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THE PURITAN TOWN
By GEORGE DIMMICK LATIMER
SALEM is what historical students would call a palimpsest, an ancient manuscript that has been scraped and then rewritten with another and later text. By careful study of the almost illegible characters and sometimes by chemical treatment, great treasures of the ancient learning, such as Orations of Cicero, the Institutes of Gaius and versions of the New Testament, have been discovered under monkish rules and medieval chronicles. Such a charm of research and discovery awaits the historical student in this modern, progressive city. The stranger within our gates is at first impressed by the many good business blocks, the elegant residences amid beautiful lawns on the broad, well-shaded streets, the handsome public buildings, many of them once stately mansions of the old sea-captains, and a very convenient electric-car service that makes the city a famous shopping-place for the eastern half of the county. But here and there the visitor comes upon some memorial tablet or commemorative stone, some ancient cemetery or venerable building—faded characters of an earlier text— that brings to mind the great age of Puritanism or the only less interesting era of our town's commercial -supremacy; while if he enters the Essex Institute to see its large and valuable historical collection, it is modern Salem that is obliterated and the stern poverty and austere piety of the Fathers that stand out distinctly. With what interest he will look at the sun-dial and sword of Governor Endicott, at the baptismal shirt of Governor Bradford, and at the stout walking-stick of George Jacobs, one of the victims of the Witchcraft Delusion! The ancient pottery, the old pewter and iron vessels, the antique fowling-pieces and firebacks, the valuable autographs of charters and military commissions and title-deeds—all these survivals of the seventeenth century help to reconstruct that Puritan settlement under the direction of Endicott and Bradstreet, of Higginson and Roger Williams. Or if the visitor has entered the Peabody Academy of Science, rich in natural history and ethnological collections, it is the proud record of commercial supremacy at the beginning of this century which the old palimpsest reveals. As he studies the models of famous privateers and trading-vessels, the oil portraits of the old sea-captains and merchant princes, the implements and idols, the vestments and pottery, they brought
Greenland's icy mountains,
he can easily imagine himself back in the days when Derby Street was the fashionable thoroughfare and its fine mansions overlooked the beautiful harbor, the long black wharves with their capacious warehouses and, moored alongside, the restless barks and brigantines for the moment quiet under the eyes of their hardy and successful owners.
GOVERNOR ENDICOTT'S SUN-DIAL AND SWORD
to the historic spirit and the pains-taking, loving labors of her
citizens, Old Salem is easily deciphered under the handsome, modern,
progressive city of thirty-four thousand inhabitants with factories,
electric plants and Queen Anne cottages. Thanks to the genius of her
distinguished son Nathaniel Hawthorne, the interpreter of the Puritan
spirit, an invisible multitude of figures in steeple-hats and black
cloaks and trunk-breeches, with here and there some gallant whose
curling locks and gay attire are strangely out of place in the sober
company, may always be suspected on the sleepy back-streets with
their small, wooden, gambrel-roofed houses, or musing under the
ancient willows in the venerable cemetery since 1637 known as "The
Burying Point," where were laid the bodies of Governor
Bradstreet and many another Puritan. There are few American cities in
which it is so easy to feel the influence of a great past and to call
up the images of Puritan minister and magistrate, for in Salem we are
surrounded by their memorials, the houses they built, the church in
which they first worshipped, their charter and title-deeds, their
muskets and firebacks, even the garments they wore.
THE FIRST MEETING-HOUSE, 1634-39
really dates from 1626, when Roger Conant and a little band of
English farmers and fishermen, in discouraged mood, left the bleak
shore of Cape Ann and came to this region, then called by the Indians
Naumkeag, a large tract of land, heavily wooded to the westward, and
at the east running in irregular, picturesque manner out into
Massachusetts Bay. Hither came in September, 1628, Captain John
Endicott and a hundred adventurers, bringing with them a charter from
the English company that claimed ownership of this territory, and
many articles of English manufacture to exchange with the Indians for
fish and furs. Endicott had been appointed Governor by the company,
and immediately began to display the strength of character and
readiness in resource that justified the wisdom of the directors and
made him during his lifetime one of the commanding figures of the Bay
GOVERNOR SIMON BRADSTREET
was a busy time for these serious immigrants, who came in the fall
and had to make hurried preparation for the winter. Behind them
extended the vast, unknown forest, tenanted by savages and wild
beasts, while in front stretched the three thousand miles of salt
water they had just traversed. They built houses, they felled trees,
they made treaties with the Indians, they hunted, fished, and
ploughed the land they cleared. Apparently little had been done by
Conant and his discouraged friends, but they had left a "faire
house" at Cape Ann which was now brought to Naumkeag for the
GOVERNOR JOHN ENDICOTT
Some of the colonists were actuated by love of religious freedom and some by hopes of gain. A strong hand was needed to enforce order and to give the settlement that religious character which its founders desired. It was found in Endicott, then in the prime of life, sternest of Puritans, quick of temper, imperious of will, and fortunately of intense religious convictions.
