tv Salem Witch Trials Legal Documents Project CSPAN July 16, 2017 10:30pm-11:51pm EDT
>> you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend, on cspan3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. the 325thar marks anniversary of the salem, massachusetts, witchcraft trials. men and women suspected witchcraft were jailed, put on trial, and executed. now, historian margo burns discusses primary sources from the trial compiled in a book project she managed. 12 people worked for 10 years to complete the book, a chronological record of legal documents, many newly transcribed by the six linguists. this was part of an all-day salem state university seminar on the legacy of the witch trials.
host: welcome back. i'm thrilled to see you here for what should be a really interesting session. i would like to introduce to you my good friend and partner in witchcraft studies margo burns. , margo was one of the leading experts on the trials. one of the editors of the incredible records of the salem witch-hunt. she has probably forgotten more about the individual documents than i will ever know. we asked her to speak about those records and the amazing things you can learn from a close read of them. i should also mention that she is the author of my favorite article on the salem witch trials. it looks at the issue of false confession that i strongly recommend to you. margo burns. [applause] margo burns: just so you know, i have a completely different read on the coercion of false confessions than he gave a few minutes ago.
read my article and you will find out. i am here today primarily to talk about the actual documents. and how do we know what we know. one of the things he was doing was quoting from here, there, and everywhere. i know where that is, which document is that? whenever i read or hear anything about the salem witchcraft trials, i tried to go back to the primary source. this is records of salem witchhunts. it is about the size of a ream of paper. it does now come in paperback. you don't have to pay $150. you can pay $50 and get one in paperback. if you are serious about studying the trials, i highly recommend you getting one. just so you know there were so many of us doing this. i do not get a penny in revenue from it because we had to split it 12 ways. the history of this book --
you will see bernard rosenthal -- absolutely amazing man. tad mentioned his book, "salem story." he is a literary critic who is the head of the english department at binghamton university. melville scholar. when he discovered salem, he was also very interested in social justice. he thought there was a great injustice that happened here. as a literary critic, he started to read the primary sources because that is what literary people do. you read and say, what did they actually right? the end result was the "salem stories." he also discovered a lot of mistakes in the transcriptions of the documents. he got caught up in a couple of them. he thought it would be nice to change and fix all of those things. and that is when he embarked on this project. he did not realize it would take this long. he was figuring two or three years. it took 12 of us 10 years. when i saw this book, and it is
heavy i thought -- is that all , it is? because we had taken so long. including bernie, the first project manager was supposed to be joe, a longtime professor at salem state who tragically passed away just as the project was starting. i don't really know how it happened but it happened that bernie found me right as he was about to start work on this and he took a huge chance on me. later on, he would say he knew what he was doing. he did not it worked out well. , when we talk about the 12 people. the other 10 include six linguists from scandinavia. why a linguist? they can read old handwriting. they are historical linguists used to dealing with primary sources that are hand written. he did not think he could find anybody here. he was in finland. the first person he spoke with was a linguist interested in reading the transcripts of the interrogations. and he said he knew where they
are, they are in helsinki. the next person he talked to was from the university of helsinki. he got him on board. and one of his colleagues, who is not the university in sweden. the three of them came on and they each brought a younger colleague. it was an interesting crowd to work with. i was very happy i had a master in linguistics so i could interpret. people are interested in literature and historical english physics -- historical linguistics but we did not have a lot of common ground. we also had some americans including gretchen adams. we also had benjamin ray. you probably know the website at the university of virginia. he has a book.
i believe the de-version gives you a portal into his website. pretty nifty. richard trafton. and our very own marilyn. anybody who says you know more than anybody, no, she is the person. she has been doing this a very long time. she knows so much and has looked at everything. she was invaluable in this. she would say, do you know about this document? she ended up writing the thumbnail bios for everyone in the book, a herculean task. we are very indebted to her. the whole team was an amazing thing. and the fact that we finished it in less than a decade was amazing. he has already given us an
overview of what happened. i will not repeat all of that. i would like to talk about the actual documents. if we are going to talk about what happened, if you have ever heard me talk before, i do go in depth into what it took document wise. -- documentary wise to do one case. there are three phases to any case. first, the investigation, when somebody would complain. the magistrates would send out a warrant and the person would be arrested and interrogated. sometimes in public and sometimes in private. if they decided there were grounds to hold them over, they would hold them over and then a jury of inquest, a grand jury, would be called to look for facts. they would summons people. they would have dead bodies examined. they would look, especially at witchcraft trials, they would look for the existence of witches teats. the 1600's case in
of a woman accused of infanticide, having a bastard and killing it. it was not in the witchcraft trials. they impaneled a jury of women to examine her body and they said that she had never given birth. no baby, no death. this was the kind of thing that they typically would do. finders of facts. after the inquest, the grand jury could decide whether the charges were true or not. this is when the actual charges were being made. they would write up an indictment specifying those things. and the grand jury would look at it and say -- we believe this is a true bill. the crime took place and so there is good reason to go to trial or they would say no, and my favorite word in all the documents they would write , "ignoramus." "we do not know."
