Story type: Essay
As I do understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway. He who has God’s grace in his heart can not go astray.
Boston was founded in Sixteen Hundred Thirty. The village was first called Trimountain, which was shortened as a matter of prenatal economy to Tremont.
The site was commanding and beautiful–a pear-shaped peninsula, devoid of trees, wind-swept, facing the sea, fringed by the salt-marsh, and transformed at high tide into an actual island.
The immediate inspirer of the Puritan exodus from England was Archbishop Laud, who had a cheerful habit of cutting off the ears of people who differed with him concerning the unknowable. The Puritans were people who believed in religious liberty. They rebelled from ritual, form, pomp and parade in sacred things. Their clergy were “ministers,” their churches were “meetinghouses,” their communicants “a congregation.”
The Boston settlers were Congregationalists, and stood about halfway between Presbyterianism and the Independents. Oliver Cromwell, it will be remembered, was an Independent. John Winthrop, a man very much like him, was a Congregationalist.
The Independents had no priests, but the Congregationalists compromised on a minister.
Charles the First and his beloved Archbishop Laud regarded these Congregationalists as undesirable citizens, and so obligingly gave John Winthrop his charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and said, “Go, and peace be with you,” although that is not the exact phrase they used.
In Sixteen Hundred Thirty-three, the Reverend John Cotton arrived at Tremont from Boston, Lincolnshire, England. In his honor, in a burst of enthusiasm, the settlers voted to change the name of their town from Tremont to Boston. And Boston Village it remained–Saint Botolph’s Town–governed by the town-meeting, until Eighteen Hundred Thirty-two, when it became a city, and Boston it is, even unto this day.
Boston now has considerably more than half a million people; at the beginning of the Revolutionary War it had twenty thousand inhabitants; in Sixteen Hundred Thirty-three, when John Cotton arrived, it had three hundred seven folk. The houses were built of logs–not of cut stone and marble–mostly in blockhouse style, chinked with mud. There were no wharves, but John Winthrop proudly says, “A ship can come within half a mile of my house, so deep is the channel.”
John Cotton was a very strong and earnest man, much beloved by all who knew him. Almost every family in the Massachusetts Bay Colony named a child after him. Increase Mather named one of his sons “Cotton.” The Colonists did not leave England by individuals or single families. They came in groups–church-groups–headed by the pastor of his flock. They were not in search of an Eldorado, nor a fountain of youth. It was distinctly a religious movement, the object being religious liberty. They wished to worship God in their own way. They believed that this world was a preparation for eternity. They believed that religion is the chief concern of mortals here below. Had they been told that man moves in a mysterious way his blunders to perform, the remark would have been lost on them.
Religion was the oil which caused the flame of their lives to burn brightly. They knew nothing of science, of history, of romance or of poetry. Their one book was the Bible, and by it they endeavored to guide their lives. Nature to them was something opposed to God, and all natural impulses were looked upon with suspicion. They never played and seldom laughed. They toiled, prayed, sang, and for recreation argued as to the meaning of Scriptural passages. To know what these passages meant was absolutely necessary in order to find a right location for your soul in another world. The fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom, but also its end.
And yet there was a recompense in their zeal, for it was the one thing which caused them to emigrate. In its holy flame all old ties were consumed, the past became ashes, hardships and dangers as naught, and although there was much brutality in their lives, they were at least different kinds of brutes from what they otherwise would have been. They were transplanted weeds. Religious zeal has its benefits, but they are often bought at a high price.
The Puritans left the Old World to gain religious liberty, but to give religious liberty in the New was beyond their power. The only liberty they allowed was the liberty to believe as they believed. Others were wrong, they were right–therefore it was right for them to take the wrong in hand and set them right. They were filled with fear, and fear is the finish of everything upon which it gets a clutch. Were it not for fear man’s religion would reduce itself to a healthful emotional exercise, a beautiful intermittent impulse. Institutional religion is founded on the monstrous assumption that man is a fully developed creature, and has the ability, when rightly instructed, to comprehend, appreciate and understand final truth–hence the creeds, those curious ossified metaphors, figures of speech paralyzed with fright.
