Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England

By Jane Kamensky | Go to book overview

THREE
THE MISGOVERNMENT
OF WOMAN'S TONGUE

Perhaps the cold came as a relief The "extremity of weather" that marked the winter of 1637-1638--cold so deep that "the bay was all frozen up, save a little channel"--cost some in Massachusetts their fingers and toes, others their cattle, and still others their lives. Yet metaphorically, at least, the chill in the air must have offered a welcome antidote to the heated rhetoric that had engulfed Boston and surrounding villages during the preceding months: an epidemic of "foul errors," bred "secretly," that had "tainted" the colony's public discourse. 1 The austerity of a New England winter certainly provided the appropriate backdrop to the scene that unfolded in Boston's First Church that March, when the congregation's elders came together to freeze Anne Hutchinson out of their circle of godly fellowship. If Hutchinson could be driven beyond the Massachusetts pale, they reasoned, spring might indeed mark a rebirth for the colony, the inauguration of a new order embodied by new languages of deference and authority.

When Thomas Morton published his biting New English Canaan the year before, he had lampooned the clerics who presided over the spiritual life of Massachusetts Bay for tolerating the presence of "a Deakonesse" prone to unfettered "exhortation." 2 Now those same ministers could assure the anxious faithful--the godly multitude whose ears daily awaited good news from the Puritans' "city upon a hill"--that they did so no longer. After months of shouting matches with Hutchinson and like-

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Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • A NOTE ON THE TEXT x
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction 3
  • One The Sweetest Meat, the Bitterest Poison 17
  • Two A Most Unquiet Hiding Place 43
  • Three The Misgovernment of Woman's Tongue 71
  • Four "Publick Fathers" and Cursing Sons 99
  • Five Saying and Unsaying 127
  • Six The Tongue is a Witch 150
  • EPILOGUE 181
  • Appendix - Litigation over Speech in Massachusetts, 1630-1692 195
  • Notes 203
  • Index 281
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