Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Holden, Gorton, Greene, and the Rolling Stones

© 2017 Christy K Robinson

This article is adapted from a chapter in my book manuscript on Anne Marbury Hutchinson.

andall Holden was one of the Rhode Island men abducted in 1643 by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He wrote a long, angry letter to the General Court from his prison cell in Salem.

            Holden, 41, Samuel Gorton, 51, and John Green, 49, and other men had been supporters of Anne Hutchinson, and shortly after founding Pocasset/Portsmouth, had moved to lands they purchased in January 1643 from the sachem Miantonomo at Shawomet, now called Warwick, Rhode Island. It was land falsely claimed by Massachusetts Bay Colony, based upon a fraudulent charter that Rev. Thomas Weld, an agent and envoy of the Bay, was sending around to important government figures for their signatures, as if they’d approved it in Parliament.

In the letter, Holden called Gov. Winthrop and the Court the “Idol General” and “Judas Iscariot’s fellow confessor for hire,” and he’d heard that Winthrop had said that either the Rhode Islanders (Holden, Gorton, and Greene, Robert Potter and Richard Waterman) would be subjected to him or removed to Boston, “though it should cost blood.”

Warwick to Boston via I-95.
Google Maps
They’d been summoned to Boston and given words of safe conduct, but when they’d ignored the summons, they’d been violently abducted by a 40-man force, beaten, and imprisoned in several Massachusetts Bay towns, with iron fetters on their legs to prevent escape. They were not charged or tried on their possession of the disputed land, but on new charges of sedition and heretical religious beliefs—the same charges Anne Hutchinson had faced six years before. Their conviction was a foregone conclusion, and they were put to hard labor on nearby farms, still shackled. But they were saved from execution by only two votes of the General Court. Gorton, a fiery-tempered man in those years (though he later mellowed and was a credit to Rhode Island), was warned that if he should speak or write of his blasphemous and abominable heresies, he’d be condemned to death and executed. Holden, Greene, and the others were similarly threatened with death if they spoke to anyone but an officer of state or church. They were “silenced.” After a winter at hard labor, they were banished upon pain of death, both from Massachusetts Bay and from their homes at Shawomet.

Randall Holden’s letter had a long passage that accused the MassBay government of knowing Anne Hutchinson’s move to Pelham, where she and much of her family were massacred, had been preventable, but they said nothing, making them complicit in the deaths.

Holden, Greene, and Gorton went to England in 1644 to resolve their grievance and get a charter from the Earl of Warwick, a Puritan who was an overseer of colonies in the western hemisphere. The three Shawomet men had to sail from New Amsterdam (New York City) because of the animosity of Boston’s authorities. They were successful in their quest, but the King was executed in 1649, which meant that Rhode Island needed a new charter in 1650-51, when William Dyer was the colony’s attorney general.

* * * * *

Jagger and Richards on the American
Tour in 1972.
 So what brought this story to mind? I learned from a post by New England Historical Society that on July 18, 1972, Rolling Stones musicians Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were in jail in Warwick, Rhode Island (formerly Shawomet, remember), for messing with drugs and scuffling with a photographer. (I know this drug connection comes as a shock to you, right?)

But over in Boston, 15,000 Rolling Stones fans were short on “Satisfaction,” and eager to rock out at a Stones concert at the Boston Garden. The Boston mayor, Kevin White, was concerned that a riot would break out if the Stones didn’t roll in. This was a distinct possibility, considering previous violence at concerts around America that summer. He persuaded Rhode Island police to release the criminals into his custody, and Massachusetts police, using lights and sirens, rushed the rockers up I-95 to Boston, where opening act Stevie Wonder had played the longest warm-up set of his career. At 1:00 a.m., the Stones arrived at the venue and performed their concert, while the mayor arranged with the transit authority to keep running so concert-goers could get home.

For comments from people who attended the concert, see this Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/NewEnglandHistoricalSociety/photos/a.150432615140239.1073741826.149729011877266/722370191279809/?type=3&theater
Massachusetts State Police car, 1972

The parallels between 1643 and 1972 are not very close, but it’s fun to compare the Warwick-Boston relationship! This is why we enjoy history, right?

* * * * *

Christy K Robinson is the author of this Dyer website and three five-star-reviewed books on the Dyers, available by clicking these links.

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)


  1. Thank you for this post. Where is it recorded that the dissidents' live were save by only two votes?

    Thank you.

    1. I found it in a Google Books search. Here's the book that was digitized: The Biographical Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island, Page 1, Issue 281. Published 1881.

    2. The other facts, and the Holden letter, are sourced in my forthcoming Hutchinson book, but I'm not releasing them in the blog.


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