Page images


of riding through the air on a broomstick. These confessions, of course, only acted as a confirmation of the reality of the crimes supposed to have been committed, and also gave birth to a still widening circle of accusations and confessions. By the By the time Governor William Phipps arrived, May, 1692, nearly 100 persons were already in prison and the excitement was on the increase.

Phipps, who was greatly influenced by Increase Mather and his son, Cotton Mather, took up the work with great vigor. In May, 1692, placing the prisoners in irons, he organized a special court for the trial of cases, appointing the lieutenant-governor, William Stoughton, president of the court. In the early part of June the court assembled, and within a few days it ordered an old woman to be hanged, she having been convicted of an offence, which, to say the least, was nonsensical and absurd. On the second session of the court, June 30, five other women were tried and convicted. One of these, Rebecca Nurse, who had previously borne an excellent reputation, was first acquitted, but upon the accusation being renewed, she was condemned and hanged with the rest. A few dared to resist the charges or to defy their "You are a witch, you know you are!" said minister Nicholas Noyes to Sarah Good, who retorted "You are a liar, and if you take my life God will give you blood



to drink!" The majority of the accused, however, confessed and set afloat new accusations.

Early in August, at the third session of the court, six more prisoners were tried and convicted, among whom were John Procter and John Willard. The conduct of these two men at the time of execution was well calculated to make a deluded community reflect on its dastardly deeds. The case of Rev. George Burroughs is also very remarkable. He had for some reason become unpopular with his congregation and also with his fellow ministers, chiefly because he de

clared his entire disbelief in the crime for which so many had been condemned and hanged. He was, therefore, accused of receiving assistance from the devil by displaying preternatural strength, but on the other hand he staggered his accusers by repeating the Lord's Prayer, which, it

was supposed, no one possessed of the devil could do. The congregation were moved to relent in his case and almost stopped the execution, but Cotton Mather arrested the dangerous sympathy by reminding them that Burroughs was not an ordained minister, and that to deceive the unwary, Satan often put on the appearance of an angel of light. In September, at the next session of the court, fourteen

*Calef, More Wonders of the Invisible World, p. 209.

See Cotton Mather's account of the Burroughs case, Wonders of the Invisible World, p. 120 et seq.; Brooks Adams, The Emancipation of Massachusetts, pp. 226-227.

women and one man were sentenced to death. One old woman eighty years of age refused to plead, and by that horrible decree of the common law, was pressed to death. Some of the condemned had the courage to retract their confessions although confession was the only safety in most cases; but nevertheless, eight of these were executed. Twenty prisoners had already been put to death and eight more were ready for the gallows; the jails were overcrowded with prisoners and new accusations were being made every day.* In such a state of affairs the court adjourned to the first Monday in November.†

At this time, however, a reaction. began to take place. The accusations began to assume too serious and sweeping a shape to be longer given credence; no one was safe, and often some of the most prominent members of the clergy were accused. Many of those who confessed said that they had been suddenly seized as prisoners and by reason of the sudden reprisal amazed and affrighted out of their reason, and exhorted by their nearest relatives to confess, as the only means of saving their lives, they were thus persuaded into compliance. And indeed the confession was no other than what was suggested to them by some gentlemen, who, telling


Calef, More Wonders of the Invisible World,

p. 110.

It is often stated that witches were burned in New England, but such is not the case, no persons ever having been burned by white people for witchcraft.

them that they were witches and that they knew they were so, made them think it was so; and their understandings, their reason, their faculties almost gone, they were incapable of judging of their condition; and being moreover prevented by hard measures from making their defence, they confessed to anything and everything required of them." The eyes of the people now began to open. Numerous remonstrances were sent to the courts condemning the practice of convicting innocent persons on the testimony of children; and the cruel methods of compelling confessions and also the partiality displayed by the court were revealed to the community in their true light. In January, 1693, when the next court opened, the greater number of the cases were dismissed by the grand jury; those who had already been sentenced to death were reprieved and ultimately released. For all his so-called learning, Mather confessed himself astonished and confounded at this unlooked-for result, and although he admitted that the "most critical and exquisite caution " was required in sifting the offence of witchery, yet he contended that the crime was a reality and that justice had been dealt to those who were guilty, they receiving only such sentences as they deserved. He then set about to discover fresh cases, but received a sudden and mortifying check from Robert Calef, a citizen of Boston, "a coal sent from hell to blacken him, a malignant, calumnious,


and reproachful man." Calef denied the existence of the crime and particularly provoked Mather by exposing the imposture of a girl supposed to have been afflicted, who had imposed upon the credulous minister. Two years later a circular was sent out requesting information concerning apparitions and the like, but during the next ten years Cotton Mather received very few responses to his application.

