Anne Hutchinson, OF BOSTON,
FOUNDER OF THE FIRST WOMAN'S CLUB IN AMERICA.
ANNE HUTCHINSON "As I understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway."
Born in Lincolnshire, England, 1590. Died at Pelham, New York, in 1643.
"The Joan of Arc of New England, whose dauntless spirit, confronted by her tormentors, triumphed over momentary-weakness." Doyle.
the room was crowded with women, dressed in the olives, browns, and drabs of the quiet Puritan taste. The faces of some bore signs of homesickness and of longing. Others showed the" gentleness and fortitude of spirit that had found strength and comfort in the new life over seas. All eyes were fixed in intent earnestness upon the face of the speaker, who gravely sat in her straight-backed chair, beside a severe-looking table strewn with manuscripts. With her hands clasped firmly in her lap and her head thrown back a little, as if in a certain " boldness " of spirit, the speaker's bright eyes traveled from one inquiring face to another, while her voice thrilled with the enthusiasm she felt in her subject.
She was dwelling upon the superiority of her own minister, the Rev. John Cotton, to the other ministers of that day in and about Boston.
" The difference between Mr. Cotton and the other ministers of this colony," she declared, "is as wide as between heaven and hell; for he preaches not a convenant of works, but of grace, and they, having not a seal of the spirit, are no able ministers of the New Testament."
There was no stir of surprise or disapprobation among her listeners. Yet these were bold words. Here was a woman venturing to set herself up as a judge over the spiritual heads of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, and that, too, at a time when the church was regarded as the centre of all authority, life, and interest, when the rules as to church attendance and the observance of the Sabbath were most rigid, when ministers were esteemed beyond criticism, and church membership was a test of citizenship.
But such were the wisdom, brilliancy, and magnetism of Mistress Anne Hutchinson, of Boston-town, that her daring words were received with favor rather than with disapproval. Many heads framed in the Puritan caps of those colonial days were seen nodding in agreement with the speaker, and one shrewd little woman whispered to her neighbor: " I declare, Mrs. Hutchinson hath more learning than the ministers, hath she not ? "It was one of many such meetings held at Anne Hutchinson's own dwelling, a plain frame homestead of those first colony days, standing at the corner of Washington and School streets. Upon the site of that house, years after, was built the famous " Old Corner Book Store," which is still a landmark in the Boston of to-day.
Twice each week the women of Boston, and some from the neighboring towns, would take their way along the narrow winding footpaths that led across the river marshes and through the cornfields, past the meeting-house and the market, to Anne Hutchinson's home, where in her plain but spacious living-room they would read together, discuss, and criticise the sermons of the ministers in and about the capital of the Puritan colony.
As the originator and leader of these women's meetings Mrs. Anne Hutchinson may be regarded as the first American club-woman, although the difference between the woman's club of to-day and those vague, mystical theological discussions in Anne Hutchinson's house was " as wide " if we may fall back upon her own antithesis " as between heaven and hell."
The life of the colonial dames and daughters of Anne Hutchinson's day was wofully limited, and it is not surprising that those first Boston women, in the absence of all pleasant social gatherings, knowing nothing of newspapers, libraries, or daily-mail, found Anne Hutchinson's semi-weekly gatherings most attractive; they must surely have enjoyed the freedom of thought and speech, the questioning and objecting practised at their meetings, and perhaps, too, they were fascinated by that spice of danger which they realized entered into their criticisms of men, then supreme in control.
Nor is it any wonder that the ministers themselves grew wroth at all this objecting and criticising, that they felt the blow dealt their assumed superiority and their self-conceit, and that they finally rose in a body to denounce and arraign this " breeder of heresies," as they called Anne Hutchinson.
It is a pity that we cannot know this interesting woman more intimately. The most that has been said of her comes from the mouths of her enemies. She was the daughter of Francis Marbury, a noted preacher of Lincolnshire, in old England. Her husband was William Hutchinson of the same English shire.
Of William Hutchinson little is known to us save that he was Anne Hutchinson's husband, and I am very much afraid that it was a case of Mrs. Hutchinson and husband. John Winthrop, in his diary, speaks of William Hutchinson as a man of " a very mild temper and weak parts, wholly guided by his wife." But when we discover that William Hutchinson was by no means the only man guided by Mistress Anne, and that she numbered among her followers such men as her brother-in-law, the Rev. John Wheelwright, the only man of whom Cromwell ever confessed a fear; William Coddington, a worthy magistrate of Boston, and, later, founder and governor of Rhode Island; that brilliant and noble " boy governor " of the colony, young Sir Harry Vane; and, for a while, even that most able religious leader and teacher of his time, John Cotton, foremost minister of Boston, lecturer of Trinity College, and champion of the civil power; we may ascribe Anne Hutchinson's " guidance " less to the " weak parts " of the gentlemen than to the " ready wit " and " bold spirit " which .John Winthrop also records as characteristic of this outspoken and brilliant woman.