if they wanted it to be a true bill on the indictment, it would go on to prosecution. you would be arraigned and you could plead guilty or not guilty. most people do not know but four people pled guilty. they did not have trials. they went right to sentencing. but you could plead guilty or not guilty. when you hear the story about giles corey getting pressed to death, there is another phase at the hearing. you had to agree to be tried before god and the country. the country being the jury. giles corey said no and that put , things to a halt. there were all the steps you would have to to follow to do this. he threw a monkeywrench into it it which they found very strange -- which prompted them to find that strange torturous death, they pressed him to death. everybody tried at the salem trials was found guilty. and in short order you would be , executed unless you were pregnant.
if you pled guilty, they would give you a little bitif you pled give you a little bit of time to make your peace with god. this last one was the death warrant for bridget bishop. the seal was from william stoughton. his personal seal. he was the only one who signed it. that is the basic thumbnail for a case. to learn about this, we looked at all of the documents. the original manuscripts are in about 12 different archives. when we started, the one on the left is a digitized image from microfilm. if you go to mass archives to see documents, they point you to microfilm first. before you get to look at anything. i believe it was ben ray who had grant, he is great at making grants, he had all of the microfilm digitized. immediately, we had some things. that made my heart go a quiver. manuscripts!
things, theyese were not great. so ben and i went to a lot of trouble to go back to the library where most of the documents are and photograph and scanned them. you can see a big difference. the one on the right was one of the indictments for rebecca. we should be able to see it. it is nice and bright. you can see the two colors of ink. it was immediately apparent to us that would not have been from microfilm. sort of like, what is going on? guess what -- even in those days, legal documents could be boiler plates. one person would make the boilerplate and someone else would fill it in. but it is all handwritten. those were the things we could see when we looked at the actual manuscripts. volume 135 at the archive was an actual book, a bound book of documents. you would have a page with a cutout and they would put the manuscript in between two layers of silk.
you could see both sides, kind of, through the silk. you could page through them. the microfilm -- they did not even have the master anymore. they just had the one in circulation. you can see that it was horrible. poor gretchen -- she was trying to transcribe from these. her eyes were going crazy. she was using photoshop and all sorts of things. finally, i went down and got permission. the people in the archives of all of these places were fabulous for us. i photographed them all. at that they were all still in point, the book. i had to shoot and shoot. the most recent time i was there, they had taken apart the book and put each one in their own archival folder as they should be. they are still in silk. a couple of them have wax seals. the silk goes over the wax seal. not optimal but preserved. this allowed us to make that are -- make better transcriptions. in addition to original manuscripts, there were a lot of
facsimiles of manuscripts and we did not know where they were. the one on the left is a negative photostat of the interrogation of abigail hobbs. why do we have this? in the early 1920's, a lot of people had interesting old documents and they would go to libraries and historical societies that had a photo static copier. they would say i have this interesting document. do you want a copy? the positive of this one is at the mass historical society. they have a collection there of photo static records. the book at the massachusetts state archives -- when i opened it up to photograph those things this fell out. , it was tucked inside. i knew exactly what it was. who knew it was here? i was hoping it was something we had not found yet. but no. the middle one is from a 1936 catalog selling this document for $85. if you remember in the news a couple of years ago, there was another witchcraft trial
document that came up for auction that went for about $30,000. think of the investment of $85. in 1936. what i could have gotten. the one on the end was from a 1904 book. this is the only version we had a bit, kind of tattered. while we were working on it, dick trask tracked it down at the university of michigan. you never know in some cases where these are. we do not know where that document for abigail hobbs is. there's little bit of problem prominence -- there is a little bit of provenance at the massachusetts historical society but not much. we also discovered that we had handwritten contemporaneous copies of things. on the left we had one and on the right is an account of the same interrogation. both in the handwriting of samuel parris. we do not know why there are two
persons, except that he was taking things down in shorthand and then reconstituted them into his account. shorthand was useful for a young minister because they could listen to some of the divines and use shorthand to take down absolutely everything and then reconstitute it. that is one reason why we know so much about salem village, while we know so much about the pleas of innocence -- because samuel parris took it all down. there is a reason why arthur miller poached from him. it reads like a play. she says this, he says that. all of the descriptions come from samuel parris because he was reconstituting it from his shorthand. if i could find one of those documents -- i would love the shorthand of that. he sometimes made two copies. we had to figure out which one was used. we also had some handwritten, contemporaneous copies. on the left, clearly a first draft.
