John Eliot, The Christian Commonwealth (1659)

The Christian Commonwealth

The Christian Commonwealth: Banned in Massachusetts as potentially offensive to the king.

John Eliot, a missionary in colonial Massachusetts, is best known for his work in translating the Bible into Algonquian. In his tract The Christian Commonwealth, Eliot created a blueprint for a government run according to the legal principles of the Old Testament. This model emphasized the ultimate power of God over all civil authorities. In his role as a missionary, Eliot applied this biblical system of governance to the small Christian Indian village of Natick.

Given the political situation in Britain at the time, the Massachusetts court feared that Eliot's ideas could be misinterpreted by King Charles II, who might take offence at the statement that even royal authorities were subordinate to a higher power. The Massachusetts court ordered the book suppressed in 1661, and anyone who owned copies of the book was to "cancel or deface" them or bring them to local judges for disposal. Eliot apologized for any errors he might have made in the book, although he stood by his original principles.

Clements Library copy of The Christian Commonwealth