Friday, January 14, 2011

Commemorating the Salem Witcch Trials

On January 15, 1697, Salem and the Massachusetts Bay Colony observed a day of fasting and repentance for their participation in the Salem witch trials. In 1692, 150 suspected witches were imprisoned, several died in prison,  19 were hanged,  and one was crushed to  death with heavy stones.

 Quaker Thomas Maule had the courage to criticize this hysteria. As a reward, he was charged with seditious libel. To the displeasure of the judge, the Salem jury declared him not guilty.  Although we usually think of the trial and acquittal of John Peter Zenger as the initial precursor of the First Amendment, Maule’s story predates that of Zenger.

 The most extensive treatment of Maule’s trial is James Maule,  “Better That 100 Witches Should Live.”  


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