Sufficient unto the day is the knowledge thereof. What is best today is best for the future. We must realize that life is a voyage and we are sailing under sealed orders. We open our orders every morning, and this allows us to change our course as we get new light.
These Puritans knew the voyage from start to finish, or thought they did. They never doubted–hence their inhumanities, their lack of justice, their absence of sympathy. And all the persecutions that had been visited upon them, they in turn visited upon others as soon as they had the power. Their lives were given over to cruelty and quibble.
These church-groups seemed to understand intuitively that a little separation was a good thing. If this were not so, things would have been even worse than they were. There were groups at Salem, Charlestown, Newtown, Cambridge, Watertown, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mystic and Lynn, each presided over by a “minister.” This minister was a teacher, preacher, doctor, lawyer and magistrate. In times of doubt all questions were referred to him. The first “General Court” was a meeting composed of the ministers, presided over by the Governor of the Colony, and all things ecclesiastic and civil were regulated by them.
Of course these men believed in religious liberty–liberty to do as they said–but any one who questioned their authority or criticized their rulings was looked upon as an enemy of the Colony. So we see how very easily, how very naturally, State and Church join hands.
Puritans were opposed to a theocracy, but before the Colony was six weeks old, the ministers got together and passed resolutions, and these resolutions being signed by the Governor, who was of their religious faith, were laws. The “General Court” was a House of Lords, where the members, instead of being bishops, were ministers, and the State religion was of course Congregationalism.
All that is needed is time, and the rebels evolve exactly the same kind of institution as that from which they rebelled. The Puritans fled for freedom, and now in their midst, if there be any who want the privilege of disagreeing with them, these, too, must flee. And so does mankind ever move in circles.
Successful religions are all equally bad.
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Anne Hutchinson arrived in Boston, September Eighteenth, Sixteen Hundred Thirty-four, on board the good ship “Griffin.” With her was her husband, William Hutchinson, and their fifteen children. It had been a pleasant passage of seven weeks.
The Hutchinsons came from Boston, England, and had been members of the Reverend John Cotton’s church. It had been their intention to leave for the New World with him the year before, but they had been detained by the authorities, for just what reason we do not know. If the persons who held them back a year had succeeded in keeping them entirely, it would have been well for them, but not for literature, for then this “Little Journey” would not have been written.
The Hutchinsons were accounted rich, having a thousand guineas in gold, not to mention the big family of children. John Cotton had told of them, and of the many fine qualities of heart and mind possessed by Mrs. Hutchinson. Several of the Hutchinson children were fully grown, and we are apt to think of the mother as well along in years. The fact was, she had barely turned forty, with just a becoming sprinkling of gray in her hair, when she reached the friendly shores of America.
Life on shipboard is a severe test of character. The pent-up quarters bring out qualities, and often attachments are made or repulsions formed, that last a lifetime. On board a co-ed ship, people either make love or quarrel, or they may do both.
The “Griffin” carried more than a hundred passengers, among them two clergymen who are known to fame simply because they crossed the sea with Anne Hutchinson. These men were the Reverend John Lathrop and the Reverend Zacharius Symmes. Religious devotions occupied a goodly portion of the Puritan time, both on ship and on shore. The two clergymen on the “Griffin” very naturally took charge of the spiritual affairs on the craft, and apportioned out the time as best suited them. There were prayers in the morning, prayers in the evening, preaching in the forenoon, prayers and singing psalms between times.
Mrs. Hutchinson was a physician by natural endowment, and made it her special business to look after the physical welfare of the women and children on the ship. This was well; but when she called a meeting of all the women on board ship, and addressed them, the Reverend John Lathrop and the Reverend Zacharius Symmes invited the themselves to attend, in order to see what manner of meeting it might be.