several people crossing things out and adding. and the cleaned up copy on the right. the challenge, and we have not figured this out, is that the markup on the bottom of the left one, the messy one, looked like a mark from the person signing it. you did not necessarily have your signature. you might have a mark. it looks like that is the actual signed one but the other one is cleaned up. why we have these contemporaneous copies, we are not sure. we also have some later, handwritten copies. the one on the left is a tracing of one of the documents that was out in public for a long time. the original is pretty tattered. i was looking at it and said it was the same as other but it is not fluent. what is going on? i finally held them up to somebody had gone to the trouble to trace the document. this is in a different archive, the boston public library. they thought they had an original manuscript but who
knows when the tracing was done. the second one is a copy of samuel parris' interrogation. it maintains the same line structure and layout on the page with the columns but it was done later. there are little things with errata. librarians and archivists like to include little tidbits when things are wrong. and on the far right is another copy of some of the old records. we had to tease these things out. what is it we are looking at? there are also things we do not have manuscripts for. these are published transcriptions of documents. we don't have any. the one on the far left is lawson's account of some of the days in april in 1662 when he went to find out if his wife was murdered by the specters. that came out pretty quickly. there was a lot of information on that. the next one is a decree from 1692. those things would be written out and officially published.
the third one over is from 1700 when he is describing a lot of things and taking to task everybody involved, especially cotton mather. there are things there that we do not have in the original manuscripts. when you hear that rebecca nurse was originally found not guilty, this is how we know. he has accounts there from her and the jury foreman saying they were pressured to go back and bring her in guilty. the last one is a page from governor thomas hutchison's history in the 18th century. he had taken a lot of the original manuscripts home and he was writing a history of massachusetts. there, he has transcriptions of all sorts of documents that we do not have today. two or three. stamp act riot. his whole house was trampled. i have heard -- maybe it is fake news, i don't know. but his library was trampled and some of the draft pages still
were dirty. they just trampled everything. a lot of these documents just disappeared. the 1900's, in there was a man named poole that discovered they had an earlier draft of this book. in that, there were snippets of other documents. we are slowly but surely putting together all of these pieces because we don't have everything. in 1840, thomas gage published a history of raleigh, massachusetts in which they have , nine documents of the case of margaret scott. margaret scott was executed. i bet very few of you even know who she was. you might have seen her bench. there are only nine available to tell her case. and two of them are in the essex county court archives. that the phillips library holds. and two of them are in private collections. if you hear about an auction of
one, those are the two indictments that pop up but there are five more. where are they? four are at the boston public library. after our book was published, we were pursuing -- trying to figure out if we could identify more of the handwriting in these documents. we did archive hopping for two weeks. we went to the boston public library to go to the rare books and manuscripts room to see if they had any contemporaneous so we could maybe identify handwriting. we were doing this in our book. at one point, we were looking up all the towns because that might be helpful. we opened up one of the card drawers of the card catalog. ok. this was five years ago, card march, 2012, catalog. we were looking up raleigh. and we wondered what this meant.
the card said four documents in the case of margaret scott. my heart skipped a beat. we only have nine. it turns out that these are four of the five that we did not know where they were. because we were really looking at the manuscripts, it was really nice to see the handwriting. quite often, these older transcriptions did not look at every mark on a manuscript. sometimes, on the back, they would not copy that stuff but we did. we were looking at everything so we could try and figure out the date who wrote it. one of the big things about records of the salem witch-hunt is bernie was determined to set it up chronologically. the handwriting came as the second thing. when we were all transcribing, if you have a document with this much of somebody's hand writing, and you have an ambiguous area
where you do not know what it says, it would be helpful if you had a couple of pages of someone's hand writing to compare and resolve the ambiguity. we started sorting early on so we could keep track of whose handwriting was where. anybody who spent some time with the documents would be able to identify handwriting. but we wanted more. to see the handwriting gave us a little more information. just a side note, pedro went back about a week later to take a look at them again and they could not find them. and they were very apologetic. but they could not find them. remember, this was around the time that the margaret scott indictment had just gone up for auction and brought in about $30,000. uh oh. they were like, we will find it, we will let you know.
and i made a call. they were really ticked at me. we told you we would let you know. every day that passes is not good. i pushed. i was home sick for a couple of days and made some phone calls. sure enough, i went up the chain. i knew somebody that used to work there. by the end of the day, they had gone through and found them. she called me back. a couple of years later when you , heard about the rembrandt that had gone missing. this was the boston public library. it made the front page of the "boston globe." it was worth a half million dollars. the etchings and engravings were worth and they lost them. $30,000. i thought they had just mishelved them. they will find them. i knew that would happen. but it caused a lot of tumult at
the boston public library because people said, why did the even have these things? shouldn't they know more about their collection? i went, card catalog. i double checked yesterday and it turns out that their rare book and manuscript department is closed until 2019 as they are going through to reinventory and make improvements. i am happy to report they are responding to that. how long did we have to wait for access to the philips library contents? anybody around for the phillips library move, how long did we have to wait for access to the philips library contents? there were other transcriptions going on and arthur miller probably used with words -- woodward's records. this was a page that woodward's crew went through and transcribed most of the stuff that was in the essex county court archives. this is a page from the examination. it reads like drama.
