The Examination of Mrs Anne Hutchinson at
the Court at Newton. 1637
[The General Court, highest in authority in Massachusetts Bay Colony,
consisted of the Governor as Chair of the Court, the Deputy Governor, 5
assistants, and 5 deputies. Several other ministers were in attendance
including Rev. John Cotton, Mrs. Hutchinson's minister, and the person
who inspired her basic theological position. Anne Hutchinson appears as
the accused in this trial].
Mr. [John] Winthrop, Governor: Mrs Hutchinson, you are called here as
one of those that have troubled the peace of the commonwealth and the churches
here; you are known to be a woman that hath had a great share in the promoting
and divulging of those opinions that are the cause of this trouble, and
to be nearly joined not only in affinity and affection with some of those
the court had taken notice of and passed censure upon, but you have spoken
divers things, as we have been informed, very prejudicial to the honour
of the churches and ministers thereof, and you have maintained a meeting
and an assembly in your house that hath been condemned by the general assembly
as a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for
your sex, and notwithstanding that was cried down you have continued the
same. Therefore we have thought good to send for you to understand how
things are, that if you be in an erroneous way we may reduce you that so
you may become a profitable member here among us. Otherwise if you be obstinate
in your course that then the court may take such course that you may trouble
us no further. Therefore I would intreat you to express whether you do
assent and hold in practice to those opinions and factions that have been
handled in court already, that is to say, whether you do not justify Mr.
Wheelwright's sermon and the petition.
Mrs. Hutchinson: I am called here to answer before you but I hear no
things laid to my charge.
Gov.: I have told you some already and more I can tell you.
Mrs. H.: Name one, Sir.
Gov.: Have I not named some already?
Mrs. H.: What have I said or done?
Gov.: Why for your doings, this you did harbor and countenance those
that are parties in this faction that you have heard of.
Mrs. H.: That's matter of conscience, Sir.
Gov.: Your conscience you must keep, or it must be kept for you.
Mrs. H.: Must not I then entertain the saints because I must keep my
Gov.: Say that one brother should commit felony or treason and come
to his brother's house, if he knows him guilty and conceals him he is guilty
of the same. It is his conscience to entertain him, but if his conscience
comes into act in giving countenance and entertainment to him that hath
broken the law he is guilty too. So if you do countenance those that are
transgressors of the law you are in the same fact.
Mrs. H.: What law do they transgress?
Gov.: The law of God and of the state.
Mrs. H.: In what particular?
Gov.: Why in this among the rest, whereas the Lord doth say honour thy
father and thy mother.
Mrs. H.: Ey Sir in the Lord.
Gov.: This honour you have broke in giving countenance to them.
Mrs. H.: In entertaining those did I entertain them against any act
(for there is the thing) or what God has appointed?
Gov.: You knew that Mr. Wheelwright did preach this sermon and those
that countenance him in this do break a law.
Mrs. H.: What law have I broken?
Gov.: Why the fifth commandment.
Mrs. H.: I deny that for he [Mr. Wheelwright] saith in the Lord.
Gov.: You have joined with them in the faction.
Mrs. H.: In what faction have I joined with them?
Gov.: In presenting the petition.
Mrs. H.: Suppose I had set my hand to the petition. What then?
Gov.: You saw that case tried before.
Mrs. H.: But I had not my hand to [not signed] the petition.
Gov.: You have councelled them.
Mrs. H.: Wherein?
Gov.: Why in entertaining them.
Mrs. H.: What breach of law is that, Sir?
Gov.: Why dishonouring the commonwealth.
Mrs. H.: But put the case, Sir, that I do fear the Lord and my parents.
May not I entertain them that fear the Lord because my parents will not
give me leave?
Gov.: If they be the fathers of the commonwealth, and they of another
religion, if you entertain them then you dishonour your parents and are
Mrs. H.: If I entertain them, as they have dishonoured their parents
Gov.: No but you by countenancing them above others put honor upon them.
Mrs. H.: I may put honor upon them as the children of God and as they
do honor the Lord.
Gov.: We do not mean to discourse with those of your sex but only this:
you so adhere unto them and do endeavor to set forward this faction and
so you do dishonour us.
