Women in US History The Trial of Anne Hutchinson Case Study

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.

  1. 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.)
  1. 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.)


  1. 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

dishonor us.

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

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 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

truth sometimes.

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

another business.

Dep. Gov. Thomas Dudley: There have been six witnesses to prove this and yet you

deny it.

[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

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. 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.

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