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A religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th centuries that sought to “purify” the Church of England of remnants of the Roman Catholic “popery” that the Puritans claimed had been retained after the religious settlement reached early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Puritans became noted in the 17th century for a spirit of moral and religious earnestness that informed their whole way of life, and they sought through church reform to make their lifestyle the pattern for the whole nation. Their efforts to transform the nation contributed both to civil war in England and to the founding of colonies in America as working models of the Puritan way of life.
Hutchinson is remembered mostly as a model for American religious freedom, but her clash with Puritan theocracy also demonstrated the need for two other basic freedoms many Americans take for granted: the freedom to assemble and the freedom of speech. In American religious history, moreover, she represents one of the earliest proponents of personal revelation, which, while antithetical to the Calvinism of the 1630’s, would sweep New England a century later in what would be called the Great Awakening.
The article presents the text of the examination of Mrs. Ann Hutchinson by the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in November 1637 on charges of heresy and sedition. Governor John Winthrop accuses Hutchinson of spreading opinions that are causing trouble, spreading malicious information about the church and its ministers, and having meetings in her home that were condemned by the general assembly and intolerable on the basis of her sex. Winthrop argues that Hutchinson's actions had the potential to negatively influence other community members. Following testimony, debate, and the Hutchinson's answers to the charges, the court presents the decision to banish Hutchinson from the community.
Winthrop served as the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was committed to the ideal of creating a Christian commonwealth, and his determined leadership was crucial to the establishment and success of the colony.