i want to draw attention to this one. tituba was saying -- there were two rats. some of the stuff i had been reading had said -- they were talking about rats and cats. that is odd. why rats and cats? here is a little piece from the document. there were -- red rat and a black rat. ok. at the time woodward was doing it, he did not know there was another account of this examination. and this one was written in the hand of ezekiel from salem village. this particular one is at the new york public library in the thomas madigan collection. these old libraries often started where book rooms from these collections. this was jonathan's account. if we zoom in here, i saw two cats, one red and one black. what did they do?
you could see it was definitely cats. one said cat and one said rats. did they hear it differently? how do we resolve this? many tried to resolve it by saying they saw both. it kind of looked like the word rats. look at this. rat until looks like , you look at some of these other things. the children. these are unambiguous references -- instances from that letter. these are unambiguous c's. ezekiel was hearing the word cats but there are transcriptions out there that say the word rats. we also encountered some other things. this was a piece in thomas putnam's handwriting.
on official transcription is the 15th of may. i've seen the calendar. the 15th of may was a sunday. why would they do an examination on a sunday? they have better things to do. i looked at it again and thought it might be the 11th. the 11th would be more appropriate. i went in search for more examples of his handwriting and look at that -- his five has two strokes. and his unambiguous one, he made curly ones. we were able to correct that date absolutely, but we had to make a case for everything that we did. sometimes we called them recorders or scribes. sometimes a hand. we could not come up with exactly what we would do, but i made a whole database. it is available online. we had examples of different people's handwriting. and then we had some profiles with what some of the features were that helped us recognize that person's handwriting and a
list of the documents that included that person's handwriting so we could refer to it to make our transcriptions better. that was the original reason for doing it. eventually we had so much information we said we had to share. you can see in some cases we identify whose handwriting appears where. every single document starts out with "hand one." inis a little more detailed some of these transcriptions then i can as a reader bear. but it has a particular reason. you can find out, about 24 or 25 people that we came up with and identified in the book. however, we found over 200 variant hands as we went through. most of them have really weird names. down,urth one unidentified scribe w.
we have not found that out. when we were doing our archive hopping, i was determined to determine who "scribe w" was. the called them -- we called him that because his lowercase u l ooked like a w. if you look at some of the older transcriptions of things, they have transcribed it as a w. i want to know who he is. it was someone involved in the grand jury proceedings. we do not know who he is. we have found his writing in other contemporaneous documents. still do not know who he is. we kept track of all of these. we were looking at the features of a particular hand -- these are shots from our database. we were looking for things that described an overview. for example, samuel had a small, cramped hand. orthography, the big word for spelling some of the spelling , was really particular. thomas putnam could not spell the word "witch."
i don't have to see his handwriting to know it is him. persons he spelled with an the letterforms are probably have most of us try to match up handwriting. things that could tell apart two different handwritings. asthink of punctuation something to identify you. i have no idea what his colons mean, but it is simon willard. abbreviations are really critical.
there are a lot of particular styles and we could keep track of what a person style was for doing abbreviations. these are all things we were playing around with. the documents were created by a lot of so any given document might have several people's handwriting in it. early on we had our own custom names for them so we're seeing the stuff behind the book. these became different numbers in the when we decided to do the chronology. that was a challenge in itself. so you're seeing the behind the scenes he said here. because were looking to make sure we got good transcriptions, we also kept track of word count. we kept track of it so we would
know if we have a good example of someone's handwriting. then whether we would include it in the book. and we had parameters for inclusion. ,e had to have a person's name and it had to be a significant contribution, we hear this person did it because we decided. that wasn't enough, we will you -- we were looking for the big players, paris and putnam. we are looking for anyone who would recognize as one of them. we had 24 or 25. it has been eight years. we had lots of things we were doing behind the scenes. everything is in chronological order. this is the first entry in the book, warrants on the apprehension of sarah good. there's the transcription on the right. one of the things we are doing with the chronology is that not all documents --
justin sit down and write it and write a date on it. i was a little tough. a lot of documents don't have dates on them. this one on the front is the warrant. it was written on february 29. it was handed to the sheriff to go get her and on the back, he is saying i brought her in on the day you requested, march 1 area here we have a document with two different dates associated with it. how do you put that into a chronology? so we just kept track of how many dates we had. you never know. what areept track of the dates, what was the function of this piece in the document? more commonly, there were things of evidence. this is one of the pieces by thomas putnam, a deposition of
mary walcott against john willard. everything that dates from may 8 and earlier. the evidence the woman was turning in, and then the next oath, the grand jury had to square -- where to the truth of the testimony. w.t is also scribed at some point i'm going to find out who that was. this is a notation used on the document at trial in the trial was in august. so we have three different dates, three different handwritings. so we have thomas putnam, scribed w, and that's with this look like in our database. i had a bit of a struggle with ernie. when you have to rearrange them, that's kind of hard.
