Women in US History The Trial of Anne Hutchinson Case Study
Primary Source Assignment #1
Read the court transcript from the trial of Anne Hutchinson (1637). Answer each of the questions below. Answers should demonstrate that understood the question and that you have used the primary source in order to support your answers. Answers should contain material quoted from the document and/or the course textbook and provide analysis/explanation of how the quoted material supports your response. Answers should employ the standard rules of English spelling and grammar. When quoting, cite the court transcript and/or the Evans textbook in your response.
- How does the court try to portray Hutchinson as a woman who falls outside of the typical or accepted norms of Puritan society? Give at least two examples in your response. (Be sure to use the document and Evans textbook to defend your observations.)
- Why were the accusations of the court seen as both damaging and unusual as they pertained to Hutchinson? (Be sure to use both the document and Evans, Ch. 2 when responding.)
- What was Hutchinson’s demeanor as she responded to the court’s accusations regarding her religious activities falling outside of the norm? What tool does she use in her defense? Is her use of this tool effective in your opinion?
Transcript of the Trial of Anne Hutchinson (1637) follows. The document can also be accessed in PDF form by clicking on the link above.
Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in hopes of creating a model of
Christian unity and order. However, in the 1630s, the Puritans confronted fundamental
disagreements over theology. Anne Hutchinson arrived in Boston in 1634 and was a
follower of John Cotton, who preached that salvation was achieved by faith alone, not by
good works. Such ideas threatened the authority of Massachusetts’ ministers and
magistrates. When Hutchinson began to hold meetings to discuss her theological views
with other women and with men, Puritan magistrates charged her with heresy. This
document is the transcript of her 1637 trial.
Gov. John Winthrop: 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. Anne Hutchinson: I am called here to answer before you but I hear no things laid
to my charge.
Gov. John Winthrop: I have told you some already and more I can tell you.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Name one, Sir.
Gov. John Winthrop: Have I not named some already?
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: What have I said or done?
Gov. John Winthrop: Why for your doings, this you did harbor and countenance those
that are parties in this faction that you have heard of.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: That’s matter of conscience, Sir.
Gov. John Winthrop: Your conscience you must keep, or it must be kept for you.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Must not I then entertain the saints because I must keep my
Gov. John Winthrop: 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. Anne Hutchinson: What law do they transgress?
Gov. John Winthrop: The law of God and of the state.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: In what particular?
Gov. John Winthrop: Why in this among the rest, whereas the Lord doth say honor thy
father and thy mother.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Ey Sir in the Lord.
Gov. John Winthrop: This honor you have broke in giving countenance to them.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: In entertaining those did I entertain them against any act (for
there is the thing) or what God has appointed?
Gov. John Winthrop: You knew that Mr. Wheelwright did preach this sermon and those
that countenance him in this do break a law.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: What law have I broken?
Gov. John Winthrop: Why the fifth commandment.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I deny that for he [Mr. Wheelwright] saith in the Lord.
Gov. John Winthrop: You have joined with them in the faction.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: In what faction have I joined with them?
Gov. John Winthrop: In presenting the petition.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Suppose I had set my hand to the petition. What then?
Gov. John Winthrop: You saw that case tried before.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: But I had not my hand to the petition.
Gov. John Winthrop: You have counseled them.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Wherein?
Gov. John Winthrop: Why in entertaining them.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: What breach of law is that, Sir?
Gov. John Winthrop: Why dishonoring the commonwealth, Mrs. Hutchinson.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: 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. John Winthrop: If they be the fathers of the commonwealth, and they of another
religion, if you entertain them then you dishonor your parents and are justly punishable.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: If I entertain them, as they have dishonored their parents I do.
Gov. John Winthrop: No but you by countenancing them above others put honor upon
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I may put honor upon them as the children of God and as they
do honor the Lord.
Gov. John Winthrop: 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
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I do acknowledge no such thing. Neither do I think that I ever
put any dishonor upon you.
Gov. John Winthrop: Why do you keep such a meeting at your house as you do every
week upon a set day?
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: 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. John Winthrop: …By what warrant do you continue such a course?
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: 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. John Winthrop: 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. Anne Hutchinson: 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. John Winthrop: 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. Hutchinson…
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Will it please you to answer me this and to give me a rule for
then I will willingly submit to any truth, Mrs. Hutchinson 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. John Winthrop: We do not call you to teach the court but to lay open yourself….
Gov. John Winthrop: 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
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Sir, I do not believe that to be so.
Gov. John Winthrop: Well, we see how it is. We must therefore put it away from you or
restrain you from maintaining this course.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: If you have a rule for it from God’s word you may.
Gov. John Winthrop: We are your judges, and not you ours and we must compel you to
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: If it please you by authority to put it down I will freely let you
for I am subject to your authority….
Deputy Gov. 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
But now it appears by this woman’s meeting that Mrs. Hutchinson hath so
forestalled the minds of many by their resort to her meeting that now she hath a potent
party in the country. Now if all these things have endangered us as from that foundation
and if she in particular hath disparaged all our ministers in the land that they have
preached a covenant of works, and only Mr. Cotton a covenant of grace, why this is not
to be suffered, and therefore being driven to the foundation and it being found that Mrs.
