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Excerpts from Margaret B. Moore's The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne

"As for Hawthorne's ties with the persecutions of the witches, they too are based partly on his paternal ancestors, in particular on John Hathorne (1641-1717), the third son of Major William and Anna Hathorne and an important merchant in Salem. Like his father, he was valuable in civic affairs. He was deputy to the General Court in 1683, an assistant to the Bay Colony in 1684, a magistrate judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and in 1702 a judge on the Superior Court. In addition, he was named commander-in-chief against the Indians in 1696.

John Hathorne was also the famous 'witch judge' blamed by many, such as Charles Upham , for playing a major role in the witchcraft trials in Salem and Salem Village in 1692. According to his descendant, John Hathorne, "inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his old dry bones, in the Charter Street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust." Even today tourists are told, as they pause by the burial ground, that the witch-judge, John Hathorne, is buried there, and his slanted slate stone can still be seen.

John Hathorne is indeed buried there. He was appointed a magistrate of the Court of Oyer and Terminer by Governor William Phips. The chief questioner of the presumed witches, he always seemed to suppose them guilty. Nathaniel Hawthorne's sister Elizabeth quoted cousin Ann Savage as saying that Charles W. Upham had 'purposely and maliciously belittled' John Hathorne in his two-volume study, Salem Witchcraft. Hathorne's task was to query the victims about serious accusations in a time when virtually all Christians believed in witchcraft. That he was sometimes cruel in his questioning is true. When he and Justice Corwin were examining Elizabeth Cary of Charlestown, she asked to be seated. He said that she had 'strength enough' and left her standing. Captain Nicholas Cary thought Hathorne and others were cruel to his wife and declared that he was 'extreamly troubled at their Inhumane dealings,' and hoped '[T] hat God would take vengeance on them.' This curse as well as Sarah Good's threat to Nicholas Noyes ['. . . if you take away my Life, God will give you Blood to drink'] may have been in Hawthorne's mind when he wrote in The House of the Seven Gables of Matthew Maule's prophecy that Colonel Pyncheon, who had 'hunted [him] to death for his spoil' would be 'given blood to drink' by God in retribution. Chadwick Hanson believes that Hathorne was 'never more brutal nor more intolerant than in the examination of Martha Cory,' another accused and subsequently hanged witch" (37-38).(courtesy of University of Missouri Press)




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