Friday, October 18, 2019

#OnThisDay 18 October 1659


© 2019 Christy K Robinson

“She is to be forthwith executed.”


It was a fix.  

Many books and articles have been written that say that Mary Dyer was to be executed by hanging on the 27th of October, 1659. That’s what she believed, and that’s what her husband William believed. When their son, William Dyer the younger, perhaps 18 or 19 years old at the time, arrived with a reprieve at the moment Mary stood on the gallows ladder, it was a moment of dramatic theater.

But it was staged.

On Tuesday, the 18th of October, a small group of leaders of the Boston government had decided Mary’s fate and how it would all play out for the thousands of spectators who came out for the hanging of three Quakers. We know this from the Colonial Records of 18 October 1659, which I have modernized for spelling and to correct scanning blips.

“It is ordered that the said Mary Dyer shall have liberty for forty-eight hours to depart out of this Jurisdiction, after which time, being found therein, she is to be forthwith executed. And it is further ordered that she shall be carried to the place of execution and there to stand upon the Gallows with a rope about her neck until the Rest be executed; and then to return to the prison and remain as aforesaid.”

Gov. Endecott and his court had no intention of hanging Mary at this time, since her freedom had been urgently sought by the governor of Nova Scotia and Acadia (Maine), by Gov. John Winthrop Jr. of Connecticut ("as on his knees"), her teenaged son William Dyer, and her husband William Dyer, the attorney general of Rhode Island.

Making a martyr out of this lovely, educated, well-connected woman would be a terrible mistake, and the officials knew it well. Executing the two young men, repeat offenders with their defiance of banishment orders and their proselytizing of beliefs up and down the cities of the Bay, might be justified, and could serve as a deterrent to those who would stand up to authority; but a woman who almost certainly did not preach, but supported her Quaker friends as called to do in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 25)—no, that would be a disaster of public relations and could bring violent protest and political insurrection. They really, really, really wanted Mary Dyer to go back to Rhode Island and shut up. As they later wrote in a lengthy tract trying to justify and vindicate their actions, the magistrates believed that “the sparing of Mary Dyer upon an inconsiderable intercession, will manifestly evince [that] we desire their life absent rather then their death present.”

So the court came up with this little morality play by which they hoped to frighten Mary Dyer into her predetermined subjugated-woman role, most proper in their Calvinist eyes. Let’s hang her friends, and pretend we’re about to hang her, then we’ll be seen to show tender mercy to the little woman so her boy can take her home.

“It is ordered, that Wm Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, & Mary Dyer, Quakers, now in prison for their rebellion, sedition, & presumptuous obtruding themselves upon us, notwithstanding their being sentenced to banishment on pain of death, as underminers of this government, &c, shall be brought before this Court for their trials, to suffer the penalty of the law, (the just reward of their transgression,) on the morrow morning, being the nineteenth of this instant. Wm Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, & Mary Dyer, banished this jurisdiction by the last Court of Assistants on pain of death, being committed by order Robinson of the General Court, were sent for, brought to the bar, acknowledged themselves to be the persons banished. After a full hearing of what the prisoners could say for themselves, it was put to the question, whither Wm Robinson, Marmaduke Stevenson, & Mary Dyer, the persons now in prison, who have been convicted for Quakers, & banished this jurisdiction on pain of death, should be put to death according as the law provides in that case. The Court resolved this question on the affirmative; and ye Governor [John Endecott], in open Court, declared the sentence to Wm Robinson, it was brought to ye bar:

“Wm Robinson, you shall go from hence to the place from whence you came, & from thence to the place of execution, & there hang till you be dead.”

The like sentence the Governor, in open Court, pronounced against Marmaduke Stephenson & Mary Dyer, being brought to ye bar one after another, in ye same words.

"Whereeas Wm Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, & Mary Dyer are Order require sentenced by this Court to death for their rebellion, &c, it is ordered, that the secretary [Rawson] issue out his warrant to Edward Michelson, marshal general, repairing to the prison on the twenty seventh of this instant October, & take the said William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, & Mary Dyer into his custody, & then forthwith, by the aide of Capt James Oliver with one hundred soldiers, taken out by his order proportionably out of each company in Boston, completely armed with pike, & musketeers, with powder & bullet, to lead them to the place of execution, & there see them hang till they be dead, and in their going, being there, & return, to see all things be carried  peaceably & orderly.”

