Reverend John Cotton: Puritan Reformist

John Cotton was a clergymen from England who moved to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633.

John Cotton’s Early Life:

Cotton was born on December 4, 1585, in Derby, England to Rowland Cotton, a lawyer, and Mary Hubert. He attended Derby School before enrolling in Trinity College in Cambridge at age 13. Cotton earned his first degree in 1603 and won a scholarship to nearby Emmanuel College, a heavily Puritan college, where he earned his M.A. in 1606. He continued his studies at Emmanuel College until 1612, working as a tutor, head lecturer and then as dean. In 1612, he left the college to become the minister at St. Botolph’s Church in Boston, Lincolnshire. He officially earned his Bachelor of Divinity in 1613, when the required seven-year-wait after earning his Masters was up. His reputation as a minister at the this point had made him one of the most prominent Puritan preachers in England. In July of 1613, Cotton married Elizabeth Horrocks in Balsham, Cambridgeshire. The couple did not have any children.

John Cotton’s Tenure at St. Botolph’s:

During first few years at St. Botolph’s church, Cotton met Anne Hutchinson and her husband William. The Hutchinsons had heard of Cotton’s reputation as a preacher and attended one of his services. Anne was instantly mesmerized and she and Cotton quickly formed a mentor-type relationship.

John Cotton, engraving, published in the History of Boston Antiquities, circa 1856

John Cotton, engraving, published in the History of Boston Antiquities, circa 1856

In 1615, Cotton made a number of changes at St. Botolph’s, introducing a Congregational system of worship, banning genuflection and surplices and altering Anglican liturgy, according to the book “The Life of John Cotton”:

“After John Cotton had spent three years in Boston, his deep and devout studies brought him to a solemn conviction, that there were many antiquated corruptions yet left unreformed in the national Church, with the practice of which he could not comply. From this time, he ceased to conform strictly to the Church of England, though he never voluntarily renounced its communion.”

In April of 1630, Cotton preached his famous farewell sermon, “God’s Promise to His Plantation” for John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay Company at the dock before they sailed for the New World. Winthrop hoped to woo Cotton and compel him to come with them. Cotton told the company that their mission was holy and that they should try to convert the Native-Americans in North America to Christianity by suggesting they “Feed them with your spirituals…make them partakers of your precious faith.” The fleet set sail and Cotton returned to St. Botolph’s.

In 1631, Cotton and his wife contracted malaria, which was common in the marshy Fens of Lincolnshire due to the overabundance of mosquitoes. Cotton took a leave of absence and the couple moved to a hospital where, over the course of a year, John Cotton slowly recovered but his wife died.

On April 25, 1632, Cotton married again, to a widowed mother named Sarah Hawkridge Story. By this time, Cotton’s unconventional and innovative ideas had often gotten him into trouble and things finally came to a head, according to the book “American Jezebel”:

St. Botolph's Church and river, Boston, England, circa 1890-1900

St. Botolph’s Church and river, Boston, England, print circa 1890-1900

“Despite his deeply conservative tendencies, Cotton’s theological inclinations drew him to preach dangerous things, formenting dissent. In England his unorthodoxy prompted church authorities to investigate him repeatedly. Eventually they called him to the Court of High Commission in London for questioning by the archbishop, as Anne’s [Hutchinson] father had been summoned a generation earlier. Unlike Francis Marbury, however, Cotton avoided imprisonment. He went into hiding and fled to America, where the ripples of the stones he dropped in his sermons had now brought Massachusetts to the brink of civil war.”

John Cotton In Hiding:

While in hiding, Cotton sent a letter to his wife explaining why he couldn’t see her, according to his letter sent on October 3, 1632:

“Dear & c, If our heavenly father be pleased to make our yoke more heavy than we did so soon expect, remember I pray thee what we have heard, that our heavenly husband the lord Jesus, when he 1st called us to fellowship with himself, called us into his condition, to deny ourselves, and to take up our cross daily, to follow him. And truly, tho’ this cup be brackish at the first; yet a cup of God’s mingling is doubtless sweet at the bottom, to such as have learned to make it their greatest happiness to partake with Christ, as in his glory, so in the way that leadeth to it. Where I am for the present, I am very fitly and welcomely accommodated; I thank God: so as I see here I might rest desired enough till my friends at home shall direct further. They desire also to see thee here, but I think it not safe yet, till we see how God will deal with our neighbors at home: for if you should now travel this way, I fear you will be watched and dogged at the heels. But I hope shortly God will make way for thy safe coming. The Lord shall watch over you all for good, and reveal himself in the guidance of all our affairs. So with my love to thee, as myself, I rest; desirous of thy rest and peace in him. J.C.”

The couple finally reunited six weeks later but had to remain in hiding. Cotton briefly considered fleeing to Holland, where a number of English Puritan ministers had already settled, but eventually decided to go the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

John Cotton and the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

Cotton finally made his escape to the Massachusetts Bay Colony through an invitation by John Winthrop, who had been informed of Cotton’s troubles and once again hoped to convince him to come to the New World, according to the book “American Jezebel”:

“News of his [John Cotton] predicament reached John Winthrop. Hoping to swell the colony, the governor wrote at once to invite the minister to Massachusetts. This invitation made up Cotton’s mind. He wrote to Bishop Williams on May 7, 1633, ‘I see neither my bodily health, nor the peace of the church [of St. Botoloph’s], will now stand my continuance there…The Lord, who began a year or two ago to suspend, after a sort, my ministry from that place by a long and sore sickness, the dregs whereof still hang about me, doth now put a farther necessity upon me wholly to lay down my ministry there, and freely to resign.’ Before daybreak one morning in early June 1633, Cotton and his wife and her daughter were rowed from the Norfolk Downs out to the Griffin. Another noted Puritan divine, Thomas Hooker, who had also studied at Cambridge, was on board the ship as well. Commenting on this confluence, their colleague Thomas Shepard said, ‘I saw the Lord departing from England when Mr. Hooker & Mr. Cotton were gone’… During the eight-week voyage, Sarah Cotton gave birth to her forty-eight-year-old husband’s first child, a healthy boy they named Seaborn. To John Cotton, this happy event was a sign from God that he was pleased with their ocean crossing.”