is the poet of the Puritan age. After reading the events of that
memorable century in Felt's Annals
of Salem and Upham's Salem
Witchcraft, the student should turn to the pages of the romancer
vivid pictures of the Puritan in his greatness of spirit and severity
of rule. In The Maypole of Merry
Mount Hawthorne has shown us, as
only this Wizard of New England could, the dramatic moment when
Endicott, accompanied by his mail-clad soldiers, presented himself at
Mount Wollaston, near Quincy, and abruptly ended the festivities of
the young and thoughtless members of the colony whom the lawless
Morton had gathered around him. Nor would the portrait of Endicott be
complete without the touch that shows him, in fierce anti-prelatial
mood, cutting out the blood-red cross from the English flag, for
which daring deed the General Court, fearing trouble with the home
government, condemned him, then ex-Governor, to the loss of his
office as assistant, or councillor, for one year.
THE PICKERING FIREBACK
The beginning of the severe, repressive rule of the Puritan over domestic and social life, so repellent to modern thought, is found in the instructions sent to Endicott by the directors of the English company.
"To the end the Sabbath may be celebrated in a religious manner, we appoint that all that inhabit the Plantation, both for the general and the particular employments, may surcease their labour every Saturday throughout the year at 3 o'c in the afternoon, and that they spend the rest of that day in catechizing and preparing for the Sabbath as the ministers shall direct."
He was also to see that at least some members of each family were well grounded in religion, "whereby morning and evening family duties may be well performed, and a watchful eye held over all in each family . . . that so disorders may be prevented and ill weeds nipt before they take too great a head."
For this purpose the company furnished him with blank books to record the daily employments of each family and expected these records to be sent over to England twice a year.
In our natural dislike and distrust of such a Puritan Inquisition we should remember that the exigencies of the time and place go far towards justifying such stern precautions. The English company wanted a successful settlement, one to which they could themselves retreat if political and ecclesiastical oppression in the old country should prove too great for their endurance; and they well knew that prosperity depended upon order, sobriety, thrift, and piety. The splendid history and the moral leadership of New England in these three centuries have justified this painstaking, minute, even exasperating watch over the welfare of a colony far from the restraints of an old civilization, in peril from hostile savages and lawless adventurers on an inhospitable soil.
As a contrast to this gloomy picture of social life, their intentions towards the Indians shine in a bright light. The company wrote to Endicott in reference to the land questions certain to arise:
"If any of the savages pretend right of inheritance to all or any part of the lands granted in our Patent, we pray you endeavour to purchase their title, that we may avoid the least scruple of intrusion."
pains were taken to establish just and humane relations with the red
man. One of the objects of the company was the conversion of the
Indians to the Gospel of Christ. Among the wise measures of the day
it was forbidden to sell them muskets, ammunition or liquor, and they
were permitted to enter the settlement at certain stated times only,
for purposes of trade or treaty. As a nation, our treatment of the
Indian has been so barbarous that this sagacious and Christian policy
of the first Puritans calls for the highest praise and reveals
another valuable trait in the heroic character of the Fathers.
That first winter at Naumkeag was a severe test of the fortitude of the Puritans. They suffered from lack of sufficient food and adequate shelter, and many died from disease. In their great need Governor Endicott wrote to Governor Bradford and asked that a physician be sent to them from the Plymouth settlement. Soon Dr. Fuller came and not only ministered to the sick, but in many conversations with Endicott and his companions doubtless prepared the way for their adoption of the Congregational or Independent form of church. The Pilgrims had withdrawn from the Church of England, averse to its ritual and discipline, and were known as Separatists. Even before their arrival at Plymouth they instituted the Congregational form of worship and discipline which they had already practised in England and Holland. But the Puritans at Naumkeag had intended to reform and not to give up the Anglican liturgy to which they were attached by tradition and sentiment. The Episcopal or the Congregational order of service was a momentous issue in these formative months and it is significant that on Dr. Fuller's return to Plymouth Endicott wrote to Bradford: "I am by him satisfied, touching your judgement of the outward form of God's worship; it is, as far as I can yet gather, no other than is warranted by the evidence of truth."