Warrants issued out accordingly.

It is ordered, that the Reverend Mr Zechariah Symmes & John Norton repair to the prison, & tender their endeavors to make the prisoners sensible of their approaching danger by the sentence of this Court, & prepare them for their approaching ends.

Rev. Zechariah Symmes had emigrated on the Griffin with Anne Hutchinson’s family in 1634, had publicly criticized Anne, and he had been one of the inquisitors at the Hutchinson trials for sedition and heresy in the fall and spring of 1637-38. Symmes was well-acquainted with Mary Dyer, the mother of a “monster” miscarriage that proved God’s judgment on Mary’s heresy in following Anne Hutchinson. Symmes was sure to look on Mary Dyer with distaste and disapproval, even 21 years later.

Rev. John Norton had arrived in Boston just as Anne Hutchinson was tried for heresy, and Mary Dyer had taken Anne’s hand in support, which exposed Mary to the community as the woman who had given birth to the “monster,” a premature fetus with no brain, and spina bifida. In 1652, on the death of Rev. John Cotton, he succeeded as the Teacher of Boston’s First Church.

“Tendering their endeavors” would not have been at all tender, as we know it in modern terms.

Whereas Mary Dyer is condemned by the General Court to be executed for her offences, on the petition of William Dyer, her son, it is ordered, that the said Mary Dyer shall have liberty for forty-eight hours after this day to depart out of this jurisdiction, after which time, being found therein, she is forthwith to be executed, & in the meantime that she be kept close prisoner till her Son or some other be ready to carry her away within the aforesaid time; and it is further ordered, that she shall be carried to the place of execution, & there to stand upon the gallows, with a rope about her neck, till the rest be executed, & then to return to the prison & remain as aforesaid.

It is ordered, that thirty-six of the soldiers be ordered by Capt. Oliver to remain in & about the town as sentinels to preserve the peace of the place while the rest go to the execution.

The magistrates feared an insurrection by the citizens of Massachusetts Bay Colony, of whom thousands of people were in the city for the quarterly court business and legislative matters. Thirty-six soldiers were ordered to remain in the town of Boston to keep order while the prisoners and execution officials were taken by 100 pikemen and musketeers to the gallows on Boston Neck, just outside the fortified gate to the town. The plan to guard Boston—and the magistrates themselves—required advance orders.




*****


Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title):
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Friday, August 30, 2019

#OnThisDay: William Dyer fights for his wife


© 2019 Christy K Robinson

Upon discovering that his wife Mary was imprisoned in Boston in August 1659, William Dyer wrote a two-page letter to the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, asking for her release on the grounds that she had broken no laws, and that they had treated her inhumanely—worse than they’d treat their domestic animals.

Prison conditions: 
see Boston’s prison during the Dyer years

Assuming that it could take two days (by special messenger) or up to two weeks for letters to pass between Boston and Newport, and that Mary had been in solitary confinement for two weeks, this put Mary Dyer in prison by at least the first days of August 1659, if not in July. William had received more than one letter from her, but the letters might have arrived at the same time, or possibly had been delivered to Newport while he was in Portsmouth, 15 miles to the north.
 
William Dyer addressed the court at Boston which he knew would assemble on 6 September 1659. This was the
envelope that carried his two-page letter to the court on Mary Dyer's behalf.
William was the former attorney general of Rhode Island, a magistrate on its admiralty court, and its solicitor general, so he was well acquainted with New England law and court procedure. Massachusetts Colony courts didn’t allow defense attorneys, but they did accept written testimony such as William Dyer’s arguments.

William’s letter points out that MassBay Court’s laws were invalid, and didn’t match with their own 1640s laws, and also weren’t lawful according to English law. Therefore, they were holding Mary illegally. That wasn't new for such people as Gov. John Endecott and Assistant Gov. Richard Bellingham.