The First Church, Boston, Mass

Cotton and his family safely arrived in the New World on September 3, 1633. His reputation preceded him when he arrived and was welcomed with open arms. Cotton was awarded the most important job in the biggest church in the colony, the First Church of Boston. Pleased with the colony, Cotton wrote to his friends and colleagues in England and urged them to emigrate to the colony. He suggested that if they remained in England it would lead them to corruption.

In successfully luring Cotton to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Winthrop also lured Anne Hutchinson, who felt lost without her mentor. Just a year after Cotton fled for the colony, Hutchinson and her husband packed up their family and followed suit. On September 18, 1634 when Anne Hutchinson and her family arrived in Boston, Cotton was waiting at the dock for her, and the two renewed their spiritual collaboration, according to the book “The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638″:

“It may have been from Cotton that Mrs. Hutchinson learned to question the significance of the ‘law’ and the ‘convenant of works.’ He may also have encouraged her to conceive of the Holy Spirit as ‘indwelling’ in the elect saint. Once they reached New England she and Cotton shared the same dissatisfaction with the spirituality of the colonists. Many of these people seemed to think that ‘affliction of the Spirit’ and ‘restraining from all known evil’ were the signs of ‘saving Union, or Communion’ with Christ. Together, the minister and the lay woman challenged this reasoning, reminding those who used it that the performance of moral duties was unrelated to divine mercy. To think otherwise, the two warned, was to proceed in the way of ‘works’ and not of ‘free grace.’ Looking back on the moment when he and Mrs. Hutchinson were collaborators, Cotton remembered the good consequences of his message: ‘And many whose spiritual estates were not so safely layed, yet where hereby helped and awakened to discover their sandy foundations, and to seek for better establishment in Christ…”

Hutchinson would later cause great problems for Winthrop in the colony when she began to challenge the Puritan’s leadership.

The Roger Williams Affair:

Cotton became involved in the Roger Williams affair in 1635. Williams was a separatist minister who became the minister in Salem, Massachusetts in 1634. Williams urged his followers to separate themselves from the Anglican Church as much as possible, spurring local magistrate, John Endicott, to remove the cross from the England flag on the grounds that it was a symbol of idolatry. For his actions, Endicott was barred from the magistracy for a year in May of 1635. Two months later, when Salem petitioned the Massachusetts Bay Colony for additional land, the petition was denied on the grounds that the radical Williams was still the minister in Salem. As a result, Williams was banished from the colony in October of 1635. Cotton had little to do with the banishment but he wrote to Williams and explained he was banished because his beliefs disturbed “the peace of the church and state.” Williams blamed Cotton for his banishment and stated Cotton was the chief spokesman for the colony and the source of his problems. After Williams learned he was about to be sent back to England, he hastily fled Salem to live with the Narraganset tribe in January of 1636. Cotton officially visited Salem in 1636 in an attempt to make peace and delivered a sermon that warned of the dangers of Williams’ separatist ideas.

In 1644, while in England attempting to secure a charter for Rhode Island, Williams began a pamphlet war with Cotton, starting with the publication of his pamphlet, The Bloody Tenant of Persecution, during which, they both published many replies and debated their ideas of religion and tolerance at length.

The Antinomian Controversy:

Only a few years after his arrival, in October of 1636, Cotton was swept up in the Antinomian Controversy, a religious and political controversy which directly involved Cotton’s protege, Anne Hutchinson, as well as her brother-in-law Reverend John Wheelwright and the governor of the colony, Henry Vane. These “Antinomians,” as they were called, criticized the colony’s ministers for preaching a covenant of works, which is the agreement between God and Adam in which Adam was promised eternal life in exchange for his obedience, and instead advocated the free grace theology preached by Cotton, which suggests that followers receive eternal life the moment they believe in Jesus Christ as their savior. When Cotton invited Wheelwright to speak at his church in January of 1637, his sermon stirred up trouble and within a few months Wheelwright was accused of sedition and contempt of the court but was never sentenced. After Vane was defeated by Winthrop in the election of 1637, Vane left for England and never returned. Then in November of that same year, Wheelwright was banished and Hutchinson was brought to trial on charges of sedition.

Anne Hutchinson on Trial, illustration by Edwin Austin Abbey, circa 1901

Anne Hutchinson on Trial, illustration by Edwin Austin Abbey, circa 1901

Cotton’s role in the controversy is complicated because although he originally supported Hutchinson and Wheelwright and they both cited him as the inspiration behind their beliefs, Cotton eventually distanced himself from them and conceded his own beliefs at the urging of his fellow ministers, according to the book “American Jezebel”:

“John Cotton saw that his disciple [Anne Hutchinson] was doomed. As if in a flash, he saw clearly what before had been obscure: she was too proud, too sure of her own election. He remembered worrying on occasion that she strengthened her faith through private meditations, apart from the public ministry, and that she was more censorious of others than a servant of God should be….But the ministers were not entirely surprised by Cotton’s shift. Nine weeks earlier, in late August, they had reconciled with him. At the Religious Synod in Cambridge, at private meetings of which Hutchinson was unaware, they had persuaded Cotton to abandon his grievances. Near the end of the synod, at which the ministers had condemned eighty-two errors, there were only five points remaining between Cotton and Wheelwright and the rest. In a spirit of reconciliation, Cotton had conceded on these. Wheelwright’s refusal to concede had led to his banishment, while Cotton’s compromises had brought him back into communion with most of his colleagues.”

Wheelwright was banished in 1637 and Hutchinson was banished the following year, in March of 1638, thus bringing the Antinomnian Controversy to an end, Despite her banishment, Winthrop and Cotton still kept tabs on Hutchinson after she fled for Rhode Island.

In May of 1638, when Hutchinson went into labor in Rhode Island and gave birth to a hydatidiform mole, a mass of tissue that is usually the result of sperm fertilizing a blighted egg, Winthrop wrote to Hutchinson’s doctor to find out more about it and both he and Cotton gleefully reported the unfortunate birth to their followers. In his sermon, Cotton stated the birth defect “might signify her [Hutchinson’s] error in denying inherent righteousness” and suggested it was a punishment from God for her crimes.

John Cotton’s Later Career:

Cotton’s life got a little easier after the Antinomian Controversy ended in 1638, according “The Life of John Cotton”:

“After his troubles in connection with Mrs. Hutchinson’s disturbances, which so afflicted him that he seriously meditated a retreat from the colony, Mr. Cotton passed the rest of his days in peace and high esteem.”

In 1642, he declined an invitation from England to represent New England’s interest at the Westminster Assembly in London. In fact, after fleeing England, Cotton never returned to his home country again.

