The Special Judges: Hathorne, John, Sewall, Samuel, Stoughton, William
John Hathorne (1641-1717)
American politician and jurist.
Hathorne is thought to have been one of the most zealous witch hunters of the Salem witch trials. As one of the three magistrates in Salem in 1692, Hathorne carried out the preliminary examinations of the accused witches. He also served as a judge on the Court of Oyer and Terminer—the special court created by Governor William Phips to deal with the rising witch hysteria—which sentenced nineteen accused witches to death. An ancestor of the American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, he is thought to have been the inspiration for the character of the puritanical Colonel Pyncheon in The House of Seven Gables (1851).
Hathorne, son of one of the most powerful magistrates in Salem, was born in Salem Village, Massachusetts, in 1641. He married his fourteen-year-old bride at the age of thirty-three and built a mansion for his family in the center of Salem Village in 1675. Following in his father's footsteps, Hathorne was elected as a magistrate—assistant to the governor—in 1684. By age of forty-two he was a member of the Board of Assistants and was known as a tireless judge who followed the same Puritanical code as his father had before him. An influential politician in his own time, he held the position of Judge on the Supreme Court until two years before his death in 1717.
Henry James (essay date 1879)
SOURCE: "Early Years," in Hawthorne,Macmillan, 1967, pp. 22-40.
[In the following excerpt from a work originally published in 1879, James examines Nathaniel Hawthorne's Puritan ancestry and discusses the influence that John Hathorne had on his writings.]
Nathaniel Hawthorne was by race of the clearest Puritan strain. His earliest American ancestor (who wrote the name 'Hathorne'—the shape in which it was transmitted to Nathaniel, who inserted the w,) was the younger son of a Wiltshire family, whose residence, according to a note of our author's in 1837, was 'Wigcastle, Wigton'. Hawthorne, in the note in question, mentions the gentleman who was at that time the head of the family; but it does not appear that he at any period renewed acquaintance with his English kinsfolk. Major William Hathorne came out to Massachusetts in the early years of the Puritan settlement….
He was one of the band of companions of the virtuous and exemplary John Winthrop, the almost lifelong royal Governor of the young colony, and the brightest and most amiable figure in the early Puritan annals. How amiable William Hathorne may have been I know not, but he was evidently of the stuff of which the citizens of the Commonwealth were best advised to be made. He was a sturdy fighting man, doing solid execution upon both the inward and outward enemies of the State. The latter were the savages, the former the Quakers; the energy expended by the early Puritans in resistance to the tomahawk not weakening their disposition to deal with spiritual dangers. They employed the same—or almost the same—weapons in both directions; the flintlock and the halberd against the Indians, and the cat-o'-nine-tails against the heretics….
William Hathorne died in 1681; but those hard qualities that his descendant speaks of were reproduced in his son John, who bore the title of Colonel, and who was connected, too intimately for his honour, with that deplorable episode of New England history, the persecution of the so-called Witches of Salem. John Hathorne is introduced into the little drama entitled The Salem Farms in Longfellow's New England Tragedies. I know not whether he had the compensating merits of his father, but our author speaks of him, in the continuation of the passage I have just quoted, as having made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may be said to have left a stain upon him. 'So deep a stain, indeed,' Hawthorne adds, characteristically, 'that his old dry bones in the Charter Street burial-ground must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust.' Readers of The House of the Seven Gables will remember that the story concerns itself with a family which is supposed to be overshadowed by a curse launched against one of its earlier members by a poor man occupying a lowlier place in the world, whom this ill-advised ancestor had been the means of bringing to justice for the crime of witchcraft. Hawthorne apparently found the idea of the history of the Pyncheons in his own family annals. His witch-judging ancestor was reported to have incurred a malediction from one of his victims, in consequence of which the prosperity of the race faded utterly away. 'I know not,' the passage I have already quoted goes on, 'whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties, or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another state of being. At all events, I, the present writer, hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse incurred by them—as I have heard, and as the dreary and unprosperous condition of the race for some time back would argue to exist—may be now and henceforth removed.' …
Julian Hawthorne (essay date 1884)
SOURCE: "Ancestral Matters," in Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife: A Biography, James R. Osgood and Company, 1885, pp. 1-38.
