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The famous case at Mohra in 1669-1670. Cotton Mather had appended to his Wonders an account of it.




He thinks perhaps of the Baptist preacher, William Milborne, one of the leaders in the later revolution, who on June 25 was called before the Council because of two papers subscribed by him and several others, “containing very high reflections upon the administration of public justice within this their Majesty's Province” (Moore, Notes on Witchcraft, p. 12; Final Notes, p. 72). What seems one of these papers, addressed “to the Grave and Juditious the Generall Assembly of the Province,” has been found (see it in N. E. Hist. and Gen. Register, XXVII. 55, and reprinted by Moore in American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, n. s., V. 246) and proves a protest against the conviction “upon bare specter testimonie” of “persons of good fame and of unspotted reputation.” It must have been in circulation before the detection of its author, and was very possibly the reason for the consultation of the clergy.


It must be remembered that the new charter, by opening the suffrage to those who were not church members, had greatly strengthened the party opposed to the theocracy — and to the theocracy's governor. More than once it has been said, too, that the Salem witchcraft was the rock on which the theocracy shattered.


This letter, with its memorandum, has been printed in the Essex Institute Historical Collections, IX. 86-88, from a copy made in the British archives (“Colonial Entry Book, vol. 62, p. 414,” now C. O. 5: 905, p. 414). It has since been printed also in the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1689-1692 (no. 2551, p. 720), which uses not only this MS. (mistakenly called “an extract”) but another (“Board of Trade, New England, 6, no. 7,” now C. O. 5: 857, no. 7); but the editor has corrected and paraphrased. The last-named MS. (C. O. 5: 857, no. 7) is, however, the original letter; and the present impression has been carefully collated with it at London, many corrections resulting. October 14, in the Essex Institute's reprint, is only a printer's error for October 12. The letter was addressed to William Blathwayt, clerk of the Privy Council, and it is he who added the memorandum (to the Entry Book copy).


It was on October 29, three days after the passage by the General Court of the bill calling for a fast and a convocation of ministers for guidance “as to the witchcrafts,” and, as Judge Sewall tells us (see p. 186, note 1, above) in such “season and manner” that “the Court of Oyer and Terminer count themselves thereby dismissed,” that in the Council, when “Mr. Russel asked whether the Court of Oyer and Terminer should sit, expressing some fear of Inconvenience by its fall,” the “Governour said it must fall.” (Sewall's Diary, I. 368.)


Mather. Undoubtedly an error of the English copyist. The advice meant was that of the twelve ministers of Boston and vicinity on June 15. See introduction.


The Superior Court was created by act of the General Court of the province — of course with the concurrence of the governor — on November 25, 1692; but its session at Salem would, under the law, have come in the next November, and a supplementary act was passed on December 16, providing, “upon consideration that many persons charged capital offenders are now in custody within the county of Essex,” for a court of assize and general jail delivery there on January 3.


For this episode see pp. 382-383.


A “letter from Boston” printed in the British Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1693-1696, p. 63, says that “The witchcraft at Salem went on vigorously... until at last members of Council and Justices were accused”; and the Boston merchant Calef in 1697 wrote: “If it be true what was said at the Counsel-board in answer to the commendations of Sir William, for his stopping the proceedings about Witchcraft, viz. That it was high time for him to stop it, his own Lady being accused; if that Assertion were a truth, then New-England may seem to be more beholden to the accusers for accusing of her, and thereby necessitating a stop, than to Sir William” (More Wonders, p. 154). Lady Phips had earned an accusation by daring, in Sir William's absence, herself to issue a warrant for the discharge of an accused woman. The keeper lost his place. (MS. letter quoted by Hutchinson, II. 61, note; the writer had it from the keeper himself and had seen the document.)


This letter is here reprinted from the Massachusetts Historical Society's Proceedings, second ser., I. 340-342, where the original, in the British archives, is described as “America and West Indies, No. 591” and “also in Colonial Entry Book, No. 62, p. 426”; but the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, 1693-1696, which again prints it, though in abridged form, ascribes it to “America and West Indies, 561, nos. 28, 29,” and mentions the duplicate as “Col. Entry Bk., Vol. LXII, pp. 426-430,” and as “entered as addressed to William Blathwayt.” It may also be found in G. H. Moore's Final Notes on Witchcraft in Massachusetts (New York, 1885), pp. 90-93, with his annotations. Examination at the British Public Record Office shows that the original letter (formerly America and West Indies, 561, no. 28) is now C. O. 5: 51, no. 28, and is plainly addressed to the Earl of Nottingham.