Massachusetts Bay Colony

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Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630–1691) had a legal system completely based on Christianity in opposition to the Church of England. The governors were Christian ministers.

Freedom of religion was non-existent in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Adherence to Puritan orthodoxy was a requirement for admission of new members into the community.

Trials[edit | edit source]

The first famous legal case at the time was the trial of Roger Williams. He was convicted for heresy in 1635 and ordered into exile from the Colony.

Next, the Christian minister-lawyers turned their attention to Anne Hutchinson. The trial of Anne Hutchinson took place in 1637. Her emphasis on the "covenant of grace" was the heresy for her trial. Her leadership and preaching was unusual in the community because the Massachusetts Bay Colony's gender laws didn't allow women to serve as ministers.

The election of Henry Vane after John Winthrop seemed good for Anne Hutchinson. However, a jury of 7 minister arraigned Hutchinson in 1636 for interrogation about her conformity to the Colony's Puritan beliefs. A synod later found 82 heretical errors in her beliefs.

John Winthrop, an adversary of Hutchinson, was re-elected governor for a 2nd time at the Cambridge Common in 1637. Aside from theological differences, the Hutchinson family had also refused to monetarily contribute to the Pequot War.

In November 1637, Winthrop who had executive, judicial, and religious authority along with like-minded ministers placed Hutchinson on a legal trial in Cambridge. The trial was conducted by the General Court which passed laws and tried defendants.

In the 1637 trial of Hutchinson, John Winthrop served as both the chief prosecutor and the chief judge. The General Court has numerous other magistrates.

Since the Bible was treated as a legally binding document, Hutchinson and Winthrop traded verses of the Protestant Bible to support each one's arguments.

Magistrate Thomas Dudley offered opposing evidence and arguments against Hutchinson.

At the conclusion of the trial, Hutchinson announced that she was receiving direct revelations from the Christian God. Dudley was outraged that a woman would claim to be receiving divine revelations.

About 30 judges held Hutchinson to be guilty of heresy and sedition. Hutchinson was sentenced to banishment. Hutchinson family and their followers moved to Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

The religious freedoms in the Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663 would later influence the US Constitution.

See also[edit | edit source]