Anne Hutchinson was born in 1591, in England. She immigrated with her husband to the Massachusettes Bay Colony in 1634, and was banished from it in 1637. She and her husband had 10 children. She died from an Indian raid in 1643.
Anne Hutchinson challenged many beliefs of the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Shortly after her arrival in Massachusettes in 1634, she began to hold religious meetings in her home for a few women. Soon many people would come to her meetings, according to John Winthrop, she was soon leading meetings of "threescore or fourscore persons," including ministers and magistrates. She was a woman teaching men, which the Puritans believed was forbidden in the Bible.
Hutchinson believed, as did the Puritans, that human behavior could not help one achieve salvation. But she also believed that one's personal actions could be used to predict a person's eventual salvation. She taught that God's grace was implanted in every human soul. This, however, challenged the very basis for the Puritan colony, a society based upon the principle of moral striving. If Hutchinson was right, what was the purpose of the colony and its leaders?
Her beliefs nearly proposed that Christians do not have to follow laws, because they are filled with God's grace and, hence, cannot do any wrong. If this were true, there certainly would be no need for the moral striving and leadership of the Puritan church. The Puritans put her on trial, where she declared that she received revelations directly from God. The tribunal declared she was a heretic and banished her from the colony in 1637.
She moved to Rhode Island, a destination for many religious dissenters. When her husband died in 1642, she moved to Long Island with her 10 children, where they were all were killed in an Indian attack.
The Trial of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson at the General Court of the Massachusettes Bay Colony in 1637.
The General Court, highest in authority in Massachusetts Bay Colony, consisted of the Governor as Chair of the Court, the Deputy Governor, 5 Assistants, and 5 Deputies. Several ministers were in attendance including Rev. John Cotton, Mrs. Hutchinson's minister, and the person who inspired her basic theological position.
Mr. [John] Winthrop, Governor: Mrs Hutchinson, you are called here as one of those that have troubled the peace of the commonwealth and the churches here; you are known to be a woman that hath had a great share in the promoting and divulging of those opinions that are the cause of this trouble, and to be nearly joined not only in affinity and affection with some of those the court had taken notice of and passed censure upon, but you have spoken divers things, as we have been informed, very prejudicial to the honour of the churches and ministers thereof, and you have maintained a meeting and an assembly in your house that hath been condemned by the general assembly as a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex, and notwithstanding that was cried down you have continued the same. Therefore we have thought good to send for you to understand how things are, that if you be in an erroneous way we may reduce you that so you may become a profitable member here among us. Otherwise if you be obstinate in your course that then the court may take such course that you may trouble us no further. Therefore I would intreat you to express whether you do assent and hold in practice to those opinions and factions that have been handled in court already, that is to say, whether you do not justify Mr. Wheelwright's sermon and the petition.
Mrs. Hutchinson: I am called here to answer before you but I hear no things laid to my charge.
Gov.: I have told you some already and more I can tell you.
Mrs. H.: Name one, Sir.
Gov.: Have I not named some already?
Mrs. H.: What have I said or done?
Gov.: Why for your doings, this you did harbor and countenance those that are parties in this faction that you have heard of.
Mrs. H.: That's matter of conscience, Sir.
Gov.: Your conscience you must keep, or it must be kept for you.
Mrs. H.: Must not I then entertain the saints because I must keep my conscience.
Gov.: Say that one brother should commit felony or treason and come to his brother's house, if he knows him guilty and conceals him he is guilty of the same. It is his conscience to entertain him, but if his conscience comes into act in giving countenance and entertainment to him that hath broken the law he is guilty too. So if you do countenance those that are transgressors of the law you are in the same fact.
Mrs. H.: What law do they transgress?
Gov.: The law of God and of the state.
Mrs. H.: In what particular?
Gov.: Why in this among the rest, whereas the Lord doth say honour thy father and thy mother.
Mrs. H.: Ey Sir in the Lord.
Gov.: This honour you have broke in giving countenance to them.
Mrs. H.: In entertaining those did I entertain them against any act (for there is the thing) or what God has appointed?
Gov.: You knew that Mr. Wheelwright did preach this sermon and those that countenance him in this do break a law.
Mrs. H.: What law have I broken?
Gov.: Why the fifth commandment.
Mrs. H.: I deny that for he [Mr. Wheelwright] saith in the Lord.
