, Winthrop understood that the testimony of world history demonstrates that it is not possible to be, “Good without God.” His various written speeches are apt expressions of the breadth of his learning and demonstrations of his intellectual prowess or skill. Following in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers, Winthrop advocated the cause of Christianity—even from the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States.

Please click this article message box to navigate to one of Speaker Winthrop’s best known speeches entitled, “The Bible.”
America, this is our Christian heritage!
We are a user supported non-profit organization.  Your small gift is tax-deductible and will go a long way to help us meet our operating budget — and it is vital, because
America deserves to know its true heritage.
Please contribute today!
Click to donate

For Further Consideration

For Further Consideration

Suggested Resources, Studies in America's Christian Origin. Our list is not intended to be exhaustive, but a suggestive or recommended reading concerning America and the influence of Christianity upon the nation's origin and development. Given the fact that our tax-exempt status does not permit Christian Heritage Fellowship to commercially endorse the sale of products that do not originate within our organization, direct links are not provided from our selected reading materials.  Read more...
Stephen A. Flick, Ph.D., America's Founding Fathers and the Bible. Contrary to the contemporary mantra that America was birthed as a secular nation, the historical evidence demonstrates that America was founded by Christians who wished to enjoy the liberty to freely express their Christian faith. Lamentably, Christians have forgotten and neglected the Christian heritage bequeathed to them by America's Founding Fathers and have allowed secularists to disparage and deny what was given to them at such a great price. America's Founding Fathers and the Bible briefly describes a portion of America's Christian heritage, particularly during the rise of nationalism when America was shaping its national government.  Read more...
Stephen A. Flick, Ph.D., When the United States Capitol Was a Church. So deep and strong was the relationship of government to the Christian faith in America that the relationship was recognized in a variety of ways. Few realize that the United States Capitol was used as a church for years before it was used to convene the United States Congress. For nearly three-quarters of a century, the United States Capitol was used for church services. In fact, it became a meeting place for a number of churches in Washington, D. C. While secularists wish to keep this and many other similar historical facts quiet, the sincere Christian will wish to celebrate the spiritual heritage our Founding Fathers have bequeathed to us.  Read more...

Related Articles

No posts available

Anchor Elements

“Anchor Elements” are concepts, events, individuals, term, or other important component that is featured in this article and which acts as a reference point for use in other articles throughout our site.

Article Notes and Sources

[1] “Daniel Webster,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Webster, October 27, 2015).

[2] “John Winthrop,” Appletons’ Cyclop¾dia of American Biography (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Appletons’_Cyclop%C3%A6dia_of_American_Biography/Winthrop,_John, October 27, 2015).

[3] The title of his speech was “National Monument to Washington.” Robert Winthrop Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1852), 70-89.. Also see, “John Winthrop,” Appletons’ Cyclop¾dia of American Biography (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Appletons’_Cyclop%C3%A6dia_of_American_Biography/Winthrop,_John, October 27, 2015).

[4] “Daniel Webster,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Webster, October 27, 2015).

[5] It should be noted that this speech was delivered while Winthrop was still the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Robert Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1852), 172.