All went well. But in a week, Mrs. Hutchinson kind of got on the nerves of the reverend gentlemen. Both men were strictly class B: stern, severe, sober, serious, sincere, very sincere. Mrs. Hutchinson was practical, rapid, witty and ready in speech; they were obtuse and profound. Of course they argued–for all parties were Puritans. Daily disputes were indulged in about the meaning of misty passages of biblical lore. The ministers attended Mrs. Hutchinson’s meetings, and she attended theirs. They criticized her teachings, and she made bold to say a few words about their sermons. The passengers, having nothing better to do, took sides.
When land was sighted, and at last the “Griffin” passed slowly through the mouth of the harbor, all disputes were forgotten and a joyous service of thanksgiving was held. I said all disputes were forgotten: two men, however, remembered. These men were the Reverend John Lathrop and the Reverend Zacharius Symmes. They felt hurt, grieved, injured: the woman had usurped their place, and besprinkled their sacred offices with disrespect–at least they thought so.
When anchor was dropped, they were among the first to clamber over the side and pull for the shore. They sought out John Winthrop, Governor of the Colony, and told him to beware of that Hutchinson woman–she had a tongue that was double-edged. John Winthrop smiled and guessed that a woman with fifteen children could not help but be a blessing to the Colony. The two ministers drew down long Puritan visages and thought otherwise.
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The capacity for intellectual endeavor in a well-balanced woman is not at its height until her childbearing days are in abeyance. At such a time, in many instances, there comes to her a new birth of power: aspiration, ambition, desire, find new channels, and she views the world from a broad and generous vantage-ground before unguessed. The frivolous, the transient, the petty–each assumes its proper place, and she has the sense of value now if ever.
A great man once said in his haste that no woman under thirty knew anything worth mentioning, her life being ruled by emotion, not intellect. The great man was then forty; at fifty he pushed the limit along ten years. At thirty feeling is apt to cool a little, and the woman has times when she really thinks. Between forty and fifty is her harvest-time, and if she ever realizes cosmic consciousness it is then.
Anne Hutchinson was rounding her fortieth milestone when she conceived a great and sublime truth. It took possession of her being and seemed to sway her entire life. This truth was called “Covenant of Grace.” Its antithesis is “Covenant of Works.”
All theological dogmas, at the base, have in them a germ of truth. The danger lies in making words concrete and building a structure upon grammar.
Covenant of Grace and Covenant of Works are both true, but the first is sublimely true, while the second is true relatively. Both phrases come from Saint Paul, who was the very prince of theological quibblers. Covenant of Grace means that if you have the grace of God in your heart, your life will justify itself; that is, if you are filled with the spirit of good, inspired by right intent, and possess a firm faith that you are the child of God, and God has actually entered into a covenant with you to bless, benefit and protect you here and hereafter. Also, that under these conditions you can really do no sin. You may make mistakes, but this divine covenant that is yours transforms even your lapses, blemishes, blunders, errors and sins into blessings, so that in the end only the good is yours.
When you have gotten your mind and soul into right relationship with God or the Divine Spirit, you do not have to seek, strive, struggle, or painstakingly select and decide as to your actions. God’s spirit acting through you makes you immune from harm and wrong. Your mind being right, your actions must of necessity be right, because an act is but a thought in motion.
So, enter into the Covenant of Grace–make a bargain with God that you will keep your being free from wrong thought–lie low in His hand. Let His spirit play through you, relax, cease wrestling for a blessing, and realize that you already have it. Then for you all of the harassing details of life become simplified. What you shall say, what you shall do, how you shall dress, what the particular actions of the day shall be–all are as naught. Life becomes automatic, divinely so, and regulates itself if you but have the Covenant of Grace.
The opposite view is the Covenant of Works. That is, you make an agreement with God that you will obey His will; that you will control and guard your “work,” or actions; that your conduct will be correct. Conduct then becomes the vital thing, not thought. By a “work” was meant a deed, and you got God’s assurance in your heart of salvation through the propriety of your acts. Turner painted painstakingly before he acquired the broad and general sweep. Washington, Franklin and Lincoln, all in youth, compiled lists of good actions and bad ones.
