|Recent Photo of Judge William Stoughton|
CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM SALEM TOWN, MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY, 1692
Dear friends and family, I would like to wish you a good Christmas. Please indulge my preference for using the word “good.” Merriment can sometimes imply partying or tipsiness and wishing people a drunken Christmas is considered just a tiny bit incredibly blasphemous here in 17th-century New England. I almost went with “happy” but that means good luck or good fortune and I was afraid I might be jailed for the promotion of gambling. You can’t be too careful these days. Well, what a year. Witch hunts, am I right? They seem to be getting out of control.
I heard that the witch hunt started earlier this year when some young girls were caught dancing around in the woods. I think we can all agree that this was dangerous behavior. It is well understood in the alchemical community that dancing around is a gateway body movement that can lead to ballet or even worse. But come on, people! This is 1692! We should be able to find a way to appropriately punish people for dancing without completely destroying the colony in the process!
Now it seems like wherever I go someone points at me and screams that they can see the devil whispering in my ear and I’m like, What? That’s terrifying! I don’t see anything! I’m starting to think they are just making it up. And why are people always asking me to name all the other witches? So, just because I’m a witch and another person is a witch, we must know each other? That’s offensive. Also, I did not put any spells on your livestock. If your cows are hovering a few inches off the ground or your chickens are composing poetry, it has nothing to do with me. I understand it’s annoying. Some chicken poetry is, frankly, not very good.
This summer we entered into a new phase of the witch hunts. A new royal governor, William Phips, was appointed by the co-rulers of England, King William and Queen Mary. Phips arrived from England in July and met with Lt. Governor William Stoughton, a colonial land developer and reality star turned judge and politician. Stoughton became famous as the owner of the Miss Colonies competition and a series of trials called “The Apprent-Witch,” in which he would end every trial with his favorite catchphrase “You’re guilty!”
I became aware of the transcript for the meeting between Stoughton and Phips. I believe the transcript demonstrates undue pressure on the newly appointed representative of the English crown to announce phony investigations in order to further Stoughton’s own personal interest in prosecuting witches at the expense of the common good. I decided to become a whistleblower, despite the Puritan sumptuary laws that list whistles as unnecessary luxury items, along with lace and buttons.
MEMORANDUM OF A PERFECT AND BEAUTIFUL CONVERSATION BETWEEN SIR WILLIAM STOUGHTON AND NEWLY APPOINTED GOVERNOR WILLIAM PHIPS
William Stoughton: Wow, can you believe this witch hunt?
Governor Phips: Your witch hunt has been very impressive.
Stoughton: IT’S THE SINGLE GREATEST WITCH HUNT IN AMERICAN HISTORY!
Governor Phips: Yes, it’s awesome.
Stoughton: By the way, congratulations on England’s Glorious Revolution of 1689. We all watched from the colonies and you did a terrific job. The way they came from behind, and then William and Mary ended up winning the monarchy easily. It’s a fantastic achievement.
Governor Phips: You are absolutely right. William and Mary did win big. I’m able to tell you the following: the first time we overthrew King Charles you wrote to congratulate me and then when we overthrew King James you are now congratulating me again. I think we should overthrow more kings so you can keep congratulating me and we can talk more often.
Stoughton: [laughter] That’s a very good idea. I think England is very happy about that.
Governor Phips: Well, yes, to tell you the truth, we are trying to work hard because we wanted to drain the swamp in England. We brought in new monarchs. Not the old monarchs, not the typical monarchs, where we only had one at a time. No, now we have two co-ruling monarchs at the same time, because we want to have a new format and a new type of government. And the Massachusetts Bay Colony is very important to the crown.
Stoughton: Well, it’s very nice of you to say that. I will say that we do a lot for England. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time hunting witches. Much more than the other colonies. Virginia does almost nothing as far as witches. When I was speaking to the governor of Virginia, he talks about witches, but he doesn’t do anything. A lot of the colonies are the same way but the Massachusetts Bay Colony has been very good for England as far as hunting witches. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the Massachusetts Bay Colony has been very very good to England.
Governor Phips: Yes, you are absolutely right. Not only 100%, but actually 1000%. And I am ready to continue to cooperate with you on the next steps in the prosecution of the witches. That is why I commissioned a Special Court of Oyer and Terminer to handle the large number of accused witches. But, here’s the thing: you are a wealthy real estate developer in the colony and I just arrived from England as the newly appointed royal governor, so I really need your strong support or I won’t be able to stand up to our adversaries. And I’m really relying on defense spending for Maine, which has been invaded by the French.
Stoughton: I would like you to do us a favor, though.
Governor Phips: Does it have to do with witches?
Stoughton: Absolutely. I would like you to find out what happened with a ship called The Crowdstrike. They say there is a secret chest full of letters and the chest was sent on The Crowdstrike to England. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. It has to do with the Clintons, as most things do. I am of course referring to Lawrence and Rachel (née Haffield) Clinton. Rachel Clinton was accused of witchcraft in March in the neighboring town of Ipswich. Clinton holds no public office, but I am still completely obsessed with her and want to lock her up. It is vitally important that Clinton’s missing letters be found. I would like to have Rev. Cotton Mather talk to you and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. Cotton Mather is a highly respected minister from Boston who literally wrote the book on witchcraft. He is the major figure pushing the theory that the devil can only take your form with your permission. Mather very much knows what’s happening with the witches and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The accused witch--the woman--was bad news and the other witches she was dealing with in Salem were bad news so I just want to let you know that.
Governor Phips: In regards to the witch named Clinton, it was great that you were the first one who told me that she was bad because I agree with you 100%.
Stoughton: Well, she’s going to go through some things. I will have Cotton Mather contact you and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out. The other thing: there’s a lot of talk about Cotton Mather’s father, Rev. Increase Mather. The father has been publishing a lot of FAKE NEWS about how spectral evidence should not be used to convict witches. A lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do would be great. The father is going around bragging that he can stop the witch prosecutions and that would be bad for me, so if you could announce an investigation into him, it would really help me out.
Governor Phips: Okay. Maybe we can meet again in Boston hopefully. We can either take my ship or we can take your ship, which is probably much better than mine.
Stoughton: Sure, we can work that out. I look forward to seeing you maybe in Boston and I will have Cotton Mather contact you.
Governor Phips: Thank you very much. Merry Christmas. Bye-bye.