In 1648, Cotton helped write a statement with Richard Mather and Ralph Partridge that was adopted by the New England churches and endorsed by the Massachusetts General Court. This statement, named the Cambridge Platform, introduced the Congregational Method of church government known as “the New England Way.”

John Cotton also wrote numerous sermons, catechism and pamphlets during his career:
♦ Spiritual Milk for Babes, published in 1646
♦ God’s Promise to His Plantation, sermon delivered to the departing Massachusetts Bay Company in 1630
♦ The Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven
♦ The Way of the Congregational Churches Cleared
♦ The Bloudy Tenent Washed and Made White in the Bloud of the Lamb, pamphlet written in response to Roger Williams The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution

John Cotton’s Death and Burial:

In 1652, while preaching at Harvard College, Cotton caught pneumonia and died. He was buried in tomb with other clergymen at King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston, Massachusetts.

John Cotton’s Family and Descendants:

John Cotton married Elizabeth Horrocks in Balsham, England on July 3, 1613. The couple had no children together and Horrocks died in 1631. Cotton then married a widow named Sarah Hawkred Story in Boston, England on April 25, 1632. Cotton and Story had six children together:
♦ Seaborn Cotton, born at sea on August 12, 1635, married Dorothy Bradstreet, daughter of Ann and Simon Bradstreet
♦ Sariah Cotton, born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 12, 1635, died January of 1650 during a smallpox epidemic.
♦ Elizabeth Cotton, born in Boston, Massachusetts on December 9, 1637, married Jeremiah Eggington.
♦ John Cotton Jr, born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 15, 1640, attended Harvard, married Joanna Rossiet.
♦ Maria Cotton, born in Boston, Massachusetts on February 16, 1642, married Increase Mather, son of Richard Mather. In 1663, Maria and Increase had a son named Cotton Mather who became a prominent minister in Boston.
♦ Rowland Cotton, born in Boston, Massachusetts in December of 1643, died in January of
1650 during a smallpox epidemic.

Cotton’s widow, Sarah, later married the Rev. Richard Mather, father of Increase Mather.

Sources:

The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638: A Documentary History
edited by David D. Hall; 1990

The Correspondence of John Cotton; John Cotton; 2001

Memoir of John Cotton; John Cotton; Enoch Pond; 1834

The Life of John Cotton; Alexander Wilson M’Clure; 1870

American Jezebel; Eva LaPlante; 2010

The History of Massachusetts; Thomas Hutchinson; 1764

State of Rhode Island: Roger Williams Biography: http://sos.ri.gov/library/history/famous/rogerwilliams/

PBS: Freedom: A History of US: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/historyofus/web03/segment2.html

The New England Quarterly; John Cotton and Roger Williams Debate Toleration; Henry Bamford Parkes; 1931: http://www.jstor.org/discover/359586?sid=21105113762641&uid=4&uid=3739800&uid=70&uid=3739256&uid=2129&uid=2

Cotton Descendants: Reverend John Cotton (1584-1652): http://cottondescendants.com/life/stbotolphs.html

Anne Hutchinson: Religious Rebel

Anne Hutchinson was a Puritan religious leader and midwife who moved from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.

Facts about Anne Hutchinson:

Hutchinson was born Anne Marbury in Alford, Lincolnshire, England on July 20, 1591 and was the daughter of Bridget Dryden and Francis Marbury, a Deacon in the Church of England. Francis Marbury was a dissident minister who had been silenced and imprisoned many times for complaining about the poor training of English clergymen. As a child, Anne had been deeply influenced by her rebellious father and his own troubles with the church left a big impression on her, according to the book “American Jezebel”:

“Although entirely without formal schooling, like virtually every woman in her day, Anne Hutchinson had been well educated on her father’s knee. Francis Marbury, a Cambridge-educated clergyman, school-master, and Puritan reformer, was her father. In the late 1570s, more than a decade before her birth, his repeated challenges to Anglican authorities led to his censure, his imprisonment for several years, and his own public trial – a on a charge of heresy, the same charge that would be brought against his daughter, of refuting church dogma or religious truth. Marbury’s trial was held in November 1578 at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London, fifty-nine years and an ocean distant from her far better known trial. His trial left an abiding mark on her, though, and its themes foreshadowed those of hers. During a lengthy period of church-imposed house arrest that coincided with Anne’s first three years of life, her father composed from memory a biting transcription of his trial, which he called ‘The conference between me and the Bishop of London’ with ‘many people standing by.’ This dramatic dialogue, published in the early 1590s as a pamphlet, was one of the central texts he used to educate and amuse his children.”

"Anne Hutchinson Preaching in Her House in Boston," illustration published in Harper's Monthly, Feb 1901

“Anne Hutchinson Preaching in Her House in Boston,” illustration published in Harper’s Monthly, circa February 1901

On August 9, 1612, Anne married William Hutchinson, a London merchant, with whom she eventually had 15 children. The couple moved back to Alford and began attending the services of a new preacher, John Cotton, at St. Botolph’s in Boston, Lincolnshire. Anne was instantly mesmerized by Cotton and the two began a mentor-type relationship. Under his guidance, Anne led weekly prayer meetings in her home.

After John Cotton went into hiding when he was threatened with imprisonment for his views, he fled England for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633. Feeling lost without her mentor, Anne then convinced her husband that they should follow Cotton to the New World. William consented and the Hutchinsons arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on September 18, 1634. As a wealthy and prominent cloth merchant, William bought a half-acre lot on the Shawmut peninsula, in what is now downtown Boston, and built a large timber frame two-story house on the exact spot where the Old Corner Bookstore building now stands.

William Hutchinson continued his cloth business and Anne became a midwife, often giving spiritual advice to the mothers she assisted. Things went well for both Cotton and the Hutchinsons until 1636, when they started speaking out against the way Puritans leaders were being trained, thus sparking the Antinomian Controversy, a religious and political conflict that lasted until 1638, according to the book “Rebels and Renegades: A Chronology of Social and Political Dissent in the United States”:

“Soon after Cotton began complaining that the Puritan ministers in Massachusetts Bay were emphasizing the covenant of works, Hutchinson began holding meetings at her house. Initially, she merely led discussions relating to Cotton’s sermons. Later, rumors circulated that she had accused the ministers of teaching only the covenant of works. Such an accusation assaulted the heart of the Puritan beliefs, that faith mattered most. To accuse the Puritan ministers of teaching a covenant of works was to accuse them of being no better than the Church of England, against which the Puritan movement had originally begun as an alternative to Anglican ‘faithlessness.’ Hutchinson’s charge struck at the power of the colony’s leaders: the ministers did not hold public office, but they wielded enormous political power and to portray them as being on the wrong path implied they should be replaced. Consequently, her claims divided the Puritan community, and in 1636 those who supported her succeeded in electing Henry Vane as the colony’s governor. Vane, the 24-year-old son of a British government official, had attended Hutchinson’s meetings.”