[In this excerpt from a work written in 1884, Julian Hawthorne (the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne) provides a short commentary on John Hathorne and reviews his career as a judge.]
[William Hathorne's] successor was his son John, the fifth of eight children, who lived to enjoy the sinister renown of having, in his capacity of Judge, examined and condemned to death certain persons accused of witchcraft,—one of whom, according to tradition, invoked a heavy curse upon him and upon his children's children. In the book of Court records of that period, under date of the 24th of March, 1691, there is entered a transcript of the examination of "Rebekah Nurse, at Salem village," from which I extract the following dialogue between John Hathorne, Rebekah, and others:—
Mr. Hathorne.—'What do you say?' (speaking to one afflicted.) 'Have you seen this woman hurt you?'
'Yes, she beat me this morning.'
'Abigail, have you been hurt by this woman?'
Ann Putnam in a grievous fit cried out that she hurt her.
Mr. H.—'Goody Nurse, here are now Ann Putnam, the child, and Abigail Williams complains of your hurting them. What do you say to it?'
Nurse.—'I can say before my Eternal Father I am innocent, and God will clear my innocency.'
Mr. H.—'You do know whether you are guilty, and have familiarity with the Devil; and now when you are here present to see such a thing as these testify,—a black man whispering in your ear, and devils about you,—what do you say to it?'
N.—'It is all false. I am clear.'
Mr. H.—'Is it not an unaccountable thing, that when you are examined, these persons are afflicted?'
N.—'I have got nobody to look to but God.'
This passage in the Judge's career has thrown the rest of his life into the shade; but he was almost as able a man as his father, if less active and versatile. He began with being Representative; during the witchcraft cases he was "Assistant Judge," Jonathan Curwin being with him on the bench; ten years later, he was made Judge of the Supreme Court, and held that position until within two years of his death, which happened in 1717, in his seventy-seventh year. He also bore the title of Colonel, which was not, perhaps, a dignity so easily won then as now. In his will he describes himself as simply a "merchant." His brother William was a sea-captain, and the Judge probably invested a large part of his capital in commercial enterprises. He seems to have been an austere, painstaking, conscientious man, liable to become the victim of lamentable prejudices and delusions, but capable, also, of bitterly repenting his errors. He was a narrower man than his father, but probably a more punctiliously righteous person, according to the Puritan code of morality. He ended a poorer man than he began,—the witch's curse having taken effect on the worldly prosperity of the family….
Vernon Loggins (essay date 1951)
SOURCE: "Witchcraft, Alas!," in The Hawthornes, Columbia University Press, 1951, pp. 130-37.
[Here, Loggins examines Hathorne's role in the Salem witchcraft trials and contends that, although Hathorne was involved in the preliminary hearings, he was not active in the sentencing of the accused.]
On at least one occasion Mr. Hathorne himself, in order to bring about an identification, resorted to magic. Certain afflicted girls and women were having difficulty in pointing out a man they were charging of wizardry. Mr. Hathorne ordered all to move into the yard in front of the meetinghouse. A great circle was drawn on the ground, and it was no sooner completed than one of the girls, in a trance, cried, "There's John Alden, a bold fellow, with his hat on before the judges! He sells powder and shot to the Indians and French, and lies with the Indian squaws, and has papooses!" Mr. Hathorne and Mr. Corwin a few days later committed as a wizard the man thus identified. He was an again well-to-do Boston merchant, son of the John Alden and Priscilla Mullins who had brought romance into early Plymouth. Through breaking jail and fleeing he was to evade trial.