In the following spring four hundred immigrants and four Non-conformist clergymen, among them Francis Higginson and Samuel Skelton, arrived and steps were then taken for the formal organization of the church. In the contract the English company made with the Rev. Francis Higginson there is another evidence of its generous and enlightened policy. He was to receive £30 for his outfit, £10 for books and £30 per annum for three years. In addition, the company was to find him a house, food, and wood for that period, to transport himself and family, and to bring them back to England at the expiration of the time if it should then be his wish. He was also to have one hundred acres of land, and if he died his wife and children were to be maintained while on the plantation.
At this time the Indian name Naumkeag was given up and the settlement took its present name of Salem, an abbreviation of Jerusalem and meaning, as every one knows, Peace. The important event was the organization of the church. Services had been held during the winter, perhaps in that "faire house" of the Governor's, and doubtless the whole or parts of the Anglican liturgy had been used. A radical change now occurred. After suitable preparation by prayer and fasting the ministers were examined to test their fitness for the office, and then by a written ballot, the first use of the ballot in this country, Samuel Skelton was elected pastor and Francis Higginson teacher or assistant pastor. Then Mr. Higginson and "three or four of the gravest members of the church" laid their hands upon the head of Mr. Skelton, and with appropriate prayer installed him as minister of this first Puritan (as distinguished from the Pilgrim) church in America. Afterwards, by a similar imposition of hands and prayer by Mr. Skelton, Mr. Higginson was installed as teacher. The Plymouth church had been invited to send delegates, and as one of them Governor Bradford came, delayed by a storm, but in time to offer the right hand of fellowship. Thirty names were signed to the following covenant and the First Church of Salem was organized: "We covenant with the Lord and with one another, and do bind ourselves in the presence of God, to walk together in all His ways, according as He is pleased to reveal Himself unto us in His blessed word of truth." The deed was done. The Congregational creed and polity were adopted and the church that for more than two centuries dominated New England thought and life was established in Salem.
For several years the youthful church met in a private house. But in 1634 the colonists were ready to build the "meeting-house" and the small, bare edifice, built of logs and boasting a thatched roof and stone chimney, was soon erected. "A poor thing, but mine own," the Puritan might have said as he recalled the venerable and beautiful cathedrals of the mother-country. But the Puritan doubtless never quoted Shakespeare. It is more probable that he thought of the tabernacle with which the chosen people journeyed in the wilderness, long before Solomon's temple crowned Mount Moriah, and rejoiced that the House of the Lord was at last set up in their midst. The sinewy oak timbers of this ancient building, within modern roof and walls, still remain, one of the most impressive monuments of this ancient town. Its size, 20 x 17 feet, makes one somewhat skeptical of the familiar statement that everybody went to church in the good old times. But I doubt not that both floor and gallery were well filled Sundays and at the great Thursday lecture, although on both days the preacher had the privilege, to modern divines denied, of reversing his hour-glass after the sand had run out and, secure of his congregation, deliberately proceeding to his "Finally, Brethren." On one side sat the men, on the other the women and small children, each in his proper place, determined by wealth or public office. Even in that religious age four men, it appears, were appointed to prevent the boys from running downstairs before the Benediction was pronounced, while the constable, armed with a long pole tipped with a fox's tail, was always at hand to rouse the drowsy or inattentive. There was at each service a collection. Only church-members could vote at the town-meetings, held at first in the new meeting-house, but every householder was taxed for the support of the church.
In 1630, John Winthrop, the newly appointed Governor of the Colony, accompanied by several hundred persons, came to Salem. Disappointed in the place, they soon moved to Charlestown, and there established the seat of government. From that date Salem took the second place in the Colony, but always maintained, then as now, an independent, public-spirited life.
came, in 1634, Roger Williams, after the vicissitudes in those days
experienced by an original and outspoken man. After the death of Mr.
