Winthrop begins (235-236) by accusing her of:
promoting and divulging opinions (causing “this trouble”)
to be friends with censured individuals
speaking “divers things” “predjudicial” to churches and ministers
having a regular meeting in her house already condemned by the assembly as unbefitting a woman and not tolerable “in the sight of God”
Finally he asks her if she is a supporter of one Mr. Wheelwright.
Of course she was? Duh. He was married to her sister-in-law.
[[According to Wikipedia, Mr. John Wheelwright was yet another Cambridge educated Puritan clergyman; he arrived in Boston in June 1636 in the company of his wife, Mary, nee Hutchinson, and her mother, Sussana Hutchinson, who was of course the mother of Anne Hutchinson’s husband, William Hutchinson! I.E. Mary was sister-in-law to Anne.]]
Hutchinson replies, essentially, “but what have I done?”
This a clever ploy, since Winthrop’s accusations do seem to be pretty vague. Which opinions? Which individuals (besides Wheelwright, a member of her family)? what things against churches and ministers? Could he be more specific?
Hutchinson quickly defends her actions in supporting the opposing “faction” by stating: “that’s a matter of conscience, Sir.”
A matter of conscience. These are simple words with a powerful resonance; in the history of American thought (religious, political, psychological and epistemological), the idea or concept of “conscience” looms nearly as large as the idea of “liberty.”
Winthrop’s reply is equally telling; it is a comment deeply layered with an almost unspoken sexism, an overtly aristocratic impulse, and an ideal of social order that views civil and religious power as being continuous… in a pure community of regenerate saints.
“Your conscience you must keep, or it must be kept for you.”
It becomes clear (on p. 237), that the subtext of the conversation is that Anne Hutchinson had provided sanctuary to Wheelwright — her family — even after he had come into conflict with Winthrop. Her “entertainment” of them causes her to share in their lawbreaking, “the law of God and of the state”; and Winthrop accuses them of breaking the fifth commandment, “honor thy father and thy mother” (237).
As Anne twists Winthrops’ analysis of the situation fairly well, he finally, in some apparent exasperation, says, “we do not mean to discourse with those of your sex” (238); that pretty much sums up his thinking. He does not have to explain himself to a woman; she has helped his political/theological critic/enemy and so she is in his “faction,” just so.
The dialogue then turns to the weekly set meetings at Hutchinson’s house. Winthrop’s ire is that they are (a) regular, (b) an innovation, (c) sometimes involve men, (d) set her up as a teacher. She tries to deny his accusations; the dialogue is a little hard to follow at times through here.
A funny moment happens as Winthrop cross examines her and tries to get her to explain why she accepts the role of teacher, teaching anyone who comes to her, including men.
Hutchinson replies: “Do you think it not lawful for me to teach women and why do you call me to teach the court?” (240)
Against her professed rule of teaching younger women (from Titus [scil Tit 2:3-5]) he presents a rule from Corinthians [scil. a reference to 1 Cor. 14:34-35, forbidding a woman to teach a man].
In the end, she does not deign to defend her practice of holding set meetings in her house beyond claiming she teaches mainly or only women and that she bases this on a rule from Titus.
Winthrop, for his part, retreats from attempting to convince her that scripture forbids a woman to teach, and instead suggests that her teaching is “greatly prejudicial to the state” and an “occasion” “to seduce many honest persons” with “opinions being known to be different from the word of God” fearing she “may seduce many simple souls that resort unto you” (241). Note the repetition of the term “seduce.” For good measure he suggests that the women spend so much time in these meetings that they may neglect their families. (241)
Here’s a gem from this speech: “We see not that any should have authority to set up any other exercises [scil. a term for religious services] besides what authority hath already set up” (241).
Hutchinson disagrees, but allows: if he can show “a rule … from God’s word” that could convince her she is wrong to hold meetings, she will stop.
Winthrop: “We are your judges, and not you ours” (241).
On page 242, under some light cross-examination by the more level headed Simon Bradstreet, Hutchinson admits that she has, in fact, not one but two meetings at her house. One of men and women and one of women only; she claims they are not both “constant.”
After some additional cross examination by Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley (242-243), further accusations come to light from Dudley. A narrative of Hutchinson as a political and theological outsider emerges. She was a suspect from the time she arrived in 1633: “some that came over with her in the ship did inform me what she was as soon as she was landed.” [what was that?]. She was initially cleared, by her friend John Cotton, of suspicion, but accusations of “strange opinions” came back and John Cotton and Henry Vane were accused of sharing them.