She, on her part, was deeply influenced by the preaching of John Cotton. In her English home she had listened with intense spiritual fervor to his preaching as vicar of St. Botolph, in that Lincolnshire Boston which gave its name to the new Boston of Massachusetts Bay. When he became a non-conformist and sought refuge and a home among the Puritans of the Bay State, the memory of his words was still a strong power in the parish he had left, and Anne Hutchinson, upon her arrival at Boston, frankly confessed that she had crossed the sea solely to be under his preaching in his new home.
It was in September, 1634, that the ship " Griffith " brought Mrs. Anne Hutchinson with her husband and family to Boston. We are told that, even on the voyage across, she " vented " opinions and claimed " revelations " which very much shocked one of her fellow-passengers, the Rev. Mr. Symmes. He must have said as much; for, soon after landing, some report of her fanatical opinions was circulated among the members of the church at Boston.
In fact, so great was the dread of what were called the " Antinomian heresies " that Mrs. Hutehinson was not admitted to membership in the Boston church when her husband was. And even as early as this in her American career she was regarded with some suspicion.
It is hard to tell just how her religious views disagreed with those of the colony churches. Winthrop asserted that she brought two dangerous errors with her. These " errors " hinged upon some abstract difference between a " covenant of works " and a " covenant of grace," all of which sounds unintelligible to us of to-day.
" As to the precise difference," Winthrop himself was forced to declare, " no man could tell, except some few who knew the bottom of the matter, where the difference lay." Gov. John Winthrop was a very able thinker and clear-headed man; so if he was in the dark we scarcely need trouble our heads over this argument of the long ago.
But in spite of her revelations and heretical opinions Anne Hutchinson won the regard and love of her fellow-colonists through her kind offices to the sick and sorrowing. And a month after her husband's admission to the Boston church, she, too, was made, a member. Those who admitted her to fellowship were, however, soon to regret their action. For, as you may judge from what has already been said of her, Mistress Anne Hutchinson, although an intelligent, courageous, charitable, and helpful woman, was also very free-spoken. Her " voluble tongue " soon involved the colony in a religious and political controversy.
As her teachings began to take effect there resulted among her followers a general practice of attending church in a spirit of criticism. After the sermon objections were discharged at the minister " like so many pistol-shots." Open criticism grew into pronounced contempt. When a minister whom they did not care to hear occupied the pulpit some enthusiasts would rise and, " contemptuously turning their backs " upon the preacher, walk out of the meeting-house. This practice was but following Mrs. Hutchinson's example; for whenever the Rev. Mr. Wilson stood up to speak, immediately she would rise and depart. The Rev. Mr. Wilson was the minister of the Boston church as John Cotton was the teacher, really a case of pastor and colleague, and this was the original, though scarcely courteous way that Mrs. Anne Hutchinson took of showing her preference for the "teacher" or colleague.
There is certainly a humorous side to this story of threatened schism in the Boston church; for those stern Puritan divines of solemn face and sombre garb, of autocratic conscience though of God-fearing purpose, of theological bias and of narrow mind, must certainly have cut pitiable figures under the disrespectful treatment of the obnoxious Hutchinsonians. It is, indeed, a question whether they were able to maintain their clerical dignity to their own satisfaction under the " pistol-shots " and the contemptuously departing backs.
But there was also a gravely serious side to this affair. Through the teaching of Anne Hutchinson dissension was arising within the colony of Massachusetts Bay. Now the safety of the colony depended upon the peaceful behavior of the colonists. Any disagreement among them might easily lead to a loss of their charter, and, consequently, to a loss of that religious and civil liberty which was so dear to them.
Gov. John Winthrop and those who supported him felt this keenly. With anxiety and disapproval they had watched the growing disaffection that had followed upon Mrs. Hutchinson's outspoken criticisms, and they sought to stop it before it should prove a " canker to their peace and a ruin to their comforts."
The controversy started in the Boston church. Parson Wilson. began to resent Mrs. Hutchinson's hostile attitude toward himself, and the minister and the woman lecturer soon became open antagonists.
The church was divided into two parties. The former governor, John Winthrop, believing that course best for the colony, took up Mr. Wilson's cause, while Mrs. Hutchinson had with her a majority of the Boston church, including young Sir Harry Vane, who was then governor of Massachusetts Bay. She also had the sympathy and partial support of her teacher and friend, the Rev. John Cotton.