Gov.: You have joined with them in the faction.
Mrs. H.: In what faction have I joined with them?
Gov.: In presenting the petition.
Mrs. H.: Suppose I had set my hand to the petition. What then?
Gov.: You saw that case tried before.
Mrs. H.: But I had not my hand to [not signed] the petition.
Gov.: You have councelled them.
Mrs. H.: Wherein?Gov.: Why in entertaining them.
Mrs. H.: What breach of law is that, Sir?
Gov.: Why dishonouring the commonwealth.
Mrs. H.: But put the case, Sir, that I do fear the Lord and my parents. May not I entertain them that fear the Lord because my parents will not give me leave?
Gov.: If they be the fathers of the commonwealth, and they of another religion, if you entertain them then you dishonour your parents and are justly punishable.
Mrs. H.: If I entertain them, as they have dishonoured their parents I do.
Gov.: No but you by countenancing them above others put honor upon them.
Mrs. H.: I may put honor upon them as the children of God and as they do honor the Lord.
Gov.: We do not mean to discourse with those of your sex but only this: you so adhere unto them and do endeavor to set forward this faction and so you do dishonour us.
Mrs. H.: I do acknowledge no such thing. Neither do I think that I ever put any dishonour upon you.
Gov.: Why do you keep such a meeting at your house as you do every week upon a set day?
Mrs. H.: It is lawful for me to do so, as it is all your practices, and can you find a warrant for yourself and condemn me for the same thing? The ground of my taking it up was, when I first came to this land because I did not go to such meetings as those were, it was presently reported that I did not allow of such meetings but held them unlawful and therefore in that regard they said I was proud and did despise all ordinances. Upon that a friend came unto me and told me of it and I to prevent such aspersions took it up, but it was in practice before I came. Therefore I was not the first.
Gov.: ...By what warrant do you continue such a course?
Mrs. H.: I conceive there lies a clear rule in Titus that the elder women should instruct the younger and then I must have a time wherein I must do it.
Gov.: All this I grant you, I grant you a time for it, but what is this to the purpose that you Mrs. Hutchinson must call a company together from their callings to come to be taught of you?...
Mrs. H.: If you look upon the rule in Titus it is a rule to me. If you convince me that it is no rule I shall yield.
Gov.: You know that there is no rule that crosses another, but this rule crosses that in the Corinthians. But you must take it in this sense that elder women must instruct the younger about their business and to love their husbands and not to make them to clash....
Mrs. H.: Will it please you to answer me this and to give me a rule
for then I will willingly submit to any truth. If any come to my house to be instructed in the ways of God what rule have I to put them away?.... Do you think it not lawful for me to teach women and why do you call me to teach the court?
Gov.: We do not call you to teach the court but to lay open yourself....
Gov.: Your course is not to be suffered for. Besides that we find such a course as this to be greatly prejudicial to the state. Besides the occasion that it is to seduce many honest persons that are called to those meetings and your opinions and your opinions being known to be different from the word of God may seduce many simple souls that resort unto you. Besides that the occasion which hath come of late hath come from none but such as have frequented your meetings, so that now they are flown off from magistrates and ministers and since they have come to you. And besides that it will not well stand with the commonwealth that families should be neglected for so many neighbors and dames and so much time spent. We see no rule of God for this. We see not that any should have authority to set up any other exercises besides what authority hath already set up and so what hurt comes of this you will be guilty of and we for suffering you.
Mrs. H.: Sir, I do not believe that to be so.
Gov.: Well, we see how it is. We must therefore put it away from you or restrain you from maintaining this course.
Mrs H. If you have a rule for it from God's word you may.
Gov.: We are your judges, and not you ours and we must compel you to it.
Mrs. H.: If it please you by authority to put it down I will freely let you for I am subject to your authority....
Deputy Governor, Thomas Dudley: I would go a little higher with Mrs. Hutchinson. About three years ago we were all in peace. Mrs Hutchinson, from that time she came hath made a disturbance, and some that came over with her in the ship did inform me what she was as soon as she was landed. I being then in place dealt with the pastor and teacher of Boston and desired them to enquire of her, and then I was satisfied that she held nothing different from us. But within half a year after, she had vented divers of her strange opinions and had made parties in the country, and at length it comes that Mr. Cotton and Mr. Vane were of her judgment, but Mr. Cotton had cleared himself that he was not of that mind. But now it appears by this woman's meeting that Mrs. Hutchinson hath so forestalled the minds of many by their resort to her meeting that now she hath a potent party in the country. Now if all these things have endangered us as from that foundation and if she in particular hath disparaged all our ministers in the land that they have preached a covenant of works, and only Mr. Cotton a covenant of grace, why this is not to be suffered, and therefore being driven to the foundation and it being found that Mrs. Hutchinson is she that hath depraved all the ministers and hath been the cause of what is fallen out, why we must take away the foundation and the building will fall.
