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The Rev. John Hale (1636-1700), a native of the colony and a graduate of Harvard in its class of 1657, had since 1665 been pastor at Beverly, the parish lying north of Salem, from which it was severed by a narrow arm of the sea, and at the west adjoining yet more closely Salem Village, through which lay the land route connecting Beverly with Salem and with Boston. Many of those connected with the beginnings of the witch panic had, prior to the erection of the Village parish, been in attendance at the Beverly church. Some were still so; and the spreading suspicion soon invaded this parish itself. It was not strange, then, that from the first, as we have seen already, Hale's interest in the proceedings was close and attentive.[350] There can be no question that, as Calef says, “he had been very forward in these Prosecutions,” and, like his neighbor pastors Parris and Noyes, had held the most credulous views as to the worth of the testimony of the “afflicted.” How those views changed after the accusation of his loved and honored wife we have also seen;[351] and of all this he himself tells us with a touching sincerity in the pages now to follow. His little book is no apology, but a manly attempt to make amends for what he now felt to be error by setting forth to others what he had learned. Judge Sewall, who likewise had repented of his error and likewise frankly owned it, records in


his diary on November 19, 1697, when he was on a visit to Salem: “Mr. Hale and I lodg'd together: He discours'd me about writing a History of the Witchcraft; I fear lest he go into the other extream.”

The Rev. John Higginson (1616-1708), the aged senior pastor of Salem, who writes for Hale the introduction, is also no stranger to us;[352] and we have seen what reason there is to think him hesitant all along as to the proceedings. Yet how far he had been from incredulity as to human dealings with the Devil appears not only from his own words here, but from the materials he furnished Increase Mather for his Providences.[353] Perhaps he, too, consulted Judge Sewall as to his part in the little book; for before the words just cited the latter writes: “Mr. Higginson comes as far as Brother's to see me; which I wonder'd at.”

Though completed early in 1698 — since Higginson had read it before signing his introduction on March 23 — the book, as may be seen from its imprint, was not published till 1702, after Hale's death. Perhaps that was its author's wish: so, Judge Sewall tells us,[354] Higginson withheld his treatise on periwigs. The Modest Enquiry is now one of the rarest books in the literature of witchcraft. Its single reimpression (Boston, 1771) is said to be yet rarer than the original. Happily, that part of the book which narrates the story of the Salem episode was taken up by Cotton Mather into his Magnalia (at the end of his Book VI.); and from that work, though it gives Hale due credit, it is often quoted as if Mather's own.[355]



See above, pp. 158, 184, 342, 344, 350, 369. More than once (as against Bridget Bishop and Dorcas Hoar) he himself became a witness as to the reputation or career of the accused. That already then there was thought of his writing upon the subject may perhaps be inferred from Cotton Mather's letter quoted on p. 206; and see also p. 214.


See p. 369, and note 1.


See above, pp. 245, 248, note 2.


Mather Papers, pp. 282-287.


Diary, I. 463-464.


As to Hale's career see a memoir in Mass. Hist. Soc., Collections, third series, VII. 255-269; also Sibley, Harvard Graduates, I. 509-520, and authorities there cited.