William Dyer's letter of 30 August 1659 to Boston Magistrates asking for release of Mary Dyer from prison

Gentlemen:

Having received some letters from my wife, I am given to understand of her commitment to close prison to a place (according to description) not unlike Bishop Bonner's* rooms ... It is a sad condition, in executing such cruelties towards their fellow creatures and sufferers ... Had you no commiseration of a tender soul that being wett to the skin, you cause her to thrust into a room whereon was nothing to sitt or lye down upon but dust .. had your dogg been wett you would have offered it the liberty of a chimney corner to dry itself, or had your hoggs been pend in a sty, you would have offered them some dry straw, or else you would have wanted mercy to your beast, but alas Christians now with you are used worse [than] hoggs or doggs ... oh merciless cruelties.

You have done more in persecution in one year than the worst bishops did in seven, and now to add more towards a tender woman ... that gave you no just cause against her for did she come to your meeting to disturb them as you call itt, or did she come to reprehend the magistrates? [She] only came to visit her friends in prison and when dispatching that her intent of returning to her family as she declared in her [statement] the next day to the Governor, therefore it is you that disturbed her, else why was she not let alone. [What] house entered she to molest or what did she, that like a malefactor she must be hauled to [prison] or what law did she transgress? She was about a business justifiable before God and all good men.

The worst of men, the bishops themselves, denied not the visitation and release of friends to their prisoners, which myself hath often experienced by visiting Mr. Prine, Mr. Smart and other eminent [men] yea when he was commanded close in the towne, I had resort once or twice a week and [I was] never fetched before authority to ask me wherefore I came to the towne, or Kings bench, or Gatehouse ... had there not been more adventurours tender hearted professors than yo'selves many of them you call godly ministers and others might have perished ... if that course you take had been in use with them, as to send for a person and ask them whe'fore they came thither. What hath not people in America the same liberty as beasts and birds to pass the land or air without examination?

Have you a law that says the light in M. Dyre is not M. Dyre's rule, if you have for that or any the fornamed a law, she may be made a transgresso', for words and your mittimus hold good, but if not, then have you imprisoned her and punisht her without law and against the Law of god and man ... behold my wife without law and against Law is imprison' and punished and so higly condemned for saying the light is the Rule! It is not your light within your rule by which you make and act such lawes for ye have no rule of Gods word in the Bible to make a law titled Quakers nor have you any order from the Supreme State of England to make such lawes. Therefore, it must be your light within you is your rule and you walk by ... Remember what Jesus Christ said, 'if the light that be in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.'

[illegible] ... conscience, the first and next words after appearance is 'You are a Quaker' see the steppes you follow and let their misry be your warning; and then if answer be not made according to the ruling will; away with them to the Cobhole* or new Prison, or House of Correction ... And now Gentlemen consider their ends, and believe it, itt was certaine the Bishops ruine suddenly followed after their hott persuanes of some godly people by them called Puritans ... especially when they proceeded to suck the blood of Mr. Prine [Prynne], Mr. Burton and Dr. Bostwicks eares, only them three and butt three, and they were as odious to them as the Quakers are to you.




What witness or legal testimony was taken that my wife Mary Dyre was a Quaker, if not before God and man how can you clear yourselves and seat of justice, from cruelty persecution ye as so fair as in you lies murder as to her and to myself and family oppression and tiranny. The God of truth knows all this. This is the sum and totals of a law title Quakers: that she is guilty of a breach of a tittled Quakers is as strange, that she is lawfully convicted of 2 witnesses is not hear of, that she must be banished by law tittled Quakers being not convicted by law but considered by surmise and condemned to close prison by Mr. Bellingham's suggestion is so absurd and ridiculous, the meanest pupil in law will hiss at such proceeds in Old Lawyers ... is your law tittled Quakers Felony or Treason, that vehement suspicion render them capable of suffering ... If you be men I suppose your fundamental lawes is that noe person shall be imprisoned or molested but upon the breach of a law, yett behold my wife without law and against law is imprisoned and punished.

My wife writes me word and information, ye she had been above a fortnight [more than two weeks] and had not trode on the ground, but saw it out your window; what inhumanity is this, had you never wives of your own, or ever any tender affection to a woman, deal so with a woman, what has nature forgotten if refreshment [food] be debarred?

