University of Virginia Library


The earliest account of the remarkable happenings at Salem, in the spring of 1692, which were to bring to a climax and then to a conclusion the quest of witches in New England, was that which here follows. The Rev. Deodat Lawson was singularly qualified to write it. He had himself, only a little earlier (1684-1688), served as pastor to Salem Village, the rural community in which these happenings took their rise; and, though dissensions in the parish prevented his longer stay, he seems to have been no party to these dissensions and must meanwhile have learned to know the scene and all the actors of that later drama which he here depicts. He was, too, a man of education, travel, social experience. Born in England, the son of a scholarly Puritan minister, and doubtless educated there, he first appears in New England in 1676, and at the time of his call to Salem Village was making his home in Boston. Thither he returned in 1688: Samuel Sewall, who on May 13 had him in at Sunday dinner, notes in his diary that he “came to Town to dwell last week,” and often mentions him thereafter. How at the outbreak of the witchpanic he came to revisit the Village and to chronicle the doings there, he himself a dozen years later thus told his English friends:[1]

It pleased God in the Year of our Lord 1692 to visit the People at a place called Salem Village in New-England, with a very Sore and Grievous Affliction, in which they had reason to believe, that the Soveraign and Holy God was pleased to permit Satan and his Instruments, to Affright and Afflict those poor Mortals in such an Astonishing and Unusual manner.


Now, I having for some time before attended the work of the Ministry in that Village, the Report of those Great Afflictions came quickly to my notice; and the more readily because the first Person Afflicted was in the Minister's Family, who succeeded me, after I was removed from them; in pitty therefore to my Christian Friends, and former Acquaintance there, I was much concerned about them, frequently consulted with them, and fervently (by Divine Assistance) prayed for them; but especially my Concern was augmented, when it was Reported, at an Examination of a Person suspected for Witchcraft, that my Wife and Daughter, who Dyed Three Years before, were sent out of the World under the Malicious Operations of the Infernal Powers; as is more fully represented in the following Remarks. I did then Desire, and was also Desired, by some concerned in the Court, to be there present, that I might hear what was alledged in that respect; observing therefore, when I was amongst them, that the Case of the Afflicted was very amazing, and deplorable; and the Charges brought against the Accused, such as were Ground of Suspicions yet very intricate, and difficult to draw up right Conclusions about them; I thought good for the satisfaction of my self, and such of my Friends as might be curious to inquiry into those Mysteries of Gods Providence and Satans Malice, to draw up and keep by me, a Brief Account of the most Remarkable things, that came to my Knowledge in those Affairs; which Remarks were afterwards, (at my Request) Revised and Corrected by some who Sate Judges on the Bench, in those Matters; and were now Transcribed, from the same Paper, on which they were then Written.

A narrative so timely and so vouched for must have gone speedily into print.[2] The latest day named in it — “the 5th of April” — was probably the date both of its completion and of its going to press. In 1693 it was reprinted in London by John Dunton, who appended to it an anonymous “Further Account of the Tryals of the New-England Witches” (an extract from “a letter from thence to a Gentleman in London”) bringing the story to February, 1693, and to both joined


Increase Mather's Cases of Conscience (see pp. 377, 378, below),prefixing to the volume thus made up the title: A Further Account of the Tryals of the New-England Witches. With the Observations of a Person who was upon the Place several Days when the suspected Witches were first taken into Examination. To which is added, Cases of Conscience, etc.[3] In 1704 Lawson, himself now in England, cast it into a new form as an appendix to the English edition of his Salem sermon.[4] All names are now left out, that he “may not grieve any, whose Relations were either Accused or Afflicted, in those times of Trouble and Distress,” and what had been a narrative is given a statistical form under “three Heads, viz. (1.) Relating to the Afflicted, (2.) Relating to the Accused, And (3.) Relating to the Confessing Witches.”[5] On his own views, and the probable trend of his influence while at Salem, light is thrown by his introductory words:

After this,[6] I being by the Providence of God called over into England, in the Year 1696; I then brought that Paper of Remarks on the Witchcraft with me; upon the sight thereof, some Worthy Ministers and Christian Friends here desired me to Reprint the Sermon and subjoyn the Remarks thereunto, in way of Appendix, but for some particular Reasons I did then Decline it; But now, forasmuch as I my self had been an Eye and Ear Witness of most of those Amazing things, so far as they come within the Notice of Humane Senses; and the Requests of my Friends were Renewed since I came to Dwell in London; I have given way to the Publishing of them; that I may satisfy such as are not resolved to the Contrary, that there may be (and are) such Operations of the Powers of Darkness on the


Bodies and Minds of Mankind, by Divine Permission; and that those who Sate Judges in those Cases, may by the serious Consideration of the formidable Aspect and perplexed Circumstances of that Afflictive Providence be in some measure excused; or at least be less Censured, for passing Sentance on several Persons, as being the Instruments of Satan in those Diabolical Operations, when they were involved in such a Dark and Dismal Scene of Providence, in which Satan did seem to Spin a finer Thred of Spiritual Wickedness than in the ordinary methods of Witchcraft; hence the Judges desiring to bear due Testimony against such Diabolical Practices, were inclined to admit the validity of such a sort of Evidence as was not so clearly and directly demonstrable to Human Senses, as in other Cases is required, or else they could not discover the Mysteries of Witchcraft....

