Using your source(s), explore the question: How did a diversity of views transform American society? Provide research in addition to your own analysis of some of the texts from lesson 2 such as “American Jezebel,” “Repeal the Stamp Act!” and “Declaration of Independence.” What ideas from the text reveal answers to the question? Use both outside sources and textual evidence from the selections in the course to develop your essay (4-5 paragraphs).
Repeal the Stamp Act
Recently, our dear friends in Parliament passed a law known as the Stamp Act. This is the first direct tax that the government in London has tried to levy on the colonies. This wide-ranging tax affects all printed products. This includes legal documents, newspapers, pamphlets, playing cards, and even college diplomas.
I am not against paying taxes. I pay property taxes on my home and business. I pay excise taxes on the products I buy. However, those taxes are different. They were created by a legislative body that represents me. This infernal Act was passed by a sovereign body that does not represent us colonists. Common law has long held that British subjects are not taxed without representation. As such, the Stamp Act must be repealed not because it is unjust, but because it is illegal.
For many years, British subjects have not had taxes imposed on them without their consent. They have the opportunity to petition their member of Parliament and argue against the new tax. However, we colonists are not represented in Parliament. We have no one to petition. Besides, the law was passed without debate. Who spoke for us? The Crown would contend that we have virtual representation in Parliament because we are British citizens. I shall accept that the colonists have fair representation in Parliament when this imaginary member of Parliament reads and responds to my letters. Until that time, I will only pay taxes levied by my elected colonial assembly.
There is also the matter of the reason this tax was levied. Revenue from this odious Act will support the British army in North America. Yet, the war against the French is over. Still the Crown insists on having a standing army upon our shores. In addition, this money for soldiers comes on top of the recent Quartering Act. That Act requires us to provide housing for soldiers, even giving them free rooms in our inns and on our private property. What more does the army want from us? Shall I remove the boots from my feet and hand them to the nearest soldier? Will they bleed us dry in the name of defense?
But the most egregious line in the Stamp Act concerns those who refuse to pay the tax. The law permits violators to be tried without a jury in Vice-Admiralty Court. That is a maritime law court. Trial by jury is a right of all British people. Any court that does not have a jury is invalid. Worst of all, Vice-Admiralty Court can be held anywhere, even far from one’s local jurisdiction. I will not be sent to Nova Scotia to defend myself. We have courts here that would be happy to try these violators, with the help of a jury. Some members of Parliament believe that jurors are too sympathetic to their fellow colonists. To me, that is the way that the courts are designed to work. A jury can be sympathetic to a man who steals bread to feed his children. Why should they not have the chance to be sympathetic to a publisher who avoids the stamp to avoid destitution?
A law that requires taxation without representation to support an unnecessary standing army, enforced by an illegal court—we cannot let this law stand. To amend the situation, we must first refuse to pay any taxes levied by Parliament until we have fair representation. In the meantime, dockworkers, refuse to unload ships that come with these stamps. Lawyers, continue to draw up contracts as you have always done. Publishers, continue printing your newspapers. As a city, we should stall the commissioners who try to collect this tax. We must convince them to resign! Together, we can stop this illegal Act. Help me stop future attempts at tyranny!
Chapter 1: Enemy of the State
“Anne Hutchinson is present,” a male voice announced from somewhere in the crowded meetinghouse, momentarily quieting the din that filled its cavernous hall. The meetinghouse of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a square structure of timber and clay with a thatched roof, served as the community’s city hall, church, and courthouse—the latter its role this chilly Tuesday in November 1637. Hearing the news that the defendant had arrived, scores of bearded heads in black felt hats turned to find the one woman in the crowd.
There was nothing auspicious about Anne Hutchinson’s appearance as she stood in the doorway alongside several male relatives and supporters, awaiting the start of the trial. She was forty-six years old, of average height and bearing, with an unremarkable face. Her petticoat fell almost to the ground, revealing only the tips of her leather boots. Against the cold she wore a wool mantua, or cloak. A white coif covered her hair, as was the custom of the day. Besides that and her white linen smock and neckerchief, she wore all black. She was a stranger to no one present, having ministered as midwife and nurse to many of their wives and children. All knew her to be an active member of the church of Boston, the wife of the wealthy textile merchant, William Hutchinson, the mother of twelve living children, and the grandmother of one, a five-day-old boy who just that Sunday had been baptized. There was, in short, no outward sign to show she was an enemy of the state.
Enemy she was, though, indeed the greatest threat Massachusetts had ever known. More than a few men in the room, including several of the ministers, considered her a witch. Others believed the Devil had taken over her soul. The governor, John Winthrop, who was waiting in an antechamber of the meetinghouse to begin the trial over which he would preside, suspected her of using her devilish powers to subjugate men by establishing “the community of women” to foster “their abominable wickedness.”
Anne Hutchinson’s greatest crime, and the source of her power, was the series of public meetings she held at her house to discuss Scripture and theology. At first, in 1635, the evening meetings had been just for women, who then were generally encouraged to gather in small groups to gossip and offer mutual support. Soon scores of women, enchanted by her intelligence and magnetism, flocked to hear her analysis of the week’s Scripture reading, which many of them preferred to the ministers’ latest interpretation. “Being a woman very helpful in times of childbirth and other occasions of bodily infirmities, [Hutchinson] easily inserted herself into the affections of many,” an official observed. Her “pretense was to repeat [the ministers’] sermons,” the governor added, “but when that was done, she would comment upon the doctrines, interpret passages at her pleasure, and expound dark places of Scripture, and make it serve her turn,” going beyond “wholesome truths” to “set forth her own stuff.” One minister, Thomas Weld, reported that her “custom was for her scholars to propound questions and she (gravely sitting in the chair) did make answers thereunto.” This was especially grievous in a time when the single chair in every house was for the use of the man alone.
Men had begun to accompany their wives to Hutchinson’s meetings in 1636, and as her audiences swelled she offered a second session of religious instruction each week, just as the colonial ministers liked to give a Thursday lecture as well as their Sunday sermon. The Reverend Weld lamented that members of her audience, “being tainted, conveyed the infection to others,” including “some of the magistrates, some gentlemen, some scholars and men of learning, some Burgesses of our General Court, some of our captains and soldiers, some chief men in towns, and some eminent for religion, parts, and wit.” Anne Hutchinson had “stepped out of [her] place,” in the succinct phrase of the Reverend Hugh Peter, of Salem—she “had rather been a husband than a wife; and a preacher than a hearer; and a magistrate than a subject.”
It was painfully clear to Governor Winthrop, who had an excellent view of her comings and goings from his house directly across the road from hers in Boston, that Anne Hutchinson possessed the strongest constituency of any leader in the colony. She was, he confided in his journal, “a woman of a haughty and fierce carriage, a nimble wit and an active spirit, and a very voluble tongue.” Her name was absent (on account of her sex) from every offensive political act and document, he observed, but she was behind them all. “More bold than a man,” she was Virgil’s dux foemina facti, “the woman leading all the action”—the breeder and nourisher of all the county’s distempers, the sower of political and religious discord. Before Mistress Hutchinson had arrived in America, in the fall of 1634, all was sweetness and light, he recalled. Now that she was here, all was chaos.
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