Hutchinson is she that hath depraved all the ministers and hath been the cause of what is
fallen out, why we must take away the foundation and the building will fall.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I pray, Sir, prove it that I said they preached nothing but a
covenant of works.
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: Nothing but a covenant of works. Why a Jesuit may preach
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Did I ever say they preached a covenant of works then?
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: If they do not preach a covenant of grace clearly, then they
preach a covenant of works.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: No, Sir. One may preach a covenant of grace more clearly than
another, so I said….
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: When they do preach a covenant of works do they preach
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Yes, Sir. But when they preach a covenant of works for
salvation, that is not truth.
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: I do but ask you this: when the ministers do preach a
covenant of works do they preach a way of salvation?
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I did not come hither to answer questions of that sort.
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: Because you will deny the thing.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Ey, but that is to be proved first.
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: I will make it plain that you did say that the ministers did
preach a covenant of works.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: I deny that.
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: And that you said they were not able ministers of the New
Testament, but Mr. Cotton only.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: If ever I spake that I proved it by God’s word.
Court: Very well, very well.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: 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. Thomas Dudley: 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. Anne Hutchinson: I deny this for if I should so say I should speak against my own
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 ministers then testify to the particular charges and that
she was “not only difficult in her opinions, but also of an intemperate spirit.”]
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. Anne Hutchinson: If our pastor would shew his writings you should see what I
said, and that many things are not so as is reported.
Mr. Wilson: …what is written I will avouch Hutchinson.
[Mr. Weld agrees that Peters related Hutchinson’s words accurately]
Mr. Phillips: [after agreeing that Peters related Hutchinson’s words accurately]
Then I asked her of myself (being she spake rashly of them all) because she never heard
me at all. She likewise said that we were not able ministers of the New Testament and her
reason was because we were not sealed.
Mr. Simmes: Agrees that Peters related Hutchinson’s words accurately
Mr. Shephard: Also to Same.
[Mr. Eliot agrees that Peters related Hutchinson’s words accurately]
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: 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. Anne Hutchinson: Prove that I said so.
Gov. John Winthrop: Did you say so?
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: No, Sir, it is your conclusion.
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: What do I do charging of you if you deny what is so fully
Gov. John Winthrop: 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. Anne Hutchinson: …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
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: There have been six witnesses to prove this and yet you
[He then mentions a seventh witness, Mr. Nathaniel Ward.]
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: 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. John Winthrop: 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. John Winthrop: 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
[Discussion of whether the witnesses should be recalled and made swear an oath, as Mrs.
Hutchinson desired, is resolved against doing so]
Gov. John Winthrop: 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. Anne Hutchinson: After that they have taken an oath I will make good what I say.
Gov. John Winthrop: 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. Thomas Dudley: Let her witnesses be called.
Gov. John Winthrop: Who be they?
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Mr. Leverett and our teacher and Mr. Coggeshall.
Gov. John Winthrop: Mr. Coggeshall was not present.
Mr. Coggeshall: Yes, but I was. Only I desired to be silent till I should be called.
Gov. John Winthrop: 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. John Winthrop: Well, Mr. Leverett, what were the words? I pray, speak.
Mr. Leverett: 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. John Winthrop: Don’t you remember that she said they were not able ministers of
the New Testament?
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: Mr. Weld and I had an hour’s discourse at the window and then
I spake that, if I spake it…
Gov. John Winthrop: 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
This was the sum of the difference, nor did it seem to be so ill taken as it is and
our brethren did say also that they would not so easily believe reports as they had done
and withal mentioned that they would speak no more of it, some of them did; and
afterwards some of them did say they were less satisfied than before. And I must say that
I did not find her saying that they were under a covenant of works, nor that she said they
did preach a covenant of works.
[Discussion between Rev. John Cotton, trying to defend Mrs. Hutchinson, and Mr.
Peters, about exactly what Mrs. Hutchinson said]
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: 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. Anne Hutchinson: How did Abraham know that it was God that bid him offer his
son, being a breach of the sixth commandment?
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: By an immediate voice.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: So to me by an immediate revelation.
Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: How! an immediate revelation.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: By the voice of his own spirit to my soul. I will give you
another scripture, Jeremiah 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. Thomas Dudley: What is the scripture she brings?
Mr. Stoughton (assistant to the Court): Behold I turn away from you.
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: But now having seen him which is invisible I fear not what man
can do unto me.
Gov. John Winthrop: Daniel was delivered by miracle; do you think to be deliver’d so
Mrs. Anne Hutchinson: 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
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. Anne Hutchinson: It may be so….
Gov. John Winthrop: I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion.
[Trial transcript reads:] All the court but some two or three ministers cry out, we all
believe it—we all believe it.
Gov. John Winthrop: 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 so.)
Gov. John Winthrop: 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. Anne Hutchinson: I desire to know wherefore I am banished?
Gov. John Winthrop: Say no more. The court knows wherefore and is satisfied.