In the midst of this general distress and local gloom and depression, the great and awful tragedy, whose incidents, scenes, and characters I am to present, took place.
It is necessary, before entering upon the subject of the witchcraft delusion, to give a particular and extended account of the immediate locality where it occurred, and of the community occupying it. This is demanded by justice to the parties concerned, and indispensable to a correct understanding of the transaction. No one, in truth, can rightly appreciate the character of the rural population of the towns first settled in Massachusetts, without tracing it to its origin, and taking into view the policy that regulated the colonization of the country at the start.
“The Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England” possessed, by its charter from James the First, dated Nov. 3, 1620, and renewed by Charles the First, March 4, 1629, the entire sovereignty over all the territory assigned to it. Some few conditions and exceptions were incorporated in the grant, which, in the event, proved to be merely nominal. The company, so far as the crown and sovereignty of England were concerned, became absolute owner of the whole territory within its limits, and exercised its powers accordingly. It adopted wise and efficient measures to promote the settlement of the country by emigrants of the best description. It gave to every man who transported himself at his own charge fifty acres of land, and lots, in distinction from farms, to those who should choose to settle and build in towns. In 1628, Captain John Endicott, one of the original patentees, was sent over to superintend the management of affairs on the spot, and carry out the views of the company. On the 30th of April, 1629, the company, by a full and free election, chose said Endicott to be “Governor of the Plantation in the Massachusetts Bay,” to hold office for one year “from the time he shall take the oath,” and gave him instructions for his government. In reference to the disposal of lands, they provided that persons “who were adventurers,” that is, subscribers to the common stock, to the amount of fifty pounds, should have two hundred acres of land, and, at that rate, more or less, “to the intent to build their houses, and to improve their labors thereon.” Adventurers who carried families with them were to have fifty acres for each member of their respective families. Other provisions were made, on the same principles, to meet the case of servants taken over; for each of whom an additional number of acres was to be allowed. If a person should choose “to build on the plot of ground where the town is intended to be built,” he was to have half an acre for every fifty pounds subscribed