The quarrel soon spread beyond the limits of the town. All the ministers of the surrounding country with the exception of the Rev. John Wheelwright, of Braintree, sided with Wilson and Winthrop. Wheelwright, together with John Cotton, was included by Mrs. Hutchinson in the " covenant of grace," and as her brother-in-law and ardent sympathizer he became a prominent member of the Hutchinson faction.
The churches of the colony outside of the capital town supported their ministers, and thus the dispute assumed a political character. It became a contest of the suburbs against Boston, Wilson and Winthrop of the Boston church being of the suburban or clerical faction.
It seemed, at first, as if the Hutchinson element would prevail. Mrs. Hutchinson's quick sallies and ready replies threw into contempt the grave censures of Winthrop and Wilson. Her brilliancy, her courage, her defiance of authority, were magnetic. They fascinated and persuaded where the hard, dull logic of the opposition failed. But Mistress Anne Hutchinson was soon to learn her own weakness, while the sensitive and impulsive Sir Harry Vane with his broad views of progress was to meet with disappointment. The ministers might be "narrow-minded bigots," as it has become the fashion to characterize them, but they were stern and determined men. And the influence of Winthrop, father of Massachusetts, the defender of the clergy and the old order, was slow, perhaps, but sure.
His power was realized, and resulted in success for himself and the ministers whom he championed, when, at the election held at Cambridge on the 17th of May, 1637, he was chosen governor of the colony in place of young Sir Harry Vane, who, with the other Hutchinsonians, were set aside.
The shook to the enthusiastic hopes of young Sir Harry Vane was too great for recovery. The following August he sailed home to England, always to remain, in spite of his stormy Massachusetts experience, a stanch friend to the colonies, always an " apostle of freedom," perishing, indeed, upon the scaffold for liberty of conscience and freedom of man. With the election of Winthrop as governor, and the withdrawal of Vane, the clerical faction assumed control. The General Court was composed almost entirely of men from that party, and it at once adopted a course of action that was prompt as well as autocratic.
Attention was first directed toward the Rev. John Wheelwright, of Braintree, one of the ablest supporters of the Hutchinson cause. A man of courage and firm purpose, second only in authority to Anne Hutchinson herself, he was declared guilty of " sedition and contempt " and sentenced to banishment.
Other Hutchinsonians were punished with fines, disfranchisement, or banishment. The main efforts of the Court, however, were exerted against the woman whom the clergy regarded as the " breeder and nourisher of all these disasters."
Wheelwright had not yet left his Braintree home to seek shelter in the wilderness of New Hampshire when Mrs. Hutchinson was summoned to appear before the court to answer to charges brought against her. Her trial was held at Cambridge, on the 17th of November, 1637.
We can well believe that the world had a hard, dull look that day for Anne Hutchinson. She found little consolation in the ice and snow, the barren sea-coast and river banks of her New England home. As she crossed the Charles on her way to the Cambridge meeting-house, the east wind, sweeping in from the bay, chilled her so that she shivered involuntarily. She might almost read a prophecy in its bitterness, but she set her face resolutely against It and her firmly closed lips showed that she was bracing herself for the ordeal before her. As she came in sight of the meeting-house she saw that people were gathering there from all quarters. They came in farm wagon, in the saddle, and on foot. Almost every one of importance in the colony was there.
The little log meeting-house of New Towne (the Cambridge of today) stood at what is now the corner of Mount Auburn and Dunster streets, just off from Harvard square. It was a cold, dark, barn-like building, and on the morning of Anne Hutchinson's trial the gloom of the November day had settled upon it. The few small windows admitted little light, and to Anne Hutchinson's overwrought imagination those windows seemed like spying eyes frowning down upon her.
Every wooden bench in the house was crowded with spectators. At his table sat Governor Winthrop, surrounded by the Assistants of his Council, the clergy, and the magistrates who made up the court. (toy. John Winthrop's face, rising above the familiar Puritan ruff, looked less kind that day than usual. There was a slight knitting of the broad brow as if he, too, regarded the coming trial as an ordeal which he must undergo for the sake of duty and discipline. Anne Hutchinson stood in the place assigned her and faced her accusers. There was no show of defiance in her manner. She was calm and respectful. The hard, determined faces of her judges were in striking contrast to her slight, delicate frame and sensitive face, still young, but a little worn from the intellectual warfare through which she was passing. As she stood before the court, under fire of the hostile glances and scolding words of those about her, Anne Hutchinson was not afraid. She knew herself to be in the right, and that thought brought her strength and courage. She recalled the story of Daniel the prophet, and how the princes and presidents " sought matter against him concerning the law of God," and cast him into the lions' den, from which, she assured herself, the Lord delivered him. It seemed to her steadfast but over-stimulated mind that the Lord also promised such deliverance to her.
Her spirits rose, but her physical strength seemed deserting her. Her face lost its color. She swayed and grasped the nearest bench for support. Then some one not wholly without courtesy toward this one woman standing so alone and unchampioned, offered her a chair and she sat down.