I have written thus plainly to you, being exceedingly sensible of the unjust molestations and detaining of my deare yokefellow, mine and my familyes want of her will crye loud in yo' eares together with her sufferings of your part but I questions not mercy favor and comfort from the most high of her owne soule, that at present my self and family bea by you deprived of the comfort and refreshment we might have enjoyed by her [presence].

her husband
W. Dyre
Newport this 30 August 1659
 
Bottom of second page of William Dyer's 30 August 1659 letter to the General Court at Boston.


*Who was Bishop Bonner? 
Edmund Bonner, 1500-1569, was Bishop of London and a torturer of Protestants in the 1650s reign of Mary I, Queen of England. He had aligned with Henry VIII’s Church of England for some time, but when the Catholic “Bloody Mary” came to the throne on the death of her Protestant brother Edward, Bonner became the personification of an English Inquisition.  He was described in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:
"This cannibal in three years space three hundred martyrs slew
They were his food, he loved so blood, he spar├Ęd none he knew."

When Mary I died and Elizabeth I came to the throne, Bonner was given the opportunity to take an oath of allegiance to her and to the Church of England, which he refused to do. He spent the last 10 years of his life as a prisoner in the notorious Marshalsea Prison, which is a remarkable time considering prison conditions. Perhaps his status as an ordained bishop gave him privilege in housing, food and drink, and isolation from epidemic diseases in prison.
 
Bishop Edmund Bonner's executioners beating a Protestant heretic until he bleeds.

For William Dyer to liken his wife’s prison conditions to that of a religious torturer’s chambers from a century before was a bold criticism of the Puritan Congregational theocracy of Massachusetts. Catholic torture was one of the reasons the English hated, persecuted, and discriminated against Catholics for hundreds of years. And here was a heretic Rhode Island attorney general calling the Puritans as bad as Bishop Bonner.

*For-profit prison is a “cobhole”
William Dyer wrote that when a Quaker was arrested merely for visiting prisoners (as William himself had done without molestation), and “answer be not made according to the ruling will; away with them to the Cobhole or new Prison, or House of Correction…” The prisons were money-makers because the prisoners had to pay their own “accommodation.”

This was true of their native England, as well as New England. And it’s almost certainly one of the reasons Mary Dyer returned to the Boston prison, to provide the Quakers and other prisoners with clothes, blankets, clean water, food, medical attention for their beating wounds, and encouragement by prayer.
 
Silver cobs from the colonial era

 I’d never seen the word “cobhole” until I read William’s letter. So I looked it up, and there was absolutely nothing. I found that the English word for the Spanish silver coin or cabo, was “cob.” Coins were difficult to come by in New England, and cobs were much-clipped lumps of silver that were used as currency. So a cobhole was probably sarcastic slang for a money pit—a lucrative extortion racket where the prisoner’s family threw away money for “services” a prisoner didn’t receive because funds had been siphoned off by the jailer.

Cobs also circulated as coinage, many cobs made their way to the English colonies where they were used both as coins in commerce and hoarded as specie. As the cobs were crudely produced it was quite easy for colonials to clip off some silver and then pass the coin off at full value. Also, because of their crude design it was easy to make lightweight counterfeit cobs using the clipped silver. Many clipped and lightweight Spanish cobs were melted down in Boston to make the Massachusetts silver coinage.
Source: 
http://www.coins.nd.edu/ColCoin/ColCoinIntros/Sp-Cobs.intro.html