Thus the fearful scourge was removed and heresy and blasphemy together with witchcraft ceased to constitute capital crimes on the statute books of Massachusetts. Thereafter, no more lives were sacrificed, and although the Mathers, Stoughton and others* do not appear to have changed their views regarding witchcraft, and though a number of prominent European divines helped to confirm them in their opinions regarding the subject, still a number of the chief actors

"The inexorable indignation of the people of Salem village drove Parris from the place; Noyes regained favor only by a full confession, asking forgiveness always, and consecrating the remainder of his life to deeds of mercy. Sewall, one of the judges, by the frankness and sincerity of his undisguised confession, recovered public esteem. Stoughton and Cotton Mather never repented. The former lived proud, unsatisfied, and unbeloved; the latter attempted to persuade others and himself, that he had not been especially active in the tragedy. But the public mind would not be deceived. His diary proves that he did not wholly escape the rising impeachment from the monitor within; and Cotton Mather, who had sought the foundation of faith in tales of wonders, himself 'had temptations to atheism, and to the abandonment of all religion as a mere delusion.'" Bancroft, History of the United States, vol. iii., p. 98 (1st ed.).


in the affair expressed deep contrition. No more blood was shed, and no more accusations of witchcraft were made. Grahame says: "Thus terminated a scene of fury and delusion that justly excited the astonishment of the civilized world, and exhibited a fearful picture of the weakness of human nature in the sudden transformation of a people renowned over all the earth for piety and virtue into the slaves or associates, the terrified dupes or helpless prey, of a band of ferocious lunatics and assassins." *

Meanwhile the warfare warfare on the frontier had continued with unsparing severity on both sides. The In

History of the Colonies, vol. i., p. 281. See also C. W. Upham, History of Salem Witchcraft; S. G. Drake, Annals of Witchcraft in New England; W. L. Poole, Cotton Mather and Salem Witchcraft; Walker, Ten New England Leaders (1901); Wendell, Cotton Mather (1891); Peabody, Life of Cotton Mather; A. P. Marvin, Life and Times of Cotton Mather (1892); Samuel Mather, Life of Cotton Mather (1729); Pond, The Mather Family (1844); Doyle, English Colonies in America, vol. iii., p. 298 et seq.; Bancroft, vol. ii., pp. 53, 58-66; W. S. Nevins, Witchcraft in Salem Village in 1692 (1892); C. G. DuBois, Martha Corey, a Tale of the Salem Witchcraft (1890); Longfellow, New England Tragedies (1868); Hildreth, vol. ii., p. 144 et seq.; Brooks Adams, The Emancipation of Massachusetts, chap. vii.; articles by William F. Poole, in the North American Review, April, 1869, and by Upham in The Historical Magazine, September, 1869; Fiske, Witchcraft in Salem Village, being chapter v. of his New France and New England. See also G. H. Moore, Bibliographical Notes on Witchcraft in Massachusetts (Worcester, 1888); Justin Winsor, The Literature of Witchcraft in New England, in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (1895); Brattle's letter on the Salem Witchcraft in Massachusetts Historical Collections, series i., vol. v., p. 61; the recantations in same, vol. xiii.; the extracts from the Danvers Church Records, in same, vol. xxiii.

[ocr errors]

dians had been urged on to all manner of treachery and cruelty aided by French science and skill.* Dr. Dwight in his Travels gives the following interesting passage: To these causes of suffering were superadded the power of all such motives as the ingenuity of the French could invent, their wealth furnish, or their bigotry adopt. Here all the implements of war and the means of sustainance were supplied; the expedition was planned; the price was bidden for scalps; the aid of European officers and soldiers was conjoined; the devastation and slaughter were sanctioned by the ministers of religion; and the blood-hounds, while their fangs were still dropping blood, were caressed and cherished by men regarded by them as superior beings. The intervals between formal attacks were unusually seasons of desultory mischief, plunder and butchery; and always of suspense and dread. The solitary family was carried into captivity; the lonely house burned to the ground; and the traveller waylaid and shot in the forest. It ought, however, to be observed, to the immortal honor of these people, distinguished as they are by so many traits of brutal ferocity, that history records no instance in which the purity of a female captive was violated by them, or even threatened."