Mrs. H.: I do acknowledge no such thing. Neither do I think that I ever
put any dishonour upon you.
Gov.: Why do you keep such a meeting at your house as you do every week
upon a set day?
Mrs. H.: It is lawful for me to do so, as it is all your practices,
and can you find a warrant for yourself and condemn me for the same thing?
The ground of my taking it up was, when I first came to this land because
I did not go to such meetings as those were, it was presently reported
that I did not allow of such meetings but held them unlawful and therefore
in that regard they said I was proud and did despise all ordinances. Upon
that a friend came unto me and told me of it and I to prevent such aspersions
took it up, but it was in practice before I came. Therefore I was not the
Gov.: ...By what warrant do you continue such a course?
Mrs. H.: I conceive there lies a clear rule in Titus that the elder
women should instruct the younger and then I must have a time wherein I
must do it.
Gov.: All this I grant you, I grant you a time for it, but what is this
to the purpose that you Mrs. Hutchinson must call a company together from
their callings to come to be taught of you?...
Mrs. H.: If you look upon the rule in Titus it is a rule to me. If you
convince me that it is no rule I shall yield.
Gov.: You know that there is no rule that crosses another, but this
rule crosses that in the Corinthians. But you must take it in this sense
that elder women must instruct the younger about their business and to
love their husbands and not to make them to clash....
Mrs. H.: Will it please you to answer me this and to give me a rule
for then I will willingly submit to any truth. If any come to my house
to be instructed in the ways of God what rule have I to put them away?....
Do you think it not lawful for me to teach women and why do you call me
to teach the court?
Gov.: We do not call you to teach the court but to lay open yourself....
[They continue to argue over what rule she had broken]
Gov.: Your course is not to be suffered for. Besides that we find such
a course as this to be greatly prejudicial to the state. Besides the occasion
that it is to seduce many honest persons that are called to those meetings
and your opinions and your opinions being known to be different from the
word of God may seduce many simple souls that resort unto you. Besides
that the occasion which hath come of late hath come from none but such
as have frequented your meetings, so that now they are flown off from magistrates
and ministers and since they have come to you. And besides that it will
not well stand with the commonwealth that families should be neglected
for so many neighbors and dames and so much time spent. We see no rule
of God for this. We see not that any should have authority to set up any
other exercises besides what authority hath already set up and so what
hurt comes of this you will be guilty of and we for suffering you.
Mrs. H.: Sir, I do not believe that to be so.
Gov.: Well, we see how it is. We must therefore put it away from you
or restrain you from maintaining this course.
Mrs H. If you have a rule for it from God's word you may.
Gov.: We are your judges, and not you ours and we must compel you to
Mrs. H.: If it please you by authority to put it down I will freely
let you for I am subject to your authority....
Deputy Governor, Thomas Dudley: I would go a little higher with Mrs.
Hutchinson. About three years ago we were all in peace. Mrs Hutchinson,
from that time she came hath made a disturbance, and some that came over
with her in the ship did inform me what she was as soon as she was landed.
I being then in place dealt with the pastor and teacher of Boston and desired
them to enquire of her, and then I was satisfied that she held nothing
different from us. But within half a year after, she had vented divers
of her strange opinions and had made parties in the country, and at length
it comes that Mr. Cotton and Mr. Vane were of her judgment, but Mr. Cotton
had cleared himself that he was not of that mind. But now it appears by
this woman's meeting that Mrs. Hutchinson hath so forestalled the minds
of many by their resort to her meeting that now she hath a potent party
in the country. Now if all these things have endangered us as from that
foundation and if she in particular hath disparaged all our ministers in
the land that they have preached a covenant of works, and only Mr. Cotton
a covenant of grace, why this is not to be suffered, and therefore being
driven to the foundation and it being found that Mrs. Hutchinson is she
that hath depraved all the ministers and hath been the cause of what is
fallen out, why we must take away the foundation and the building will
Mrs. H.: I pray, Sir, prove it that I said they preached nothing but
a covenant of works.
Dep. Gov.: Nothing but a covenant of works. Why a Jesuit may preach
Mrs. H.: Did I ever say they preached a covenant of works then?
