Thomas Shepard: From Nonconformist to Orthodox to persecutor; Shepard's role in the Antinomian controversy
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While traditional history paints Anne Hutchinson as the central cause of the Antinomian Controversy, this paper explores the role of Thomas Shepard as the controversy's central figure. It traces Shepard's role as a Puritan Nonconformist in England, to his role in establishing Puritan Orthodoxy in New England, to his role as chief persecutor of New England dissidents, chiefly Anne Hutchinson. I will show, through Shepard's autobiography, journal, and other sources that Shepard, persecuted by Archbishop Laud for conscientious dissent became New England's "Laud" by persecuting others for their own conscientious dissent. While historiography has blamed the victim, Anne Hutchinson, for the Massachusetts Bay crisis, I will show that Thomas Shepard—out of his desire to bring all others into conformity to his theological interpretations—not Hutchinson, was the chief instigator of the Antinomian Controversy.