The accusations of the court were at first general and trivial. Mrs. Hutchinson was as quick-witted as usual in her replies. When Winthrop charged her with having held unauthorized meetings at her house, she inquired pertinently: " Have I not a rule for such meetings in the injunctions of Paul to Titus, that the elder women should instruct the younger ? "
Later in the trial the ministers were called upon to testify as to the criticisms which she had passed upon their preaching. They spoke with resentment and anger, and, as she listened, Mrs. Hutchinson experienced her first sensation of dismay. Any words of hers, she realized, would be powerless to appease such bitterness and wounded vanity.
She felt the need of a supporter, some one to help her plead her cause. Suddenly a chair was drawn beside her, and, recognizing in the very movement an expression of the sympathy she craved, she turned gratefully to her friend. And then her face lighted with pleasure. It was her teacher, John Cotton, who sat beside her. But he did not meet the glance of her thankful eyes. He seemed rather to avoid it, as if reluctant to show undue interest in the culprit.
When asked to give his testimony, however, John Cotton spoke eloquently in Anne Hutchinson's defence, and explained away so smoothly and convincingly the difference which the accused had drawn between his own preaching and the preaching of the other ministers that the opposition was somewhat broken down.
Thus far in the trial very little had been proved against Mrs. Hutchinson. Her few supporters in the audience were drawing a sigh of relief as John Cotton concluded and William Coddington, her one friendly judge, thought he saw a chance for the woman whom he felt to be unjustly accused.
Then, suddenly, of her own accord, she introduced the subject of revelations, and, in the words of her antagonist, Parson Wilson, " her own mouth delivered her into the power of the court."
With a calm and dispassionate fervor she recited her story of miraculous visions, while the court listened with silent hut open astonishment. Her closing words rang out with terrible distinctness through the little meeting-house:
" I fear none but the great Jehovah which hath foretold me these things," she cried; "and I do verily believe that he will deliver me out of your hands. Therefore take heed how you proceed against me; for I know that for this you go about to do me, God will ruin you and your posterity and the whole state."
After these audacious words there was a momentary pause of triumph among her enemies, of dismay among her friends. Then the clergy and the whole court hurled at her bitter reproofs, invectives, and denunciations. To their minds, by her own voice she had proved herself guilty of an atrocious heresy; for to the Puritans of that illiberal day belief in personal revelation was a grave sin, and to threaten the disruption of the colony was worse than blasphemy. Then Winthrop rose, stern and judicial: " Is it the opinion of the court," he demanded, "that, for the troublesomeness of her spirit and the danger of her cause, this woman, Mistress Anne Hutchinson, be banished from the colony? "
Only three hands were lifted in opposition. The court was overwhelmingly against her.
The governor turned to Anne Hutchinson. There may have been some pity in his heart for the daring and brilliant woman before him. To Anne Hutchinson, however, his eyes looked unsympathetic, hard, even cruel.
" Mistress Hutchinson," said the governor, " hear now the sentence of the court. It is that you are banished out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for our society, and you are to be imprisoned until the court shall send you away."
At these harsh and authoritative words there was a glimmer of the old defiance in Anne Hutch-inson's face.
" I desire to know wherefore I am banished," she exclaimed.
" Say no more," came the stern rejoinder. " The court knows wherefore, and is satisfied."
The sentence, as taken from the records of Massachusetts Bay colony, reads as followsfor us it answers Mrs. Hutchinson's query:
" Mrs. Hutchinson being convicted for traducing the ministers, she declared voluntarily the revelations for her ground, and that she should be delivered, and the court ruined and their posterity; and thereupon was banished, and meanwhile was committed to Mr. Joseph Weld until the court should dispose of her."
Mrs. Hutchinson's captivity at the house of Joseph Weld in Roxbury must have been tedious and wearing, but it can scarcely have been lonely.
Although none of her friends except her own family were permitted to see her, lest she might do further harm by spreading her heresies, the elders and ministers of the church were most diligent in their attendance upon her. They came at all hours to discuss and reason with her. Their topics of conversation seem to us but the vague points of theological dispute, neither interesting nor intelligible. To Mrs. Hutchinson, however, these religious talks were stimulating; in her peculiar condition of mind and body they were even intoxicating. During these talks, we are told, she gave out more opinions and revelations than ever before.
ln a way she enjoyed her imprisonment. She was still the most noted woman in the colony. Her role of persecuted prophetess became her. She grew more and more eloquent, and, careless of consequences, opened her mouth and talked freely to the visiting clergy.