People in this stage set down lists of things which they should not do, and also lists of things they should do. Young people usually make lists of things they want to do, but must not. This stage compares with the stage of realism in art. You must be realistic before you become impressionistic. They want God’s favor, they wish Him to smile upon them, and so they are feverishly intent on doing only the things of which He approves. Likewise they are fearful of doing the things of which He disapproves.
Moses made a list of seven things the children of Israel must not do, and three things they must do; and these we call the Ten Commandments.
The question of Covenant of Grace or Covenant of Works is a very old one, and it is not settled yet. It goes forever with a certain type of mind. Our criminal laws punish for the act–magistrates consider the deed. And it is only a few years ago since a judge in America focused the world’s attention upon himself by refusing to punish delinquent children brought before him for their deeds. He organized the Juvenile Court, the sole intent of which is not to punish for the act, but to go back of this and find out why this child committed the act, and then remove the cause. And in doing this Judge Lindsey had to become a lawbreaker himself, for he often violated his oath of office by refusing to enforce the law where a specific punishment was provided for a specific offense.
The entire and sole offense of Anne Hutchinson was her emphasis of a Covenant of Grace. She had first gotten the idea from the Reverend John Cotton; but it had enlarged in her mind until it took possession of her nature, perhaps to the exclusion of some other good things. All of her exhortations to the women on shipboard were: Don’t be anxious; don’t be fearful; don’t worry about the cares of your household or the conduct of your husband or children. Don’t be anxious about your own conduct. Just dedicate your lives to God, and in consideration of the dedication His grace or spirit will fill your hearts, so that all of your actions will be right and proper and without sin.
Of course, this plea was met with specific questions, such as, if works are immaterial and grace is all, then what shall I do in this case, also that and the other? And how about teaching the catechism and memorizing the Ten Commandments? Must not we say prayers, and attend divine worship, and pay tithes, and obey magistrates?
Little minds always find endless food for argument and disputation, right here. To leave the question to Nature and let actions adjust themselves, they will never do. They want direct orders covering all the exigencies of life. To meet this demand the Torah of the Jews was devised, telling how to kill chickens, how to remove the feathers, how to pass a stranger in an alley, how to cook, eat, pray, sleep, sing, and cut one’s hair.
Thus we get such peculiar laws as that it is a sin for a Jew to make a fire at certain hours, to trim his beard, or for a Chinaman to clip his cue. All barbaric people devise codes covering the minutiae of conduct. With the Hopi Indians the maidens dress their hair in one way and the married women in another, and if a married woman clothes herself like a maiden, she is regarded as past redemption, and is killed. One of the Ten Commandments, that against making graven images, was founded on the fallacy that sculpture and idolatry were one and the same thing. The Puritans believed that the arts of sculpture and painting were both idolatrous. Some believed also that instrumental music was the work of the devil. While a few believed that wind-instruments, like the organ, were proper and right, yet stringed instruments were harmful and tended to lascivious pleasings. Now there are churches that use the pipe-organ, but allow the use of a piano only in the lecture-room, or guildhouse. The United Presbyterians disunited from the main body by abjuring all music but that of the human voice, and then they split as to the propriety of using a tuning-fork.
The Baptists have always played the organ, but the cornet as an instrument to be used in leading congregational singing has caused much dispute and contention. And while the cornet is allowed by many, the violin is still tabu absolutely in certain districts. All this is “Covenant of Works”: be careful concerning what you do–have a sleepless and vigilant eye for conduct–look to your deeds!
Anne Hutchinson cut the Gordian knot of law at a stroke, by saying, “Get the grace of God in your hearts, and it is really no difference what you do, or do not do.” Now this is a very old idea. The elect few who get their heads into a certain mental stratum have always come to a belief in the truth of the Covenant of Grace.
