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The Hutchinson Players


The word literally means 'against the law'. It was used to describe Anne Hutchinson and her followers in a derogatory manner and had connotations of licentious behavior and heretical doctrine.

puritan vs Puritan
The word puritan is used in a general sense to describe intangible characteristics such as character, conscious leanings or allegiance to certain religious beliefs as opposed to Puritan which implies something distinctly set such as membership in an organization or establishment. The puritans were in agreement about the need for further cleansing of the church institutions through evangelical means and held a basic set of common beliefs, but there was never an official institution of puritanism.

Puritan Beliefs

Church Membership

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Massachusetts Bay Colony

Massachusetts Bay Company

In 1629 John Winthrop learned about a new trading venture called the Massachusetts Bay Company. The MBC was a joint stock trading company founded by a group of puritan gentry and had been granted a colonial charter by King Charles I which gave it rights to a plot of land in North Anerica and to establish settlements. It was decided by the members to secretly bring the colonial charter with them to New England which assured them self-governance with a local board of directors, shareholders and offices. Thomas Dudley and Hugh Peter were among the original stockholders and each would play significant roles in the controversy that later threatened to tear the settlement apart.

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The Passage

On March 20, 1630 a fleet of 11 ships took sail to New England with over 1,000 puritan passengers seeking freedom of worship and economic opportunities. Having been released from the shackles of the Anglican church and unaware of the difficulties ahead, they braved the journey's hardships with courage and must have been ebullient with their new found freedom.

Their leaders were Deputy Governor Thomas Dudley and Governor John Winthrop, a landowner, lawyer and magistrate in England, who once had aspirations to the ministry and carried his religious piety with him. Lay preaching was an accepted practice within puritan gatherings and a few days before the ship's crossing, Winthrop delivered his famous "City on a Hill" sermon where he elucidated on the goal of establishing a purified society guided by God's will as revealed in scripture, one that would be free of the papal trappings seen to be prevalent in England and, A Modell of Christian Charity, one that would be an example to the world emanating back to England. Winthrop also stressed that the success of their biblical commonwealth in the wilderness would be dependent on a communal sense of responsibility and committment - mourning together, suffering together, working and praying together. Reverend John Wilson accompanied the civil leadership, would become the pastor of the Boston church and would later become an outspoken opponent of what was to known as "The Antinomian Controversy"

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The Passengers

The plan for a model society bonded by Christian charity and emphasizing communal welfare and secuity was set forth by the leaders of this venture, the stockholders of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Little did they know the daunting challenges they would face. The demographic composition of the passengers consisted of 1% of the highest and lowest classes, i.e., the English aristocracy and the underclass, 10% servants and unskilled laborers, and of 79% urban dwelling, mainly professional members of English society many of whom were merchants and could be considered the "middling" segment of the group. The passengers were all puritans and their reasons for migrating were as diversified as their social status. Neither was there a codified set of beliefs or practices or a cohesive level of piety consistent among them.They were bound together by circumstances in England that did not distinguish their differences and created an uncomfortable and sometimes intolerable lifestyle. There were those, like John Winthrop, who were loyal to the crown but who wished to establish an ideal community where they would live in accordance with God's laws and which would set the example and complete the reformation in England. Others more passionate and radical wished to overthrow the corrupt society they saw destroying their motherland or feared God's wrath for the inadequate religious reformation in England. Many followed members of their family or their favorite preachers who were migrating to escape what they witnessed as an onslaught to silence or imprison them. Economic hardships induced by soaring inflation and steadily increasing sovereign disapproval of the puritan population were the incentive for others. The voyagers came from diverse parts of England where their particular religious practices and organization varied in both content and context. Although adhering to mainstream Calvinist beliefs, there were those who had had mystical experiences assuring them of God's blessing, others relied on sanctification, obedience to God's laws, as their path to grace. They also brought with them their distinctive local methods of church organization ranging from congregationalism to heirarchical presbyterianism.

The early members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony would be entering into a covenant with God that would test their spiritual strength and physical well-being.

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Harsh Reality and Fervent Piety

Puritans in the Wilderness The colonists landed in Salem on June 12,1630 after a long and arduous journey at sea. What they found was a land filled with geographical diversity and abundant natural resources. Their food could be had from the assortment of sea life such as various shellfish and eels, small and large game in the form of squirrels and rabbits and deer and bear. And although most of the mainland soil was not ideal for farming, the nearby islands and river valleys would produce abundant vegetable gardens and the inland would provide many meadows to feed the livestock. Blessed too were they with the abundant forests which promised a wealth of timber for the contruction of homes, churches and businesses and fuel for keeping them warm.

The territory surrounding the colony had been copiously populated by native Indians. There were the Narragansetts to the south, the Mohgans and Pequot to the west and to the east the Pokanoket Wampanoags. The arrival of earlier New England settlers brought epidemics of European diseases like smallpox to the native inhabitants who lacked immunity and succumbed rapidly. The outbreaks ravaged their communities and drastically reduced their numbers. The colonists found in this devastation a religious justification for the settlement of the colony, it being God's will to empty the land for them. They also found suitable locations for their towns in the abandoned Indian villages and the diminished native population removed the fear of attacks for the earliest settlers.

What they couldn't anticipate was the long hot and humid summer swarming with mosquitoes and the multitude of rattlesnakes residing in the wooded areas. And the necessity of living in damp caves, tents and wigwams while many were sick and dying from fever and scurvey and lack of fresh food and water. Then too, the work seemed neverending. Buildings to construct, fields to plow, seeds to sow and food to harvest. As winter approached there were still some of the poorer settlers living in tents and the wolves determinedly and frequently launched attacks on the calves. Many of the newly constructed houses burned down as the colonists built fires to shield them from the bitter iciness they were unaccustomed to. Between the time the ships departed from England unti December 1630, 200 colonists had died.

During the early years there were some colonists, unable to bear the hardships, who returned home to England, but many remained and took consolation in the belief that God was guiding them in their holy endeavor. The puritans likened their journey to the ancient exodus of the Jews and considered themselves God's chosen people with whom God had made a covenant. As they sought comfort from their ministers, they also delighted in the new found freedom their preachers had in delivering their sermons. New England afforded them unrestrained preaching and the laity indulged themselves enthusiastically and wholeheartedly. The religious excitement was so extreme that it caused Governor John Winthrop to fear that chores would be overlooked. The level of piety increased to a fever pitch high in 1633 with the arrival of Reverend John Cotton. And record numbers of conversions occurred during the first few months after his arrival.

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Massachusetts Bay Colony Government

John Winthrop had been trained as a lawyer and probably would have become a member of parliament had he stayed in England. He was elected first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and held that title frequently in the early years of the settlement, although not consecutively.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony governing power and laws were based on that of the Bible and as a result there was little separation between church and state. There was no court and jury system as we have today. John Winthrop preferred to judge cases on an individual basis and let the determinations develop into common law. The general court not only possessed executive, legislative, and judicial powers but also religious authority. The church was state run and supported by public money. All citizens were required to attend church service and only members of the church had the right to vote. To be admitted to the church required evidence of being " elected" by god. Ministers were not allowed to hold public office which was basically the only thing preventing a theocracy.

Each spring a governor, deputy governor and magistrates were elected.

1630 John Winthrop
1631 John Winthrop
1632 John Winthrop
1633 John Winthrop
1634 Thomas Dudley
1635 John Haynes
1636 Henry Vane

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