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- The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 30/65 -


ministers of the New Testament.

_Mr. C._ I do not remember it.

* * * * *

Mrs. Hutchinson had shattered the case of the government in a style worthy of a leader of the bar, but she now ventured on a step for which she has been generally condemned. She herself approached the subject of her revelations. To criticise the introduction of evidence is always simpler than to conduct a cause, but an analysis of her position tends to show not only that her course was the result of mature reflection, but that her judgment was in this instance correct. She probably assumed that when the more easily proved charges had broken down she would be attacked here; and in this assumption she was undoubtedly right. The alternative presented to her, therefore, was to go on herself, or wait for Winthrop to move. If she waited she knew she should give the government the advantage of choosing the ground, and she would thus be subjected to the danger of having fatal charges proved against her by hearsay or distorted evidence. If she took the bolder course, she could explain her revelations as monitions coming to her through texts in Scripture, and here she was certain of Cotton's support. Before that tribunal she could hardly have hoped for an acquittal; but if anything could have saved her it would have been the sanction given to her doctrines by the approval of John Cotton. At all events, she saw the danger, for she closed her little speech in these touching words: "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. Nowell._ How do you know that that was the Spirit?

_Mrs. H._ How did Abraham know that it was God?...

_Dep. Gov._ By an immediate voice.

_Mrs. H._ So to me by an immediate revelation.

* * * * *

Then she proceeded to state how, through various texts which she cited, the Lord showed her what He would do; and she particularly dwelt on one from Daniel. So far all was well; she had planted herself on ground upon which orthodox opinion was at least divided; but she now committed the one grave error of her long and able defence. As she went on her excitement gained upon her, and she ended by something like a defiance and denunciation: "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."

* * * * *

_Gov._ Daniel was delivered by miracle. Do you think to be delivered so too?

_Mrs. H._ I do here speak it before the court. I look that the Lord should deliver me by his providence....

_Dep. Gov._ I desire Mr. Cotton to tell us whether you do approve of Mrs. Hutchinson's revelations as she hath laid them down.

_Mr. C._ I know not whether I do understand her, but this I say, if she doth expect a deliverance in a way of providence, then I cannot deny it.

_Gov._ ... I see a marvellous providence of God to bring things to this pass.... God by a providence hath answered our desires, and made her to lay open herself and the ground of all these disturbances to be by revelations. . . .

_Court._ We all consent with you.

_Gov._ Ey, it is the most desperate enthusiasm in the world....

_Mr. Endicott._ I speak in reference to Mr. Cotton.... Whether do you witness for her or against her.

_Mr. C._ This is that I said, sir, and my answer is plain, that if she doth look for deliverance from the hand of God by his providence, and the revelation be ... according to a word [of Scripture] that I cannot deny.

_Mr. Endicott._ You give me satisfaction.

_Dep. Gov._ No, no, he gives me none at all....

_Mr. C._ I pray, sir, give me leave to express myself. In that sense that she speaks I dare not bear witness against it.

_Mr. Nowell._ I think it is a devilish delusion.

_Gov._ Of all the revelations that ever I read of I never read the like ground laid as is for this. The enthusiasts and Anabaptists had never the like....

_Mr. Peters._ I can say the same ... and I think that is very disputable which our brother Cotton hath spoken....

_Gov._ I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion.

All the court but some two or three ministers cry out, We all believe it, we all believe it....

* * * * *

And then Coddington stood up before that angry meeting like the brave man he was, and said, "I beseech you do not speak so to force things along, for I do not for my own part see any equity in the court in all your proceedings. Here is no law of God that she hath broken, nor any law of the country that she hath broke, and therefore deserves no censure; and if she say that the elders preach as the apostles did, why they preached a covenant of grace and what wrong is that to them, ... therefore I pray consider, what you do, for here is no law of God or man broken."

* * * * *

_Mr. Peters._ I profess I thought Mr. Cotton would never have took her part.

_Gov._ The court hath already declared themselves satisfied ... 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 ... shall be banished out of our liberties and imprisoned till she be sent away let them hold up their hands.

All but three consented.

Those contrary minded hold up yours. Mr. Coddington and Colburn only.

_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. [Footnote: Hutch. _Hist._ vol. ii. App. 2.]

* * * * *

With refined malice she was committed to the custody of Joseph Welde of Roxbury, the brother of the Rev. Thomas Welde who thought her a Jezebel. Here "divers of the elders resorted to her," and under this daily torment rapid progress was made. Probably during that terrible interval her reason was tottering, for her talk came to resemble ravings. [Footnote: _Brief Apologie_, p. 59.] When this point was reached the divines saw their object attained, and that "with sad hearts" they could give her up to Satan. [Footnote: _Brief Apologie_, p. 59.] Accordingly they "wrote to the church at Boston, offering to make proof of the same," whereupon she was summoned and the lecture appointed to begin at ten o'clock. [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 254.]

"When she was come one of the ruling elders called her forth before the assembly," and read to her the twenty-nine errors of which she was accused, all of which she admitted she had maintained. "Then she asked by what rule such an elder would come to her pretending to desire light and indeede to entrappe her." He answered that he came not to "entrap her but in compassion to her soule...."

"Then presently she grew into passion ... professing withall that she held none of these things ... before her imprisonment." [Footnote: _Brief Apol._ pp. 59-61.]

The court sat till eight at night, when "Mr. Cotton pronounced the sentence of admonition ... with much zeal and detestation of her errors and pride of spirit." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 256.] An adjournment was then agreed on for a week and she was ordered to return to Roxbury; but this was more than she could bear, and her distress was such that the congregation seem to have felt some touch of compassion, for she was committed to the charge of Cotton till the next lecture day, when the trial was to be resumed. [Footnote: _Brief Apol._ p. 62.] At his house her mind recovered its tone and when she again appeared she not only retracted the wild opinions she had broached while at Joseph Welde's, but admitted "that what she had spoken against the magistrates at the court (by way of revelation) was rash and ungrounded." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 258.]

But nothing could avail her. She was in the hands of men determined to make her expiation of her crimes a by-word of terror; her fate was sealed. The doctrines she now professed were less objectionable, so she was examined as to former errors, among others "that she had denied inherent righteousness;" she "affirmed that it was never her judgment; and though it was proved by many testimonies ... yet she impudently persisted in her affirmation to the astonishment of all the assembly. So that ... the church with one consent cast her out.... After she was excommunicated her spirit, which seemed before to be somewhat dejected, revived again and she gloried in her sufferings." [Footnote: Winthrop, i. 258.] And all this time she had been alone; her friends were far away.

That no circumstances of horror might be lost, she and one of her most devoted followers, Mary Dyer, were nearing their confinements during this time of misery. Both cases ended in misfortunes over whose sickening details Thomas Welde and his reverend brethren gloated with a savage joy, declaring that "God himselfe was pleased to step in with his casting vote ... as clearly as if he had pointed with his finger." [Footnote: _Short Story_, Preface, Section 5.] Let posterity draw a veil over the shocking scene.

Two or three days after her condemnation "the governor sent [her] a warrant ... to depart ... she went by water to her farm at the Mount ... and so to the island in the Narragansett Bay which her husband and the rest of that sect had purchased of the Indians." [Footnote: Winthrop, i.


The Emancipation of Massachusetts - 30/65

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