*Church + state = oppression
William relentlessly writes of the grave injustice that a theocratic (ministers + governors and judges) government imposes on its constituents. He implies that their Christian behavior does not match either a criminal or civil code or a biblical standard of morality, and if quotation marks had been used in 1659, his and Mary's words "as you call it" would have carried a heavy sarcasm. Surely that was not lost on his intended audience! He was calling them false Christians because of their disdain for human and biblical law that they had imposed in the name of God.
  • no commiseration of a tender soul (William uses a religious term, soul)
  • no just cause against her (for interrupting a church meeting or opposing a public official, which were offenses punishable with whippings and imprisonment in the Massachusetts Bay theocracy)
  • She was about a business justifiable before God and all good men (they're not "good men" if they have such laws, and Mary was well within biblical mandates to care for the poor, sick, and imprisoned)
  • The worst of men, the bishops themselves, denied not the visitation (Mary did not receive legal counsel, and probably also did not receive food. William is saying that the Puritan theocracy was more harsh and lawless than the English bishops the Puritans had called cruel, and had executed only a decade earlier.) 
  • tender hearted professors than yourselves many of them you call godly ministers (if they'd not had legal assistance and food brought to them, many "godly ministers" -- he means persecuted Puritan ministers back in England -- would have died in conditions like the Boston prison offered.
  • they proceeded to suck the blood of Mr. Prine [Prynne], Mr. Burton and Dr. Bostwicks eares (William refers to the three English Puritans whose ears were hacked off and cheeks branded by the King Charles/Archbishop Laud theocracy in 1637.)
  • see the steppes you follow and let their misry be your warning (William decries what Boston is saying: let the misery of our prisoners be a deterrent to others who would follow. Do we not see this in the American immigration policies and for-profit detention of 2017-2019, policies made and enforced by those who publicly call themselves Christian?) 
  • what inhumanity is this, had you never wives of your own (Puritans strongly believed that God revealed his will only to men, and men were to reveal that will to their wives and children, so the Massachusetts governors were not acting in a godly way according to their own religious tenets.)

William’s indignant but logical and persuasive letter resulted in Mary’s release, and the release of other Quakers in prison.

However, the Quakers were there to commit civil disobedience, so they got themselves arrested a short time later.


************* 
Beautiful high-resolution prints of the letters written in 
Mary Dyer's and William Dyer's handwriting 
are available for sale at this link: 
 https://marybarrettdyer.blogspot.com/p/mary-dyer-1659-letter.html
*************
 
Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title): 


Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)


Monday, August 26, 2019

#OnThisDay: the 1629 Cambridge Agreement

The Cambridge Agreement that propelled 700 to 1,000 colonists to New England in 1630 was completed and signed between August 26 and 29, 1629. Several versions of the compact were collated and combined by John Winthrop, who would become the most famous governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Cambridge Agreement was signed at Queen's College, Cambridge University in England, and it preceded the charter the signers bought from King Charles I. Winthrop was perhaps the most fierce defender of keeping the colonial charter in Massachusetts, where it couldn't be destroyed or reneged by kings or parliaments in England.

The Cambridge Agreement
© 2019 David M. Powers, used by permission

On August 26, 1629, a group of influential Puritans gathered in Cambridge, England, where they reached an important decision. Based on “the joynt confidence we have in each others fidelity and resolucion,” they committed themselves “to embarke for the said plantacion [the project the Massachusetts Bay Company was sponsoring in Massachusetts] by the first of march next . . . to inhabite and continue in New England.” But they set an important condition: “Provided alwayes that before the last of September next the whole governement together with the Patent for the said plantacion bee first by an order of Court legally transferred and established to remayne with us and others which shall inhabite upon the said plantacion.”

Pynchon was among the provocateurs on the board of the Massachusetts Bay Company. He sought to goad the Bay Company into action. With eleven others, including financial backers Sir Richard Saltonstall and Isaac Johnson, future governors John Winthrop and Thomas Dudley, and Pynchon’s neighbor from Roxwell in Essex, Kellam Brown, Pynchon signed the Cambridge Agreement.

The August 1629 Cambridge Agreement text that preceded the Massachusetts Bay Charter (modernized by Christy K Robinson):

