Preface to the Second Edition
T
HE Antinomian controversy has come into its own. Three
hundred and fifty years after the magistrates and ministers
in early Massachusetts crushed a movement of protest, the events
of 1636 to 1638 are regarded as crucial to an understanding of
religion, society, and gender in early American history. The dis-
persal of the "Antinomians" and the reassertion of "orthodoxy"
fixed the path that religion and society would follow for the
next century, if not longer. And the harsh reaction to Anne
Hutchinson, a lay religious leader who challenged the authority
of the ministers, exposed the subordination of women in this
culture-a subordination some, like Mrs. Hutchinson, tried to
challenge.
We know more about the main actors in the controversy-
Anne Hutchinson, her chief clerical supporter John Cotton, and
the other ministers who confronted both of them-than we knew
when this collection of documents was published in 1968. The
progress of scholarship is amply evident in the bibliography of
recent work appended to this preface. But let me comment
briefly on a few crucial matters of interpretation.
Anne Hutchinson, her husband William, and their children
arrived in Boston in 1634. The little that we know about her
spiritual life before she emigrated to America is embedded in
the report of her "examination" by the magistrates and minis-
ters in 1637. During that examination Mrs. Hutchinson broke
into the mode of spiritual autobiography, telling how, back in
England, she had come to question the truthfulness of godly
ministers in the Church of England who never seemed to act
according to their principles. Separating from the established
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