Preservation at Work
Each winter, Historic Salem joins with the Salem Athenaeum to present a lecure related to some aspect of Salem’s history. Warm up your January with reflections on life in Salem before automobiles, power plants, commuter rail stations, or Haunted Happenings!
Witchcraft, Quakers, and Thomas Maule’s Fight for Freedom of the Press
Lecture by Emerson “Tad” Baker
Co-presented by Salem Athenaeum and Historic Salem, Inc.
Wednesday, January 30, 7:00 p.m.
Tickets are $15;
$10 for members of the Athenaeum and HSI;
free for students with ID
Historian Emerson “Tad” Baker of Salem State University sheds new light on the aftermath of the Salem witch trials, revealing America’s first major government cover-up.
In October 1692, Governor William Phips issued a ban on any publications on the Salem witch trials. By this time, the governor and most residents of Massachusetts Bay knew that something had gone terribly wrong in the Salem witch trials and the result was the loss of many innocent lives. But to admit this error was to threaten the very existence of Phips’s government and the new charter that guaranteed the rights and freedoms of the colony. So the governor initiated what may be the first large-scale government cover-up in American history.
It took three years before anyone dared to challenge the ban. In 1695 Thomas Maule, a Salem Quaker, published his Truth Held Forth and Maintained, a stinging general criticism of the Massachusetts government, including a condemnation of the trials. Authorities seized and burned Maule’s books, imprisoned him for twelve months, and then put him on trial for seditious libel.
Maule’s courageous act cost him dearly, but he struck an important blow for freedom of the press and freedom of religion. His actions and trial provide us with insights about Salem’s substantial Quaker population as well as the colony’s initial efforts to heal the wounds inflicted by the witchcraft outbreak.
Professor Baker teaches a variety of courses at Salem State University on topics that relate to historians working in the public sphere. Before coming to Salem State, Baker was an historical archaeologist and a museum director. He recently served as an advisor to We Shall Remain, a mini-series on “The American Experience” on PBS television. Baker also worked on the PBS series, “Colonial House.” His principal area of interest is seventeenth-century New England, in particular the transmission and adaptation of English regional culture to the New World.
Baker’s most recent book is The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England.
2012: Susan Snively, Judge Otis Lord and Emily Dickinson
2011: Rick Hamelin, The Potteries of Salem
2010: George Schwartz, The Life of John Remond in Antebellum Salem
2009: Margherita Desy and Donald Friary, The Great Fire of Salem-1914
2008: Emerson “Tad” Baker, Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England
2007: Dane Morrison and Kimberly Alexander, Architects of Resistance: Forgotten Heroes of Leslie’s Retreat
2006: Emerson “Tad” Baker, Quakers in Early Salem and New England