illustration of a woman in a black dress with long black hair swimming down through the water toward a smaller human figure

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

Start Free Trial

What happens to the Charter in "The Witch of Blackbird Pond"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Chapter 15, the historical incident involving the disappearance of the Connecticut Charter is described. 

The Charter was a document obtained from England by the Connecticut Colony which guaranteed them the right to self-government. In 1687, the Crown reneged on its agreement and ordered the colonists to surrender their Charter.  During discussion on the issue that lasted until dark, the candles were suddenly and mysteriously blown out all at once, and when they were relighted, the Charter, which had been displayed in plain sight on a table, was gone.  It had been taken and placed in hiding by unnamed dissidents, and William Ashby is one of the few who knows where it is.  Although the colonial government was ended nonetheless, the disappearance of the Charter was a symbolic moral victory, and Matthew Wood predicts that "when the hard times have passed...(they) will bring (the) charter out of hiding ...and show the world what it means to be free men".

Although the book says nothing more about what happened to the Charter, historical records show that it was spirited out of the room by Captain Joseph Wadsworth and hidden in a hollow oak.  It remained in its hiding place for two years, at which time the royal governor was removed from office and the precious document was brought forth once again. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What happens to the colony charter in The Witch of Blackbird Pond?

The charter is hidden during a meeting by a group of colonists including William Ashby.

A charter is a contract, similar to a constitution.  The charter is very important to the colonists.  It grants them rights and a certain degree of independence.  When that independence is threatened, some of the people accept it and others object.  One of the loudest objectors is Matthew Wood. 

"That charter was given to Connecticut by King Charles twenty-five years ago. It guarantees every right and privilege we have earned, the very ground we stand on and the laws we have made for ourselves. ….” (Ch. 7)

John Hollbrook suggests that the charter does not give them the rights they thought it did, according to Dr. Bulkeley.  This is a common way to excuse England’s treatment of the colony.

William Ashby tells Matthew about what happened at the meeting where the charter disappeared.

Far as I could see everybody stayed right in their places. But when the candles were lit the charter had disappeared. They looked high and low for it, all over the room, and never found a trace." (Ch. 15)

Kit is surprised that William would help to steal and hide the charter.  As a newcomer to Connecticut, she has remained loyal to England because that is what she grew up with.  Revolutionary stirrings are new to her, and she doesn’t completely understand why the colonists are so upset.  Even Nat demonstrates loyalty to the land rather than the king.  Kit slowly begins to revise her opinions.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," what happens to the charter?

Earlier in the novel, the colonists argue that the charter has been violated—that their rights are not being respected. You could say that this is done to the charter, or happens to it. However, the biggest event that occurs related to the physical piece of paper that is the charter is that when they are meeting with Governor Andros, the candles get blown out, and someone takes it! William is involved. He either took it, or supports the person who did, thus putting him in opposition to authority.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on