Mrs. H.: Did I ever say they preached a covenant of works then?Dep. Gov.: If they do not preach a covenant of grace clearly, then they preach a covenant of works.
Mrs. H.: No, Sir. One may preach a covenant of grace more clearly than another, so I said....
Dep. Gov.: When they do preach a covenant of works do they preach truth?
Mrs. H.: Yes, Sir. But when they preach a covenant of works for salvation, that is not truth.
Dep. Gov.: I do but ask you this: when the ministers do preach a covenant of works do they preach a way of salvation?
Mrs. H.: I did not come hither to answer questions of that sort.Dep. Gov.: Because you will deny the thing.
Mrs. H.: Ey, but that is to be proved first.
Dep. Gov.: I will make it plain that you did say that the ministers did preach a covenant of works.
Mrs. H.: I deny that.
Dep. Gov.: And that you said they were not able ministers of the New Testament, but Mr. Cotton only.
Mrs. H.: If ever I spake that I proved it by God's word.
Court: Very well, very well.
Mrs. H.: If one shall come unto me in private, and desire me seriously to tell them what I thought of such an one, I must either speak false or true in my answer.
Dep. Gov.: Likewise I will prove this that you said the gospel in the letter and words holds forth nothing but a covenant of works and that all that do not hold as you do are in a covenant of works.
Mrs. H.: I deny this for if I should so say I should speak against my own judgment....
Mr. Hugh Peters: That which concerns us to speak unto, as yet we are sparing in, unless the court command us to speak, then we shall answer to Mrs. Hutchinson notwithstanding our brethren are very unwilling to answer...
Mr Hugh Peters:.... [I asked her] What difference do you conceive to be between your teacher and us?... Briefly, she told me there was a wide and broad difference.... He preaches the covenant of grace and you the covenant of works, and that you are not able ministers of the New Testament and know no more than the apostles did before the resurrection of Christ. I did then put it to her, What do you conceive of such a brother? She answered he had not the seal of the spirit.
Mrs. H.: If our pastor would shew his writings you should see what I said, and that many things are not so as is reported.
Mr. Wilson:...what is written [here now] I will avouch.
Mr. Weld: [agrees that Peters related Hutchinson's words accurately]
Mr. Phillips: [agrees that Peters related Hutchinson's words accurately and added] Then I asked her of myself (being she spake rashly of them all) because she never heard me at all. She likewise said that we were not able ministers of the New Testament and her reason was because we were not sealed.
Mr. Simmes: Agrees that Peters related Hutchinson's words accurately
Mr. Shephard: Also to Same.
Mr. Eliot: [agrees that Peters related Hutchinson's words accurately]
Dep. Gov.: I called these witnesses and you deny them. You see they have proved this and you deny this, but it is clear. You say they preached a covenant of works and that they were not able ministers of the New Testament; now there are two other things that you did affirm which were that the scriptures in the letter of them held forth nothing but a covenant of works and likewise that those that were under a covenant of works cannot be saved.
Mrs. H.: Prove that I said so.
Gov.: Did you say so?
Mrs. H.: No, Sir, it is your conclusion.
Dep. Gov.: What do I do charging of you if you deny what is so fully proved?
Gov.: Here are six undeniable ministers who say it is true and yet you deny that you did say that they preach a covenant of works and that they were not able ministers of the gospel, and it appears plainly that you have spoken it, and whereas you say that it was drawn from you in a way of friendship, you did profess then that it was out of conscience that you spake....
Mrs. H.:....They thought that I did conceive there was a difference between them and Mr. Cotton.... I might say they might preach a covenant of works as did the apostles, but to preach a covenant of works and to be under a covenant of works is another business.