This victory was short lived since the orthodox Puritans defeated Vane in the next election and elected John Winthrop as Governor. Feeling pressure to maintain conformity in the colony, Winthrop and his colleagues met in August of 1637 and decided to find a way to discredit and denounce Hutchinson. First they disenfranchised and banned her prominent friends and allies and then they charged Hutchinson with sedition, the act of inciting people to rebel against authority. The fact that Hutchinson’s charge of sedition was against the ministers, not the civil magistrates, demonstrates the lack of separation between church and state and suggests that if you undermine one, you undermine the other as well.

Old Corner Bookstore, Boston, Ma, circa 19th century

Old Corner Bookstore, Boston, Ma, circa 19th century, former site of Anne Hutchinson’s house

Hutchinson found herself in more trouble in October of 1637, about a month before her trial began, when she assisted in Mary Dyer’s birth of what the Boston ministers would later call a “monster.” Dyer’s baby was a stillborn with anencephaly and spina bifada malformations. Knowing the controversy the birth would create, Hutchinson wrapped the baby in a blanket in an attempt to conceal its deformities and buried it in unconsecrated ground, most likely somewhere on Boston Common. Winthrop and others eventually learned of the birth and exhumed the corpse. Upon examining it, the Boston ministers declared the deformed baby a punishment from God, just as they did later when Hutchinson endured a similar delivery herself in 1638, and viewed Hutchinson guilty by association for her role in the birth.

Anne Hutchinson’s Trial:

Hutchinson was brought to trial for sedition on November 7, 1637. During her trial, Hutchinson, who was possibly pregnant at the time (many historians aren’t sure if she became pregnant before or after her trial), underwent intense questioning. Winthrop accused her of violating the 5th commandment to “honor they father and thy mother,” implying that she had defied authority. He also criticized her for teaching men, which was a violation of the Puritan’s rule that women should not be leaders. Her testimony, during which she proudly professed to violating many Puritan rules, was the most damning, according to the book “Rebels and Renegades”:

“Hutchinson denied she had ever said the ministers were preaching only the covenant of works. Nevertheless, she said, ‘When they preach a covenant of works for salvation, that is not truth.’ Strong and assertive, Hutchinson made a startling claim in her testimony to the court: ‘I bless the Lord,’ she said. “He hath let me see which was the clear ministry and which the wrong.’
‘How do you know that was the spirit?’ the court asked her.
‘How did Abraham know that it was God that bid him offer his son, being a breach of the sixth commandment?’ she replied.
‘By an immediate voice,’ the court said.
‘So too me by an immediate revelation,’ she responded.
‘How! An immediate revelation ,’ the court said.
‘By the voice of his spirit to my soul,’ she insisted.
Thus Hutchinson had claimed that God had revealed himself directly to her, a stance that violated the Puritan doctrine that revelation ended with the bible. Orthodox Puritans labeled Hutchinson a blasphemer and an antinomian, a person who believed that commands came only from God and that salvation freed an individual from the laws of church and state….Such ideas as Hutchinson’s opened society to potential disorder, should everyone assert that they could determine God’s revelations, and with them, God’s directions, for themselves.”

The court declared her a heretic, banished her from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and ordered her to be gone by the end of March. Afterward, they placed her under house arrest at the home of Joseph Weld, while she awaited her church trial. It was during this time that her friend and mentor, John Cotton, turned his back on her, according to an article in Harvard Magazine:

“Having been found guilty in her civil trial, she was placed under house arrest to await ecclesiastical trial. In 1638, the final blows were delivered. A sentence of banishment was never in doubt. Her former mentor, John Cotton, fearing for his own credibility, described her weekly Sunday meetings as a ‘promiscuous and filthie coming together of men and women without Distinction of Relation of Marriage’ and continued, ‘Your opinions fret like gangrene and spread like leprosy, and will eat out the very bowels of religion.'”

Hutchinson’s church trial began on March 15, 1638 at her home church in Boston. During the trial, the church leaders tried to get her to repent and confess her errors but to no avail, according to the book “The Antinomian Controversy”:

“If the trial seems harsh to the modern reader, its role within the Puritan context was punitive only in a limited sense. Punishment by the church was meant to inspire repentance, and a genuine act of repentance could lead to the restoration of church membership. Those who prosecuted Mrs. Hutchinson hoped that she would confess her errors, as, for a moment, she did. But in the end she stood her ground and the church had no other choice then to cast her out.”

Anne Hutchinson on Trial, illustration by Edwin Austin Abbey, circa 1901

“Anne Hutchinson on Trial,” illustration by Edwin Austin Abbey, circa 1901

The church leaders read the charges against Hutchinson and tried to get her to admit they were errors but she remained defiant, according to court records:

“Mr. Leverit: Sister Hutchinson, here is diverse opinions laid to your charge by Mr. Shephard and Mrs. Frost, and I must request you in the name of the church to declare whether you hold them or renounce them as they be read to you.
1. That the souls of all men by nature are mortal.
2. That those that are united to Christ have two bodies, Christ’s and a new body and you knew not how Christ should be united to our fleshly bodies.
3. That our bodies shall not rise with Christ Jesus, not the same bodies at the last day.
4. That the Resurrection mentioned is not of our resurrection at the last day, but of our union to Jesus Christ.
5. That there be no created graces in the human nature of Christ nor in believers after their union.
6. That you had no scripture to warrant Christ being now in heaven in his human nature.
7. That the Disciples were not converted at Christ’s death.
8. That there is no Kingdom of Heaven but Christ Jesus.
9. That the first thing we receive for our assurance is our election.
These are alleged from Mr. Shepard. The next are from Roxbury.
1. That sanctification can be no evidence of a good estate in no wise.
2. That her revelations about future events are to be believed as well as scripture because the same Holy Ghost did indite both.
3. That Abraham was not in saving estate until he offered Isaac and so saving the firmness of God’s election, he might have perished eternally for any work of grace that was in him.
4. That a hypocrite may have the righteousness of Adam and perish.
5. That we are not bound to the law, not as a rule of life.
6. That not being bound to the law, no transgression of the law is sinful.
7. That you see no warrant in scripture to prove that the image of God in Adam was righteousness and true holiness.
These are alleged against you by Mr. Wells and Mr. Eliot. It is desired by the church, Sister Hutchinson, that you express this be your opinion or not.
Anne: If this be error then it is mine and I ought to lay it down. If this be truth, it is not mine but Christ Jesus’ and then I am not to lay it down. But I desire of the Church to demand one question. By what rule of the word when these elders shall come to me in private to desire satisfaction in some points and do profess in the sight of God that they did not come to entrap nor ensnare me, and now without speaking to me and expressing any dissatisfaction would come to bring it publicly into the Church before they had privately dealt with me? For them to come and inquire for light and afterwards to bear witness against it. I think it is a breach of Church Rule, to bring a thing in public before they have dealt with me in private.”