Higginson, he became the minister of the First Church. The original
timbers of his dwelling-house, dating from 1635, are still to be
seen, more ancient than the ancient roof and walls that cover them,
and reveal faded characters of the Puritan palimpsest. A double
interest attaches to this venerable building, since as the residence
of Judge Corwin tradition has made it the scene of some of the
preliminary examinations in the witch trials. But the wanderings of
Roger Williams were not yet ended. His attacks upon the authority of
the magistrates as well as his controversies with the ministers
brought him under the condemnation of the General Court. Though the
Salem church resisted, it was obliged to part with its minister who
quitted Massachusetts under sentence of banishment, to become the
Founder of Rhode Island. A remarkable man was Roger Williams, of
great gifts and singular purity of conscience, but his inflexible
spirit, opposed to the theocratic rule of ministers and magistrates,
was wisely set at constructive work in another colony.
THE ROGER WILLIAMS' OR "WITCH HOUSE"
This was the eventful age of Puritanism in the mother-country and in the colonies. All that we read of the austere piety and social restraints of the Puritan theocracy is found in this period from 1629 to 1700. Much might be said of the growth of Salem in population and wealth and influence in this century, but there is no time to tell the story in a single chapter. We come at once to the close of the century when the old town earned an unenviable notoriety by the tragic affair known as the Witchcraft Delusion.
We must think of Salem in 1692 as a town of 1700 inhabitants, in a delightful situation on Massachusetts Bay, almost encircled by seawater, while at the west stretched away the vast forest, broken here and there by large plantations or farms which it was the policy of the Governor to grant to those who would undertake the pioneer work of cultivation. These farms, widely scattered, were known as Salem Village, and at a place a few miles from Salem, now known as Danvers Centre, there was a little group of farmhouses surrounding a church, of which the Rev. Samuel Parris was minister. In this family were two slaves, John and Tituba, whom he had brought from the West Indies, and two children, his daughter Elizabeth, nine years old, and his niece Abigail Williams, eleven years of age. In the winter of 1691-92 these children startled the neighborhood by their unaccountable performances, creeping under tables, assuming strange and painful attitudes, and uttering inarticulate cries. At times they fell into convulsions and uttered piercing shrieks. Dr. Griggs, the local physician, declared the children bewitched, and this explanation was soon after confirmed by a council of the ministers held at Mr. Parris's house.
Absurd as such an explanation seems to us, it must be remembered that, with rare exceptions, every one at that time believed in witchcraft. It found an apparent confirmation in the text, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus xxii., 18), and the great legal authorities of England, Bacon, Blackstone, Coke, Selden, and Matthew Hale, had given decisions implying the fact of witchcraft and indicating the various degrees of guilt. It was easier to accept this explanation since executions for this crime had already taken place at Charlestown, Dorchester, Cambridge, Hartford and Springfield. Governor Winthrop, Governor Bradstreet and Governor Endicott had each sentenced a witch to death. Governor Endicott had pronounced judgment upon a person so important as Mistress Ann Hibbins, widow of a rich merchant and the sister of Governor Bellingham, familiar to us all in the pages of The Scarlet Letter. A few years before, Cotton Mather, the distinguished young divine of Boston, had published a work affirming his belief in witchcraft and detailing his study of some bewitched children in Charlestown, one of whom he had taken into his own family the better to observe.
is not surprising, therefore, that these young girls, instead of
being punished for mischievous conduct or treated for nervous
derangement, were pitied as the victims of some malevolent persons
and urged to name their tormentors. Encouraged by the verdict of
physician and ministers, countenanced by Mr. Parris and the
church-members, these "afflicted children," as they and
some other girls and women similarly affected in the village were now
called, began their accusations. The first persons mentioned were
Tituba, the Indian slave, Goody Osborn, a bedridden woman whose mind
was affected by many troubles, physical and mental, and Sarah Good, a
friendless, forlorn creature, looked upon as a vagrant.
In March, 1692, the first examinations were held in the meeting-house in Salem Village, John Hawthorne, ancestor of the novelist, and Jonathan Corwin acting as magistrates. The accused did not receive fair treatment—their guilt was assumed from the first, no counsel was allowed, the judges even bullied them to force a confession. The evidence against them, as in all the following cases, was "spectral evidence," as it was called. It consisted of the assertions of the children that they were tortured whenever the accused looked at them, choked, pinched, beaten, or pricked with the pins which they produced from their mouths or clothing, and in one instance, at least, stabbed by a knife the broken blade of which was shown by the "afflicted child." In one or two cases the children were convicted of deception, as in the case of the broken knife-blade. A young man present testified that he had broken the knife himself and had thrown away the useless blade in the presence of the accusing girl. But with merely a reprimand from the judge and the injunction not to tell lies, the girls were permitted to make their monstrous charges against the men and women who stood amazed, indignant, helpless, before accusations they could only deny, not refute.
