The Family History of Stephen Borden


Anne Hutchinson was an outspoken and charismatic woman in Boston in the early 1630's. She became a threat to the status quo of the Boston Puritan theocracy as her popularity grew, not only because she was an outspoken woman at a time when women were to be seen and not heard, but more importantly because of  what she preached. She taught that ordinary people did not need clergy to serve as intermediaries with God - their salvation was in their own hands! 

Had she not been from an influential family she would have been burned at the stake. Instead they gave her the courtesy of an ultimatum, get out of town - or else. Of course in those days there was no place to go and being banished was tantamount to a death sentence.

She sought out Roger Williams who had also been "asked to leave" Boston for his contrary teaching about separation of religion and government. He himself was a preacher and founder of what came to be the First Baptist Church in America. He and his party settled just outside the reaches of the Massachusetts and Plymouth Bay Colony Courts in what is now Providence, RI. Anne was also a threat to him - as he too was clergy! So he politely declined her request to settle in Providence. Instead he suggested Anne and her party make their way to Portsmouth on the little "Rhode Island" which was also out of the reaches of the courts and far enough away from Roger.

So in 1638 the Hutchinson party departed Boston for Portsmouth. The group of religious dissenters became known as  Antinomians (against rule), as they objected to the Puritan's controls over Boston's civil affairs and the power of the clergy there.  The original Portsmouth Compact,  as referenced on the plaque pictured here,  was signed in Boston by 19 founders before they set off for Portsmouth. However, before the party departed Boston they recruited additional families. Once in Portsmouth,  a second civil compact was signed by 26. Anne Hutchinson, who organized the group  did not arrive with the original party,  though members of her family did. Hutchinson came later and stayed only a short while before moving on to Newport and then New York after conflict with another member of the party, William Coddington.

Anne Hutchinson was the charismatic organizer, but  Coddington emerged as the leader of all of what is now Aquidnick Island (Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth).  The Compact and the representative self rule is the basis of Portsmouth's claim to be the birthplace of  Democracy. Those who stayed in Portsmouth, including the Bordens, eventually adopted the Quaker (Friends) faith, as it advocated similar beliefs; the power of individuals to assure their own salvation without human intermediaries such as clergy and a weary view of powerful central control in either the government or the church. They were against slavery and war. All good things even today.

The Borden family, Richard and Joan, as well as many other families who left Boston to join the Portsmouth community did so for different reasons. Some left not because of strong feelings or associations with the Antinomians, but rather to escape the oppression of the Puritan colonies - The New World was not so new in some respects.

The Borden's of Portsmouth became prominent in the area, and beyond, and the rest is, well, our history!