Dep. Gov.: If they do not preach a covenant of grace clearly, then they
preach a covenant of works.
Mrs. H.: No, Sir. One may preach a covenant of grace more clearly than
another, so I said....
Dep. Gov.: When they do preach a covenant of works do they preach truth?
Mrs. H.: Yes, Sir. But when they preach a covenant of works for salvation,
that is not truth.
Dep. Gov.: I do but ask you this: when the ministers do preach a covenant
of works do they preach a way of salvation?
Mrs. H.: I did not come hither to answer questions of that sort.
Dep. Gov.: Because you will deny the thing.
Mrs. H.: Ey, but that is to be proved first.
Dep. Gov.: I will make it plain that you did say that the ministers
did preach a covenant of works.
Mrs. H.: I deny that.
Dep. Gov.: And that you said they were not able ministers of the New
Testament, but Mr. Cotton only.
Mrs. H.: If ever I spake that I proved it by God's word.
Court: Very well, very well.
Mrs. H.: If one shall come unto me in private, and desire me seriously
to tell them what I thought of such an one, I must either speak false or
true in my answer.
Dep. Gov.: Likewise I will prove this that you said the gospel in the
letter and words holds forth nothing but a covenant of works and that all
that do not hold as you do are in a covenant of works.
Mrs. H.: I deny this for if I should so say I should speak against my
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
[The Governor says to do so. Six minsters then testify to the particular
charges and that she was "not only difficult in her opinions, but also
of an intemperate 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. H.: 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 [here now] I will avouch.
Mr. Weld: [agrees that Peters related Hutchinson's words accurately]
Mr. Phillips: [agrees that Peters related Hutchinson's words accurately
and added] Then I asked her of myself (being she spake rashly of them all)
because she never heard me at all. She likewise said that we were not able
ministers of the New Testament and her reason was because we were not sealed.
Mr. Simmes: Agrees that Peters related Hutchinson's words accurately
Mr. Shephard: Also to Same.
Mr. Eliot: [agrees that Peters related Hutchinson's words accurately]
Dep. Gov.: I called these witnesses and you deny them. You see they
have proved this and you deny this, but it is clear. You say they preached
a covenant of works and that they were not able ministers of the New Testament;
now there are two other things that you did affirm which were that the
scriptures in the letter of them held forth nothing but a covenant of works
and likewise that those that were under a covenant of works cannot be saved.
Mrs. H.: Prove that I said so.
Gov.: Did you say so?
Mrs. H.: No, Sir, it is your conclusion.
Dep. Gov.: What do I do charging of you if you deny what is so fully
Gov.: Here are six undeniable ministers who say it is true and yet you
deny that you did say that they preach a covenant of works and that they
were not able ministers of the gospel, and it appears plainly that you
have spoken it, and whereas you say that it was drawn from you in a way
of friendship, you did profess then that it was out of conscience that
Mrs. H.:....They thought that I did conceive there was a difference
between them and Mr. Cotton.... I might say they might preach a covenant
of works as did the apostles, but to preach a covenant of works and to
be under a covenant of works is another business.
Dep. Gov.: There have been six witnesses to prove this and yet you deny
it. [and then he mentions a seventh, Mr. Nathaniel Ward]
Mrs. H.: I acknowledge using the words of the apostle to the Corinthians
unto him, [Mr. Ward] that they that were ministers of the letter and not
the spirit did preach a covenant of works.
Gov.: Mrs. Hutchinson, the court you see hath laboured to bring you
to acknowledge the error of your way that so you might be reduced, the
time grows late, we shall therefore give you a little more time to consider
of it and therefore desire that you attend the court again in the morning.
. [The next morning]
Gov.: We proceeded... as far as we could... There were divers things
laid to her charge: her ordinary meetings about religious exercises, her
speeches in derogation of the ministers among us, and the weakening of
the hands and hearts of the people towards them. Here was sufficient proof
made of that which she was accused of, in that point concerning the ministers
and their ministry, as that they did preach a covenant of works when others
did preach a covenant of grace, and that they were not able ministers of
the New Testament, and that they had not the seal of the spirit, and this
was spoken not as was pretended out of private conference, but out of conscience
and warrant from scripture alleged the fear of man is a snare and seeing
God had given her a calling to it she would freely speak. Some other speeches
she used, as that the letter of the scripture held forth a covenant of
works, and this is offered to be proved by probable grounds....