Although it appeared at times during the trial that Hutchinson did admit to errors and mistakes, she still refused to recant her beliefs and was found guilty and excommunicated.

Anne Hutchinson in Rhode Island:

Hutchinson left Massachusetts for Roger Williams’ settlement in Rhode Island on April 1. Her husband, most of her children and many of her friends had already left the colony months before in order to prepare a place for the group to live. Accompanying Hutchinson on her long walk to Rhode Island were her remaining children, Mary Dyer and about 60-70 of Hutchinson’s followers, many of whom had been exiled by the court themselves in November for sedition. The group slept in wigwams they either found along the way or made themselves. The journey took over six days and the group finally reached Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island, where their family and friends had already begun to build a settlement, in the second week of April.

That May, Hutchinson went into labor and gave birth to a hydatidiform mole, a mass of tissue that is usually the result of sperm fertilizing a blighted egg. When Winthrop learned of the news, he appeared to take pleasure in her misfortune and wrote to Anne’s doctor, John Clarke, to find out more of the details. He later reported in his journal:

“Mistress Hutchinson being big with child, and growing toward the time of her labour, as others do, she brought forth not one (as Mistress Dyer did) but (which was more strange to amazement) thirty monstrous births or thereabouts, at once, some of them bigger, some lesser, some of one shape, some of another; few of any perfect shape, none at all of them (as far as I could ever learn) of human shape. These things are so strange that I am almost loath to be the reporter of them, lest I should seem to feign…But see how the wisdom of God fitted this judgement to her sin every way, for look – as she had vented misshapen opinions, so she must bring forth deformed monsters. And as [there were] about thirty opinions in number, so many monsters. And as those were public, and not in a corner mentioned, so this is now come to be known and famous over all these churches, and a great part of the world.”

John Cotton also spoke to his congregation about Hutchinson’s miscarriage, stating it “might signify her error in denying inherent righteousness” and suggested it was a punishment from God for her crimes.

Hutchinson continued to find herself surrounded by political controversy in Rhode Island. Wealthy merchant William Coddington was elected governor of the Aquidneck Island settlement, which they named Pocasset, but he quickly began to alienate the settlers and was overthrown in April of 1639. Hutchinson’s husband, William, was chosen as the new governor. Coddington and several others then left the area and established the settlement of Newport. After a year, the two settlements decided to reunite and Coddington became Governor of the island and William Hutchinson was chosen to be one of his assistants.

In February of 1639, Winthrop sent three ministers, Edward Gibbons, William Hibbins and John Oliver, to visit Anne Hutchinson to force her to recant her beliefs. When she refused, they warned her that Massachusetts was poised to take over the colony of Rhode Island and she would no longer be welcome there.

After William Hutchinson died in 1642, realizing her future in Rhode Island was uncertain, Anne Hutchinson moved with her children to New York, to the area that is now Pelham Bay Park, which was then the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. There they would be out of reach of the Massachusetts Puritans.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1830 biographical sketch of Hutchinson, titled “Mrs. Hutchinson,” Hawthorne envisioned that Hutchinson found not only peace of mind in New York but also the chance to be the leader she always wanted to be:

“Her final movement was to lead her family within the limits of the Dutch Jurisdiction, where, having felled the trees of virgin soil, she became herself the virtual head, civil and ecclesiastical, of a little colony. Perhaps here she found repose, hitherto so vainly sought. Secluded from all whose faith she could not govern, surrounded by dependents over whom she held an unlimited influence, agitated by none of the turmoltuous billows which were left swelling behind her, we may suppose, that, in the stillness of nature, her heart was stilled.”

Anne Hutchinson’s Death:

Little did Hutchinson know, the Dutch colony was a dangerous place to live at the time due to some bad blood between the local Native American tribes and the colony’s governor Willem Kieft. Many of the local Native American tribes in New York at the time were unhappy about the Dutch settlement and often tried to persuade the settlers to leave. Kieft further enraged the tribes by mistreating and deceiving them, such as when he tried to extort “protection” money from the Algonquins, Raritans and Wappinger Indians to keep them safe from the local Mohawk tribe, which Kieft actually controlled and used to terrorize other tribes. When the other tribes refused to pay and attacked the Dutch colony, Kieft unleashed the Mohawks on them. In 1641, Kieft again tried to persuade the Wappinger Indians to pay by sending the Mohwaks after them. Failing to realize who was really behind the attacks, the Wappinger Indians appealed to Kieft for help. Kieft responded by sending more Mohawks after them and then some of his own troops to attack them. Actions such as these eventually sparked a series of events known as Kieft’s War.

Massacre of Anne Hutchinson, illustration published in A Popular History of the United States, circa 1878

“Massacre of Anne Hutchinson,” illustration published in A Popular History of the United States, circa 1878

One of these events occurred in August of 1643, when a party of Siwanoy indians raided the section of New York that Hutchinson lived in and she and six of her children were brutally killed, according to the book “American Jezebel”:

“The Siwanoy warriors stampeded into the tiny settlement above Pelham Bay, prepared to burn down every house. The Siwanoy chief, Wampage, who had sent a warning, expected to find no settlers present. But at one house the men in animal skins encountered several children, young men and women, and a woman past middle age. One Siwanoy indicated that the Hutchinsons should restrain the family’s dogs. Without apparent fear, one of the family tied up the dogs. As quickly as possible, the Siwanoy seized and scalped Francis Hutchinson, William Collins, several servants, the two Annes (mother and daughter), and the younger children—William, Katherine, Mary, and Zuriel. As the story was later recounted in Boston, one of the Hutchinson’s daughters, ‘seeking to escape,’ was caught ‘as she was getting over a hedge, and they drew her back again by the hair of the head to the stump of a tree, and there cut off her head with a hatchet.’”