“Agreement of Cambridge. Upon due consideration of the state of the plantation now in hand for New England, wherein we (whose names are hereunto subscribed) have engaged ourselves: and having weighed the greatness of the work in regard of the consequences, God’s glory and the churches good: As also in regard of the difficulties and discouragements which in all probabilities must be forecast upon the prosecution of this business: Considering withall that this whole adventure grows upon the joint confidence we have in each other’s fidelity and resolution herein, so as no man of us would have adventured it without assurance of the rest: Now for the better encouragement of ourselves and others that shall join with us in this action, and to the end that every man may without scruple dispose of his estate and affairs as may best fit his preparation for this voyage, It is fully and faithfully agreed amongst us, and every of us doth hereby freely and sincerely promise and bind himself in the word of a Christian and in the presence of God who is the searcher of all hearts, that we will so really endeavor the prosecution of his work, as by God’s assistance we will be ready in our persons, and with such of our several families as are to go with us and such provisions as we are able conveniently to furnish ourselves withall, to embark for the said plantation by the first of March next, at such port or ports of this land as shall be agreed upon by the Company, to the end to pass the Seas (under God’s protection) to inhabit and continue in New England. Provided always that before the last of September next [1629] the whole government together with the Patent for the said plantation be first by an order of Court legally transferred and established to remain with us and others which shall inhabit upon the said plantation. And provided also that if any shall be hindered by such just and inevitable Lett or other cause to be allowed by three parts of four of these whose names are hereunto subscribed then such persons for such times and during such letts to be discharged of this bond. And we do further promise every one for himself that shall fail to be ready through his own default by the day appointed, to pay for every day’s default the sum of £3 to the use of the rest of the Company who shall be ready by the same day and time. To this Compact do we ascribe our names and our honor by the grace of God.”

Sir Richard Saltonstall  
Thomas Dudley  
William Vassall  
Nicholas West  
Izaack Johnson  
John Humfrey  
Thomas Sharp  
Increase Nowell  
John Winthrop  
William Pynchon  
Kellam Browne  
William Colbron  

***************

This act pressed the Massachusetts Bay Company to set in motion the expedition of 1630 which brought 700 or more colonists to Massachusetts.

The proviso that the settlers would take the company charter with them proved historically momentous. The colony relied on the charter as the basis for its governmental powers. Though authorities in England repeatedly requested its return to London, the colonists never sent it back.
 
The Massachusetts Bay Company Charter, still safely in Massachusetts.



David M. Powers is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Carleton College and Harvard University. He speaks about and writes books and articles on seventeenth century Puritan history. He lives on Cape Cod. You can follow his Facebook history page, Damnable Heresy and William Pynchon

His book on William Pynchon, Damnable Heresy, is available here: https://dmpowershistory.com/pynchon-book

Monday, August 5, 2019

Mary Dyer’s persecution heats up in summer of 1659


© 2019 Christy K Robinson

The summer of 1659 was fraught with danger for the Quakers in the New England colonies. Three hundred sixty years later, separation of church and state is again under attack by religio-political forces.
 
A carefully researched historical novel
of William and Mary Dyer from 1652 to 1660,
covering their remarkable lives and
Mary's execution for standing up for
those who suffer persecution for their faith.
Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This Vol. 2
After they were released from a torturous 20-week prison stay in December 1658, Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick had bought a parcel of land at Ipswich, then were ordered out of the colony by early June, or be returned to prison and then executed. Their teenaged children, Daniel and Provided, were fined the hefty sum of £10 each for not attending Congregational (Puritan) church services, and they refused to be forced laborers, so they were sentenced to be sold to “English” slave owners in Virginia or Barbados—except no mariner would agree to broker the teens, so they were finally released. The Southwick parents, only in their early 60s but broken in body by their repeated whippings, starvation, and winter exposure in prison, moved to Shelter Island on Long Island Sound, to spend their last months before they died in May 1660.

In a boat accident, Sarah Gibbons, a Quaker missionary, was drowned at Providence, Rhode Island.

Quakers Nicholas Davis, William Robinson, Marmaduke Stevenson, and Patience Scott were committed to Boston prison on June 19, 1659. It’s possible that Mary Dyer followed the four Quakers to Boston when she heard they’d been arrested. Food, clothing, and blankets were not automatically provided to prisoners, and Mary may have gone on an errand of mercy. She knew the risks of arrest and prison if she were discovered, and she went anyway. She’d already spent months in Boston prison, and believed it was her duty to help.

Was it raining hard, or was there some sort of boating or ferry accident that soaked Mary to the skin when she was in Boston?