The conduct of the eminent Mr. Cotton at this period is anything but edifying, and it must have been to Mrs. Hutchinson fairly heart-rending. Finding that his position in the controversy and his sympathy for Mrs. Hutchinson were not popular, but rather endangering to his peace and happiness, John Cotton conveniently shifted his ground and converted his sympathy into open opposition. He became foremost in the pursuit of the heretics and the heresies for which Mrs. Hutchinson was responsible. The honored teacher for whom she had left her English home to cross the ocean and brave the wilderness, to whom she had looked for guidance and sympathy and support, had abandoned her, and was walking in the path laid out by his brother ministers. He was somewhat bespattered in his muddy walk, but he was safe.
When spring and milder weather came, Mrs. Hutchinson was to leave the colony. But, before she departed, the ministers and elders had prepared for her one last ordeal. In their talks with her they discovered that she had " gross errors to the number of thirty or thereabouts; " so they made a list of these " errors " and sent it in the form of an indictment to the Boston church. Thereupon the church at Boston summoned Mrs. Hutchinson to appear, that she might make answer to the accusation and receive the sentence of excommunication.
Excommunication was spiritual disinheritance. Anne Hutchinson was an irreligious daughter, and in the presence of her brothers and sisters of the church she was to be reprimanded by her fathers, the elders, and publicly cast out as an unworthy member. Late in March, then, she returned to her Boston home. There were few friendly faces to greet her. Her husband and brother and nearly all upon whom she might rely were away seeking places of refuge against their coming exile.
The spring was early that year in New England, but in Boston the same harsh east wind gave her a chilling reception. The Boston meeting-house looked gloomy and forbidding. As she entered and took her seat and looked into the faces of the elders and ministers, the sweet hope-breathing blossoms of early spring that she had left behind her in the Roxbury meadows were forgotten. She felt as though she were caught between the hard, gray walls of a prison. This atmosphere of grayness and rigidity pervaded everything. It was in the dreariness of the building, the stiffness of the furniture, the sombre dress and intense expression of the spectators, and the severe, unrelenting looks of the clergy. The spirit of liberty had not yet come to Boston-town.
When she had taken the place assigned her, one of the elders rose, called her by name, and read the list of twenty-nine heretical opinions for which she was called to account. After the reading of this indictment Mrs. Hutchinson scanned the faces of her inquisitors.
" By what precept of holy writ," she demanded, a tremor of indignation creeping into her voice, " did the elders of the church come to me in my place of confinement pretending that they sought light, when in reality they came to entrap and betray me ? "
After thus accusing them of double-dealing, she went on to declare that the twenty-nine " gross errors " with which she was charged were really the result of her unjust imprisonment. She defended her heretical opinions with spirit, and " returned," so it was alleged, " fro ward speeches to some who spake to her."
From ten in the morning until late in the day a fire of texts and biblical references raged with a storm of queries and assertions, and when evening fell they were still discussing only the fourth of the twenty-nine opinions. Finally the people began to realize that they were both hungry and tired. The ministers, in spite of their spiritual office, were also conscious of hunger and fatigue. I fear that they grew cross with this headstrong woman, who was able to out-talk and even to out-endure them all. So they decided to administer a stern admonition to this obstinate sister who would not be convinced.
The announcement of a public reprimand caused a stir in the audience, and two young men, seated together well toward the pulpit, seemed especially excited. The younger of the two was a handsome fellow with a certain dignity and independence of manner that suggested Anne Hutchinson. The elder was of the sturdy, stocky, English type that tells alike of firmness and fearlessness, a specimen of real English grit.
Scarcely had the judges decreed a public reprimand when the younger of the two sprang to his feet.
" By what rule," he exclaimed with heat, as he faced the elders and the clergy, " might one he guided in expressing his dissent to this measure ? "
The ministers and elders looked aghast at this audacious boy who dared to question their decision. In their surprise they made no reply to the question raised by young Hutchinson, for he who ventured to raise a demur in the assembly was Anne Hutchinson's own son. His companion, who was Thomas Savage, Mrs. Hutchinson's son-in-law, then rose and spoke more deliberately, but with equal antagonism.
" My mother is not accused of any heinous act, but only of an opinion held by her upon which she desires information and light rather than peremptorily to hold to it. I cannot, therefore, see why the church should yet proceed to admonish her."
At these still more daring words the amazement among clergy and elders grew. Then Thomas Oliver, one of the elders, remarked that it was " a grief to his spirit " to see these two brethren question the proceedings of the church, and he advanced the original proposition that the meeting should show its displeasure toward them by including them also in the reprimand decreed against Mistress Hutchinson, " in order that the church might act in unison."
Thereupon this novel suggestion for silencing opposition was put to vote, and, as no one dared to disagree, the matter was carried without dissent.
