Friday, January 24, 2014

Infamous Trailblazer Anne Hutchinson

Anne returned to
Boston in 1922
Anne Hutchinson was a trailblazer. As expected of anyone who carves out a new way, her life was never easy. She was the daughter of an English minister, well versed in the Bible and the Church of England. After her father’s death, her spiritual journey led her to the teachings of John Cotton. Anne felt compelled to follow her preacher to the New World. In 1634, Anne and her family arrived in Boston where she quickly drew the ire of John Winthrop and the Puritans that governed the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Anne began holding gatherings in her home to discuss the individual’s intuition as a means of reaching God and salvation, rather than the observance of institutionalized beliefs and the precepts of ministers. Winthrop and the Puritans accused Anne and her followers of antinomianism—the view that God’s grace has freed the Christian from the need to observe established moral precepts. After three years of animosity with claims and counter claims by both groups, Anne was put on trial for her offenses. She and her followers were banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The banished which included, the Hutchinson family, William Coddington, John Briggs and John Clarke fled south to Rhode Island. In Rhode Island Mrs. Hutchinson and her friends founded the towns of Portsmouth and Newport. The group signed the Portsmouth Compact which established a new independent colony with non-sectarian governance. It has been called the first instrument for governing as a true democracy. Alas, true democracy is never easy. Political strife amid the community created a rift with some of the group settling Newport. During this time, William Coddington, the original Governor of Portsmouth, moved to Newport. Will Hutchinson, Anne’s husband became the new Governor of Portsmouth. Eventually, the two groups worked out their differences and reunited.

After her husband's death and amid threats from John Winthrop of Massachusetts taking over Rhode Island, Anne felt compelled to move totally outside the reach of Winthrop moving further south to the lands of the Dutch. In recounting Thomas Cornell’s trek to New York, Henry Crapo explains, "There can be no question that he was loyal to the distinguished exile, since after the death of her husband in 1642 he and his family went with her to Manhattan and there again attempted to start a settlement. It was in the autumn of 1642 that Anne Hutchinson, Thomas Cornell, John Throckmorton, and others with their families, removed to Manhattan 'neare a place called by seamen Hell Gate,' a designation which seemed most appropriate to the Boston divines. Governor Winthrop was evidently interested in following their fortunes since in 1642 he notes, 'Mr. Throckmorton and Mr. Cornell, established with buildings, etc., in neighboring plantations under the Dutch.'
The Dutch government, in fact, granted Thomas Cornell and his associates some thirty-five families in all, permission to settle 'within the limits of the jurisdiction of their High Mightinesses to reside there in peace.' In 1643, Cornell and Throckmorton procured a survey and map of the country they had taken up which was about eleven miles from New Amsterdam.”1

Anne Hutchinson, had a friendly relationship with the Narragansett people in Rhode Island. When settling in New Netherland she assumed she would establish the same type of relationship with the Siwanoy. Anne and her followers had been friendly to Siwanoy but following their mistreatment by the Dutch, the tribe retaliated against New Netherland colony in a series of incidents known as Kieft's War. A tribal elder visited with the Hutchinsons and Cornell families warning them that Chief Wampage was planning to attack them. Thomas Cornell took the warning to heed, removing his family from the area. Anne Hutchinson maintained her belief that she had nothing to fear from the Siwanoy and with her family remained on their farm.“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.”2

Anne Hutchinson is a key figure in the development of religious freedom in England's American colonies. Her legacy is one of freedom of religion, the right to free assembly and women's rights.  She has been called the most famous, or infamous, English woman in colonial American history.

[1] Henry Howland Crapo, Certain Comeoverers, 2 Vol. (New Bedford, Mass.: 1912), 1:235, of 235-41

[2] LaPlante, Eve (2004). American Jezebel, the Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman who Defied the Puritans. San Francisco: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-056233-1. Pg 237

No comments:

Post a Comment