Joshua Scottow

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Joshua Scottow (England, ca. 1618 - Boston, Massachusetts, USA, January 20, 1698), was a colonial American merchant and the author of two histories of early New England: Old Men's Tears for Their Own Declensions (1691) and A Narrative of the Planting of the Massachusetts Colony Anno 1628 (1694).

Scottow emigrated to Massachusetts between 1630 and 1634 with his widowed mother Thomasina and older brother Thomas. He settled in Boston and was admitted to membership in the Old (South) Church in 1639. He married Lydia (surname unknown) in 1640, and they had seven children. He acquired considerable wealth trading with Acadia, dealing in waterfront property, and developing frontier settlements near Scarborough, Maine. In November 1658, William Crowne, proprietor of Nova Scotia, leased a portion of the colony to Scottow and Captain George Curwin (grandfather of Salem Witch Trials high sheriff George Corwin). He served as a captain in King Philip's War alongside pardoned pirate Peter Roderigo.[1] He was survived by his wife and four children, three daughters and a son Thomas, who graduated from Harvard College in 1677.

Scottow was a devout supporter of the Massachusetts theocracy. His two histories are examples of a rhetorical form popular in Puritan New England known as the jeremiad, the importance of which was demonstrated by Perry Miller and again, with different emphasis, by Sacvan Bercovitch. Miller’s famous “declension thesis” derives its name from Scottow’s title. Both histories declare that the founding generation of New England was “animated as with one soul” for the achievement of a millennial religious mission and that the present (1690s) generation has lost its focus and loyalties. Scottow’s language is replete with biblical and classical references; and he applies the biblical signs and figures to demonstrate New England’s providential destiny, while at the same time lamenting the woeful present state of a society confounded by internal “declension” and threatened by Indians, Quakers, witches, imperial officials, and the French. Scottow’s Christian typology and typological exegesis are used to resolve the apparent contradictions between New England’s current fallen state and both its “original” mission and its guaranteed millennial destiny.

Nine months after the execution of Ann Hibbins, who was convicted of practicing witchcraft, Scottow, a selectman at the time, apologized to the General Court for his support of her. "He stated that he did not intend to oppose the proceedings of the General Court in the case of Mrs. Ann Hibbins: " I am cordially sorry that anything from me, either in word or writing, should give offence to the honored Court, my dear brethren in the church, or any others."[2][3]



  1. ^ Selinger, Gail (2017). Pirates of New England: Ruthless Raiders and Rotten Renegades. Guilford CT: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781493029303. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  2. ^ Poole, William F. The Case of Ann Hibbins Executed for Witchcraft at Boston in 1656. Joshua Scottow Papers, University of Nebraska. 2005.
  3. ^ Jewett, Clarence F. The memorial history of Boston: including Suffolk County, Massachusetts. 1630-1880. Ticknor and Company, 1881. Pgs. 138-141

Further reading[edit]

  • “Memoir of Joshua Scottow,” Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2nd series, 4 (1816), 100–104
  • George M. Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip’s War (1906), chap. 23. [1]
  • “Sketch of Captain Joshua Scottow,” Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 10 (1906), 370–378
  • Perry Miller, The New England Mind (1953)
  • Bernard Bailyn, The New England Merchants in the Seventeenth Century (1955)
  • Sacvan Bercovitch, The Puritan Origins of the American Self (1975)
  • American Writers Before 1800: A Biographical and Critical Dictionary (1984), v.3, 1283–1285. [2]
  • Dennis Powers, “Purpose and Design in Joshua Scottow’s Narrative,” Early American Literature 18, 3 (1983), 275–290
  • Julie Helen Otto, “Lydia and Her Daughters: A Boston Matrilineal Case Study,” NEHGS Nexus, 9, 1 (1992) [3]
  • Anne Myles, “Restoration Declensions, Divine Consolations: The Work of John Foxe in 1664 Massachusetts,” New England Quarterly, March 2007, Vol. 80, No. 1, pp. 35–68.