Then John Cotton rose and delivered a very eloquent admonition to Mrs. Hutchinson and her two sons, asserting that these two young men, who had dared to do a filial act, had " torn the very bowels of their souls by hardening their mother in sin."
That ended the session for the day, and Anne Hutchinson was placed in charge of Mr. Cotton until the next church meeting, in the hope that he might "overcome her troublesome spirit."
In making this decision those in authority had not overestimated John Cotton's influence. Indeed, he alone was able to accomplish what the united efforts of the elders, the ministers, and the magistrates could not. He induced Anne Hutchinson to yield to his persuasions and to give up her resistance to authority.
In accordance with her promise, Mrs. Hutchinson, at the meeting held in the Boston church the week following, read, before a crowded house, with bowed head and in a low tone, her public recantation. Such meekness of spirit is surprising, considering her former bold stand. To those who must admire her original pluck and courage, it may seem a trifle disappointing to have her yield thus to John Cotton, and to admit herself defeated by the ministers. Having thus acknowledged herself beaten, it would, at least, be gratifying to learn that the ministers rested satisfied with their triumph.
But they did not. She had not gone far enough in her humility to suit them, and one among them brought up her statement, made at the earlier meeting, that her heretical opinions were the result of her close imprisonment. Some of the ministers declared this statement a falsehood, and a discussion arose as to the precise meaning of Mrs. Hutchinson's opinions. The discussion trailed off into unintelligible theories, and clergy, magistrates, and elders, with the one " woman transcendental-ist," are lost to us in the mists and mazes of indefinable ideas and the hazy differences of theoretical thought.
At last, beset on all sides by men hateful to her, and mocked at by revengeful and triumphant faces, Anne Hutchinson's spirit of antagonism returned. She could not bring herself to submit to these hostile persecutors as she had submitted in private to John Cotton, once her accepted guide. With the flush of defiance upon her face she turned upon her foes.
"My judgment is not altered, though my expression alters," she declared, in ringing tones.
At once the assault began anew. From ministers, magistrates, and elders came a fierce storm of abuse and a torrent of impetuous words.
" Her repentance is on paper," shouted one; " but sure her repentance is not in her face."
"You have stepped, out of your place," cried another, scandalized by what he deemed her un-womanliness. " You have rather been a husband than a wife, and a preacher than a hearer, a magistrate than a subject, and, therefore, you have thought to carry all things in church and Commonwealth as you would."
"I cannot but acknowledge that the Lord is just in leaving our sister to pride and lying," said one self-righteous inquisitor. " I look upon her as a dangerous instrument of the devil raised up among us."
" God hath let her fall into a manifest lie; yea! to make a lie," declared another.
" Yea," cried his echo, " not simply to drop a lie, but to make a lie, to maintain a lie ! "
During the onslaught Anne Hutchinson sat stunned and motionless. The gray walls had closed upon her. She saw it was useless now to expect mercy. Only once do we hear her voice, and then in an appeal for the sympathy she most craved.
"Our teacher knows my judgment," she said, turning toward John Cotton. " I never kept my judgment from him."
But there was no response from her teacher. John Cotton had abandoned her as unreclaimable. Then came the hour of Parson Wilson's triumph.
To him fell the lot of pronouncing the sentence of excommunication.
" Are ye all of one mind that our sister here be cast out ? " he demanded.
Their silence was his surest answer. And then, in the voice most hateful to Anne Hutchinson, that of the Rev. John Wilson, came the terrible words that still sear the story of the old Bay State.
"Thereupon, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the name of the church," he declared, " I do not only pronounce you worthy to be cast out, but I do cast you out; and in the name of Christ I do deliver you up to Satan, that you may learn no more to blaspheme, to seduce, and to lie; and I do account you, from this time forth, to be a heathen and a publican, and so to be held by all the brethren and sisters of the congregation, and of others; therefore I command you in the name of Christ Jesus, and of this church, to withdraw yourself, as a leper, out of the congregation."
As Anne Hutchinson in obedience to the mandate of her judges passed down the aisle and out from the hushed and horrified meeting, there was but one who dared to rise and walk beside her. It was the woman who had been her follower and friend, young Mary Dyer, who, at a later day, was to feel the fatal rigor of Puritan Boston's " discipline." The two women walked to the door. There some one, steeped in self-righteousness, said, " The Lord sanctify this unto you."
Mrs. Hutchinson turned her clear and steadfast gaze upon the speaker.
" The Lord judges not as man judges," she replied. " Better to he cast out of the church than to deny Christ."
The Massachusetts records say that Mrs. Anne Hutchinson was banished on account of her revelations and excommunicated for a lie. They do not say that she was too brilliant, too ambitious, and too progressive for the ministers and magistrates of the colony. But the fact remains that she was. And while it is only fair to the rulers of the colony to admit that any element of disturbance or sedition, at that time, was a menace to the welfare of the colony, and that Anne Hutchinson's voluble tongue was a dangerous one, it is certain that the ministers were jealous of her power and feared her leadership.