The bodies were dragged into the house, which was then set on fire. Hutchinson’s nine-year-old daughter, Susanna, was out picking berries at the time of the attack. She hid from the attackers but was eventually captured and lived with her captors for a few years until she was ransomed back to her family, according to the book “Unafraid: The Life of Anne Hutchinson:”

“When another treaty of peace was finally concluded with the Indians in 1645, one of the articles insisted on was a solemn obligation to restore the daughter of Anne Hutchinson. The Dutch guaranteed that had been offered by the New England friends of the little captive, and the obligation on both sides was fulfilled. Susan was restored to the Dutch – against her will, it is said, since she had learned to like her Indian captors – and she was eventually returned to Rhode Island.”

The reaction in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to Anne Hutchinson’s death was harsh. Winthrop wrote in his journal:

“Thus it had pleased the Lord to have compassion of his poor churches here, and to discover this great imposter, an instrument of Satan so fitted and trained to his service for interrupting the passage [of his] kingdom in this part of the world, and poisoning the churches here…This American Jezebel kept her strength and reputation, even among the people of God, till the hand of civil justice laid hold on her, and then she began evidently to decline, and the faithful to be freed from her forgeries…”

The Reverend Thomas Weld also seemed pleased with Hutchinson’s death and happily wrote to acquaintances in England:

“The Lord heard our groans to heaven, and freed us from our great and sore affliction… I never heard that the Indians in those parts did ever before this commit the like outrage upon any one family or families; and therefore God’s hand is the more apparently seen herein, to pick out this woeful woman…”

Later when it was discovered that the warrior, Wampage, took Anne Hutchinson’s name after her death, calling himself “Anne Hoeck,” it was assumed that he was the one who took her life, since it was customary among Native-Americans to adopt the name of their most notable victim. In 1654, Wampage even transferred the deed of the Hutcinson’s property to Thomas Pell and listed his name on the document as “Anne Hoeck alias Wampage.”

Anne Hutchinson’s Descendants:

Hutchinson has a number of notable descendants. Her great-great grandson was Thomas Hutchinson, who became the loyalist Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay during the American Revolution. Her other descendants include U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, George H. Bush and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Melville Weston Fuller, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Her grandson, Peleg Sanford, became Colonial Governor of Rhode Island. Eve LaPlante, the author of Hutchinson’s biography “American Jezebel” is also one of Hutchinson’s descendants.

Anne Hutchinson’s Legacy: Why Was Anne Hutchinson Important?

Anne Hutchinson is considered one of the first notable woman religious leaders in the North American Colonies. She fought for religious freedom and openly challenged the male dominated government and church authorities, making her a religious and feminist role model.

A number of local landmarks in New York were later named after Hutchinson. The neighboring land near where Hutchinson lived was named Anne-Hoeck’s neck, the local river was named the Hutchinson and the highway that runs alongside it was named the Hutchinson River Parkway.

In 1922, The Anne Hutchinson Memorial Association and the State Federation of Women’s Clubs erected a statue of Anne Hutchinson, sculpted by artist Cyrus Dallin, in front of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

In 1987, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis officially pardoned Anne Hutchinson, therefore revoking her banishment from Massachusetts and clearing her name.

Sources:

“Unafraid: The Life of Anne Hutchinson”; Winnifred King-Rugg; 1930

“Rebels and Renegades: A Chronology of Social and Political Dissent in the United States;” Neil A. Hamilton; 2002

“Forgotten Americans: Footnote Figures Who Changed American History”; Willard Sterne Randall, Nancy Nahra; 1998

“American Jezebel”; Eve LaPlante; 2010

“The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638: A Documentary History”; edited by David D. Hall; 1990

“A Popular History of the United States, Volume I”; William Cullen Bryant; Sydney Howard; 1878

History.com: Anne Hutchinson Arrives in the New World: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/anne-hutchinson-arrives-in-the-new-world

Harvard Magazine; Anne Hutchinson; Peter G. Gomes; November-December 2002: http://harvardmagazine.com/2002/11/anne-hutchinson.html

State of Rhode Island: Anne Marbury Hutchinson: http://sos.ri.gov/library/history/famous/hutchinson/

American National Biography Online: Anne Hutchinson: http://www.anb.org/articles/01/01-00437.html

National Women’s History Museum: Anne Marbury Hutchinson: https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/anne-marbury-hutchinson/

Eve LaPlante: http://www.evelaplante.com/

History of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Massachusetts Bay Colony was a British settlement on the East Coast of North America in the 17th and 18th century. It was located in what is now modern-day central New England.

Who Founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony?

Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded by the Massachusetts Bay Company. The company, which was strongly Puritan, was granted a charter by Charles I on March 4, 1629 to engage in trade in New England. When the charter was issued, it neglected to say that the company members were required to stay in England to conduct their meetings. In August, the company held a series of meetings in Cambridge where they voted to take advantage of this omission and move the entire company to New England, according to the book “The Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony”:

“The men reasoned that if they company continued to meet in England, the king could find things to quarrel about and could possibly take back the charter. This had happened to the Virginia Company of London. Taking the charter with them to America would remove much of the king’s power to interfere in their affairs. The company could erect a self-governing religious commonwealth. It would allow the leaders to create the kind of society they wanted, a “City of God in the wilderness.”