i managed to wrestle him away from that little bit. we look at each document separately and then i could string the beats for him. , and at the for him end when i produce the book, i think i made for different versions. i would print the whole thing out and he would read the whole thing and see if things went together right. finally, at the end, we spent two days on skype. 8:00 the morning until noon, break for lunch, 1:00 until 5:00, break for dinner and then back. two days in a row on skype. every single decision we made, and checking algorithm to make sure everything was being ordered perfectly. when you see all of the entries in here, that is exactly what the algorithm put out. all the cross-references, all of the notes taken from people. remember, we had six people in scandinavia doing things.
we had have a common place to do it. i want to bring us back to this document. here is the testimony, this is what she was saying. you got a pretty good read on this. you can see the top is in a brown and the bottom is in great ink. i was sitting in the reading room at the phillips library and dick was saying, this is interesting, an ink change. you only get one document at a time, it there were three of us . we each ordered a document. it turned out, we found a whole bunch of them from thomas putnam that had two inks. across the archives, we found more. i don't know if there are 15, 16 of these out of the 200, but they are all, curiously, the ink
changes in a particular spot. you could understand he ran out of ink and started with a different batch. the curious thing across these documents is that all started with "being the day of his examination," and started with the word "also," and the date. this is critical because almost every single indictment, the crime itself is listed as the date of the examination. that is because the crime that was witnessed by all of these people, remember when they were saying you had to have two witnesses for the same criminal act. during the public examinations, the things that were happening and the girls were supposedly afflicted right there, everybody could see that. they were not tried on the crimes they had done before they
were arrested. they were actually charged with what they had done during their examinations when they were in custody. this piece adds in the information that will support that charge on the indictment and ads in all the stuff that happened that day, and so it really will support the indictment. this whole piece was added to support the indictments. one of the things we came up with had five dates. the middle of july, in andover, they were relentless. they kept going back to her. we have five different dates associated with that document. one of the things you may
notice, the types of uses. within a particular day, we needed to be able to sort what is the order on a particular day. we wanted to keep the offices return with the warrant or the summons. there are all sorts of pieces. we had about 60 different types of uses. you may see offices return but what he was connected with. arrest warrant and return the same day. arrest warrant on a different day. this could help the algorithm. this was a lot of fun, i have to say. this warms the cockles of my heart. what kinds of questions can you ask, with all the information on
the handwriting and time? these are two big pieces of the records of the salem witch hunt. the chronology and handwriting. there a -- there are a couple of things you can do. one is figure out a pattern of the offense. the person who gets lamed a lot for the trials is femoral -- is the minister. we know his handwriting and most people do. if you go through and date them, they all show up in one place. i passed out the handout with the timeline. the pink area is before the court was actually seated. this is a time when people kept accusing people and they would say, hold them over. by the time the court was seated, there were 60 or 70 people already in custody. all of the things that the minister did, all of the
documents and interrogation, everything was in that time period. you don't see them going forward. you take the handwriting and timeline, he was only doing things at the very beginning, before the official court even took place. we see his handwriting a couple of times later, but those are mostly to swear oath on his testimony. if you want to see when he is doing his stuff, that is when it was. they kept going. each one of those spikes is a day. it tells you how many people were caught up on any given day, a many people did they snatch. i have color-coded this a little. there were a lot of towns that were involved with this. the ones in yellow are the
people from salem village. once in black are all over town. i would like to point out that the yellow and green are really the first half, and the red is andover. there were two phases to this whole episode. the total is less than the number of people in andover. andover about the aspect of it, it changed a great deal. march, april, may, that is when samuel parris was involved. that was that big spike, it is higher than any others. this is right before -- it is like they said have we missed anyone?
that is when you get the warrants for susannah martin. i love timelines, i can't wait to start serving. individual people -- when you're talking over 150 people came wrapped up his accusations. it is really hard to size it out, you have to see it over time. it isn't like then there are other people in andover. it wasn't like all at once. one thing we can tell is we can see what the testimony appears as. it is one thing if we have the testimony. one thing we discovered was that that is samuel parris.
it is abigail williams testimony. i would like to point out one other thing, this is one of the first pieces, this is her testimony. if you look very carefully, there is stuff that is crossed out. an existing transcription skipped over the cross out. there written a whole article about the corrections and all of the documents. like i said, 12 people, 10 years. people were looking but looking at the actual documents, it's like a separate out into 3-d. betty parris has been crossed out. the other pieces were testified.
