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Sir William Phips, who arrived in May as the royal governor under the new charter, was no stranger to New England. Born in 1651 at a hamlet on the Maine coast, just beyond the Kennebec, where his father, a Bristol gunsmith, had become a settler, he had early turned from sheep-herding to ship-carpentry, and then coming up to Boston, where at twenty-two he first learned to read and write, he had by thrift become the master of a vessel and had found a path to fortune in the rescue of lost treasure from Spanish galleons sunken in West Indian waters. These ventures had brought him into partnership with some of the most powerful of English nobles, and even with royalty itself, and his sturdy honesty (or perhaps a wise use of his wealth) won him from the King in 1687 the honor of knighthood and in 1688 appointment as high sheriff of New England. The hostility of Governor Andros brought the sheriffship to nothing; but the English revolution overturned Andros in 1689, and the emancipated colonies made Sir William head of the expedition that conquered Nova Scotia, and then sent him with another against Quebec. Meanwhile President Increase Mather was laboring in England, as the agent of Massachusetts, for the restoration of the ancient charter; and when Sir William (who during his absence had, as his son's convert, become a member of his church) turned up there too, and just in time to support him against the other New England commissioners in accepting from the King what could be got, though not what could be wished, he was the natural nominee for the new governorship.

But the new governor was little trained for such an emergency


as awaited him in New England. What more natural in such a crisis, which to the thought of that day seemed to need the divine more than the statesman, than to turn for counsel to his pastor and patron, or to his colleague the new lieutenant-governor,[80] who had enjoyed precisely that training in theology which seemed now his own chief lack? Stoughton was made chief justice of a special court created by the governor to try the witch-cases,[81] and during the latter's repeated absences[82] at the frontier became the acting governor. The ministers of Boston were “consulted by his Excellency and the Honourable Council” as to the conduct of the trials. Their “Return,” bearing date of June 15, was drawn by Cotton Mather;[83] and it was perhaps now that that divine, who had early (May 31) furnished the judges a body of instructions,[84] was inspired by “the Direction of His Excellency the Governor”[85] to undertake that “Account of the Sufferings brought


upon the Countrey by Witchcraft,” which was ready for submission to Sir William on his return from the east in early October, and with which, under its title of The Wonders of the Invisible World, we must soon make acquaintance. The opening clauses of the governor's letter show plainly the influence of that book;[86] and the change in tone between its earlier and its later portion, and yet more between the letter of October and that of February, is not the least interesting feature of these documents.[87]



William Stoughton (see above, p. 183 and note 2) was of course also a nominee of Mather's. He had not been forward in the revolution which overthrew the Andros government, but he had rallied to it, and Cotton Mather had written his father wishing he might “do anything to restore him to the favor of the country.”


In the last week of May, at his first meetings with the new Council. The court began its sessions at Salem on June 2.


He was present in Boston at meetings of the Council on June 13, 18, July 4, 8, 15, 18, 21, 22, 25, 26, September 5, 12, 16, and again on October 14 (Moore, in American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, n. s., V. 251 note). Sewall on September 29 notes in his diary: “Governor comes to Town.”


A summary of it may be found on pp. 356-357, below; the full text is appended to Increase Mather's Cases of Conscience (1693) and has been often reprinted, both with that work and in later books. It is Cotton Mather himself (in his life of Phips) who tells us that he drafted it.


In his letter of May 31 to his parishioner John Richards, a member of the court (Mather Papers, pp. 391-397). It is endorsed — with reason — “Mr Cotton Mather, an Essay concerning Witchcraft”; for an essay it really is. A supplement, and an interesting one, is his letter of August 17 to John Foster, a member of the Council (printed by Upham in his Salem Witchcraft and Cotton Mather, pp. 39-40).


It has been questioned (by Upham and again by G. H. Moore) whether “the Governor” whose “commands” Mather alleges (see p. 206) may not be Stoughton instead of Phips; but his discrimination between the two is too clear and too constant to admit the suspicion, and still less can Stoughton and Sewall (see pp. 251, 378) have been inexact. A doubt as to who consulted the clergy must be similarly answered. Yet Stoughton may well have been behind both acts.


His phrases are taken almost bodily from the book (see, in Drake's edition, pp. 102-109, not here reprinted); and his statement as to the methods of the court echoes Mather's. It has been suggested (by Moore) that Mather himself drafted the letter; but neither the style nor the matter of its later portion can be his.


Cotton Mather, in his life of Phips, names as one of the causes of the Proceedings of the Mass. Hist. Soc., second series, I, 348-358) throw a vivid light on the problems then agitating the public mind. They are dated at New York on October 5, and the answers, dated October 11, cannot have reached Boston before the middle of that month. More distinctly than the Boston clergy they reject “spectral evidence.” According to the Anglican rector at New York, John Miller (commenting on Mather's statement as borrowed by the geographer Hermann Moll), “the advice of the established English Minister was also asked and generously given”; “but,” he adds, “they were not so civill as to thank him for it, nor do they here acknowledge it, although it was much to their purpose, and stood them in good stead.” It may be found, however, written out by his own hand in his copy of Moll's Atlas (now in the New York Public Library); and it is summarized at pp. 274-276 of the New York Historical Society's Collections for 1869 and in the edition of Miller's New York considered (1695) by Mr. Paltsits (1903), to whom the editor owes suggestion of the matter. Miller's answers are, indeed, somewhat less credulous than those of his Calvinist colleagues; but (as appears from a “Memorandum” of his own) it is by no means certain that they reached New England.