GORTON, SAMUEL (c. 1600–1677), English sectary and founder of the American sect of Gortonites, was born about 1600 at Gorton, Lancashire. He was first apprenticed to a clothier in London, but, fearing persecution for his religious convictions, he sailed for Boston, Massachusetts, in 1636. Constantly involved in religious disputes, he fled in turn to Plymouth, and (in 1637–1638) to Aquidneck (Newport), where he was publicly whipped for insulting the clergy and magistrates. In 1643 he bought land from the Narraganset Indians at Shawomet—now Warwick—where he was joined by a number of his followers; but he quarrelled with the Indians and the authorities at Boston sent soldiers to arrest Gorton and six of his companions. He served a term of imprisonment for heresy at Charlestown, after which he was ejected from the colony. In England in 1646 he published the curious tract “Simplicities Defence against Seven Headed Policy” (reprinted in 1835), giving an account of his grievances against the Massachusetts government. In 1648 he returned to New England with a letter of protection from the earl of Warwick, and joining his former companions at Shawomet, which he named Warwick, in honour of the earl, he remained there till his death at the end of 1677. He is chiefly remembered as the founder of a small sect called the Gortonites, which survived till the end of the 18th century. They had a great contempt for the regular clergy and for all outward forms of religion, holding that the true believers partook of the perfection of God.
Among his quaint writings are: An Incorruptible Key composed of the CX. Psalms wherewith you may open the rest of the Scriptures (1647), and Saltmarsh returned from the Dead, with its sequel, An Antidote against the Common Plague of the World (1657). See L. G. Jones, Samuel Gorton: a forgotten Founder of our Liberties (Providence, 1896).