It is, however, a consolation to know that Mrs. Hutchinson's own family and friends did not agree with the harsh judgment of the clergy and magistrates of Massachusetts Bay.
They seemed to have been able to put up with whatever peculiarities may have been hers. Perhaps her husband was, as Winthrop asserted, a man of "weak parts," but even weak men have been known to complain upon occasion. This Mr. Hutchinson never did. He shared his wife's excommunication and banishment without a murmur against her, so far as we can find. He spoke of her to certain messengers from the Boston church as "a dear saint and servant of God." Indeed, he must have been a man of some force and ability, for he died a magistrate of the Rhode Island colony, to which he and his family had departed.
It is a relief to come upon that one " dear saint " of William Hutchinson's, after such clerical terms of abuse as " breeder of heresies," " American Jezebel," and "instrument of Satan." It also speaks well for the domestic felicity of the Hutchinson family.
Their home in Rhode Island, where Roger Williams welcomed them, was broken up in 1642 by the death of William Hutchinson. Then, with the remaining members of her family, Mistress Anne sought a refuge still farther from the influence of the hostile Bostonians and made her home in the outskirts of the Manhattan colony, among the Dutch, at what is now Pelham Manor near New Rochelle, where Hutchinson's creek and a tongue of land still known as " Anne's Hook " remain as her only memorials.
She was not long a resident of that quiet land, for its peace was soon turned into savage war. In August, 1643, " the Indians set upon them and slew her and all her family," except one child who was taken captive. It was a sad blotting-out of a brilliant and helpful possibility.
Of course Mrs. Hutchinson's enemies among the Massachusetts Bay ministers made of her terrible fate a powerful warning to schismatics and wrongdoers. Her death, so they declared, was God's judgment on one led away by the wiles of Satan.
Our Puritan forefathers had peculiar notions of justice, retribution, right and wrong. But we, in the light of two and a half centuries of progress, can see in Anne Hutchinson's death no such manifestation of an angry God, but simply the final tragedy of her life.
Anne Hutchinson's part in the early history of Massachusetts is a sad one a series of disappointments, defeats, and disasters. Her story is shadowed by the gloom of a New England wilderness and the equal dreariness of the stern Puritan laws. It is darkened by the clouds of persecution, excommunication, and banishment, by the desertion of friends and the horrors of an Indian massacre.
But she stands out as one of the most notable and picturesque figures on the first pages of American historyan intellectual force, when intellectuality was esteemed the prerogative of the magistrate and the minister; a woman who could not be frightened into an abandonment of her faith; a woman who had more wit, more daring, and more real independence than the clergy and rulers of the State. Her life may be regarded as a prophecy of that larger liberty for which America has stood for generations.
About her story there hangs the mystery of a career little known before she appeared as a disturber of Boston's theological security, and as little known after her dramatic struggle with the authorities of the Bay colony. In recalling the trials and persecutions she suffered on that occasion, it is a satisfaction to find that time brought its own revenge, and that a descendant of the woman whom Massachusetts cast out, a Hutchinson, came with the seal of kingly authority to rule the colony as its last royal governor.
From Dames and Daughters of Colonial Days - Geraldine Brooks
. She and her husband came to America in 1634 with Reverend John Lothrop's group on the ship "Griffin" and settled in Boston.
No stranger to religion, Anne grew up during the persecution of the Catholics and Separatists under Elizabeth and James I. Her father, Rev. Francis Marbury, had been imprisoned twice for preaching against the incompetence of English ministers, though he later became the rector of St. Martin's Vintry, London, rector of St. Pancras, Soper Lane, and finally rector of St. Margaret's, New Fish Street. He was holding two of these offices simultaneously when he died in 1611.
Anne began her involvment with religion quite innocently, using her intelligence to interpret the only book available to her - the Bible. She had followed her beloved minister, Reverend John Cotton, whose removal to New England a year earlier had been "a great trouble to me...I could not be at rest but I must come hither."
The religious climate in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was oppresive. As the colony took hold, ministers emphasized everyone's pious duty to pray, fast and discipline oneself. Noting that the male members of Boston's church met regularly after sermons to discuss the Bible, she started to hold similar meetings for women in her own home. At first the women discussed the previous Sunday's sermons, but before long Anne began telling them of her own beliefs which differed from those of the Boston ministers. She attracted hundreds of women - aided by her reputation as a skilled midwife - and men, too, soon joined her discussion group.
Brilliant, articulate and learned in the Bible and theology, she denied that conformity with the religious laws were a sign of godliness and inisted that true godliness came from inner experience of the Holy Spirit. Anne further exacerbated the local elders by claiming that only two Boston ministers were "elect" or saved, John Cotton and her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright.