In April of 1630, the Puritans, led by one of the company’s stockholders, John Winthrop, left their homes in Boston, England and sailed from Southampton to the New World. The fleet of 12 ships reached the shores of Massachusetts on June 12 and landed at Salem. The existing colony in Salem did not have enough food or shelter to accommodate the 700-800 new colonists, according to Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s book “The History of Massachusetts”:

“The Arabella arrived at Salem the 12th of June. The common people immediately went ashore, and regaled themselves with strawberries, which are very fine in America, and were then in perfection. This might give them a favourable idea of the produce of the country; but the gentlemen met with enough to fill them with concern. The first news they had, was of a general conspiracy, a few months before, of all the indians as far as Narragansett, to extirpate the English. Eighty persons out of about three hundred had died in the colony the winter before, and many of those that remained were in a weak, sickly condition. There was not corn enough to have lasted above a fortnight, and all other provisions were scant. They had not above three of four months to look out proper places for settlements, and to provide shelter against the severity of the winter. With this prospect of difficulties, great enough for them to encounter, sickness began among them. Being destitute of necessary accommodations, they dropped away one after another…Before December, they had lost two hundred of their number, including a few who died upon their passage. The governor, and some of the principal persons, left Salem the 17th of June, and travelled through the woods to Charlestown, about twenty miles, to look for a convenient place for their chief town, which they had determined should be in some part of the bay or harbour between Natasket and Cambridge….”

The Puritans finally settled in Charlestown, across the river from the Shawmut peninsula, which is now modern day Boston. Although they had finally settled, the colony still suffered due to a lack of fresh water. Little did Winthrop know, a friend he had attended the University of Cambridge with back in England, William Blackstone, was living on the nearby Shawmut peninsula. Blackstone, a member of the failed Dorchester colony, had moved to the peninsula after the remaining members of his colony returned to England. After Blackstone heard of Winthrop’s arrival from his Native-American friends, the two met and Blackstone invited the puritans to live with him on the peninsula. Winthrop accepted the offer and the Puritans began construction on their settlement.

"Gov. John Winthrop -- In honor of the birthday of Governor John Winthrop, born June 12, 1587," wood engraving, circa 1860-1880

“Gov. John Winthrop — In honor of the birthday of Governor John Winthrop, born June 12, 1587,” wood engraving, circa 1860-1880

One of the colonists, Thomas Dudley, proposed that they name the new town Boston after their hometown in England.

By the mid 1630s, the Puritans had invited hundreds of more colonists over from England and were taking over the area. After they took control over all but 50 acres of the land Blackstone believed was his, Blackstone decided to sell his remaining land back to the Puritans, which later became Boston Common, and moved to what is now Rhode Island.

In 1632, the colonists officially made Boston the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

More Puritans continued to travel over from England and the number of colonies in Massachusetts multiplied to a total of four: Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven. These colonies included many villages that consisted of houses, a community garden and a meetinghouse for church services. Schools were soon built, including the first American public school called the Boston Latin School, and laws were passed requiring a school in every town with more than 50 inhabitants. In 1643, the four colonies formed a military alliance, known as the New England Confederation, to help defend themselves from Native American attacks.

The colonists felt it was their mission to help “civilize” this New World as well as the Native-Americans who lived there. The original seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony even depicted an image of a Native-American saying “Come over and help us.”

Diseases brought by the colonists started to ravage the Native American population. By 1650, about 90 percent of the Native Americans living in New England died due to disease. Growing resentment between Native Americans and settlers eventually led to King Phillip’s War in 1675, which completely wiped out the Wampanoag and Narragansett tribes. The Native Americans that survived the war either fled to the west or surrendered and were sold into slavery.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony seal

The original Massachusetts Bay Colony seal

While the Native American population declined, the number of colonists flourished. By 1676, Boston had 4,000 residents. The colonists continued to build up the city, constructing its first post office in 1639, the first bank in 1674 and published its first American newspaper in 1690 titled “Publick Occurrences: Both Foreign and Domestick.”

Colonists also declared war on local wildlife that they deemed a threat, such as the local wolf popular, according to the book “Disguised as the Devil: A History of Lyme Disease and Witch Accusations”:

“Wolves were considered flat out pests. They became the pariah of the wilderness – dark, insidious predators biting at the heels of civilization. They had a price on their heads from almost the moment of contact with the English colonists. Well nourished on deer meat, this thriving wolf population was unfortunately not discerning enough to know a domesticated animal from their wild prey. When they began to add pork, beef, and mutton to their diet, it was not tolerated. In 1678 Salem Village was rimmed by a set of wolf traps. The last wolf bounty in Massachusetts was paid in the nineteenth century at the end of a successful eradication program that took over 200 years to complete.”

The population of Boston continued to grow in the 17th and early 18th century, despite small-pox outbreaks in 1690, 1702 and 1721. By 1730, Boston had over 13,000 residents. Many of Boston’s most famous buildings were built during this time period, such as the Old State House in 1713, Old North Church in 1723, Old South Meetinghouse in 1729 and Faneuil Hall in 1742. By 1750, Boston’s population had risen to 15,000 people.

Massachusetts Bay Colony Government and Religion:

From the moment they landed in the New World, the Massachusetts Bay colonists worked tirelessly to establish a government that was not only efficient but one that also reflected their personal and religious ideals, according to the book “Massachusetts: Mapping the Bay State Through History”:

“While the Pilgrims were occupied with the problems of survival, the better organized and provisioned Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony came with a mission, to establish their own shining ‘citty [sic] upon a Hill,’ free of the sin and corruption of the land and society they were leaving. They moved quickly to establish their political and religious – and eventually, geographical – authority, with confidence based on their religious faith and the later economic success that they took as a sign of divine consent.”

Religion and government were deeply intertwined in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and only the most devout Puritans could participate in governmental affairs, according to the book “Politics and Religion in the United States”:

“While everyone in the community was a member of a congregation and was expected to attend services and support the church, only those who went through the arduous process of demonstrating their spiritual regeneration could become full-covenant members, thus gaining a say in both ecclesiastical and secular government. The civil government had authority over everyone in the community, but was controlled by the minority of the population that had achieved full church membership.”

The Puritans were highly intolerant of other religions and came to the New World specifically to escape religious persecution and create their own community where they could live only among like-minded people. As a result, the Puritans frequently persecuted other colonists who didn’t share their religious views, especially Quakers, according to the book “Politics and Religion in the United States”:

“At first, Quaker missionaries who came to Massachusetts to spread their views were simply banished. However, as Quakers kept coming, harsher punishments were introduced for them, such as cutting off their ears or boring a hole in their tongues with a hot iron – and then banishing them. When even this didn’t stop Quaker missionary activity, the death penalty was added. Between 1659 and 1661, four Quakers were put to death by the Puritans. It appeared that the persecution would become even more deadly; however, in 1661, King Charles II intervened and prohibited any corporal punishment of Quakers.”

After the establishment of the English Commonwealth in 1649, the colonists also declared Massachusetts a commonwealth, although they had no authority to do so. The Cromwell government in control of England at the time did little to respond to this move.