When Jesus plucked the ears of corn on the Sabbath day he violated Jewish law, and showed them then and at various other times that he had small respect for laws governing conduct.
Persons who take this view are regarded as anarchists. They are looked upon as enemies of the State; consequently they are dangerous persons, and must be gotten rid of. Their guilt is always founded on an inference: they do not believe in this, hence surely they are guilty of that.
During the Civil War it was assumed by a large contingent that if you believed in equal rights for the colored man you were desirous of having your daughter marry a “nigger.”
Many good men assume that if you believe in giving the right of suffrage to women, you want your wife to run for the office of constable. There are those who assume that men who do not go to church play cards; those who play cards chew tobacco; those who chew tobacco drink whisky; those who drink whisky beat their wives; therefore all men should go to church.
All of Anne Hutchinson’s troubles came from inferences; these inferences were the work of the clergy.
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Those first Colonists lived practically communal lives, as pioneers usually do. In their labors they worked together and for one another. If a house was to be built, there was a “bee” and everybody got busy. When a shipload of emigrants arrived, the entire town welcomed them at the waterside. The Hutchinsons were especially welcome, coming as the near and dear personal friends of John Cotton. Mrs. Hutchinson and several of her children were housed with the Cotton family, until they could build a home of their own.
Mrs. Hutchinson was regarded as an especially valuable arrival, for she had rare skill in medicine and a devotion in nursing the sick that caused her to be looked upon with awe. With children she was especially fortunate. Hers was the healing touch, for she had the welling mother-heart, the heart of infinite love; and the cures she worked by simply holding the stricken child in her arms and breathing upon it were thought to be miraculous.
With pioneers, children are at a premium. Puritans regarded the death of a child as a visitation of the wrath of God; it filled the whole settlement with terror. So naturally, any one who could stay the hand of death was regarded as divinely endowed. Also, they were regarded by some with suspicion, for these people believed there were two sources of power, God and Satan.
Anne Hutchinson smiled at this, and told the people that sickness was a result of wrong living or accident, and was not a manifestation of the wrath of God at all, and the cure was simply worked by getting in harmony with the laws of Nature.
Here, unwittingly, Mrs. Hutchinson was treading on very thin theological ice. She was contradicting the clergy. She thought Nature and God were one–they knew otherwise. But her days were so filled with the care of the sick who besieged her house, that she was forced in self-protection to give the people strong meat.
There were times when the weather was bad, and the whole settlement would sink into melancholia. These people were on the bleak hillside, facing the sea. Back of them, hedging them close, was the forest, dim, dark and mysterious. In this wood were bears, wolves, panthers, which in Winter, lured by the smell of food, would occasionally enter the village to the great danger of life. At nightfall the settlers would go inside, bar the windows and doors, and look to their matchlocks, which in emergency might be needed.
Now and again came Indians, proud and painted, and paraded through the village threateningly, and innocently helped themselves to whatsoever they saw which they needed. Mrs. Hutchinson’s power of healing had gone abroad among these red men, and now and again an Indian mother would stop at her door with a stricken papoose, and such were never turned away.
The houses were small, ill-ventilated, overcrowded, and the singing, praying and exhortation were not favorable to the welfare of the sick, nervous or tired. The long severe Winter was a cause of dread and apprehension. This was weather to which English people were not used, and they had not grown accustomed to battle with the snow and ice. Instead of facing it, they went into their houses to protect themselves against it. So there was much idle time, when only prayer and praise for a God of wrath filled the hours. Not a family was free from disease, not a house but that upon the doorposts were marks of blood.
The word “psychology” had never been heard by Mrs. Hutchinson, but the thing itself she knew. She sought to relieve the people of gloom, to stop introspection and self-analyzation. They quarreled, strife was imminent; and when, with the dread of Winter, came the added fear of a Pequot uprising, the whole place was treading the border-land of insanity. It is doubtful whether Anne Hutchinson knew that insanity was infectious, and that whole families, communities, can become possessed of hallucinations–that towns can go mad, and nations have a disease.