in their liking, we saw to it. it is abigail williams -- we saw abigail williams. on the far left, it changes they are to her. this is where betty parris drops out of everything. she has been dropped out. she is too young to be a formal accuser but also, they were trying to get her out of the limelight. there is anecdotal systems. she took her in, she got better. she went on to get married, have kids, this is where she disappears. there are a lot of the sets were parris, theyel
would grab two other guys. he would put his own thing on and then he would grab a couple other guys so he would have multiple adult men making these accusations. then there is the parallel one that he has written for abigail williams. it is rebecca nurse, elizabeth proctor, john proctor, susannah martin. there are some others where it is just her or just him. we assume there are a lot more these pairs. we had a very nice paternalistic pat on the head. they were telling them something about ancestors that we didn't know. basically, it was good.
that same conference -- dick black, john did not like it. he told them that they had a big idea. it was like how dare you criticize them? i am sitting there with wrong data. they cherry pick the data. that would seem to be important. idea, andad a big that changed how historians were doing work. they were looking at those relationships. but their data is flawed. john did not like that, but i got a nice paternalistic pat on the head. when you are looking for
patterns of participation, this is a close-up of my timeline on this. you noticed that this was the first attorney to be prosecuting the cases. we know about this, thomas newton left because the province of new hampshire was opening up. his job was to be the treasurer of the new province. at one point, the state archives wondered where that went. i kept finding document after document trying to get someone to give him the ledges of the province. so they would know how to manage the money. this is an article in that. he went up to new hampshire and was trying to do things. he was out.
they know their handwriting, there's a couple of documents. the one on the right is a petition. it is 1693. they are in a very awkward position of conducting all of these cases and they never paid him. he is trying to figure out how to do it. he is representing the crown, if it was somebody else, they would be trying to sue the crown. but he could not sue the crown because he was representing the crown. , thiste a petition saying is the case, is there anything you can do? we have these two wonderful examples of their handwriting. one of the things that came across, they came across and we can find where the handwriting showed up.
we know that they came in on july 27. the indictments are the most boring document in all of these. they revealed a whole lot more than we know because you looking at handwriting. this is one of the earlier indictments that we can see, filled in the blanks. one on the right was a lot crinkly or and -- crinklier. all of the fill in the blanks are done here. part of the pattern of participation is to see one of the things that the crown attorney does and still in the plains on the boilerplate indictment. there is some that don't have either of them. it turns out that we also know
whose handwriting that was, it was stephen. he was the clerk of the court. when did this happen? we discovered that when we look newton, his handwriting on the appears on the indictments for the first three cases. we get to anthony and he doesn't even start doing things in july. he starts doing things in early august. the clerk of the court has been working on the indictment in the middle. he is just a clerk, he is not the crown attorney. he is serving the function. you would think that you would see anthony at all those ones that came out in early august. clearly, stephen was still shouldering a lot of it.
he did all of these people and we don't know if he given acted as the crown attorney to present the cases to the petit jury. with disastrous results for the people involved. we really don't know, i don't know what to tell you about this other than it is a pattern that i discovered looking at handwriting and time. i leave it to somebody have to try to figure out if this is significant or not. i think it is because if they didn't have an actual attorney doing this, i don't know, it raises questions for me and i hope somebody else can possibly use this as a starting off point to see why this was the case, if they actually allowed them to continue. that is the question i will leave you with. i'm happy to take questions.
i'm taking a bit of a romp around things. i hope we have had some ideas and fueled a couple of questions. make sure you get the microphone. >> was stephen sewall an attorney at all? >> no, basically even newton and , checkly had other ways. in england they had more of a profession, you were in the bar and had training and there were a lot of different ways you the lawyer or barrister or attorney. we didn't have that formally, here. you'll hear people say that we didn't have the attorneys for the structures that they had in 17th-century england. whether you are a decision or an -- a physician or in apothecary or a barber surgeon, all of the structures for the professions in england did not come over
here. maybe somebody had a little training but it wasn't like they had the same kind of training that somebody in the bar in england was having. they are the ones that were actually lawyers in any sense of the case. we didn't have the adversarial thing. nobody was represented by the lawyer. it was just that it crown's attorney was presented the case. >> i imagine you get used to working with these after 10 years. what was the first salem witch trial document that you held and was there a particular one that was personal for you to work with? >> i can tell you which of the documents copy first, and i can
tell you which documents got me into this whole thing. i don't say this when i am talking to middle school kids but the one that caught me was the description of the search or witches teats. i went "holy cow." it looked like she had a collapsed uterus. this caught my attention. i don't generally say that when i am talking about that to middle school and high school kids but that is the one that made me go what else is there? the document that got me into this was the one that had two versions of it, the corrected version and the clean one, there is a curious piece of that because that is a document of testimony against george burroughs. i came across this and it said
that it is a testimony against george burroughs but the date was a month after he had been a -- executed. that is when i contacted bernie. i knew he was starting this project. i asked him if this is one of those errors. he said, no, i did talk about that in my book. i found out he does not like email. there was something i wanted to talk to him about. i asked him to talk in person or on the phone. that is what he needed a project manager and invited me to come back on. i thought i was asking one of those questions that was at the heart of the same witchhunt. -- salem witch hunt. this document that i held in my hand was an indictment against
rebecca nurse and the account of the presentation. holding a document when you know who actually wrote it down in the context and it is about your ancestors, it is like, wow. i know wrote this document. i felt like i could be in the same room because i could identify for this handwriting, i knew these people were because they were writing things. i don't think you have to be a descendent of someone who was executed, but that has resonance and reverberation for me. i knew who it was, i knew what had been written down and what the end result was from him writing it down. anybody else?