Controversy--should the witnesses should be recalled and made swear
an oath, as Mrs. Hutchinson desired, is resolved against doing so
Gov.: I see no necessity of an oath in this thing seeing it is true
and the substance of the matter confirmed by divers, yet that all may be
satisfied, if the elders will take an oath they shall have it given them....
Mrs. H.: After that they have taken an oath I will make good what I
Gov.: Let us state the case, and then we may know what to do. That which
is laid to Mrs. Hutchinson charge is that, that she hath traduced the magistrates
and ministers of this jurisdiction, that she hath said the ministers preached
a covenant of works and Mr. Cotton a covenant of grace, and that they were
not able ministers of the gospel, and she excuses it that she made it a
private conference and with a promise of secrecy, &c. Now this is charged
upon her, and they therefore sent for her seeing she made it her table
talk, and then she said the fear of man was a snare and therefore she would
not be affeared of them....
Dep. Gov.: Let her witnesses be called.
Gov.: Who be they?
Mrs. H.: Mr. Leveret and our teacher and Mr. Coggeshall.
Gov.: Mr. Coggeshall was not present.
Mr. Coggeshall: Yes, but I was. Only I desired to be silent till I should
Gov.: Will you, Mr. Coggeshall, say that she did not say so?
Mr. Coggeshall: Yes, I dare say that she did not say all that which
they lay against her.
Mr. Peters: How dare you look into the court to say such a word?
Mr. Coggeshall: Mr. Peters takes upon him to forbid me. I shall be silent.
Mr. Stoughton [assistant of the Court]: Ey, but she intended this that
Gov.: Well, Mr. Leveret, what were the words? I pray, speak.
Mr. Leveret: To my best remembrance when the elders did send for her,
Mr. Peters did with much vehemency and intreaty urge her to tell what difference
there was between Mr. Cotton and them, and upon his urging of her she said
"The fear of man is a snare, but they that trust upon the Lord shall be
safe." And being asked wherein the difference was, she answered that they
did not preach a covenant of grace so clearly as Mr. Cotton did, and she
gave this reason of it: because that as the apostles were for a time without
the spirit so until they had received the witness of the spirit they could
not preach a covenant of grace so clearly.
Gov.: Don't you remember that she said they were not able ministers
of the New Testament?
Mrs. H.: Mr. Weld and I had an hour's discourse at the window and then
I spake that, if I spake it....
Gov.: Mr Cotton, the court desires that you declare what you do remember
of the conference which was at the time and is now in question.
Mr. Cotton: I did not think I should be called to bear witness in this
cause and therefore did not labor to call to remembrance what was done;
but the greatest passage that took impression upon me was to this purpose.
The elders spake that they had heard that she had spoken some condemning
words of their ministry, and among other things they did first pray her
to answer wherein she thought their ministry did differ from mine. How
the comparison sprang I am ignorant, but sorry I was that any comparison
should be between me and my brethren and uncomfortable it was. She told
them to this purpose that they did not hold forth a covenant of grace as
I did. But wherein did we differ? Why she said that they did not hold forth
the seal of the spirit as he doth. Where is the difference there? Say they,
why saith she, speaking to one or other of them, I know not to whom. You
preach of the seal of the spirit upon a work and he upon free grace without
a work or without respect to a work; he preaches the seal of the spirit
upon free grace and you upon a work. I told her I was very sorry that she
put comparisons between my ministry and theirs, for she had said more than
I could myself, and rather I had that she had put us in fellowship with
them and not have made that discrepancy. She said, she found the difference....
This was the sum of the difference, nor did it seem to be so ill taken
as it is and our brethren did say also that they would not so easily believe
reports as they had done and withal mentioned that they would speak no
more of it, some of them did; and afterwards some of them did say they
were less satisfied than before. And I must say that I did not find her
saying that they were under a covenant of works, nor that she said they
did preach a covenant of works.