But this we know, she challenged the eight ministers who were there in the Colony by calling meetings of women only, and teaching a gospel which was at variance with what the eight learned men upheld. Her theme was the Covenant of Grace. Get His spirit in your hearts and you will not have to trouble about details. All your anxious care about your children, your fear of disease, and horror at thought of death, will disappear. This fear is what causes your sickness.
“You think some of your acts have been displeasing to God, and therefore you suffer; but I say, if you but have the Grace of God in your souls, and have transcendent minds, you can never displease Him.”
It will be seen that this is the pure Emersonian faith which has not only been applied to life in general, but to the arts. Anne Hutchinson was the mother of New England Transcendentalism. Self-consciousness is fatal to the art of expression; he who fixes his thought on the movements of his hands and feet is sure to get tangled up in them; good digestion does not require the attention of the party most interested; and he who devotes all of the time to his spiritual estate will soon have the whole property in chancery. Man is not a finality– he is not the thing–the play’s the thing: life is the play and the play is life. Man is only one of the properties. Look out, not in; up, not down, and lend a hand. And these things form the modern application of the philosophy of Anne Hutchinson.
The ministers got together in secret session and decided that Anne Hutchinson must be subdued. She was a usurper upon their preserve, a trespasser and an interloper. Fear was the rock upon which they split. And I am not sure but that fear is the only rock in life’s channel. Mrs. Hutchinson had told them that sermons, prayers and hymns were mere “works,” and that a person could do all that they demanded and still be a thief and a rogue at heart, and that this close attention to conduct meant eventual hypocrisy. On the other hand, if your mental attitude was right, your conduct would be right.
“Even though it is wrong?” asked the Reverend Mr. Wilson.
And Anne Hutchinson replied, “Aye, verily.”
“Then you say that you can commit no sin?”
“If my heart is right, I can not sin.”
“Is your heart right?”
“I am trying to make it so.”
“Then you can commit any act you wish?”
“Whatever I wish to do will be right, if my heart is right.”
“But suppose, now–” and here these clergymen asked questions which no gentleman ever asks a lady.
These men had a fine faculty for misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and misrepresenting other people’s thoughts.
John Cotton tried to pour oil on the troubled waters by explaining that the idea of a Covenant of Grace was general, and to make it specific was unjust and unreasonable. Then they turned on Cotton and said, “So, you are one of them?”
Anne Hutchinson was ordered not to speak in public.
She still held meetings at her own house, and claimed she had the right to ask her friends to her home and there to talk to them.
She it was who instituted the Boston Thursday Lecture, which was taken up by John Cotton and carried by an apostolic succession to the crowning days of its success, when Adirondack Murray reigned supreme. Mrs. Hutchinson spoke to all the women the house would hold. The Colony was divided into two parts: those who believed in a Covenant of Grace and those who held to a Covenant of Works.
John Cotton seemed to be the only clergyman of the eight who realized that both sides were right. Anne Hutchinson quoted him, told what he had said in England, as well as here–and then John Cotton had to defend himself. He did it by criticizing her, and then by accusing her of taking his words too literally. He feared the mob.
The breach widened–he denounced her. Winthrop was against her, and Cotton saw defeat for himself if he longer stood by her. She was a good woman, but she must be suppressed for the good of the Colony. With the consent of Cotton, and Wilson, his colleague, these two men, being joint ministers to the Boston church, made formal charges of heresy against her.
Sir Henry Vane, a youth of twenty-four, noble both by birth and by nature, was elected Governor of the Colony. He sided with Mrs. Hutchinson, and sought to bring commonsense to bear and stem the tide of fanaticism. They turned on him, and his downfall was identical with hers, although he was to return to England and make his own way to success: to love Peg Woffington and elbow his way to place and power, and also to London Tower, and lay his head upon the block in the interests of human rights.