The letter was about Patience Scott, the young daughter of Richard and Katherine Marbury Scott, but mentions in passing that there were adult Quakers imprisoned with the girl. Mary Dyer was probably the woman mentioned, based on William Dyer’s August 1659 letter to the court in Boston.
"They have imprisoned three men and a woman, whom they cast in prison with her clothes wet, and a child between ten and eleven years of age, who was moved of the Lord to travel from her home 105 miles to Boston, where she was cast into prison, and being examined, her answers were so far beyond the ordinary capacity of a child of her years, that the governor confessed there was a spirit in her beyond the spirit of woman; but being blind, and not seeing God perfecting his praise out of the child’s mouth, he said it was the devil.”  


William Dyer’s letter to the General Court of Boston, 30 August 1659:
Meanwhile, back in Rhode Island, William had been in attendance at the colonial assembly in Portsmouth in late August. The Rhode Island government was vigorously opposed to having the lands they had purchased from the Narragansett tribes being annexed by Connecticut and recorded in Boston courts. They wrote a letter to Boston on August 23, 1659 about that very matter. 
Snippet of William Dyer's letter to the General Court in Boston, 30 August 1659.

Apparently, within a week of the assembly meeting, William heard that his wife Mary had been taken prisoner in Boston and he wrote to protest her imprisonment. Assuming that it could take two days (by special messenger) or up to two weeks (by post rider’s regular route*) for letters to pass between Boston and Newport, this put Mary Dyer in prison by at least the first days of August 1659, if not in July. William had received more than one letter from her, but the letters might have arrived at the same time, or possibly had been delivered to Newport while he was in Portsmouth, 15 miles to the north.

William was the former attorney general of Rhode Island, a magistrate on its admiralty court, and its solicitor general, so he was well acquainted with New England law and court procedure. Massachusetts Colony courts didn’t allow defense attorneys, but they did accept written testimony such as William Dyer’s arguments.

So he sat down to write with his fine-tip quill on August 30. The letter is quite long, and accuses the “Christian” court of treating its prisoners worse than domestic animals.

“Gentlemen:
Having received some letters from my wife, I am given to understand of her commitment to close prison. …
Had you no commiseration of a tender soul that being wett to the skin, you cause her to thrust into a room whereon was nothing to sitt or lye down upon but dust ... had your dogg been wett you would have offered it the liberty of a chimney corner to dry itself, or had your hoggs been pend in a sty, you would have offered them some dry straw, or else you would have wanted mercy to your beast, but alas Christians now with you are used worse [than] hoggs or doggs ... oh merciless cruelties. …
My wife writes me word and information, ye she had been above a fortnight [more than two weeks] and had not trode on the ground, but saw it out your window; what inhumanity is this, had you never wives of your own, or ever any tender affection to a woman, deal so with a woman, what has nature forgotten if refreshment be debarred?”

Mary hadn’t been arrested for preaching or speaking against the church/state government, which is what the 1658 law against Quakers described as fit for banishment upon pain of death if they returned.

William Dyer wrote, “[She] only came to visit her friends in prison and when dispatching that her intent of returning to her family as she declared in her [statement] the next day to the Governor, therefore it is you that disturbed her, else why was she not let alone. [What] house entered she to molest or what did she, that like a malefactor she must be hauled to [prison] or what law did she transgress? She was about a business justifiable before God and all good men.”

Her offense had been merely visiting her fellow Quaker friends while they were imprisoned—and she got caught up in the anti-Quaker hatred. (Visiting prisoners was a virtue, according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 25.) There are reports of male and female Quakers receiving repeating lashings, usually connected with their being disruptive to church services, or preaching. Men and women were stripped to the waist and lashed, with knots at the end of the multiple strands of leather to break the skin with more wounds per stroke. But there are no reports of Mary being beaten, which makes me suspect that she was not a preacher or public speaker, at least in the company of men. Hers was a supporting role to the Quakers.

The result of William Dyer’s letter was that not only Mary, but her fellow Quakers, were released from prison on September 12. Patience Scott, the niece of Anne Hutchinson and cousin of Captain Edward Hutchinson, a Boston attorney, was released to her cousin’s care and then returned to Providence.

