The Examination of
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson
at the Court at Newton
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 other ministers were in attendance including Rev. John Cotton,
Mrs. Hutchinson's minister, and the person who inspired her basic theological
position. Anne Hutchinson appears as the accused in this trial.
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,
Gov.: Have I not named
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
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
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
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
Mrs. H.: Wherein?
Gov.: Why in entertaining
Mrs. H.: What breach
of law is that, Sir?
Gov.: Why dishonouring
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
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....
[They continue to
argue over what rule she had broken]
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
Mrs. H.: I pray, Sir,
prove it that I said they preached nothing but a covenant of works.
Dep. Gov.: Nothing
but a covenant of works. Why a Jesuit may preach truth sometimes.
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
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
Mrs. H.: I deny that.
Dep. Gov.: And that
you said they were not able ministers of the New Testament, but Mr. Cotton
Mrs. H.: If ever I
spake that I proved it by God's word.
Court: 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.
[The Governor says
to do so. Six minsters then testify to the particular charges and that
she was "not only difficult in her opinions, but also of an intemperate
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.
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
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
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. . [The next 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....
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
[more back and forth
between Rev. John Cotton, trying to defend Mrs. Hutchinson, and Mr. Peters,
about exactly what Mrs. Hutchinson said]
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
Dep. Gov.: By an immediate
Mrs. H.: So to me
by an immediate revelation.
Dep. Gov.: How! an
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
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.
[All but three did
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.