Mrs. Hutchinson was tried by an ecclesiastic court and found guilty. In the trial, which covered several months, Mrs. Hutchinson defended herself at great length and with much skill; but what the clergymen demanded was an absolute retraction, and a promise that she would no longer usurp their special function of giving public instruction.
All this time the Colony was rent by schism. Up at Salem was a Baptist preacher by the name of Roger Williams, who was much in sympathy with Mrs. Hutchinson, personally, although not adopting all of her ideas. He thought that in view of the great usefulness of Mrs. Hutchinson as a nurse and neighbor, she should be allowed to speak when she chose and say what she wished, “because if it be a lie, it will die; and if it be truth, we ought to know it.” Roger Williams would have done well to have kept a civil tongue in his head. There was a rod in pickle for him, too, and his words were duly noted and recorded by witnesses.
Then there was Mary Dyer, wife of William Dyer, who came to Boston in Sixteen Hundred Thirty-five, when the Hutchinson trouble was beginning to brew. Mary Dyer is described by John Winthrop as “a comely person of ready tongue, somewhat given to frivolity.” But the years were to subdue her. She became much attached to Mrs. Hutchinson, and whenever Mrs. Hutchinson spoke in public Mrs. Dyer was always near at hand to lend her support. In the journal of Winthrop there are various references to Mrs. Dyer. The man was interested in her, but one of these references reflects most seriously on the mental processes of this excellent man. When the charges of heresy were brought against Mrs. Hutchinson, Mrs. Dyer stood by her boldly, and was threatened by the clergymen with similar proceedings. Winthrop says Mrs. Dyer was so wrought upon by the excitement that she was taken with premature childbirth. She was attended by Mrs. Hutchinson, and the child, “being not human,” was despatched. This horrible story was related throughout the Colony, and both women were regarded as being in league with the devil. School-children used to run and hide when they saw Mrs. Dyer coming. A little later the Reverend Cotton Mather was to cite the case of Mary Dyer as precedent for his pet belief in witchcraft.
Mrs. Hutchinson was found guilty and expelled from the church. She was then again tried by the General Court, wherein all of her judges in the Ecclesiastic Court also sat. After a long, laborious and insulting trial, with no one but herself to raise a voice in her defense, pitted against the eight clergymen, she ably defended her cause and actually put them all to rout–an unforgivable thing, and an error in judgment on her part.
There is much literature surrounding the case, and one of the ministers, Thomas Welde, wrote a pamphlet explaining his part in it, quite forgetful of the fact that explanations never explain. The more one reads of Welde, the greater is his admiration for Mrs. Hutchinson. Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts, the great-grandson of Anne Hutchinson, edited the journal of Winthrop, and gives a remarkably unprejudiced account of the sufferings of his great maternal ancestor.
Being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Mrs. Hutchinson found refuge in Rhode Island, where she was welcomed by Roger Williams, the first person, I believe, who lifted up his voice for free speech in America. Mrs. Hutchinson was followed by her own family and eighteen persons from Boston who sympathized with her. Included in the party was Mary Dyer.
At Providence, Mrs. Hutchinson drew around her a goodly number of people, including Quakers and Baptists, who listened to her discourses with interest.
The ministers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony evidently felt that they had made a mistake, for they got together and delegated three of their number to go down to Providence and acquaint the renegades with the news that if they would recant all belief in a Covenant of Grace, they could return. Mrs. Hutchinson met the delegates with dignity and kindness. The conference lasted for two days, and the committee returned reporting the matter hopeless.
There were several desertions from Boston by those who sympathized with Mrs. Hutchinson, and some of those people Mrs. Hutchinson prevailed upon to go back. There were threats that the Massachusetts people were coming down to capture them all by force. This so preyed upon the Hutchinsons, who had suffered severely, that they packed their now scanty goods upon a raft, and with improvised sails headed for the Dutch settlement of Manhattan.