[[Cotton cleared his name (by recanting) whereas Vane, the sometimes rival of Winthrop, was ultimately forced out; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Vane_the_Younger]]
“But now,” Dudley intones, “it appears by this women’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.” (243) I.E. she is a political / religious rival. An unwanted alternative in what is supposed to be a theonomic monolith.
Dudley finally gives some content to the accusation that she has “disparaged” the ministers. According to Dudley she says that all but Cotton preach a “covenant of works,” which is, to Puritan ears, indeed a disparagement.
She asks him (244) to prove that she said this. She denies it rather emphatically.
The “narrative” of Hutchinson the outsider troublemaker is then taken up again and elaborated by Rev. Hugh Peters of Salem (on p. 246). “This gentlewoman went under suspicion … from her landing,” she was “difficult in her opinions, but also of an intemperate spirit.” I.E. uppity and opinionated. He reports that early on he heard her accusations were directed against his ministry, but that instead of taking it before magistrates he [[perhaps following Matthew 18] took it up with her privately (247). There is a ring of truth to his account of her dispute with him and of her adoration of Cotton (she was in his church in Boston, Lincolnshire, England before his emigration). And of her statement that the ministers “know no more than the apostles did before the resurrection of Christ” (247), and “had not the seal of the spirit” (247).
But Hutchinson disputes this account. Yet several ministers present corroborate his account, and one Mr. Weld complains that he himself asked her “why she did cast such aspersions upon the ministers of the country though we were poor sinful men and and for ourselves we cared not but for the precious doctrine we held forth we could not but grieve to hear that so blasphemed” (248).
On page 250, during a discussion of the process by which Anne Hutchinson was examined by the teacher and minister of Boston Church, when she was admitted as a member, Mr. Wilson makes it clear that the theological difference has to do with fine distinctions in sanctification and justification. While Hutchinson did allow that sanctification might be a way of “evidencing justification,” and so was admitted to membership (for the Puritan Calvinist church membership had to commit to visible sanctification as evidence of their membership in the body of Christ) but she also said that “justification must be first.” Apparently, they all agreed to disagree on this point, Wilson and others thinking her idea “would take away the scruple,” probably by implying that in fact, sanctification was possible without justification (and thus could not reliably give evidence of it).
Now Thomas Shepherd, minister of Cambridge (where Harvard had been founded the year before, in 1636), steps forward with these eloquent words: “I am loth to speak in this assembly concerning this gentlewoman in question, but I can do no less than speak what my conscience speaks unto me” (251).
There’s that notion of conscience again!
It becomes clear on p. 254 that this dispute with Hutchinson comes down to a difference of opinion about the real referent of the saying “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” in 2 Cor. 3:6. [[ FASCINATING. ]] The ministers read it literally, [[ and Paul is literally talking about the Torah; ]] she takes it to be a reference to all written code, including that of “the letter of the gospel” —
This strange passage she refers to has often been a friend of enthusiasts who want religion to move beyond mere appeals to scripture and on into the depths of the soul.
When the trial resumes on the second day, it begins with a dispute. Hutchinson says she has read notes by Wilson that would exonerate her; Wilson, somewhat equivocally, admits the notes exist. She then asks that her accusers, the ministers who report that she disparaged them, take an oath. Which the subsequent dialogue reveals (pp. 257–260) to be a really big deal for the Puritans, lest they take the name of God in vain; there is a great deal of waffling, as the court essentially protests that the testimony of the ministers is ipso facto credible, but thinks that the ministers will swear oaths if it will satisfy her, and so asks if it will satisfy her. Initially, she replies:
“I can’t be, notwithstanding oaths, satisfied against my own conscience” (258).
After a great deal of legal and semantic banter, Winthrop and Dudley get Hutchinson to agree to the content of summary of the charges against her (on 260).
At this point, you can almost hear Thomas Shepard groan: “I know no reason of the oath but the importunity of this gentlewoman” (260).
But the wrangling goes on! The men in the courtroom are clearly agitated.
Finally, they give up on swearing oaths, or seem to; in what seems like a legal victory for Hutchinson, she is permitted to call three witnesses. She calls “Mr Leveret, and our teacher [John Cotton, who actually had already by this point come up and sat down beside her in court] and Mr. Coggeshall” (263).
Winthrop then discovers that Coggeshall is present, and learns from him “I dare say that she did not say all that which they lay against her” 263).