Dep. Gov.: There have been six witnesses to prove this and yet you deny it. [and then he mentions a seventh, Mr. Nathaniel Ward]
Mrs. H.: I acknowledge using the words of the apostle to the Corinthians unto him, [Mr. Ward] that they that were ministers of the letter and not the spirit did preach a covenant of works.
Gov.: Mrs. Hutchinson, the court you see hath laboured to bring you to acknowledge the error of your way that so you might be reduced, the time grows late, we shall therefore give you a little more time to consider of it and therefore desire that you attend the court again in the morning...
Gov.: We proceeded... as far as we could... There were divers things laid to her charge: her ordinary meetings about religious exercises, her speeches in derogation of the ministers among us, and the weakening of the hands and hearts of the people towards them. Here was sufficient proof made of that which she was accused of, in that point concerning the ministers and their ministry, as that they did preach a covenant of works when others did preach a covenant of grace, and that they were not able ministers of the New Testament, and that they had not the seal of the spirit, and this was spoken not as was pretended out of private conference, but out of conscience and warrant from scripture alleged the fear of man is a snare and seeing God had given her a calling to it she would freely speak. Some other speeches she used, as that the letter of the scripture held forth a covenant of works, and this is offered to be proved by probable grounds....
Controversy--should the witnesses should be recalled and made swear an oath, as Mrs. Hutchinson desired, is resolved against doing so
Gov.: I see no necessity of an oath in this thing seeing it is true and the substance of the matter confirmed by divers, yet that all may be satisfied, if the elders will take an oath they shall have it given them....
Mrs. H.: After that they have taken an oath I will make good what I say.
Gov.: Let us state the case, and then we may know what to do. That which is laid to Mrs. Hutchinson charge is that, that she hath traduced the magistrates and ministers of this jurisdiction, that she hath said the ministers preached a covenant of works and Mr. Cotton a covenant of grace, and that they were not able ministers of the gospel, and she excuses it that she made it a private conference and with a promise of secrecy, &c. Now this is charged upon her, and they therefore sent for her seeing she made it her table talk, and then she said the fear of man was a snare and therefore she would not be affeared of them....
Dep. Gov.: Let her witnesses be called.
Gov.: Who be they?
Mrs. H.: Mr. Leveret and our teacher and Mr. Coggeshall.
Gov.: Mr. Coggeshall was not present.
Mr. Coggeshall: Yes, but I was. Only I desired to be silent till I should be called.
Gov.: Will you, Mr. Coggeshall, say that she did not say so?
Mr. Coggeshall: Yes, I dare say that she did not say all that which they lay against her.
Mr. Peters: How dare you look into the court to say such a word?
Mr. Coggeshall: Mr. Peters takes upon him to forbid me. I shall be silent.
Mr. Stoughton [assistant of the Court]: Ey, but she intended this that they say.
Gov.: Well, Mr. Leveret, what were the words? I pray, speak.
Mr. Leveret: To my best remembrance when the elders did send for her, Mr. Peters did with much vehemency and intreaty urge her to tell what difference there was between Mr. Cotton and them, and upon his urging of her she said "The fear of man is a snare, but they that trust upon the Lord shall be safe." And being asked wherein the difference was, she answered that they did not preach a covenant of grace so clearly as Mr. Cotton did, and she gave this reason of it: because that as the apostles were for a time without the spirit so until they had received the witness of the spirit they could not preach a covenant of grace so clearly.
Gov.: Don't you remember that she said they were not able ministers of the New Testament?
Mrs. H.: Mr. Weld and I had an hour's discourse at the window and then I spake that, if I spake it....
Gov.: Mr Cotton, the court desires that you declare what you do remember of the conference which was at the time and is now in question.
Mr. Cotton: I did not think I should be called to bear witness in this cause and therefore did not labor to call to remembrance what was done; but the greatest passage that took impression upon me was to this purpose. The elders spake that they had heard that she had spoken some condemning words of their ministry, and among other things they did first pray her to answer wherein she thought their ministry did differ from mine. How the comparison sprang I am ignorant, but sorry I was that any comparison should be between me and my brethren and uncomfortable it was. She told them to this purpose that they did not hold forth a covenant of grace as I did. But wherein did we differ? Why she said that they did not hold forth the seal of the spirit as he doth. Where is the difference there? Say they, why saith she, speaking to one or other of them, I know not to whom. You preach of the seal of the spirit upon a work and he upon free grace without a work or without respect to a work; he preaches the seal of the spirit upon free grace and you upon a work. I told her I was very sorry that she put comparisons between my ministry and theirs, for she had said more than I could myself, and rather I had that she had put us in fellowship with them and not have made that discrepancy. She said, she found the difference....
