Hooker, Thomas 1586–1647

The Puritan minister Thomas Hooker was a central figure in the settlement of Connecticut. Born July 7, 1586, in Marfield in Leicestershire, England, he
attended Emmanuel College, receiving his master of arts degree in 1611.

In 1618, Hooker became rector of St. George’s in Esher. While he served there, Joan Drake, the wife of a patron of the church, fell into a deep spiritual
melancholy and became convinced that she was damned. Hooker was part of a team of ministers sent to treat her, and it was his pastoral technique that
ultimately prevailed.

Not only did this success give a boost to Hooker’s career, but the arguments he had used became his pastoral methodology. Like many English Puritans,
he preached covenant theology, which understood Calvinist predestination in terms of a contract between God and the believer, wherein God both set the
requirements for salvation and fulfilled them. In addition, while staying in the Drake house, Hooker met and married one of their maids.

From 1626, Hooker held the position of lecturer at Chelmsford in Essex, until, in July 1630, certain of his parishioners presented him to the Court of High
Commission for nonconformity. Protected for a time in the household of the Earl of Warwick (a figure important in the early history of the Massachusetts
Bay Company), the following summer, Hooker received an invitation from the English congregation in Amsterdam to become an assistant to their minister,
John Paget. Hooker’s incipient Congregational leanings (in particular, his desire to test the beliefs and behavior of parents who presented their children for
baptism) caused Paget to reject him in what became an acrimonious intra-church fight.

The Reverend Thomas Hooker led members of his Puritan congregation from Massachusetts to the Connecticut River Valley in 1636 and helped found
the colony that became Hartford. (Library of Congress, cph 3c01098)

Hooker stayed with fellow Puritan minister Hugh Peter at Rotterdam, and together they managed the publication of Congregational theorist William Ames’s
Fresh Suit Against Ceremonies, an attack upon the English Book of Common Prayer. Hooker briefly returned to England and then (one step ahead of the
law) boarded the Griffin, bound for New England, along with fellow Puritan ministers John Cotton and Samuel Stone. Arriving in September 1633, Hooker
and many of his former congregants settled at Newtown (present-day Cambridge). Shortly thereafter, he was an important voice in mediating a dispute
between Massachusetts governor John Winthrop and deputy governor Thomas Dudley.

Hooker and his congregation did not remain in Newtown long, due to a lack of grazing land and a clash of egos between Hooker and John Cotton. In
1636, they sold their land to a newly arrived group of settlers headed by Thomas Shepard (who subsequently married Hooker’s daughter) and moved to
the Connecticut River Valley at what became Hartford, Connecticut.

There, Hooker’s church, by applying only a test of behavior and doctrinal knowledge for admittance to membership rather than a narrative of one’s
personal experience of receiving saving grace, differed slightly in practice from those in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He also played a part in the
formulation of the Fundamental Orders, the Hartford colony’s constitution (though his exact role is unclear), and gave a sermon in which he defended the
right of people to choose their magistrates.

Hooker remained a prominent voice in intercolonial affairs. He returned to Massachusetts in 1637 to take part in the proceedings against Anne Hutchinson
and was a moderator, along with Peter Bulkeley, of the 1637 synod that met to deal with the crisis. He also promoted an alliance of the New England
colonies to face the threat of the Pequot.

In 1643, Hooker and John Cotton moderated an assembly at Harvard to deal with the development of Presbyterianism in the town of Newbury. The year
before, he had been invited, along with several other ministers, to attend the Westminster Assembly in England, which met to restructure the Church of
England. Recognizing that the assembly was dominated by Presbyterians, he declared that he had no wish to travel 3,000 miles in order to agree with
three men.

New England’s ministry, nevertheless, still wished its views to be heard in the great debate, and Hooker was convinced to write a defense of New
England church practices. He complied by writing A Survey of the Summe of Church Discipline, a response to the Scottish Covenanter Samuel
Rutherford’s Due Plea for Presbyteries. The first copy was lost at sea, and Hooker refused to risk letting another copy out of his possession, which meant
that the work was published only after his death in 1647.

Kenneth A. Shelton
See also: Connecticut; Connecticut (Chronology); Massachusetts Bay Colony; Ministers and the Ministry; Puritanism.
Bibliography
Bush, Sargent. The Writings of Thomas Hooker: Spiritual Adventure in Two Worlds. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1980.
Shuffelton, Frank. Thomas Hooker, 15861647. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977.
Winthrop, John. Winthrop’s Journal, History of New England, 16301649. Edited by James Kendall Hosmer. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908.
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