Friday, January 17, 2020

Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother chapter excerpt

© 2018 Christy K Robinson

In September 2018, I published a new, contemporary biography (nonfiction) on the life and legacy of Anne Marbury Hutchinson, 1591-1643. Its research, presentation, style, images, sources, and conclusions are unlike any other book written on Hutchinson. 

The following article is part of a chapter introducing Anne Hutchinson to readers in the 21st century.

One of the interesting things about Anne is that she was a deeply spiritual woman all her life. But her legacy is that of promoting and practicing separation of church and state, and secular democracy, which was almost unheard of in the 17th century and earlier.

Here is the chapter section that shows the differences in the two compacts (a covenant) on which Rhode Island’s government began to form in 1638.

Anne Marbury Hutchinson: Founding mother of secular democracy
Massachusetts Bay Colony was not founded as a democracy where the People govern themselves with elected representatives. Rev. John Cotton wrote: 

"Democracy, I do not conceive that ever God did ordain as a fit government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed? As for monarchy, and aristocracy, they are both of them clearly approved, and directed in scripture, yet so as referreth the sovereign to himself, and setteth up Theocracy in both, as the best form of government in the commonwealth, as well as in the church. 
… Purity, preserved in the church, will preserve well ordered liberty in the people, and both of them establish well-balanced authority in the magistrates. God is the author of all these three and neither is himself the God of confusion, nor are his ways of confusion, but of peace."
Excerpted from The Correspondence of John Cotton. Sargent Bush, Jr., editor. The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
Portsmouth Compact, March 1638
When the signers of the Wheelwright Remonstrance were disfranchised and disarmed by the Winthrop government in 1637, they determined to form a new “plantation,” or settlement, outside the Massachusetts charter boundaries. During Anne Hutchinson’s second trial, they organized themselves, purchased land, and prepared to move their households. The leading men signed the Portsmouth Compact, which appears to be written in William Dyer’s hand. In March 1638, they pledged: 

The 7th Day of the First Month, 1638 [7 March 1638].
We whose names are underwritten do hereby solemnly in the presence of Jehovah incorporate ourselves into a Bodie Politick and as He shall help, will submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given in His Holy Word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby.

In the margin are noted three Bible texts, given here for your convenience:
Exodus 24:3-4. Afterward Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the Laws: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the things which the Lord hath said, will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord and rose up early, and set up an altar under the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel;
1 Chronicles 11:3. So came all the Elders of Israel to the King to Hebron, and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the Lord. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord, by the hand of Samuel; and
2 Kings 11:17. And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord, and the King and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people: likewise between the King and the people.

           We don’t know who suggested or insisted upon the scripture references, which have in common making a covenant with one another before God to obey his word and laws. It may have been William Coddington, who was a magistrate of the Bay Colony and one of the 1630 Winthrop Fleet pioneers who dreamed of building the New Jerusalem that would hasten the return of Jesus.
It appears that the new plantation would have that familiar combination of church and state, and an adherence to the religious laws and government model of the Old Testament.
After some disagreements about what Anne Hutchinson called “the magistracy,” a group led by William Coddington moved ten to 15 miles south on Aquidneck Island and founded Newport.
The settlement at Portsmouth, Rhode Island, incorporated itself as a secular democracy in 1639, contrasted with the theocratic governments of the other English colonies – and of England, their native land.
Portsmouth formed a new government, with William Hutchinson elected their “judge,” like the Old Testament judges of Israel before the monarchy of King Saul. Their new compact, signed by William and thirty others, read:

April 30, 1639
We, whose names are under written do acknowledge ourselves the legal subjects of his Majestie King Charles, and in his name do hereby bind ourselves into a civil body politick, unto his laws according to matters of justice.

The difference between the 1638 and 1639 agreements is stark. Religious language in the first, civil language in the second. Then, in March 1641, the island’s general court resolved, 

It is ordered and unanimously agreed upon that the Government which this Bodie Politick doth attend unto in this Island, and the Jurisdiction thereof, in favour of our Prince is a Democracie, or popular Government; that is to say, It is in the Power of the Body of Freemen orderly assembled, or the major part of them, to make or constitute Just Laws, by which they will be regulated, and to depute from among themselves such Ministers [public servants] as shall see them faithfully executed between Man and Man.

Between man and man. They weren’t cutting out the relationship between God and man, or their devotion to serving God. But secular democracy for this group, who had fled religious persecution in England only five to ten years before, and theocratic oppression just one year before, was the very freedom they longed for and now had in their grasp. They were the point of a movement. And the movement, beginning with those conventicles in her parlor, was led by Anne Hutchinson. 

To read more (299 pages more!) about Anne Hutchinson's life and legacy, see the 5-star book at Amazon: 
Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother


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.)


  1. Facebook comments:

    Johannah Faurot Aiken: Great perspective! Thank you for sharing this!

    Barbara Wite: great info!

    Carolyn Berry Copp: American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante is a wonderful well researched biography of Anne Hutchinson.

    Christy K Robinson: My book (the one shown here) is also well researched, and endorsed by numerous historians, ministers, and religious liberty leaders. It contains research that wasn't available when Eve was researching her book. She focuses mainly on Anne's trials, while I focused on Anne's culture and her legacy. So they're both biographies of Anne Hutchinson, but very different in what we covered.

    Carolyn Berry Copp: I look forward to reading it...

    Pamela Johnson: She's my first cousin 10x removed. She does not get enough exposure nor do the rest of the Quakers for their importance in the development of American freedom, rights and education.

    Susan Nielsen: she’s my cousin, too. And she certainly deserves to have her story told more often.

    Christy K Robinson: I'm the only person posting research on Anne Hutchinson and her family and associates. You can find many of them by going to my Dyer blog and searching "Hutchinson" in the search box at the top left of the page. What I've posted publicly is not the same material as in the book. Here's the blog, which you might want to bookmark in your browser:

  2. Sorry to barge in here. I'm reading one of your books about Mary Dyer. I have learned that I'm a direct descendant of Anne Hutchinson, Mary Dyer AND Roger Williams. Their lines intersected and led to my grandmother. This seems very unusual to me. Have you run across others sharing the same situation?

    1. Yes, many others have the Dyers, Hutchinsons, and Williams's in their ancestry. The Dyers' oldest son Samuel married the Hutchinsons' granddaughter (through Edward) Anne, so that connection has led to countless thousands of descendants. The Williams's daughter also married into the families. And in the 10 to 13 generations (about 360 years) since, their descendants have married again and again, in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut--and everywhere westward of that.

    2. There are several Facebook descendant groups for the Dyers and Hutchinsons. I hesitate to name them here because of spam-bots, but if you contact me through this website (click on my "About Me" link in the right-side menu), I'll give you some links.


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