After King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, the British government attempted to take more control of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by sending a series of royal commissions, first in 1664 and then again in 1676, to settle land disputes and reform the colony’s administrations. The colony rebuffed each commission, but, once again, the British government didn’t respond to or attempt to punish the colony for these acts of defiance.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony did receive bad news though in 1684, when its charter was revoked due to repeated violations of the charter’s terms. These violations include running an illegal mint, establishing religious laws and discriminating against Anglicans and Quakers.

In 1685, King James II decided to reign in these rebellious New England colonies by merging all of them together to form the Dominion of New England and, in 1686, appointed Sir Edmund Andros as its governor. Andros immediately set to work proposing new taxes, pushing aside the General Council and forbidding town meetings. When word reach Boston, in April of 1689, that King James II had been overthrown by William of Orange, a mob formed in Boston and they quickly seized and ousted the royal officials and put the former Puritan leadership back in power.

In 1691, a compromise was made over the unpopular Dominion of New England and a new charter was issued. This new charter united the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony and Maine Colony into one single colony and called for a Royal Governor and elected assembly to be established. The charter also restricted religious-based laws, such as the church membership requirement needed to become a voter, extended religious tolerance to other Protestant denominations, required oaths to be taken to the king and not the government of Massachusetts and tightened the British government’s overall control over the colony, which caused much anxiety among the colonists. The Puritans worried that their religion, and they themselves, were once again under attack. This anxiety is considered to be one of the many underlying causes that sparked the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.

In the mid 1700s, the government’s expenses during the French and Indian War, which took place between 1754-1763, brought in a whole new set of problems for both England and the colonists, according to the book “Massachusetts: Mapping the Bay State Through History”:

“At the end of what was known in America as the French and Indian War, the British economy was on the brink of collapse. British statesmen, notably George Grenville, first lord of the treasury (the equivalent of prime minister), after deciding that the government’s budget could be cut no further and an increase in taxes at home was out of the question, turned to the colonies as a source of revenue – the same colonies whose exports were up, who continued to flaunt British mercantile policies, whose per capita income may have been as much as twice that of England’s, and who, at least from the British point of view, contributed little or nothing toward their own support.”

A series of unpopular taxes and acts that were intended to make money off of the colony, such as the Stamp Act of 1765, the Declaratory Act and the Townshend Act, eventually set the American Revolution into motion and, in the end, resulted in the British government losing control of the colony.

Massachusetts Bay Colony Economy:

By the mid-18th century, Massachusetts Bay Colony had grown into a successful colony with a large trade industry that exported fish, lumber and farm products to Europe. Yet, in the early years, the colony not only struggled to supply enough of these products to meet the demand in Europe but was actually hesitant to engage in trade with Europe at all, fearing it would hurt the health, autonomy and independence of the colony, according to the book “Building the Bay Colony”:

“Many Puritans initially feared that these endeavors could pull their communities into the transatlantic world too quickly, distract them from the virtues of husbandry, lead to unhealthy levels of profit, and become ‘a prison and constant calamity’ as a result of the individual’s spending his life ‘in doing little good at all to others, though he should grow rich by it himself’…By satisfying the local market before endeavoring to reach more profitable export venues with these valuable commodities, Puritan pioneers set an important precedent: they would fully meet local needs first. This decision, perhaps more than any other, shaped the contours of Massachusetts’s seventeenth-century economic development. It made what we might call ‘persistent economic localism’ a customary, and quite fertile, Puritan value.”

"A South East View of the Great Town of Boston in New England in America," etching by John Carwitham, circa 1730-1760

“A South East View of the Great Town of Boston in New England in America,” etching by John Carwitham, circa 1730-1760

Things quickly changed though in 1640 when the colony suffered its first economic depression and the settlers decided to pursue the exportation of its goods, especially beef, to Europe and the West Indies, according to the book “Disguised as the Devil”:

“Many early frontier towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, like Sudbury, were set up on inland meadows specifically as cow towns. The domestic beef market became a key part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s economy that would later shift focus from the depressed domestic market to provide an important commodity for early trade with the West Indies.”

In fact, exporting domestic beef became so profitable for the colony that in 1692, Salem Sheriff George Corwin spent a great deal of his time barreling up meat from the confiscated cattle of accused Salem witches and shipping it off to the West Indies.

Slavery also played an important role in the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s economy. Starting in 1644, Boston merchants began to engage in the Triangle Trade, a three-stop trade route in which merchants imported slaves from Africa, sold them in the West Indies and then bought sugar to bring back to Massachusetts to make molasses and rum. Some Massachusetts merchants, such as Captain John Turner, who built the House of Seven Gables in Salem, chose to forgo importing slaves from Africa and instead sold fish to plantation owners in the West Indies as food for the slaves and then bought sugar from these same plantation owners to import to Massachusetts. Many wealthy Massachusetts colonists also bought and sold slaves themselves for household labor in Massachusetts. In fact, in 1641, Massachusetts became the first state in the North American colonies to make slavery legal when John Winthrop helped write a law allowing slavery in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony trade activities continued into the 18th century, although the importation of slaves came to an end after slavery was slowly phased out in Massachusetts starting in 1780. The colony’s prosperous trade industry even played a pivotal role in the American Revolution when Britain attempted to tighten its grip on New England’s trade activities as a way to raise revenue. When the government’s activities began to hurt the local economy and threaten the colonist’s autonomy, the colonists responded by boycotting British imports, protesting the government’s actions through acts of rebellion like the Boston Tea Party and eventually declared war on Britain in order to earn their independence.

Sources:

“The History of Massachusetts, Volume I”; Thomas Hutchinson; 1764

“The Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company”; Barbara A. Moe; 2003

“Disguised as the Devil: A History of Lyme Disease and Witch Accusations;” M. M. Drymon; 2008

“Politics and Religion in the United States”; Michael Corbett, Julia Corbett-Hemeyer, J. Matthew Wilson

“Massachusetts: Mapping the Bay State Through History : Rare and Unusual Maps”; Vincent Virga, Dan Spinella; 2011

“Building the Bay Colony: Local Economy and Culture in Early Massachusetts”; James E. McWilliams; 2007

Encyclopedia Britannica: Massachusetts Bay Colony: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/368431/Massachusetts-Bay-Colony

Citizen Information Service: Historical Sketch: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/cis/cismaf/mf2.htm