June 10 (May 31, o.s.)

Massachusetts: Most of the people accused of witchcraft on May 28, along with the merchant Philip English, who was captured in Boston on May 30 after hiding for several weeks, are brought to the Salem Village meetinghouse to be questioned. The examinations are conducted by the Salem magistrates, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin, along with their fellow colonial councilor (and member of the newly constituted Court of Oyer and Terminer to try witchcraft suspects) Bartholomew Gedney. As is by now usual in these examinations, most of the evidence presented against the accused consists of spectral torments suffered by the afflicted persons in their presence. The suspects, when asked to explain the sufferings of the afflicted, have various responses; Martha Carrier casts doubt on the accuracy of their accusations and describes them as “out of their wits,” while Wilmot Reed only says that they are “in a sad condition.” Elizabeth Howe, on the other hand, can offer no explanation at all.

Among the suspects being examined are three prominent men in the colony, Captain John Alden, Captain John Floyd, and Philip English. All three have long been subject to rumors and suspicions regarding their ties to the Maine frontier and the French, with whom English and especially Alden have long carried out extensive trade. They all resolutely maintain their innocence, however, even when the presiding magistrates, their social equals and friendly acquaintances, express their skepticism about their explanations.

In the end, based largely upon the spectral evidence presented by the afflicted persons, all the examinees are sent to jail in Boston. The newly appointed prosecutor for the Court of Oyer and Terminer, Thomas Newton, is at the examinations to observe the process, and he is struck by the way the afflicted persons spare no one, not even high-status men like John Alden and Philip English, from their accusations.

After the magistrates are finished with the examinations of the newly accused, they take some depositions from the afflicted persons for use in the first trials by the new Court, scheduled to begin on June 2. These pertain particularly to Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey, among the first to be accused and thus among the first scheduled to be tried. Thomas Newton also orders eight of the prisoners being held in Boston to be sent to Salem Town in preparation for their trials.

Mexico: The viceroy, the Conde de Galve, begins to formalize the official response to the rioting in Mexico City on June 8. He orders the wounded men who have entered hospitals since the riot to be put under guard and kept from leaving, posts sentries on the roads out of town to intercept any rioters who may attempt to flee, and sends soldiers to search the neighborhoods inhabited primarily by Indians, who the authorities suspect of being the ringleaders of the riot and the main looters of shops on the plaza, for stolen goods.

These measures quickly lead to a massive number of arrests, as the soldiers and police detain anyone they consider a suspect, especially Indians, on the evidence of such things as possessing suspiciously nice clothing or unusually valuable coins for their socioeconomic status. Many are caught in the act of burying or otherwise disposing of stolen goods. The authorities are helped in their search by many neighbors and acquaintances of the suspects, especially in the closely-packed apartment complexes where most of the city’s poor live and, given the lack of privacy, are very aware of their neighbors’ actions. The main targets of the campaign are Indians, widely blamed for the riot not only among the Spanish residents but among other racial groups as well.

To handle the determination of guilt and punishment of these throngs of suspects, the viceroy orders the establishment of a special court to try them, with the royal prosecutor, Juan de Escalante y Mendoza (who was also a key witness to many of the events leading up to the riot), to draft instructions for the judges.

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Published in: on June 10, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on June 10 (May 31, o.s.)  
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