One can not read these words without a suspicion that the reaction in New England against those held responsible for the procedure at Salem may have had to do with his return to England; and even in England, it is clear, his cause now needed defense. If any can wish him further ill, let them be appeased by our two glimpses of his after fate — a despairing letter in 1714,[7] begging from his New England friends meat, drink, and clothing for his sick and starving family, and the passing phrase of a writer who in 1727, mentioning Thomas Lawson, adds that “he was the father of the unhappy Mr. Deodate Lawson, who came hither from New England.”[8]

But the reader should not enter on the study of the witchpanic of 1692 without knowing something of our other sources of knowledge. The contemporary narratives are practically all printed in the pages that follow, and a part of the trial records will be found embodied in Cotton Mather's Wonders;[9] but most of these must be sought otherwhere, and, alas, they are sadly scattered. Some Governor Hutchinson preserved in


his wise and careful pages on this subject,[10] where alone a part can now be found. Many have drifted into private hands — like those which in 1860 came into the hands of the Massachusetts Historical Society and are in part printed in its Proceedings (1860-1862, pp. 31-37), or those published by Drake in the foot-notes and appendices to his various histories and editions,[11] or those now in the keeping of the Essex Institute at Salem or of the Boston Public Library.[12] Such of these as are in print are mentioned in the notes at the proper points. But most are still in public keeping at Salem; and these in 1864 were printed by W. Elliot Woodward in the two volumes of his Records of Salem Witchcraft, the work most fundamental for the first-hand study of this episode. It is, however, imperfect and far from complete, and there is hope of a better: the Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, of which a third volume has just appeared, must in due course include these witch-trials, and Mr. George Francis Dow, their editor (who has already by his publication of the witchcraft records relating to Topsfield[13] shown his keenness in such work), has in mind the seizing of this opportunity to print all obtainable papers relating to the Salem Witchcraft episode. Precious documents too are published by Upham in his classical Salem Witchcraft[14] and in the acute and learned studies of Mr. Abner C. Goodell and Mr. George H. Moore.[15]



In the London edition of his Salem sermon. See below, p. 158, note 3.


One of the acutest students of New England witchcraft, Mr. George H. Moore (in his “Notes on the Bibliography of Witchcraft in Massachusetts” in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, n. s., V. 248), has said of it: “I cannot resist the impression upon reading it, that it was promoted by Cotton Mather and that he wrote the `Bookseller's' notice `to the Reader.' ” If so, he may well have inspired to the task both author and publisher.


The contents of this volume were reprinted at London, in 1862, by John Russell Smith, in the volume of his Library of Old Authors which contains also Cotton Mather's The Wonders of the Invisible World. In this reprint they fill pp. 199-291, being described in its main title by only the misleading words, “A Farther Account of the Tryals of the New-England Witches, by Increase Mather.”


See below, p. 158, note 3.


This revised form of his Account has been reprinted in full at the end of C. W. Upham's Salem Witchcraft (Boston, 1867), and, with but slight omissions, in the Library of American Literature edited by Stedman and Hutchinson (New York, 1891), II. 106-114.


This passage immediately follows that above quoted.


Published (from the Bodleian Library's Rawlinson MS. C. 128, fol. 12) by George H. Moore, in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, n. s., V. 268-269.


Edmund Calamy, in his Continuation, II. 629 (II. 192 of Palmer's revision of 1775, The Nonconformist's Memorial).


At pp. 215-244, below.


History of Massachusetts, II., ch. I.


In his History and Antiquities of Boston (Boston, 1856), pp. 497, 498, and in his The Witchcraft Delusion in New England, III. 126, 169-197. All these (the indictment and the testimony against Philip English, the examination of Mary Clark and of the slave Tituba) are now in the New York Public Library, as are also his documents of the Morse case, mentioned above, p. 31, note 1.


As to the fate of the records in general see Upham, Salem Witchcraft, II. 462.


In vol. XIII. of the Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society (1908).


Boston, 1867, two vols.


See p. 91, note 2; p. 373, note 3.