By May 14, when the frigate Nonesuch, bearing Sir William Phipps, the Reverend Increase Mather, and the new charter, arrived in Boston harbor, Mr. Hathorne and Mr. Corwin had the prisons of Essex and Suffolk Counties crowded with supposed witches and wizards. With the apprehension of each new suspect the country had become more alarmed. Nearly everybody was afraid of nearly everybody else. When two neighbors met, each was likely to be thinking, "Have you also signed the Fiend's book?" The new governor found Massachusetts Bay in unprecedented terror. He saw that something would have to be done immediately, and he knew that months would pass before the judicial machinery provided for in the new charter could be set up. Sir William therefore took advantage of an old English law and appointed a court of oyer and terminer to meet in the Salem town house at once and begin the trials of Their Majesties' subjects who were charged with witchcrafts.
The court consisted of nine magistrates, headed by Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton. He was a close friend of Increase and Cotton Mather, and held to the full their beliefs regarding witchcraft. Among the eight named to assist him were Samuel Sewall, Mr. Corwin, and Mr. Hathorne. Five, according to the governor's decree, constituted a quorum.
Certain historians were to make Mr. Hathorne a central figure in this court of oyer and terminer, the magistrate most assiduous in seeking death sentences for those on trial. The truth is that Mr. Hathorne rarely, if ever, took advantage of his right and sat as a member of the court. Not one of his contemporaries who wrote of the trials listed him among the judges. During the summer and early autumn he continued holding preliminary hearings, as he had done since March 1. With the trials at the town house attracting the curious, he questioned suspects at his own home, or at Deacon Ingersoll's tavern in Salem Village, or, more frequently, at Mr. Corwin's residence, which for this reason was one day to be known as the "witch house." Between the first of June and the middle of October as many as a hundred appeared before Mr. Hathorne and were committed. He could have had little time for other duties—except witnessing the executions of those whom Mr. Stoughton, Mr. Sewall, and others active in the court of oyer and terminer had condemned.
The first hanging, which came June 10, was that of Bridget Bishop, who twelve years before, when she was Bridget Oliver, had been sentenced to die for witchcraft and then, at the eleventh hour, had been pardoned by Governor Bradstreet. She had prospered as keeper of a tavern, where on occasion the merriment was loud. She had moreover worn clothes such as most of her women neighbors could not afford. After her commitment by Mr. Hathorne a grand jury—sitting probably at Mr. Corwin's residence—returned a bill against her. Brought before the court of oyer and terminer, she was obliged to take care of her own defense. For there were still no lawyers, except counselors for the crown, in Massachusetts Bay. The woman's trial, on the upper floor of the town house, was a bedlam. Time and again the reading of the depositions stating her alleged acts of witchcraft were interrupted by the shricks of the stricken girls and women. But at last Bridget Bishop heard the clerk—Stephen Sewall, brother of Samuel Sewall—read the jury's verdict of guilty. Then she listened as Mr. Stoughton pronounced the sentence of death.
Mr. Hathorne, on horseback, was a prominent figure in the procession which followed her to the place of execution. She rode in a cart—standing, so that the hundreds of spectators could see her all the better. From the jail the procession moved south on Prison Lane, and then west on the main street. When the woman drew near the meetinghouse, she happened to cast her eyes in the direction of the sacred edifice. As she did so, said Mr. Cotton Mather, a board on the inside of the building broke from the heavy nails which held it and flew with the speed of a bullet to the opposite wall, hitting with a crash that could be heard throughout Salem. What more was needed to prove that Bridget Bishop had signed the Devil's book? At the corner of the Mill Pond farm—which for Mr. Hathorne and his family was a second home—the driver of the death cart turned from the main street into a narrow roadway which led northwest a short distance and then up a rocky mound, to be known in time as Gallows Hill. Mr. Hathorne, fulfilling his duty as a magistrate, looked on while Bridget Bishop was hanged, possibly from a gibbet, but more likely from the limb of a tree. When the hangman was sure that she was dead, the body was cut down and tossed into a shallow grave which had been dug at the foot of a rock.
On July 19 Mr. Hathorne witnessed the first mass execution. This time five women were hanged.