In this first trial Tituba confessed that under threats from Satan, who had most often appeared to her as a man in black accompanied by a yellow bird, she had tortured the girls, and named as her accomplices the two women, Good and Osborn. After the trial, which took place a little later in Salem, Tituba was sent to the Boston jail, where she remained until the delusion was over. She was then sold to pay the expenses of her imprisonment, and is lost to history. The other women were sent to the Salem jail, which they left only for their execution the following July.
The community felt a sense of relief after the confession of Tituba and the imprisonment of the other women. It was hoped Satan's power was checked. But on the contrary the power of the devil was to be shown in a far more impressive manner. The "afflicted children" continued to suffer and soon began to accuse men and women of unimpeachable lives. Within a few months several hundred people in Salem, Andover and Boston were arrested and thrown into the jails at Salem, Ipswich, Cambridge and Boston. As Governor Hutchinson, an historian of the time, stated, the only way to prevent an accusation was to become an accuser. The state of affairs resembled the Reign of Terror in France a century later, when men of property and position lived in fear of being regarded as "a suspect."
For the thrilling story of these trials and their wretched victims the student should turn to Mr. Upham's authoritative and popular volumes upon Salem Witchcraft. The reader can never forget the tragic fate of the venerable Rebecca Nurse, George Burroughs, a former clergyman of the church in Salem Village, and the other victims. Here we can review only the trial of the Corey family, a fitting climax to this scene of horror.
Two weeks after the trial of Tituba and her companions, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Martha Corey, aged sixty, the third wife of Giles Corey, a well-known citizen. She was a woman of unusual strength of character and from the first denounced the witchcraft excitement, trying to persuade her husband who believed all the monstrous stories, not to attend the hearings or in any way countenance the proceedings. Perhaps it was her well-known opinion that directed suspicion to her. At her trial the usual performance was enacted. The girls fell on the floor, uttered piercing shrieks, cried out upon their victim. "There is a man whispering in her ear!" one of them suddenly called out. "What does he say to you?" the judge demanded of Martha Corey, accepting without any demur this "spectral evidence." "We must not believe all these distracted children say," was her sensible answer. But good sense did not preside at the witch trials. She was convicted and not long afterward executed. Her husband's evidence went against her and is worth noting as fairly representative of much of the testimony that convicted the nineteen victims of this delusion:
"One evening I was sitting by the fire when my wife asked me to go to bed. I told her I would go to prayer, and when I went to prayer I could not utter my desires with any sense, not open my mouth to speak. After a little space I did according to my measure attend the duty. Some time last week I fetched an ox well out of the woods about noon, and he laying down in the yard, I went to raise him to yoke him, but he could not rise, but dragged his hinder parts as if he had been hip shot, but after did rise. I had a cat some time last week strongly taken on the sudden, and did make me think she would have died presently. My wife bid me knock her in the head, but I did not and since she is well. My wife hath been wont to sit up after I went to bed, and I have perceived her to kneel down as if she were at prayer, but heard nothing."
It is hard to believe that such statements, most probable events interpreted in the least probable manner, should have had any judicial value whatever. Yet it is precisely such a mixture of superstition and stupid speculation about unusual or even daily incidents that was regularly brought forward and made to tell against the accused.
Soon after his wife's arrest Giles Corey himself was arrested, taken from his mill and brought before the judges of the special court, appointed by Governor Phipps but held in Salem, to hear the witch trials. Again the accusing girls went through their performance, again the judges assumed the guilt of the accused, and tried to browbeat a confession from him. But in the interval between his arrest and trial this old man of eighty had had abundant leisure for reflection. He was sure not only of his own innocence but of his wife's as well, and it must have been a bitter thought that his own testimony had helped convict her. Partly as an atonement for this offense and partly to save his property for his children, which he could not have done if he had been convicted of witchcraft, after pleading "not guilty" he remained mute, refusing to add the necessary technical words that he would be tried "by God and his country." Deaf alike to the entreaties of his friends and the threats of the Court, he was condemned to the torture of peine forte et dure, the one instance when this old English penalty for contumacy was enforced in New England. According to the law the aged man was laid on his back, a board was placed on his body with as great a weight upon it as he could endure, while his sole diet consisted of a few morsels of bread one day and a draught of water the alternate day, until death put an end to his sufferings.
