Born: May 12, 1809, Bos­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Died: No­vem­ber 16, 1894, Bos­ton, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Buried: Mount Au­burn Ce­me­te­ry, Cam­bridge, Mas­sa­chu­setts.



Robert was the son of Tho­mas Lin­dall Win­throp and Eliz­a­beth Bow­doin Tem­ple. He mar­ried twice, to Eliz­a­beth Ca­bot Blan­chard (1832) and, af­ter her death, to Adele Gran­ger Thay­er.

He at­tend­ed the Bos­ton La­tin School, and gra­du­at­ed from Har­vard Un­i­ver­si­ty in 1828.

After stu­dy­ing law with Dan­i­el Web­ster, he was ad­mit­ted to the bar in 1831 and prac­ticed in Bos­ton.

He served in the Mas­sa­chu­setts House of Rep­re­sent­a­tives (1835–40), and served as Speak­er of the House (1838–40). He was elect­ed US Rep­res­ent­a­tive from Mas­sa­chu­setts as a Whig to the 26th Unit­ed States Con­gress to fill the va­can­cy caused by the re­sig­na­tion of Ab­bott Law­rence. He was re­elect­ed to the 27th Cong­ress and served from November 9, 1840, to May 25, 1842, when he re­signed.

He was sub­se­quent­ly elect­ed to the 27th Con­gress to fill the va­can­cy caused by the re­sig­na­tion of his suc­cess­or, Na­than Ap­ple­ton. He was re-elect­ed to the 28th and to the three suc­ceed­ing Con­gress­es. He served from No­vem­ber 29, 1842, un­til to Ju­ly 30, 1850, and was the Speak­er of the House dur­ing the 30th Con­gress.

Winthrop was elect­ed a Fel­low of the Am­er­i­can Aca­de­my of Arts and Sci­enc­es in 1849. Af­ter Dan­i­el Web­ster re­signed from the Unit­ed States Sen­ate to be­come Sec­re­tary of State in 1850, Win­throp re­signed from the House and was ap­point­ed by fel­low Whig, Gov­er­nor George Briggs, to fill the re­maind­er of Web­ster’s Sen­ate term.

Later that year, Win­throp won a po­pu­lar plur­al­i­ty in the race for Mas­sa­chu­setts Gov­er­nor, but as the state Con­sti­tu­tion re­quired a ma­jor­i­ty, the elect­ion was thrown in­to the le­gis­la­ture. The same co­a­li­tion of De­mo­crats and Free Soil­ers de­feated him again.

His fi­nal ven­ture in­to elect­ed po­li­ti­cal office was as a pre­si­den­tial elect­or on the Whig tick­et in 1852. Af­ter­wards, Win­throp be­came an in­de­pen­dent, un­suc­cess­ful­ly sup­port­ing Mill­ard Fill­more, John Bell, and George Mc­Clel­lan.

With his po­li­ti­cal ca­reer ov­er at age 41, Win­throp spent the rest of his life in li­ter­a­ry, his­tor­i­cal, and phil­an­thro­pic pur­suits.

He was a ma­jor ear­ly pa­tron of the Bos­ton Pub­lic Lib­ra­ry, and pre­si­dent of the Mas­sa­chu­setts His­tor­i­cal So­ci­e­ty (1855–85), dur­ing which time he wrote a bi­o­gra­phy of his an­ces­tor John Win­throp.

He served as pre­si­dent of the Mas­sa­chu­setts Bi­ble So­ci­e­ty for se­ver­al years, where he ad­vo­cat­ed that Chris­tian mo­ral­i­ty was the ne­ces­sa­ry con­di­tion of a free so­ci­e­ty. His most not­a­ble Chris­tian phi­lo­so­phy for gov­ern­ing men, was: 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.

Winthrop’s most not­a­ble con­tri­bu­tions came as per­ma­nent Chair­man and Pre­si­dent of the Pea­bo­dy Ed­u­ca­tion Fund Trust­ees, which he served from 1867 to his death.

As well as steer­ing the con­tri­bu­tions of the Pea­body Trust, Win­throp gave his own mo­ney to var­i­ous South­ern schools, the most long last­ing of which was the $1500 of seed mo­ney pro­vid­ed to a teach­er’s col­lege that re­named it­self Win­throp Un­i­ver­si­ty in gra­ti­tude.

He be­came a not­ed or­at­or, de­liv­er­ing the eu­lo­gy for George Pea­bo­dy in 1870 and at the cer­e­mo­ny that op­ened the Wash­ing­ton Mo­nu­ment in 1884.