Among them was Sarah Good. When she came to Salem to be tried, she left in the Boston jail her little four-year-old daughter, Dorcas, also committed by Mr. Hathorne on a charge of witchcraft. He saw with his own eyes, he believed, the prints of her little teeth on the arms of two of the afflicted girls, bitten when the child's physical body was asleep in her own bed a mile or two away. The Boston jailer had to have special manacles made to fit the tiny wrists and ankles, and required the mother to pay for them. When Goody Good, sure of herself despite her fear and rancor, was about to be hanged, the Reverend Nicholas Noyes cried out, "You're a witch, and you know you are!" Turning upon him a look which in itself sent forth curses, she shouted, "You're a liar! I'm no more a witch than you're a wizard! And if you take my life God will give you blood to drink!"
Future commentators were to claim erroneously that this curse was addressed not to Mr. Noyes but to Mr. Hathorne and was spoken not by Sarah Good but by another woman hanged that day, Rebecca Nurse. This Christlike victim of the hysteria met death pitying her murderers rather than wishing evil upon them. Her husband was Francis Nurse, a large landholder and leader of influence in Salem Village. She was seventyone, and all her life had been noted for her goodness and godliness. But because of disagreement over certain land boundaries she had won the enmity of Thomas Putnam's wife. Besides, Mrs. Nurse and her husband had never transferred their church membership from Salem to Salem Village, and were known to be in opposition to the scheme of Mr. Parris to obtain possession of the manse in which he was living. So Ann Putnam and two other girls cried out against Mrs. Nurse, and Mr. Hathorne committed her. She was so deaf that she missed most that was said at her trial. Mr. Stoughton, taking advantage of an equivocal answer she made to a question she failed to hear, finally succeeded in forcing from the trial jury a verdict of guilty. Then the Reverend Mr. Noyes, in a dread ceremony in the meetinghouse with Mrs. Nurse present in chains, pronounced upon her the doom of excommunication, and in doing so induced the politics-minded Governor Phipps to recall a reprieve he had issued. The passageway to hell freed of all churchly obstacles, Rebecca Nurse was crowded into the death cart with the four others and taken to the execution mound. Before she died she said, in complete resignation, "God will clear my innocency!"
On August 19, exactly one month later, Mr. Hathorne saw hanged four men, including the Reverend George Burroughs, and one woman, Martha Carrier, of Andover.
Mr. Burroughs was the short dark man, of great physical strength, whom the afflicted spoke often of seeing in their visions. The young woman who first identified him by name had been a servant in his house when he was the minister in Salem Village. Unable to bring about harmony in the quarrelsome parish, he had resigned, to return to his old home in Wells, Maine. He was in charge of the church in that settlement when Mr. Hathorne and Mr. Corwin issued the warrant for his arrest. Since he was a minister, his trial was specially sensational. Both the celebrated Mr. Mathers were in attendance. Even the ghosts of his two former wives, seen by the afflicted in their trances, came from their graves to testify against him, claiming that he had been their murderer! Mr. Stoughton had no trouble in getting the jury to agree at once on a conviction.
But at the execution mound, just before he was hanged, Mr. Burroughs proved that a man convicted of wizardry could, with great eloquence, repeat the Lord's Prayer. Then, in words so touching that many of his hearers were brought to tears, he addressed the crowd, avowing his innocence but dwelling more upon his fearlessness of death. Mr. Cotton Mather, present on horseback, in periwig and feathered hat, was quick to sense the effect of the speech, and as soon as he was sure that the body of Mr. Burroughs was lifeless, he too addressed the crowd. Unwilling in his piety to speak the name of a wizard, he called the hanged man G.B. Defending the action of Lieutenant Governor Stoughton and the rest of the court of oyer and terminer, he shot one thunderbolt of theological reasoning after another, each stronger than the preceding. The incontrovertible final discharge was, "This foul fiend G.B. preached from Christian pulpits—but never was he ORDAINED!"