The execution of eight persons on Gallows Hill three days later, September 22, were the last to occur in the Colony. Accusations were still made, trials were held, more people were thrown into jail. But there were no more executions, and the next spring there was, according to Hutchinson, such a jail delivery as was never seen before.
"The smith filed off the chains he forged,
The jail bolts backward fell;
And youth and hoary age came forth
Like souls escaped from hell."
The tragedy was at an end. It lasted about six months, from the first accusations in March until the last executions in September. Nineteen persons had been hanged, and one man pressed to death. There is no foundation for the statement that witches were burned. No one was ever burned in New England for witchcraft or any other crime. But hundreds of innocent men and women were thrown into jail or obliged to flee to some place of concealment, their homes were broken up, their property injured, while they suffered great anxiety for themselves and friends.
It was an epidemic of mad, superstitious fear, bitterly to be regretted, and a stain upon the high civilization of the Bay Colony. It is associated with Salem, but several circumstances are to be taken into consideration. First of all, note the fact that while the victims were residents of Essex County, of Salem and vicinity, and the trials were held in Salem, yet the special court that tried them was appointed by the Governor; the Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony, Stoughton, presided; and Boston ministers, notably Cotton Mather, the influential minister of the North Church, were interested observers. Boston as well as Salem is responsible for the tragedy. In the second place, remember that this dramatic event with all its frightful consequences led to a more rational understanding of the phenomena of witchcraft. By a natural revulsion of feeling future charges of witchcraft were regarded with suspicion, "spectral evidence" was disallowed, and there were no more executions for this crime in New England.
Various explanations of the conduct of the "afflicted children" have been offered. One writer has suggested that they began their proceedings in jest but, partly from fear of punishment if they confessed, partly from an exaggerated sense of their own importance, they continued to make charges against men and women whom they heard their elders mention as probable witches. In that little settlement there were property disputes, a church quarrel, jealousies, rivalries, and much misunderstanding, which had their influence. Another writer lays stress upon "hypnotic influence" and believes these young girls and nervous women were improperly influenced by malevolent persons, probably John and Tituba the Indian slaves. But a more natural explanation is that they were the victims of hystero-epilepsy, a nervous disease not so well understood in the past as to-day, which has at times convulsed the orderly life of a school or convent, and even a whole community. Then, too, the belief in witchcraft was general. Striking coincidences, personal eccentricities, unusual events and mysterious diseases seemed to find an easy explanation in an unholy compact with the devil. A witticism attributed to Judge Sewall, one of the judges in these trials, may help us to understand the common panic: "We know who 's who but not which is witch." That was the difficulty. At a time when every one believed in witchcraft it was easy to suspect one's neighbor. It was a characteristic superstition of the century and should be classed with the barbarous punishments and religious intolerance of the age.
Eventually, justice, so far as possible, was done to the survivors. The Legislature voted pecuniary compensations and the church excommunications were rescinded. Ann Putnam, one of the more prominent of the "afflicted children," confessed her error and prayed for divine forgiveness. Rev. Samuel Parris offered an explanation that might be considered an apology. Judge Sewall, noblest of all the civil and ecclesiastical authorities implicated in this tragedy, stood up in the great congregation, Fast Day, in the South Church, Boston, and acknowledged his error in accepting "spectral evidence."
"Spell and charm had power no more,
The spectres ceased to roam,
And scattered households knelt again
Around the hearths of home."
Salem grew in wealth and population slowly but substantially. In 1765 there were only 4469 inhabitants. With the rest of the Colony she was putting forth her strength in the French-Indian wars and also resisting what she termed the usurpations of the Royalist governors or English Parliament. It was a public-spirited as well as high-spirited life. Soldiers and bounties and supplies were generously furnished for the wars. Pirates were captured or driven from the coast. A valuable commerce was developed, churches were built and schools increased. In 1768 the Essex Gazette was founded, with the motto, "Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci,"—a motto that measures the social changes from the time of Endicott and Williams.