Winthrop asks Leveret, and he tells a story that got me thinking. The stumbling wording of his testimony is a bit hard to decipher. But the opening, in which he says “Mr. Peters did with much vehemency … urge her to tell what difference there was between Mr. Cotton and them.” He also makes it sound like Hutchinson was afraid of them; before answering, she quotes the proverb “the fear of man is a snare, but they that trust upon the Lord shall be safe.” Some variation of this saying is found in all the testimony against her, though the exact wording, timing, and reason for saying it were different. Here it serves to calm her enough to hazard an answer to the impertinent question.
The way I want to read Leveret, Hutchinson had actually been the victim here. A casual but intelligent remark from Hutchinson on the boat over had led to the start of a rumor after her arrival, which had reached the ears of some of the local divines (and some fellow passengers). But Leveret’s tale is made more interesting if we remember the special devotion that Hutchinson had for the preaching and ministry of John Cotton. I want to think that the ministers who confronted her were also jealous of the theological big-shot who had come two years into the venture and taken the choice position of Teacher at Boston Church. They knew Anne Hutchinson was going to join his congregation. So when they confronted her about the rumor, they tempted her to injure their pride in some way by asker her to compare them to her chosen minister. She was the victim of a theological bullying.
Confronted by a hostile questions about her obvious devotion to Cotton, she was prompted to give a reason why she preferred the ministry of John Cotton to their own.
In Leveret’s counterversion of events, the reason she gives is that Cotton’s gospel of the covenant of grace is much clearer than theirs, comparing the difference to the apostles with or without the Spirit (264).
If that’s what she said you can see why they were able to continue to attack her. The comparison only worked, it seemed, if we thought of them lacking the Spirit.
Winthrop then asks Cotton for his testimony, and Cotton begins a major speech that continues on for a page and a half; the longest continuous block of text so far (265-266).
I recommend reading it.
In the cross examination afterwards Peters goes after Cotton a bit and gets him to remember things a bit more his way. And then, after Cotton remarks that he did “remember well” Hutchinson saying that the other ministers “were not sealed with the seal of the spirit” Peters snidely comes back “There was a double seal found out that day which never was” (266).
The little exchange that comes next involves a disagreement about memory, exactly who said what, and whose expression it was that there was a difference between a little seal and a big seal, between ‘having the spirit’ and ‘having the seal of the spirit.’ Who was responsible for this slogan is at issue. Peters and Cotton disagree on the facts.
Winthrop suggests: “I do not see that we need their testimony any further. Mr. Cotton hath expressed what he remembered, and what took impression upon him, and so I think the other elders also did remember that which took impression upon them” (267).
Perhaps everyone is tired. But Hutchinson steps up at this point and really testifies. And nobody stops her (p. 268). Which is good for the judges but bad for Anne Hutchinson.
This is her big speech (268–269); it’s about a page in length. A faint marginalia on page 269 marks its denoument; I can’t quite make out the word but the line encloses her final remarks and a brief exchange afterwards; the outcome of that exchange is that her judges take her to be saying she has a direct line of revelation from the Holy Spirit (269); she can discern true from false ministry “by an immediate revelation” (269);
Which shocks them a bit. That she would claim this in open court.
She elaborates: “by the voice of his own spirit into my soul.” And continues on, for another page of text (269–270). She is on a roll. She has everybody’s attention. She explains how the voice of the Lord reveals particular scriptures to her, that become her oracles (such as Isa 30, which consoles her she and Wheelwright will see Cotton again after he departs for New England). She grows so impassioned during the course of the speech, I think, that she declares in defiant tones:
“I desire you to to look to it, for you see this scripture fulfilled this day and therefore I desire you that 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” (270).
The Deputy Governor snidely asks, “What is the scripture she brings?”
Stoughton says, “Behold I turn away from you.”
Hutchinson says, “But now having seen him which is invisible I fear not what man can do unto me.” (270)
Then, on pages 271-272, an interesting thing happens. After Hutchinson admits she fully expects the support of Divine Providence in her cause (like Daniel rescued from the lion’s den), then a certain H. William Bartholomew comes forward to talk of his remembrances; he recalls Hutchinson’s interest in revelation, and her claims that she receives revelation of her own course. Hutchinson confirms this is so — “I say the same thing again” (272). He also says that he remembers “she said that she was come to New-England but for Mr. Cotton’s sake.”
Reading over Bartholomew’s entire testimony, it becomes clear that he meant his initial charge to be understood in the sense that Hutchinson was moving to New England because she believed in a doomsday prophecy about England, and had further confided in him that “her heart would shake” at the prospect of her new digs if she didn’t know about it already. A certain English preacher named Hooker, he says, put it in her head that England was doomed (272).