When Mr. Mather saw the body of Martha Carrier dangling in the air, he shouted, "This is the hag whom the Devil promised to make the Queen of Hell!" She belonged to Andover, where the hysteria raged with a violence almost as great as in Salem Village. It was in Andover that a dog, supposed to have the power of bewitching, was by process of law executed. At Goody Carrier's preliminary examination Mr. Hathorne heard three of her children, among whom was a girl of eight, admit that they had yielded to their mother when she appeared in the likeness of a cat and threatened to tear them into pieces if they refused to sign Satan's book.
Mr. Hathorne let jailers and constables witness the next execution. The one victim this time was eighty-yearold Giles Corey. Because he stood dumb when he was asked to plead guilty or not guilty, he was sentenced by the court of oyer and terminer to suffer the ordeal of peine forte et dure until he admitted or denied being a wizard, or died. All he would say as he lay naked in jail while stone after stone was stacked on his chest was to be echoed in a song sung in eighteenth-century Massachusetts Bay, a ballad of the people bearing the refrain,
"More weight! More weight!"
Giles Corey he cried.
The ordeal, requiring three days, ended with the death of the old man on September 19.
The strength of character he showed in choosing to die an agonizing death rather than submit to trial by a court for which he had no respect was in time to make of him a popular hero. But the records credit him with little which his own age considered admirable. He and his middle-aged wife Martha, his third, inevitably became suspects as soon as the accusers began to look for victims. Though the Coreys in recent years had followed godly paths as church members, Salem could not forget that Giles had more than once been whipped for petty crimes and that Martha, who was of pure English origin, had some time previous to her marriage to Giles borne a mulatto son. Whether she had been wedded to the unidentified slave or freedman who was the child's father was not recorded.
She too, vowing to God her innocence as she prayed, was courageous when on September 22 she was taken with seven other women to the execution mound. As Mr. Hathorne sat on his horse looking at the swung bodies, he heard the Reverend Mr. Noyes cry out, "What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there!" Mr. Hathorne might have wondered whether the minister, who had pronounced excommunication on both the Coreys, was being ironic in his use of the adjective sad.
Seven more women were under sentence to die, and Mr. Hathorne expected to see them hanged in October. But after that September 22, 1692, no one was ever again to witness an execution for the crime of witchcraft in New England.
Not all the people in Massachusetts Bay had by any means fallen victim to the hysteria. It had seemed so at the start, so stunned were the clear-eyed at the quick penetration of the madness into the minds of men and women of every social level. But as the weeks passed and the frenzy grew in intensity, those who were still capable of rational thinking showed their stand by word and act. They granted that the Devil was busy in the land. But they refused to believe the silly tales told of him at the trials. They maintained rather that the Evil One was at work in the hearts of the promoters of the delusion, such as Mr. Cotton Mather, Mr. Parris, and Thomas Putnam's wife. First the Fiend had deadened their sensibilities to reality. Then, without their awareness perhaps, he had stirred up their personal hates, their neighborhood enmities, their passion to step up in the world, and their primitive instincts of cruelty for the sake of cruelty….
Enders A. Robinson (essay date 1992)
SOURCE: "John Hawthorne, Magistrate," in Salem Witchcraft and Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables, Heritage Books, Inc., 1992, pp. 64-75.
[In the excerpt below, Robinson provides a short overview of Hathorne's life and examines the similarities between Hathorne and the fictional character of Colonel Pyncheon in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables.]
… William Hathorne made full use of his position as magistrate to obtain wealth. During the Quaker persecution the authorities took a yoke of oxen from the Quaker John Small to settle a fine. Small's wife came to court and asked the magistrates William Hathorne and Daniel Denison, "If her husband and the Friends were such an accursed people, how then did they meddle with their goods, for they must be accursed also?" Denison turned to the woman and said, "Woman, we have none of it, for we give it to the poor." As she was speaking, John Gedney, the rich Salem innkeeper in whose tavern the court was held, entered the room. "Is this man the poor you give it to? For it is this man that had my husband's oxen," she cried. "Woman," replied Hathorne, "would you have us starve, while we sit about your business?"77 In 1692, John Hathorne, son of the magistrate, and Bartholomew Gedney, son of the innkeeper, would sit together as justices on the witchcraft court.