The citizens of Salem were not wanting in patriotism or courage in the years immediately preceding the Revolution. They met in the old town-house to protest against the Stamp Act, to denounce the tax on tea and the closing of Boston port, and in 1774, in defiance of General Gage, to elect delegates to the First Continental Congress about to meet in Concord. As early as 1767 a committee had been appointed "to draft a subscription paper for promoting industry, economy and manufactures in Salem, and thereby prevent the unnecessary importation of European commodities which threaten the country with poverty and ruin." The report of the committee was not accepted but the movement was characteristic of the attitude of Salem.
just claim is made that the first armed resistance to the British
government was made in Salem at the North Bridge, Sunday, February
26, 1775, when the citizens assembled and took their stand on the
north bank of the river to prevent Colonel Leslie and his three
hundred soldiers from marching into North Fields in search of cannon
supposed to be concealed there. The British officer thought of firing
upon the citizens who, after crossing the bridge, had raised the draw
and now stood massed on the opposite bank. But a townsman, Captain
John Felt, said to the irate officer who had looked for an unimpeded
march, "If you do fire you will all be dead men." His
prompt utterance appears to have restrained the firing. Tradition
says that there was a struggle to capture some boats, one of which at
least was scuttled. After an hour and a half of delay, in which time
Rev. Mr. Barnard of the North Church was conspicuous for his moderate
counsels, the vexed and defeated Colonel Leslie promised that if the
draw were lowered and he were permitted to march his men over it a
distance of thirty rods, he would then wheel about and leave the
town, an agreement fairly carried out. A commemorative stone marks
this place and significant event at the beginning of the Revolution.
years from 1760 to the War of 1812 were the period of commercial
prestige. At the beginning of the Revolution Washington turned to the
coast towns for a navy, and Salem answered by furnishing at least 158
privateers. Many were the prizes brought into the harbor as the war
continued, and, as a result of this seamanship, an immense impetus
was given to ship-building and the development of foreign commerce.
This may be called the romantic era in the life of the venerable
town. At the close of the war the town could boast of its great
merchants and adventurous captains whose vessels were found in every
port. Where did they not go, these vessels owned by Derby, Gray,
Forrester, Crowninshield, and many another well-known merchant!
SOME OLD DOORWAYS
the stern rule of Endicott the old Puritan town had banished Quakers
and Baptists and Episcopalians, but in the early years of this
century her sons were intimate with Buddhist and Mohammedan and
Parsee merchants. In 1785 "Lord" Derby, as Hawthorne called
him, sent out the Grand Turk
which, nearly two years later, brought
back the first cargo direct from Canton to New England. At this time
it is with peculiar interest we read that in 1796 this same "Lord"
Derby sent the Astrea to
Manila, which returned the following year
with a cargo of sugar, pepper and indigo upon which duties of over
$24,000 were paid. That was the time when a sailing-vessel after a
long voyage might enter the harbor any day, and therefore the boys of
the town lay on the rocks at the Neck, eager to sight the incoming
ship, and earn some pocket-money for their welcome news. Significant
is the motto on the present city seal: Divitis Indiæ esque
ad ultimum sinum. They were a hardy race—these Vikings of New
England—bold, self-reliant, shrewd, prosperous, equally ready to
fight or trade, as occasion might demand. The sailors of that day
were the native sons of Salem, sturdy citizens, often well-to-do, who
might have an "adventure" of several hundred dollars aboard
to invest in tea or sugar or indigo. At fourteen or fifteen the Salem
boy went out in the cabin of his father's vessel, at twenty he was
captain, at forty he had retired and in his stately mansion enjoyed
the wealth and leisure he had bravely and quickly earned. In 1816 Cleopatra's
Barge, a vessel of 190 tons burden, was
launched in the
harbor, and George Crowninshield went yachting in the Mediterranean
in this luxurious vessel,—perhaps the first American pleasure
yacht, as much admired in Europe as in New England. Many are the
traditions of this romantic and prosperous era. Many are the famous
names of merchants and sailors—men of great wealth and public
spirit, mighty in time of war and influential in affairs of state, as
Colonel Timothy Pickering, and Benjamin W. Crowninshield, esteemed at
home and abroad for their enlightened, progressive, humane,
public-spirited services to town and State. Many of their stately
mansions still remain to attest the wealth and fashion and gracious
hospitality of that period. The spacious rooms, rich in mahogany
furniture, carved wainscoting, French mirrors, and Canton china, were
the scenes of elegant and memorable entertainments when Washington,
Lafayette, and many other celebrated men of Europe and America
visited the old town. As regards the beautiful objects of interior
decoration,— now so eagerly sought, and often purchased at high
prices,—Salem is one vast museum, almost every home boasting its
inherited treasures, while a few houses are so richly dowered that
the envy of less fortunate housekeepers can be easily pardoned.