[more back and forth between Rev. John Cotton, trying to defend Mrs.
Hutchinson, and Mr. Peters, about exactly what Mrs. Hutchinson said]
Mrs. H.: If you please to give me leave I shall give you the ground
of what I know to be true. Being much troubled to see the falseness of
the constitution of the Church of England, I had like to have turned Separatist.
Whereupon I kept a day of solemn humiliation and pondering of the thing;
this scripture was brought unto me--he that denies Jesus Christ to be come
in the flesh is antichrist. This I considered of and in considering found
that the papists did not deny him to be come in the flesh, nor we did not
deny him--who then was antichrist? Was the Turk antichrist only? The Lord
knows that I could not open scripture; he must by his prophetical office
open it unto me. So after that being unsatisfied in the thing, the Lord
was pleased to bring this scripture out of the Hebrews. he that denies
the testament denies the testator, and in this did open unto me and give
me to see that those which did not teach the new covenant had the spirit
of antichrist, and upon this he did discover the ministry unto me; and
ever since, I bless the Lord, he hath let me see which was the clear ministry
and which the wrong. Since that time I confess I have been more choice
and he hath left me to distinguish between the voice of my beloved and
the voice of Moses, the voice of John the Baptist and the voice of antichrist,
for all those voices are spoken of in scripture. Now if you do condemn
me for speaking what in my conscience I know to be truth I must commit
myself unto the Lord.
Mr. Nowel [assistant to the Court]: How do you know that was the spirit?
Mrs. H.: How did Abraham know that it was God that bid him offer his
son, being a breach of the sixth commandment?
Dep. Gov.: By an immediate voice.
Mrs. H.: So to me by an immediate revelation.
Dep. Gov.: How! an immediate revelation.
Mrs. H.: By the voice of his own spirit to my soul. I will give you
another scripture, Jer[emiah] 46: 27-28--out of which the Lord showed me
what he would do for me and the rest of his servants. But after he was
pleased to reveal himself to me I did presently, like Abraham, run to Hagar.
And after that he did let me see the atheism of my own heart, for which
I begged of the Lord that it might not remain in my heart, and being thus,
he did show me this (a twelvemonth after) which I told you of before....
Therefore, I desire you to look to it, for you see this scripture fulfilled
this day and therefore I desire you as you tender the Lord and the church
and commonwealth to consider and look what you do. You have power over
my body but the Lord Jesus hath power over my body and soul; and assure
yourselves thus much, you do as much as in you lies to put the Lord Jesus
Christ from you, and if you go on in this course you begin, you will bring
a curse upon you and your posterity, and the mouth of the Lord hath spoken
Dep. Gov.: What is the scripture she brings?
Mr. Stoughton [assistant to the Court]: Behold I turn away from you.
Mrs. H.: But now having seen him which is invisible I fear not what
man can do unto me.
Gov.: Daniel was delivered by miracle; do you think to be deliver'd
Mrs. H.: I do here speak it before the court. I look that the Lord should
deliver me by his providence.... [because God had said to her] though I
should meet with affliction, yet I am the same God that delivered Daniel
out of the lion's den, I will also deliver thee.
Mr. Harlakenden [assistant to the Court]: I may read scripture and the
most glorious hypocrite may read them and yet go down to hell.
Mrs. H.: It may be so....
Gov.: I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion.
[The trial text here reads:] All the court but some two or three ministers
cry out, we all believe it--we all believe it. [Mrs. Hutchinson was found
Gov.: The court hath already declared themselves satisfied concerning
the things you hear, and concerning the troublesomeness of her spirit and
the danger of her course amongst us, which is not to be suffered. Therefore
if it be the mind of the court that Mrs. Hutchinson for these things that
appear before us is unfit for our society, and if it be the mind of the
court that she shall be banished out of our liberties and imprisoned till
she be sent away, let them hold up their hands.
[All but three did so]
Gov.: Mrs. Hutchinson, the sentence of the court you hear is that you
are banished from out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for
our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court shall send you away.
Mrs. H.: I desire to know wherefore I am banished?
Gov.: Say no more. The court knows wherefore and is satisfied.