“You are required by these, presently to set at liberty, William Robinson, Marmaduke Stevenson, Mary Dyer, and Nicholas Davis; who, by an order of the court of council, had been imprisoned, because it appeared by their own confession, words, and actions, that they are Quakers; wherefore a sentence was pronounced against them, to depart this jurisdiction on pain of death; and that they must answer it at their peril, if they, or any of them, after the 14th of this present month, September, are found within this jurisdiction, or any part thereof.
EDWARD RAWSON, Secretary
Boston, September 12th, 1659”

Davis, who had only gone to Boston to do business, not preach, left the colony and returned home to Sandwich in Plymouth Colony. Robinson and Stevenson committed civil disobedience and stayed in Massachusetts, and were re-arrested and condemned to hang in October 1659. Mary Dyer went home to Newport, but returned to Boston by October 19 (against her husband’s will!) with Hope Clifton and Patience Scott’s older sister and was re-arrested and condemned.

William Dyer pulled more strings in October, and sent their 19-year-old son William to obtain the arranged reprieve for Mary. (The young man was merely the messenger. The drama played out in private meetings between Boston magistrates and ministers about nine days before the October 27 execution date. See Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This Vol. 2 for the full story.)



The law regarding Quakers:
AN ACT MADE AT A GENERAL COURT HELD AT BOSTON, THE 20th OF OCTOBER, 1658.
Whereas, there is a pernicious sect, commonly called Quakers, lately arisen, who by word and writing have published and maintained many dangerous and horrid tenets, and do take upon them to change and alter the received laudable customs of our nation, in giving civil respect to equals or reverence to superiors, whose actions tend to undermine the civil government, and also to destroy the order of the churches, by denying all established forms of worship, and by withdrawing from orderly church-fellowship, allowed and approved by all orthodox professors of truth, and instead thereof, and in opposition thereunto, frequently meeting by themselves, insinuating themselves into the minds of the simple, or such as are at least affected to the order and government of church and commonwealth, whereby several of our inhabitants have been infected, notwithstanding all former laws made upon the experience of their arrogant and bold obtrusions, to disseminate their principles among us, prohibiting their coming into this jurisdiction, they have not been deterred from their impetuous attempts to undermine our peace and hazard our ruin.
For prevention thereof, this court does order and enact, that every person or persons of the cursed sect of Quakers, who is not an inhabitant of, but is found within this jurisdiction, shall be apprehended without warrant where no magistrate is at hand, by any constable, commissioner, or select man, and conveyed from constable to constable to the next magistrate, who shall commit the said person to close prison, there to remain (without bail) unto the next court of assistants, where they shall have a legal trial; and being convicted to be of the sect of Quakers, shall be sentenced to be banished upon pain of death. And that every inhabitant of this jurisdiction, being convicted to be of the before said sect, either by taking up, publishing, or defending the horrid opinions of the Quakers, or the stirring up mutiny, sedition, or rebellion against the government, or by taking up their abusive and destructive practices, namely: denying civil respect to equals and superiors, and withdrawing from our church assemblies, and instead thereof frequenting meetings of their own in opposition to our church order, or by adhering to or approving of any known Quaker, and the tenets and practices of the Quakers that are opposite to the orthodox received opinions of the godly, and endeavoring to disaffect others to civil government and church order, or condemning the proceedings and practices of this court against the Quakers, manifesting thereby their compliance with those whose design is to overthrow the order established in church and state; every such person, upon conviction before the said court of assistants in manner before said, shall be committed to close prison for one month, and then, unless they choose voluntarily to depart this jurisdiction, shall give bond for their good behavior, and appear at the next court, where continuing obstinate, and refusing to retract and reform the before said opinions, they shall be sentenced to banishment upon pain of death; and any one magistrate, upon information given him of any such person, shall cause him to be apprehended, and shall commit any such person to prison, according to his discretion, until he come to trial as before said.


* In 1775, more than a century later, Rhode Island Colonial Records reported: “That Mr. Benjamin Mumford be employed as a post rider from Newport to Cambridge [near Boston]; that he set out from Newport on Monday afternoon at 3 o'clock, to carry the Newport mail for the westward to Providence, and proceed immediately to Cambridge, with the mails for that post office, and set off from thence on Thursday, in the afternoon, for Providence; and there take the mail from the westward, and proceed immediately to Newport; that he be allowed for his services at the same rate as hath heretofore been allowed to the post rider between Newport and Boston;”


*****
Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title):

Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)