The commerce in time went to Boston, and many of the sons of Salem followed it to help build up the wealth and character of the larger city. In fact where have not the sons, like the vessels, of Salem gone? Their memory is green in the old town and the citizen points with pride to the former residence-site of many a distinguished man she calls her son; of Bowditch, mathematician and author of the famous Navigator, of Judge Story and his no less eminent son, the poet and sculptor, of W. H. Prescott, the heroic historian of Spain, of Jones Very, poet and mystic, and of many another man of mark in law and literature.
of all the distinguished sons of Salem no one makes so eloquent an
appeal to the popular heart as Nathaniel Hawthorne. Visitors are
particularly interested in the places associated with his life and
romances. Of these there are many, for the novelist lived at one time
or another in half a dozen Salem houses, while several are identified
with his stories. To appreciate Hawthorne one should read him here,
in the old Puritan town with its ancient houses, several of which
date from the seventeenth century, its commemorative tablets, ancient
tombstones, family names, and the collections of the Essex Institute.
With magic pen he traced the greatness and the littleness of the
Puritan age, its austere piety, its intolerance, its stern repression
of the lighter side of human nature, its moral grandeur and its
gloomy splendor. He did for our past what Walter Scott did for the
past of the mother-country. Another "Wizard of the North,"
he breathed the breath of life into the dry and dusty materials of
history; he summoned the great dead again to live and move among us.
visitor will be interested in all the houses associated with his
name,—the modest birthplace on Union Street, the old residence on
Turner Street popularly but erroneously called the House of the Seven
Gables, the Peabody homestead, beside the Old Burying Point, where he
found his wife and also Dr.
Grimshawe's Secret. The visitor will be
most interested, however, in the three-story, wooden building with
the front door opening into the little garden at the side, after the
fashion of many Salem houses, where he lived when Surveyor of the
Port and wrote the immortal romance of Puritan New England. Here his
wife wept over the woe of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, and
hither came James T. Fields to hear the story which he so eagerly
accepted. After one has read the facts of history in Felt and Upham
and the diaries and chronicles of the seventeenth century, it is well
to turn to Hawthorne for the realistic touch that makes the Puritan
characters live once more for us. His sombre genius was at home in
the Puritan atmosphere. How clearly its influence over him is
acknowledged in the Introduction to The
Scarlet Letter! He had the
literary taste and the literary ambition, and he found his material
in the musty records of the Custom-house, in the town pump so long a
feature of Salem streets, in the church steeple, the ancient
burying-ground, the old gabled houses, even the Main Street that had
witnessed the varied pageants of more than two centuries. He was
always leaving Salem and always returning, drawn by the "sensuous
sympathy of dust for dust." Here his ancestors lay buried, and
here, although he has said he was happiest elsewhere, lay his
inspiration. The strange group of Pyncheons, Clifford, Hepzibah and
the Judge, the Gentle Child,
the Minister with the Black Veil,
Eleanore in her rich mantle, and the tragic group of The Scarlet
Letter—these are not simply the creations of a delicate and
somewhat morbid imagination, even more are they the marvellous
resurrection of a life long dead.
old town has a genuine pride in her great son whose fame, assured in
England as in America, has added to her attractions. But owing to his
invincible reserve and long absences he had only a limited
acquaintance in Salem, and there is comparatively little of
reminiscence and anecdote among those who remember him. He chose his
companions here, perhaps in reaction from the intellectual society he
had had in Concord, perhaps in search of literary material, from a
jovial set with many a capital tale to tell of the old commercial
days when the Custom-house with its militant eagle aloft was the
centre of a bustling, cosmopolitan life that surged up and down its
steps and over the long black wharves of Derby Street. Like many men
of genius his character had more than one side and can now be studied
in the abundance of material which the unwearied industry of his
children has given us.
novelist has gone, as the merchant and sailor went, as the Puritan
magistrate and minister went. Another set of priceless associations
is added to the old town which now must confess to factories and a
foreign population like many another New England seaport. The
resident of Salem lives in a modern, progressive, handsome city, made
the more attractive by eccentric roofs, "Mackintire"
doorways, carved wooden mantels and wainscoting, ever suggestive of
the venerable and impressive past, a past that may well serve as a
challenge to the children of Viking and Puritan, inviting them to a
fine self-control and a broad public spirit.