She had also had a prophecy about a healing while on the ship, he charges (her own daughter, he says, spread that report); the subsequent discussion, over several pages, include a cross-examination of Cotton on the doctrine regarding personal revelations, and questioned about Hutchinson’s revelations, especially the one that God will save her by some providence from any calamity that is coming from the trial; Cotton is pressed regarding whether he will say if Hutchinson’s revelation is of God or not; but he squirms out of it, more or less, while casting some skeptical vibes in Hutchinson’s direction (275).
Finally, Winthrop picks up the theme of providence with glee. He repeats a phrase of Mr. Endicott, who had a few minutes earlier said: “I have heard of many revelations of Mr. Hutchinson’s, but they were reports, but Mrs. Hutchinson I see doth maintain some by this discourse, and I think it is a special providence of God to hear what she hath said” (273); meaning: she just convicted herself by claiming revelations of providence. Now Winthrop crows, in one of his longest speeches (on 275): “The case is altered and will not stand with us now, but I see a marvellous providence of God to bring things to this pass that they are. We have been hearkening about the trial of this thing and now the mercy of God by a providence hath answered our desires and made her to lay open her self and the ground of all these disturbances to be by revelations, for we receive no such” (275) and a break in the manuscript there ruins the rest of the sentence.
He then goes on to deeply disparage her claim to knowledge by revelation: “the ground work of her revelations is the immediate revelation of the spirit and not by the ministry of the word;” he goes on: “and that is the means by which she hath very much abused the country… this hath been the ground of all these tumults and troubles, and I would that those were all cut off from us that trouble us, for this is the thing that hat been the root of all the mischief.” (275)
The story is not to be believed when the text reports, in the next line:
“Court [says]: We all consent with you.”
So, Anne Hutchinson is going to be cut off from the community.
But then, Endicott says, wait a minute… John Cotton needs to clarify his position in this mess (276). It’s an interesting exchange. Cotton tries to straddle the fence, refusing to condemn the possibility of individual revelation through a word (scil. scripture) of God; and makes it clear that he understands Anne Hutchinson to be claiming exactly that gift. But the Dep. Gov. is not satisfied with Cotton, complaining several times (he seems like he wants to impeach Cotton if possible).
Then Mr. Nowell pipes in: “I think [Anne’s prophecy] is a devilish delusion” (276).
The accusations are coming together.
The Deputy governor makes his heart known (on 277). “I am fully persuaded that Mrs. Hutchinson is deluded by the devil, because the spirit of God speaks truth in all his servants” (277).
Things heat up against Cotton, but Winthrop tries to cool the flames; “Mr Cotton is not called to answer to anything but we are to deal with the party here standing before us” (278).
After several voices call for punishment, and one man for an even severer punishment than had previously been sought, Gov. Winthrop announces his thoughts on the matter:
“Seeing the court hath declared itself and hearing what hath been laid to the charge of Mrs. Hutchinson and especially what she by the providence of God hath declared freely without being asked, if therefore it be the mind of the court, looking at her as the principal cause of all our trouble, that they would not consider what is to be done to her” (278–279).
William Coddington then rises to Hutchinson’s defense. He clears her, eloquently, of the previous charges against her, and urges the court to soften its censure for the really not so devilish belief/experience that God reveals himself in scriptures with his Spirit in our spirit. Coddington is famous for this defense (at least in Rhode Island).
In the final pages, Endicott and Weld and Peters return to the issues of what she had originally said about their ministries and about the seal… (282-283)
But in spite of further words from Cotton and Coddington in her defense, the Governor calls it short and makes a motion to condemn her, thusly:
“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.” (283)
“All but three.”
Reports the text.
Only Coddington and Colborn vote with her.
Tennison abstains and offers to explain but nobody takes him up on it (284).
The final exchange between Hutchinson and Winthrop sounds a note of bitter meanness into the event; she asks to know where she will be sent, and Winthrop says only “Say no more, the court knows wherefore and is satisfied” (284). The final words of the trial.
Transcript of the Trial of Anne Hutchinson before John Winthrop (1637). This can be read on pages 235–284 in Charles Francis Adams, ed. Antinomianism in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, 1636–1638: Including The Short Story and Other Documents (Boston: The Prince Society, 1894);
Also in Adams, on pp. 53–234, is Winthrop’s Short Story of the Rise, Reign, and Ruine of the Antinomians, Familists and Libertines, that Infected the Churches of New England (1644).