Dissent in Massachusetts Bay

There was not much room for religious disagreement in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Puritans defended their Dogma with uncommon fury. Their devotion to principle was God’s work. Conflicts arise when free-thinkers speak their minds in such a society.

Anne Hutchinson was deeply religious and believed the ministers of Massachusetts had lost their way. She thought that the enforcement of proper behavior from church members conflicted with her belief that God predetermined fate and behavior couldn’t change fate. This thinking was seen as extremely dangerous; if the public ignored church authority, there would be anarchy. Soon, over eighty community members were gathering in her parlor to hear her comments on the weekly sermon. Her leadership position as a woman made her seem all the more dangerous to the Puritan order.

The clergy felt that Anne Hutchinson was a threat to the entire Puritan experiment. They decided to arrest her for heresy. In her trial, she was found guilty and banished from Massachusetts Bay in 1637.

Roger Williams posed the same threat. He preached separation of church and state; he believed in complete religious freedom, so no single church should be supported by tax dollars. Puritans believed in one true faith, and considered his talk intolerable. Williams also claimed taking land from Native Americans without sufficient payment was unfair. He was banished in no time.

In 1636, he purchased land from the Narragansett Indians and founded the colony of Rhode Island. Here there would be complete religious freedom. Dissenters from the English New World came here seeking refuge. Anne Hutchinson herself moved to Rhode Island before her fatal relocation to New York.

Source: Dissent in Massachusetts Bay
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