>> i am intrigued by the whole stephen sewall and all the parises. first, betty and abigail and samuel all disappearing early on. i think there is a lot going on there. i'm intrigued by the fact that there is this relationship, it makes perfect sense. there is no real proof that that is where betty went. >> it is clear that he is tried to get the girls out of the trial. >> there are a lot of questions. for me, the documents are the heart and soul, you see that some of them are not actually primary sources, they are secondary sources. for me, anecdotal means that i
cannot really come up with a primary source. also, because there was a habit of mentioning this and running back to the crown, then discovers that he is with him? he was with the guys running the trial. you can necessary believe everything that everybody says, you just know that the record is that they said it and somebody wrote it down. again, we have to follow-up. >> can you tell your take on that? >> it was thomas green. it was at -- around the time she
was being accused. some of the discussion that they had was that they were try to help her out by giving extra information about this. it is accusing very controversial, this is a minister that they had convicted and exited. some speculation is that he was trying to do something with the court, just try to carry a little bit of paper with them. -- curry a little bit of favor with them. it is a very curious document. it is in bernie's book. >> i will go back here. a lot of the books i have read about the witch trials use as their sources -- hurly's history of salem.
you have a sense of what primary documents they were able to look at? >> they were probably looking at the same ones. the records of salem witchcraft came out in 1864. that was probably the definitive published resource at the time. they could probably also walk into the courthouse and see the documents. woodward has a two volume set a couple of decades ago. also, you can get this at archive.org. all the stuff you can get, free pdf public domain things. the anti-aquariums did a whole
lot to collect things. if you have heard about the girls dancing and the girls dancing in the woods, there is no information to tell that story. >> there is actually nothing, you would think that they came up with this. each generation brings these primary sources, something pertinent to them. aen you hear that tituba was fromoo practicing mammy barbados and that there was witchcraft. when you look at that, it is in the civil war era. they had a stereotype of a voodoo practicing black mammy from the islands. she was an indian and her
husband mostly used an english white magic recipe and feeding them to a dog. that is in this white magic, she got cast in the context of how people saw the world during the civil war era. every single generation brings to this material their own stuff. suddenly, it is like arthur miller, the anti-communist things are going on. there is an interesting story about marital infidelity, the crucible. it is not about salem. he uses specific details and i wish he hadn't used the people's names. it makes it very confusing for a lot of people because he has renamed a few, relate a few and used some real names but it is a constant challenge because people find out about this story and they are interested in salem because of it.
if he had just given him other names, i would be very happy. as i see it, it is a story of marital infidelity. people say it is about the communist era. everybody wanted to be about salem. the fungus was dared not speak its name. that was a eerie that was published first in the mid-70's by a graduate student. she had written as an undergraduate, a paper. she thought this was interesting because in the mid-70's, since the electric kool-aid acid test of the 1960's, when she found this out, it was on the minds of people. drugs. they were tripping.
as soon as her article got published in science magazine, it made every single wire service. so we say how long did it take to get them refuted? it had made all the wire services. i want to give a whole talk on that at history camp next year. if you're coming to history camp, for either the fungus that there not say its name, or the fungus among us. i will have a lot more details and it is a lot of fun. every era brings to it your own. mine is the election of the confessions. that is my favorite part of this, i can piece it apart. unlike just about everybody, i think they were playing to execute all the people that confessed. i make a case on what happens, i drop a lot of the stuff and i see the innocence project, i draw on a lot of the research of how that functions.