Anne's weekly meetings took on a new importance. As many as eighty people filled her house, including "some of the magistrates, some gentlemen, some scholars and men of learning." Among them was Sir Henry Vane, who became governor of the colony in 1636. When Anne, with the aid of Governor Vane and John Cotton, attemped to have her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright installed as minister of the Boston chuch, most of the congregation supported her. But the pastor of the church, Reverend John Wilson, gave a speech on the "inevitable dangers of separation" caused by the religious dissensions, and joined with John Winthrop in opposing her.
What started as a religious point of difference grew into a schism that threatened the political stability of the colony. To her opponents, questioning the church meant questioning the State. Anne's ideas were branded as the heresy of "Antinomianism" (a belief that Christians are not bound by moral law), and her followers became known as "Antinomians". Intended to be derogatory, the term was erroneously applied to Anne's followers, who did not believe that the inner Holy Spirit released them from obligation to moral law.
The colonial government moved to discipline her and her numerous followers in Boston. In May 1637, Vane lost the governorship to John Winthrop. To prevent new Antinomians from settling, he imposed a restriction on immigrants, among them Anne's brother and several of her friends. In August, eighty-two "heresies" committed by the Antinomians were read at a synod, and a ban was placed on all private meetings.
But Wheelwright continued to preach and Anne now held her meetings twice a week. In November, Winthop and his supporters filed charges against Anne and Wheelwright, who were then put on trial for heresy before a meeting of the General Court. Intending to prove that Anne's behavior was immoral, Winthrop described her meetings as "a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God, nor fitting for your sex," and accused her of breaking the Fifth Commandment by not honoring her father and mother (in this case, the magistrates of the colony). At this trial, she parried all questions so well that Edmund S. Morgan, a biographer of Gov. John Winthrop, was led to comment that Anne Hutchinson was the governor's "intellectual superior in everything except political judgment; in everything except the sense of what was possible in this world." Answering deftly, Anne came close to clearing herself of all charges. But suddenly, she mentioned that she had had several revelations. The Lord revealed himself to her, she said, "upon a Throne of Justice, and all the world appearing before him, and though I must come to New England, yet I must not fear nor be dismaied," she said. "Therefore, take heed. For I know that for this that you goe about to doe unto me," she threatened, "God will ruin you and your posterity, and this whole State." Winthop immediately replied, "I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion." The court voted to banish her from the colony, "as being a woman not fit for our society".
Wheelwright was exiled and shortly left for New Hamphire while Anne was put under house arrest for the winter to await a church trial in the spring. On March 15, 1638, Anne was brought to trial before the elders of the church of Boston. When her sons and sons-in-law tried to speak on her behalf, John Cotton cautioned them against "hindering" the work of God in healing her soul. To the women of the congretation he said to be careful in listening to her, "for you see she is but a woman and many unsound and dayngerous Principles are held by her."
Once her friend, Cotton now turned full force against her, attacking her meetings as a "promiscuous and filthie coming together of men and women without Distinction of Relation of Marriage," and accused her of believing in free love. "Your opinions frett like a Gangrene and spread like a Leprosie, and will eate out the very Bowells of Religion."
Then Reverend Wilson, whom she had once tried to evict from the Boston church, delivered her excommunication. "I doe cast you out and in the name of Christ I doe deliver you up to Satan, that you may learne no more to blaspheme, to seduce, and to lye."
"The Lord judgeth not as man judgeth," she retored. "Better to be cast out of the church than to deny Christ."
Banished from Boston, Anne Hutchinson with her husband, 13 children and 60 followers settled in the land of Narragansetts, from whose chief, Miantonomah, they purchased the island of Aquidneck (Peaceable Island), now part of Rhode Island. In March, 1638 they founded the town of Pocasset, the Indian name for that locality; the name "Portsmouth" was given to the settlement in 1639. Here they established that colony's first civil government.
After William's death in 1642, Anne took her children, except for her eldest son and daughter, to the Dutch colony in New York. But a few months later, fifteen Dutchmen were killed in a battle between Mohegans and the Narragansetts. In August, 1643 the Mohegans raided the Hutchinson house and slaughtered Anne and thirteen members of her family, except for one young daughter who was taken captive.
Some twentieth century observers credit Anne Hutchinson with being the first American woman to lead the public fight for religious diversity and female quality. In his 1971 biography, Eleanor and Franklin, Joseph P. Lash reported that Eleanor Roosevelt began her list of America's greatest women with Anne Hutchinson. Anne did indeed use her considerable influence as a woman to test the Massachusetts Bay Colony's religious tolerance which, ironically, had been the reason for the settlement.