"It might be, that an Antinomian, a Quaker, or other heterodox religionist, was to be scourged out of the town"
Public DomainScourging - Credit: Peter Paul Rubens

Antinomianism holds that religious faith is the sole means of salvation. Believing that a person's conduct should be determined by the inner workings of Christ, they rejected the necessity of abiding by moral laws. As a result, they were seen as a deeply subversive force in thrall to heretical views. As we have seen, Anne Hutchinson, a key figure in the Antinomian Controversy, was banished from the colony along with her supporters. This set the stage for two centuries of rigidly enforced religious conformity that wasn’t seriously challenged until the introduction of Unitarianism in 1819.


Quaker Mary Dyer being led to the gallows (c1905)
Public DomainQuaker Mary Dyer being led to the gallows (c1905) - Credit: Howard Pyle

The mention of Quakers here is artistic license on Hawthorne’s part, since they didn’t arrive in New England until 1656. As discussed earlier, many were scourged out of town, with Ann Coleman being the most famous example. These early colonists got off lightly in comparison to later arrivals: in 1658, a law was passed which made organizing or attending a Quaker meeting a hanging offence. If execution was felt to be too severe, guilty parties could be branded with the letter H for heretic, have their ears chopped off or their tongues bored through with a hot iron.