i applied to what we see in our primary sources. they are heavily trying to get people to confess because it is easier to convict them if you have that confession, it is the gold standard then and now. questions? >> could you comment on -- i heard both of you mention people giving -- i don't know if it was a deposition but i remembered things being visited by the specter of someone or hearing something from someone's spirit. could you tell me what that is? >> spectral evidence. the basic premise is that a witch could send their spirit, their image from their physical body to somebody at a distance whether it was across the room
or not to do their affecting. you could be standing right there, rebecca is standing there in custody and they would claim to see an image of her, her specter coming across the room and strangling him and poking them and trying to knock them down. nobody else in the room can see this. the girls who are accusing these people are claimed to say. all of the other girls are fighting it. -- are claiming that they are being afflicted by. i think it is like teenage girls. if you have a group of middle school girls and one says
there's a bug on me, how many others are going to start looking for bugs? suddenly, yes, i am being bitten. it is about the mental state of young girls. so in one go said a specter is a party may -- when one girl said a specter is afflicting me, they saw all the things that led up to the girls claming affliction. invisible things were like ghosts. the other piece about the specters, this is controversial at the time is about whether the devil could use the specters, the image of an innocent person to attack somebody. the devil is a trickster, the court believed that the devil had to have the permission of somebody to use their likeness or image as a specter. the devil could not do it with
an innocent person's image. that was a major legal point of dispute. a lot will bring up the image of or.the witch of end the court saw it as rebecca nurse using this as evidence. >> the court seems to operate in a loose fashion if they were allowing people sitting there to suddenly burst out with things. you can imagine that today, they did take that person out there and disrupted the proceedings. could you comment about that? >> when you see portrayals, we imprint from what we know of perry mason and law and order
and any other thing that we have seen of some kind of legal thing going on. it looks like hamilton interrogating the perpetrator. that was not the case. these are pretrial hearings. i'm more like the two call them interrogations been -- that examinations. it is like lenny going after someone. >> even today, police when they are interrogating operate from a presumption of guilt. they are all leading questions. they have already concluded that you are guilty and it will do anything they can to elicit a statement against the self interests. all of these seem to be core
things but these were interrogations. they are trying to find out the investigative part of it. it was not that uncommon. the girls did come to the grand jury's and were at the trial because there was a armistice is -- there were some instances where this happened. apparently the girls really slipped out there. it was really noisy. it sent the jury back out. she said that it was not guilty. what about when she said this? the jury said what did you mean? it was so noisy that she could not hear. the girls were just flipping out. when she didn't answer, the jury said ok, failure to respond to
and i qs asian was tantamount to agreeing to it. if you think that was old-fashioned, it is still the case, it was the supreme court only a few years ago. if you are asked the question and refuse to answer, that can be used as evidence against you. then and now, there are somebody parallels between then and now. the reason it could get so chaotic is because by the town they got to the actual court hearings, they were used to having those there. they were part of a crowd. >> you laid out the speech, three phases of the trial. it is a complete cast of characters there. were the judges there for all of the other parts? >> in the investigative phase, that is where you get the local magistrate and they were the ones to be called in to see -- if there is a reason for arresting people. they travel to salem village to
hear these complaints. they didn't make anyone going to salem. it was much easier for them to go there but they stayed and the longer they stayed, the more people said and by the way, i think this. they were tried to figure out how to handle this. every single person that was brought before them with one exception, they threw in jail. the only exception was this young guy. the girls started giving physical discussions of people. -- descriptions of people. they said he had a bump on his forehead. when they brought him in, while , and there was no wen.
i am thinking, teenage guy? that part of acne went somewhere else, he doesn't have it there and they let him go. he didn't match the description that the girls had. after that, the girls didn't do physical descriptions. they asked how they knew it was him? she told me her name. the specter who is afflicting you identifies themselves, that is how you know. by the way, my name is -- you almost think of a stupid criminal that leaves a check deposit slip when they rob a bank and it is like who does that? these which is really worked against their own self interests. i think that is why they thought
they could get them to confess. it is easy to get these people to do that. if you want to ask another question? >> i wanted to ask if there was anything to learn from the paper. i was wondering if you could debunk some things that i heard? >> there was lots of paper and we will follow up that question. we looked at the paper but we said that was our scope. there were lots of watermarks and things so we could get -- we could have gone farther with material culture. the ink, they probably made themselves. there was one document where the pen was so sharp that they poked holes in it. beyond that, nothing. you had a follow-up question. >> i heard something, i don't know from where. people had a theory that perez received a copy of this book on trying witches and use what was in it to coach the confession. >> this is a couple years ago, catherine and i were both in
this thing. i remember watching that and thinking -- when it came out, this is awesome, when it came out, it was between these two. in the end, they had catherine traveling to this historical society, there was this copy on how to prosecute witches. it was given to paris. the date was the date of her interrogation. i can't imagine him being able to read that whole book on that date, the same day that she is
being interrogated. i tend to think that if this was the case, it was probably a follow-up. i don't think he had time unless he state of late with his kindle reading it. not that he was going to be able to read that whole book. tituba had nothing to gain if people told her to confess, she was going to confess. slaves, small children, servants, they are easy to e.ll worse -- coerc she was told that she does something, she came through big time. >> i don't know if we are out of
time. >> one last question, anybody? think you so much for coming. i appreciate it. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on her schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. >> monday night on the communicators. is not just a call center, it's an entity that can help drive innovation, an entity that can help improve your bottom line. we need the federal government to start thinking that way. ask the chairman of the house information technology subcommittee talks about his bill to upgrade technology at federal agencies, his opinion of u.s. cyber defenses and his
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