William Hathorne (1607-1681) had four sons, Eleazer Hathorne, born in 1636, Nathaniel Hathorne, born in 1639, John Hathorne, born in 1641, and William Hathorne, Jr., born in 1646. Nathaniel Hathorne died as a young man. As noted earlier, William Hathorne became a major in 1661, and became a magistrate, an assistant to the governor, in 1662. That year, John became twenty-one and his father gave him a portion of Mill Pond Farm on the outskirts of Salem Town. His father retained about sixty acres. John was employed in Salem Town to keep accounts for merchants. In 1668 Major William Hathorne turned over his downtown house on Main Street in Salem Town to his oldest son Eleazer, and returned to live permanently in his house on Mill Pond Farm.78
In March 1675, at age 33, John Hathorne married Ruth Gardner. The bride was only 14. She had been born when the Quaker persecution was at its height. Her mother was an open convert and her father was a sympathizer. Her parents were fined mercilessly for absence from Puritan church services, and persistently molested in other ways. Finally in 1673 her parents moved to Connecticut. But they left behind in Salem their daughter Ruth in the household of her childless uncle, Captain Joseph Gardner and his wife. John Hathorne received permission from the Gardners to court Ruth which led to their marriage.
In 1675 King Philip's War commenced, the only Indian war that nearly succeeded in driving the white man from New England. Throughout the war John Hathorne took advantage of the excellent opportunities it afforded for war profiteering. He entrenched himself in business, purchased a wharf, and secured a license to sell strong liquors. It was an auspicious time to build his permanent family seat.
John Hathorne wished to erect a mansion, framed in heavy oak timbers and designed to endure for many generations. He built his house in the center of Salem Town, on the west side of School Lane near South River. John and his child-bride moved into the new mansion as soon as it was finished, at the end of 1675. But what would be the fate of this grand house and the Hathorne descendants destined to live in it? "What we call real estate—the solid ground to build a house on—is the broad foundation on which nearly all the guilt of this world rests. A man will commit almost any wrong—he will heap up an immense pile of wickedness, as hard as granite, and which will weigh as heavily upon his soul to eternal ages—only to build a great, gloomy, dark-chambered mansion, for himself to die in, and for his posterity to be miserable in."79
The first portent of disaster came quickly, December 1675. Captain Joseph Gardner, the uncle and guardian of John Hathorne's new bride, was killed in King Philip's War. "Here it comes, out of the same house whence we saw brave Captain Gardner go forth to the wars. What! A coffin, borne on men's shoulders, and six aged gentlemen as pall-bearers, and a long train of mourners, with black gloves and black hatbands, and everything black, save a white handkerchief in each mourner's hand, to wipe away the tears withal. Now, my kind patrons, you are angry with me. You were bidden to a bridal-dance, and find yourselves walking in a funeral procession.80
John Hathorne's younger brother, William Hathorne, Jr., was the lieutenant in Captain Gardner's company. When Gardner was killed in battle, his lieutenant succeeded him. William Hathorne, Jr., only 29 years old, attained the high military rank of captain. William Hathorne, Jr., one of the most dashing and one of the most ruthless officers in the army, was obsessed with fame. In 1676 he returned to Salem and married Sarah Ruck, daughter of John Ruck. In August 1676, Captain Hathorne was ordered with his company north to kill hostile Indians.
At Dover, New Hampshire, the captain met Richard Waldron, deputy magistrate of Dover. Waldron was the same man who, fourteen years earlier, had sentenced the three Quaker women to be stripped of their clothes and whipped in the snow on Christmas day. Together Hathorne and Waldron devised a plan. They would lead friendly neighborhood Indians into a trap by lying to them. The plan was neatly executed in September 1676, and by his treachery Captain Hathorne took four hundred captives. The strongest two hundred men were loaded into two waiting sloops and sold as slaves in Bermuda. Waldron was an old hand at the slave trade, and this transaction, the result of betrayal of the Indians' trust, brought great wealth to him and the young captain. All this was done with the approval of the Puritan leaders, the old guard. Cotton Mather later described the details in his history of King Philip's War, calling the devious affair "the stunningest wound of all given to the Indians."81 Puritan teaching maintained that the Indians were the Devil's children.