The veteran Colonel Church en

*For details see Parkman, Count Frontenac, pp. 86-316, 335 et seq.

gaged in retaliatory expeditions and was almost as heartless in his cruelty as the French and Indians on their side. In 1694 the Indians attacked the settlement at Oyster River, N. H. (now Durham), and killed or captured nearly 100 persons." * In 1696. Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur de Iberville, a well-known Canadian naval officer, arrived from France with two ships and a body of troops. In August of that year he was joined by a party under command of Villebon and Jean Vincent de l'Abadie, Baron de Saint Castin, and the combined forces laid siege to and took the fort at Pemaquid which resulted in the breaking up of all the old settlements in that vicinity. In the spring of 1691 Iberville sailed to Hudson's Bay where he recovered a fort from the English and captured two English vessels. March of the same year, the Indians fell upon Haverhill, Mass., and killed or captured about 40 persons. One of the most heroic of the Haverhill people was Mrs. Hannah Dustin, who only a week before had become a mother.


In endeavoring to escape with the infant, the nurse was captured by the savages, who, rushing into the house, ordered the mother to arise instantly, and then, after plundering the house, set it on fire. They then took her away with them, to

*Parkman, Count Frontenac, pp. 364-367; Belknap's History of New Hampshire.

Doyle, English Colonies in America, vol. iii., pp. 318-320; Parkman, Count Frontenac, pp. 378381.

Parkman, Count Frontenac, p. 388 et seq.


gether with a number of other captives, but before they had gone many steps dashed out the brains of the infant against a tree. While the mother was sorely tried by this act, she had other infants to think of and therefore summoned her remaining strength to follow the savages into the interior. As her companions dropped through exhaustion, they were brained by the tomahawk of the savages, and their scalps taken as trophies to the governor of Canada. After traveling for several weeks on her course toward Canada, Mrs. Dustin was informed by the Indian family

to which she had been allotted that she would be compelled to run the gauntlet between a row of savages. She therefore resolved to make her escape by murdering her captors if possible, and then to flee through the

woods to her husband and children. One night, when more than 100 miles from Haverhill, she persuaded the nurse and a boy prisoner to join her in her project, and having killed their tormentors with their own hatchets, they retraced the long journey through the woods back to Haverhill.*

Frontenac still continued to harass the Iroquois. Though he was long past seventy years of age, he personally conducted an expedition into the territory of the Onondagas and the Oneidas, laying waste their corn fields

* Parkman, Count Frontenac, pp. 385-387; Hildreth, vol. ii., p. 195.



and burning their villages. He himself often gave permission to the Indians to torture their prisoners, and it is reported that he keenly enjoyed the spectacle.† Charlevoix says: "A most singular spectacle indeed it was to see upwards of four hundred tormentors raging about a decrepit old man, from whom, by all their tortures, they could not extract a single groan, and who, as long as he lived, did not cease to reproach them with being slaves of the French, of whom he affected to speak with the utmost disdain. On receiving at last his death-stroke, he exclaimed, Why shorten my life? better improve this opportunity of learning how to die like a man!'" The last year of the war was extremely trying. In addition to a scarcity of provisions, the people of Boston were in constant fear of attack by a French fleet, but this expedition did not materialize, and toward the end of the year 1697, the war was ended by the peace of Ryswick. By this treaty each party retained the territories possessed by

[ocr errors]

*Parkman, p. 397 et seq.; Roberts, New York, vol. i., pp. 175-177; Miles, Canada, pp. 233-239; McMullen, Canada, pp. 76-81; Documentary History of New York, vol. i., pp. 325-345; Smith, Canada, vol. i., pp. 125-145; Heriot, Canada, pp. 313-344; Bancroft, vol. ii., p. 184.

See Colden, Five Nations, vol. i., p. 441; McMullen, Canada, p. 80.


Quoted in Hildreth, vol. ii., pp. 193-194. Another version is given in Bancroft, vol. ii., p. 184.

For text of the treaty see Chalmers, Collection of Treaties, vol. i., pp. 332-340, and for portions relating to America, MacDonald, Select Charters, pp. 222–223.

« PreviousContinue »