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Item   Title MB Now at Next bid Bids New bid Max bid  
251   Salem Witch Trial: Thomas Newton  $200 $220 $242 2 You must login to place a bid.

#251 - Salem Witch Trial: Thomas Newton

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Extremely rare document from the first prosecutor of the Salem witch trials

Manuscript DS, signed at the conclusion, “Tho: Newton, attorney for the Defendt,” one page, 9 x 2.5, April, 1718. Legal document relating to the case of John Jonkins (plaintiff) and Richard Whittridge (defendant) “for the Land now in controversy.” Document has been neatly mounted to a 10.5 x 7.25 off-white sheet. In fine condition, with light vertical folds, and some slight show-through from docketing on reverse. Accompanied by a college paper entitled ‘Salem Prosecuted: The Role of Thomas Newton and Anthony Checkley in the Salem Witchcraft Crisis.’

Newton arrived in the Massachusetts Bay colony from England in 1688, perhaps in response to a 1685 plea for England to 'send some honest lawyers, if any such in nature,' as there were only two trained attorneys in all of New England—because of this shortage, Newton was the only person involved in the Salem trial with formal legal training. After Governor William Phips established a court to try people accused of witchcraft in May of 1692, he appointed Newton to serve as prosecutor. Little is known of Newton's tenure, as he chose to leave the position just two months later. During this period, the interrogation of witnesses was left to magistrates, while the appointed prosecutor did preparatory work, such as drawing up indictments, compiling records, and determining the order in which cases would be heard. This is where Newton had the biggest impact on the trials; he selected Bridget Bishop to be tried first, believing that they had the strongest case against her. She was accused of bewitching five young women—including Abigail Williams, later portrayed in Arthur Miller's 1953 play The Crucible—and was tried on June 2, 1962. Newton was right: Bishop was found guilty and executed by hanging on June 10. A scarce and desirable document from this instrumental figure in the early stages of the infamous Salem trials. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.

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