By David M. Powers, 16 April 2020


Even though all adult males could legally vote after May 1647, but in local elections only, Springfield citizens had little say beyond their own town. Only seven of forty-three male residents of legal age were freemen and therefore eligible to act on colony-wide matters. Springfield had the lowest proportion of freemen of any town in Massachusetts.

Regrettably, Pynchon did not participate regularly in the General Court during a formative time in the Court’s development in the 1640s. Those years saw a substantial expansion in the exercise of voting rights; on average, as much as 50 percent of the adult male population had become freemen by 1647. Pynchon does not seem to have attended the Court in 1642, when 139 freemen were added to the electoral roles. Nor was he present for other changes in electoral policy. Through all those years, when the Deputies struggled to maintain and expand their role of popular representation in the Bay Colony, Pynchon was not involved.

As if to correct this, on November 11, 1647 the General Court voted that:
“Mr Pinchin is authorised to make freemen, in the towne of Springfeild, of those that are in covenant & live according to their p[ro]fession; and Springfeild, within twelue months, to bring in a transcript of their land, according to the law in that case p[ro]vided, and a true note of the time of all their births, burials, & marriages.”

Still, Pynchon remained quite parsimonious about extending the franchise. He acted the following spring, when the record states, “Aprill 13. 1648. These were sworne to be Freemen: John Pynchon, Elitzur Holioak, Henry Burt, Roger Pritchard, Samuell Wright, William Branch.” He added three more the next April. But no more joined the list until 1654, a couple of years after William Pynchon had left. The five new freemen at that time included the noted Deacon Samuel Chapin, the inspiration for Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ famous statue of “The Puritan.” At that point Chapin had been a Springfield resident for twelve years.

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