Calef blasts bigots

A few participants in the Salem story tried to explain the events in full-length books. For instance, in 1696 John Hale

This wax statue is supposed to represent the torture and ridicule of a witch waiting for execution.

Reproduced by permission of Corbis Corporation (Bellevue).

This wax statue is supposed to represent the torture and ridicule of a witch waiting for execution.

Reproduced by permission of Corbis Corporation (Bellevue).

wrote A Modest Inquiry, in which he contended that the witches had been guilty. Although he acknowledged the mixed motives of the community, he justified the executions. In fact, he felt the witch-hunts had ended too early because leaders had been distracted by the escalating social chaos that brought an end to the trials. Boston merchant and trial critic Robert Calef (see biography primary sources entries) took the opposite position. In 1697 he wrote More Wonders of the Invisible World, in which he attacked the accusers and judges of viciously turning on their own neighbors and friends:

And now to sum up all in a few words, we have seen a bigoted zeal [extreme prejudice] stirring up a blind and most bloody rage, not against enemies or irreligious profligate [irresponsible] persons, but against as virtuous and religious as any . . . and this by the testimony of vile varlets [unprincipled persons] as not only were known before but have been further apparent since by their manifest lives, whoredoms, incest . . . etc. The accusations of these, from their spectral sight being the chief evidence against those that suffered. In which accusations were upheld by both magistrates and ministers, so long as they apprehended themselves in no danger. (From Frances Hill. A Delusion of Satan, p. 209.)

Calef's book also attacked religious leaders like Cotton Mather (see biography and primary source entries), who encouraged charges of witchcraft rather than trying to determine the truth. Calef aggravated the dispute even further by printing "Another Brand Plucked From the Fire," an account of conversations and written correspondence between Mather and him. Calef attacked Mather for taking supposedly bewitched girls into his own home and encouraging their testimony against accused witches during the trials. Mather was deeply offended by Calef's charges, and he spent the remainder of his life trying to justify his actions. Calef also targeted judges such as Stoughton and chief magistrate John Hathorne for their illegal tactics and prejudicial treatment of accused witches. Neither Stoughton nor Hathorne expressed any sense of remorse or guilt. They never looked back on this period in their careers, and they were never required to account for their roles in the execution of innocent people. Both men remained highly respected and wealthy members of their communities.

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