John Robinson, an English clergyman, born in 1575, died in Leyden, March 1, 1625. He was educated at Cambridge, and held for a time a benefice near Yarmouth in Norfolk, but in 1602 became pastor of a dissenting congregation at Norwich. In 1607 its members, on account of persecution, attempted to leave England for Holland, but were prevented by the civil officers, who kept the whole company under arrest for a month. In 1608, however, they went to Amsterdam, and in 1609 removed to Leyden. Here they remained 11 years, and their numbers were largely increased by arrivals from England. In 1613 Robinson had a controversy on free will with Episcopius, professor in the university of Leyden. In 1617 another removal was contemplated, and the pastor favored the plan of forming a settlement in America. A minority of the congregation, under the lead of Brewster, the ruling elder, set out in 1620 in two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. It was the intention of Robinson to follow with the rest of the congregation, but he died before the consent of the association of English merchants who controlled the enterprise could be obtained.
The remainder of his church emigrated not long after his death, and his sons John and Isaac followed in 1629 or 1630. He was an acute controversialist, and highly versed in classical learning. He published "A Justification of Separation from the Church of England" (1610); "Of Religions Communion" (1614); Apologia Justa et Necessaria (1619), which in 1644 was translated into English; "A Defence of the Doctrine propounded by the Synod of Dort" (1624); "Essays or Observations, Divine and Moral" (1628); and "A Treatise of the Lawfulness of Learning of the Ministers in the Church of England" (1634). His complete works, with a memoir by Robert Ashton (3 vols.), were published in London and at Boston in 1851.