They were kindly received and given title to a tract of land on Long Island, near Hell Gate. There, in a little clearing, on the water’s edge, they began to build a house. Ere the roof was on they were attacked by Indians, who evidently mistook them for Dutch, and all were massacred.
So died Anne Hutchinson.
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Anne Hutchinson was mourned by Mary Dyer as a sister, and she preached a funeral sermon at Providence in eulogy of her. Mrs. Dyer also went back to Boston and made an address in praise of Anne Hutchinson on Boston Common, to the great scandal of the community. Mrs. Dyer had now become a Quaker, principally because Quakers had no paid priesthood and allowed women who heard the Voice to preach.
Mary Dyer heard the Voice and preached. Her attention was called to the law, which in Boston provided that Quakers and Jews should have their ears cut off and their tongues bored.
She continued to preach, and was banished.
She came back, and was found standing in front of the jail talking through the bars to two Quakers, Robinson and Stevenson, who were confined there awaiting sentence. She had brought them food, and was exhorting them to be of good-cheer. She was locked up, and asked to recant. She acknowledged she was a Quaker, and not in sympathy with magistracy.
She was sentenced by Governor Endicott, on her own confession, with having a contempt for authority, and ordered to be hanged. The day came and she was led forth, walking hand in hand with her two guilty Quaker brothers.
The scaffold was on Boston Common, on the little hill about where the band-stand is at the present day.
Mrs. Dyer stood and watched them hang her friends, one at a time. As they were swung off into space she called to them to hold fast to the truth, “for Christ is with us!” Whenever she spoke or sang, the drums that were standing in front and back of her were ordered to beat, so as to drown her voice.
After the bodies of her friends had dangled half an hour they were cut down.
It was then her turn. She ascended the scaffold, refusing the help of the Reverend Mr. Wilson. He followed her and bound his handkerchief over her eyes, a guard in the meantime tying her hands and feet with rawhide.
“Do you renounce the Quakers?” “Never, praise God, His son Jesus Christ, and Anne Hutchinson, His handmaiden–we live by truth!”.
“A reprieve! a reprieve!!” some one shouted. And it was so–Governor Endicott had ordered that this woman be banished, not hanged, unless she again came back to Boston. It was all an arranged trick to frighten the woman thoroughly.
Wilson removed the handkerchief from her eyes. They unbound her feet, and the thongs that held her hands were loosed. She looked down below at the bodies of Robinson and Stevenson lying dead on the grass. She asked that the sentence upon her be carried out. But not so: she was led by guards fifteen miles out into the forest and there liberated.
In a few months she was back in Boston, to see her two grown-up sons, and also to bear witness to the “Inner Light.”
Being brought before Governor Endicott, she was asked, “Are you the same Mary Dyer that was here before?”
“I am the same Mary Dyer.”
“Do you know you are under sentence of death?”
“I do, and I came back to remind you of the unrighteousness of your laws, and to warn you to repent!”
“Are you still a Quaker?”
“I am still reproachfully so called.”
“Tomorrow at nine o’clock I order that you shall be hanged.”
“This sounds like something you said before!”
“Lead her away–away, I say!”
At nine the next morning a vast crowd covered the Common, the shops and stores being closed, by order, for a holiday.
Mr. Wilson again attended the culprit. “Mary Dyer, Mary Dyer!” he called in a loud voice as they stood together on the scaffold. “Mary Dyer, repent, oh, repent, and renounce your heresies!”
And Mary Dyer answered, “Nay, man; I am not now to repent, knowing nothing to repent of!”
“Shall I have the men of God pray for you?”
She looked about curiously, half-smiled, and said, “I see none here.”
“Will you have the people pray for you?”
“Yes; I want all the people to pray for me!”
Again the light was shut out from her eyes, this time forever. Her hands were bound behind her with thongs that cut into her wrists, her feet were tied. She reeled, and the Reverend Mr. Wilson kindly supported her. The noose was adjusted.
“Let us all pray!” said the Reverend Mr. Wilson. So they hanged Mary Dyer in the morning.