This was the sum of the difference, nor did it seem to be so ill taken as it is and our brethren did say also that they would not so easily believe reports as they had done and withal mentioned that they would speak no more of it, some of them did; and afterwards some of them did say they were less satisfied than before. And I must say that I did not find her saying that they were under a covenant of works, nor that she said they did preach a covenant of works...
Mrs. H.: If you please to give me leave I shall give you the ground of what I know to be true. Being much troubled to see the falseness of the constitution of the Church of England, I had like to have turned Separatist. Whereupon I kept a day of solemn humiliation and pondering of the thing; this scripture was brought unto me--he that denies Jesus Christ to be come in the flesh is antichrist. This I considered of and in considering found that the papists did not deny him to be come in the flesh, nor we did not deny him--who then was antichrist? Was the Turk antichrist only? The Lord knows that I could not open scripture; he must by his prophetical office open it unto me. So after that being unsatisfied in the thing, the Lord was pleased to bring this scripture out of the Hebrews. he that denies the testament denies the testator, and in this did open unto me and give me to see that those which did not teach the new covenant had the spirit of antichrist, and upon this he did discover the ministry unto me; and ever since, I bless the Lord, he hath let me see which was the clear ministry and which the wrong. Since that time I confess I have been more choice and he hath left me to distinguish between the voice of my beloved and the voice of Moses, the voice of John the Baptist and the voice of antichrist, for all those voices are spoken of in scripture. Now if you do condemn me for speaking what in my conscience I know to be truth I must commit myself unto the Lord.
Mr. Nowel [assistant to the Court]: How do you know that was the spirit?
Mrs. H.: How did Abraham know that it was God that bid him offer his son, being a breach of the sixth commandment?
Dep. Gov.: By an immediate voice.
Mrs. H.: So to me by an immediate revelation.Dep. Gov.: How! an immediate revelation.
Mrs. H.: By the voice of his own spirit to my soul. I will give you another scripture, Jer[emiah] 46: 27-28--out of which the Lord showed me what he would do for me and the rest of his servants. But after he was pleased to reveal himself to me I did presently, like Abraham, run to Hagar. And after that he did let me see the atheism of my own heart, for which I begged of the Lord that it might not remain in my heart, and being thus, he did show me this (a twelvemonth after) which I told you of before....
Therefore, I desire you to look to it, for you see this scripture fulfilled this day and therefore I desire you as you tender the Lord and the church and commonwealth to consider and look what you do. You have power over my body but the Lord Jesus hath power over my body and soul; and assure yourselves thus much, you do as much as in you lies to put the Lord Jesus Christ from you, and if you go on in this course you begin, you will bring a curse upon you and your posterity, and the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
Dep. Gov.: What is the scripture she brings?
Mr. Stoughton [assistant to the Court]: Behold I turn away from you.
Mrs. H.: But now having seen him which is invisible I fear not what man can do unto me.
Gov.: Daniel was delivered by miracle; do you think to be deliver'd so too?
Mrs. H.: I do here speak it before the court. I look that the Lord should deliver me by his providence.... [because God had said to her] though I should meet with affliction, yet I am the same God that delivered Daniel out of the lion's den, I will also deliver thee.
Mr. Harlakenden [assistant to the Court]: I may read scripture and the most glorious hypocrite may read them and yet go down to hell.
Mrs. H.: It may be so....
Gov.: I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion.
[The trial text here reads:] All the court but some two or three ministers cry out, we all believe it--we all believe it.
[Mrs. Hutchinson was found guilty]
Gov.: The court hath already declared themselves satisfied concerning the things you hear, and concerning the troublesomeness of her spirit and the danger of her course amongst us, which is not to be suffered. Therefore if it be the mind of the court that Mrs. Hutchinson for these things that appear before us is unfit for our society, and if it be the mind of the court that she shall be banished out of our liberties and imprisoned till she be sent away, let them hold up their hands...
Gov.: Mrs. Hutchinson, the sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court shall send you away.
Mrs. H.: I desire to know wherefore I am banished?
Gov.: Say no more. The court knows wherefore and is satisfied.