Two years later, in 1678, Captain William Hathorne, Jr., only 32 years old, died a mysterious death. Unsure of the cause of the captain's death, people blamed an old Indian wound. Some whispered that the wound was aggravated by the Devil because of the captain's treachery to his children, the Indians. Did the charms of some sorcerer carry out the Devil's will and cause a festering wound to inflict hideous torture? William's death dealt a major blow to his brother, John Hathorne. "The reserved and stately gentleman forgot his dignity; the gold-embroidered waistcoat flickered and glistened in the firelight with the convulsion of rage, terror, and sorrow of the human heart that was beating under it."82
In 1680 disaster struck the family again. Major William Hathorne's oldest son, Eleazer Hathorne, who had married a sister of Jonathan Corwin, died suddenly in Maine at age forty-three. His death was equally mysterious. The following year, 1681, Major William Hathorne died. John inherited his father's property at Mill Pond Farm. The future of the Hathorne family now rested in the hands of the only surviving son, John Hathorne.
In 1683, John Hathorne was elected to represent Salem as a deputy, and the following year as a magistrate, an assistant to the governor. At age 42, John Hathorne found himself a member of the Board of Assistants and a full inheritor of his father's privileges. He became a tireless judge who over the years adjudicated an endless number of cases in the Essex County Court.
As a young man, John Hathorne had entered into land speculation in Maine. He soon became obsessed with acquiring and owning land. At times he was obliged to go to sea in connection with his work; on one sea voyage he landed at a small settlement on the Maine coast. There for a few gold guineas he bought from a sagamore Indian called Robin Hood a vast and as yet unexplored and unmeasured tract. This Maine property, known to the Hathornes as the eastern land, embraced woods, lakes, and rivers. Apparently Robin Hood was aptly named, for he continued to sell the same land to other speculators. John Hathorne would spend a lifetime trying to track down these purchasers to buy back their deeds and give himself clear title. To later generations of Hathornes the eastern land offered dreams of great wealth. "When the pathless forest that still covered this wild principality should give place—as it inevitably must, though not perhaps till ages hence—to the golden fertility of human culture, it would be the source of incalculable wealth." In point of fact, it would bring nothing but bitter disappointment. "This impalpable claim, resulted in nothing more solid than to cherish, from generation to generation, an absurd delusion of family importance," wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne.83
In 1684 the English monarch, King Charles II, annulled the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company under which the Puritans ruled. However the king's decree was blithely ignored in Boston, and things went on as before. With the death of King Charles II and the accession of King James II in 1685, the new king dismissed Simon Bradstreet as governor and appointed a temporary council to rule Massachusetts. Next the king named Sir Edmond Andros as the royal governor. On December 19, 1686, Andros landed in Boston and proclaimed himself captain general and governor-in-chief. With the complete abrogation of the old Massachusetts Bay charter, the colonists feared that the crown would demand ownership of all the land in the colony. They were all too familiar with the situation in England where the crown and the aristocracy owned the soil, and the common people were merely tenants. The colonists legitimately feared that the same feudal system might be imposed upon them.
The large landowners in New England had carefully used all possible means to substantiate their claims to the soil. Specifically they had implemented a scheme of persuading the descendants of the sagamores who had ruled New England to convey land deeds to them. This was an outlandish course of action; it was known that the crown held no regard for signatures of Indians. However, the colonists thought that the deeds signed by the Indians might embarrass the new royal governor just enough to prevent him from executing the king's plan. When Andros asked the senior minister of Salem, the Rev. John Higginson, Sr. whether New England was king's territory, Higginson replied that it belonged to the colonists because they held it by just occupation and purchase from the Indians.
