Petition for bail from accused witches, ca. 1692.
(John Davis Batchelder Autograph Collection)
Many American colonists brought with them from Europe a belief in witches and a fascination with alleged conspiracies with the devil. During the seventeenth century, people were executed for witchcraft throughout the colonies, especially in Massachusetts. Many of the accused were women, prompting some recent historians to suggest that charges of witchcraft were a way of controlling women who threatened the existing economic and social order. In 1692 the famous Salem, Massachusetts, witchcraft trials took place, and that summer hundreds of people in the colony were arrested. Shown here is an appeal from ten women "besides thre or foure men" who were confined without trial in the Ipswich jail for many months. The petitioners--some "fettered with irons," some pregnant, and all "weake and infirme"--request that they be released on "bayle" to stand trial the following spring so that they do not "perish with cold" during the winter months.
Janice E. Ruth, Manuscript Division
For Additional Information
For additional information on the John Davis Batchelder Autograph Collection, you can leave this site and read a summary catalog record for the collection.
A7 (color slide of original); LC-MSS-12021-1 (B&W negative of original); LC-MSS-12021-2 (B&W negative of typescript)