Action taken by Salem to safeguard its vested interests resulted in a deed dated October 11, 1686. The grantees were John Ruck, John Higginson, Sr., Timothy Lindall, William Hirst, and Israel Porter, selectmen and trustees for the township of Salem.84 The deed was signed, sealed and delivered by David Nonnuphanohow, Cicely Petaghuncksq, and eight other Indians. The consideration of release was £20 in current money. The Salem magistrate Bartholomew Gedney was present and the deed was acknowledged before him. The deed was written on parchment, a document of remarkable beauty and elaborateness of execution.85
The deed for Lynn, which includes the present city of Lynn and towns of Saugus, Lynnfield, Nahant, Swamp-scott, and a portion of Reading, was granted by David Kunkshamooshaw, who by credible intelligence was grandson to old sagamore George No Nose, so-called, alias Wenepawweekine, and by four other Indians. The land was obtained for a consideration of the sum of £16 of current sterling money of silver in hand paid to the Indians claiming, viz. David Kunkshamooshaw &c. The deed was executed on May 31, 1687. It was witnessed by John Hawkes and three other residents of Lynn and by Samuel Wardwell of Andover. The deed was acknowledged before Bartholomew Gedney, magistrate of Salem.86
The extensive and valuable Lynn land of the deceased Adam Hawkes was owned by his son, John Hawkes, and by his widow, Sarah (Hooper) Hawkes Wardwell. The value of Sarah's holdings was not lost on Bartholomew Gedney, aged 46, the magistrate acknowledging the deed. Gedney had become a magistrate, an assistant to the governor, in 1680. He was a captain in the militia at the time, and soon would be promoted to major. This crafty man was the son of John Gedney, the wealthy Salem innkeeper. Bartholomew Gedney lived all his life in Salem and owned a shipyard there. He is best known in history for his land speculations.
Bartholomew Gedney and his friend, John Hathorne, were two of the witchcraft judges who condemned the carpenter, Samuel Wardwell. This "pestilent wizard" was hanged and buried on Gallows Hill on September 22, 1692. In January 1693, Samuel's wife, Sarah Wardwell, was sentenced to death. Her grave was dug, but the governor, Sir William Phipps, reprieved her at the last minute. Yet the attainder—the loss of all civil rights legally consequent to a death sentence—remained in place and she could neither own nor pass down property. Her lands in Lynn were confiscated, falling into the hands of the assignees of Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, John Corwin, and the others who divided the plunder of the witch hunt. They took "possession of the ill-gotten spoil—with the black stain of blood sunken deep into it. The wizard had been foully wronged out of his homestead, if not out of his life," wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne.87
John Hathorne was the most active and the most diligent government official in searching out and arresting those people accused of witchcraft in 1692. He rightly deserves the title of chief...
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Samuel Sewall (1652-1730)
English-born American diarist, essayist, politician, and jurist.
Sewall is best known for his Diary (1674-1729), a fifty-six-year account of his life as an influential Puritan magistrate in Boston, Massachusetts. The most comprehensive record available today about seventeenth-century New England life, Sewall's Diary is considered by many critics one of the best written in English. Sewall is also known for his role in the Salem witch trials. Appointed in 1692 to the Court of Oyer and Terminer—created by Governor William Phips in order to deal with the rising witch hysteria—Sewall was one of the judges responsible for the sentencing to death of...
(The entire section is 27857 words.)
William Stoughton (1631?-1701)
English-born American minister, politician, and jurist.
Stoughton, who is thought to have been born in England between the years 1631 and 1637, was a minister and political leader in New England. He is best known for his role as Chief Justice in the Salem witch trials. Stoughton was appointed to the Court of Oyer and Terminer, which was created in 1692 by Governor William Phips in order to deal with the rising witch hysteria. The trials which Stoughton presided over resutled in the execution of nineteen accused witches. Widely respected in his own time, Stoughton is remembered today as a notoriously stern and remorseless judge.
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