Lot 75: 1698 Autograph Document Signed NATHANIEL SALTONSTALL, Salem Witch Trial Judge
Historic Autographs, Civil War Encased Postage Stamps, Colonial, Revolutionary War, Federal Era, Coins, Currency, Medals
December 10, 2016
Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USALive Auction
1698 Salem Witch Trials Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall Written Autograph Document Signed by Him Six Times!
COLONEL NATHANIEL SALTONSTALL (c. 1639 - 1707). "SALEM WITCH TRIALS" Judge for the Court of Oyer and Terminer, a special court established in 1692 for the trial and sentence of people, mostly women, for the crime of Witchcraft in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
July 29, 1698 to August 8, 1698-Dated, Autograph Document Signed Six Times, "N: Saltonstall" (five times) and once as, "Col. Saltonstall" written on 1 full page, measuring 6" x 8", Essex County, Massachusetts, Very Fine. Vividly written in rich brown on fine period laid paper, the blank reverse side archivally silked for preservation and display. This 1 page can actually be divided into Three (3) Complete Document Portions, each Portion being Signed Twice! The top Document portion, dated July 29, 1698, is Signed, "N: Saltonstall J.P. in Essex" and "N Saltonstall" at the conclusion is to the Sheriff or Marshal of Essex County. It reads, in part, "In his Majes Name you are required to attach sd goods or estate of Majr Jno March of Newbury sd value of 3:10:6 sd money... to answer Mr Caleb Moody of Newbury..." Mentioned are, "a Team of 6 Oxen & Plow...".
The middle (2nd) Document, dated August 1, 1698, Signed, "Colo Saltonstall" in the text and "N: Saltonstall" at the conclusion. This portion concerns the attachment and that Jno March was given the summons, "to appear before Colo Saltonstall Esqr..."
The lower Document, dated August 8, 1698, Signed, "N: Saltonstall J.P." and "N: Saltonstall Justice of the /Peace" and "John March" at its conclusion. It reads, in part: "John March's plea is; That ye very land that Mr Moody was at plow in, I say, is my own, & in my possession... I plead a Demur." Also Signed, "John March." Then, Judge Saltonstall continues..., "This was put in August 8.98 as a Demur on Plea of title to ye land, before me N: Saltonstall J.P...".
John March was a Tavern Keeper in Newbury, Massachusetts as well as a Major in the militia. Early in the summer of 1691, a small force under the command of then Capt. John March, of Newbury, and Capt. Daniel King, of Salem, was sent to look after the Indians, who had become troublesome in the vicinity of York and Wells, on the coast about 30 miles north in the Massachusetts Bay province of Maine. Caleb Moody, who most probably dealt with John March in business, was a member of Capt. John March's militia force.
In 1668, Nathaniel Saltonstall (1639-1707) began his career in town affairs when he was appointed town clerk. According to Robert Moody in The Saltontstall Papers, according to a single surviving record book, he was: "firm and effective in law enforcement, and yet, where allowed discretion by law, humane and flexible." He also served as Justice of the Peace and was a member of the local militia rising to the rank of Colonel. He took an active part in deposing Governor Edmund Andros who had been appointed Governor of the new Dominion of New England formed by King James II in 1686. When Governor Andros took power, Saltonstall quit as a representative in the General Court because he refused to serve in Andros' government. The Dominion combined all New England colonies into a single unit. After James II was deposed in the 1688 Glorious Revolution, Saltonstall and other major political leaders Andros and other English authorities arrested in April 1689. The Province of Massachusetts Bay was chartered on October 7, 1691, by joint monarchs William and Mary and took effect on May 14, 1692.
Two weeks later, on May 27, 1692, the Court of Oyer and Terminer was established to try witchcraft cases. Its members were Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, John Richards, John Hathorne, and Jonathan Corwin. Signed material from any of the Salem Witch Trial Judges is seldom encountered, with most of the jurists virtually impossible to obtain as only a scant few examples have reached the market in the past fifty years. This is a well-preserved, legible example. In 2011, a 1 page, 4.5" x 8.25" Autograph Document Signed only once by Nathaniel Saltonstall (and with a much less desirable 18th century date) sold at public auction for over $3,200. A remarkable Salem Witch Trial Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall written Autograph Document Signed by Him Six Times!
Colonel Nathaniel Saltonstall (also spelled Nathanial Saltonstall; ca. 1639 - 1707) was a Judge for the Court of Oyer and Terminer, a special court established in 1692 for the trial and sentence of people, mostly women, for the crime of witchcraft in the Province of Massachusetts Bay during the Salem Witch Trials. He is most famous for his resignation from the court, and though he left no indication of his feelings toward Witchcraft, he is considered to be one of the more principled men of his time.
Born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in about 1639, to Richard Saltonstall (1610 - 1694), he was the grandson of Sir Richard Saltonstall. He graduated from Harvard College in 1659, beginning the family tradition of higher education at this university. On December 29, 1663, he wed Elizabeth Ward, who was 18 years old, and acquired from her father, John Ward, the estate later known as the Saltonstall Seat. Two of their children were Col. Richard Saltonstall (1672-1714), and Gurdon Saltonstall (1666-1724), later the governor of Connecticut.
In 1668, Saltonstall began his career in town affairs when he was appointed town clerk. Robert Moody quotes that, according to a single surviving record book, he was "firm and effective in law enforcement, and yet, where allowed discretion by law, humane and flexible".
His involvement in judicial affairs and apparent good reputation made him eligible to serve in the Salem Witch Trials, and he was appointed a judge along with six other men on May 27, 1692. There is no evidence, however, of his attendance at any of the examinations.
Indeed, he resigned from the Court of Oyer and Terminer around June 8, 1692, the same time as Bridget Bishop's trial and sentence for witchcraft. Presumably, he was "displeased with the handling of the Bishop case", and for some time afterward remained "very much dissatisfied with the proceedings".
In addition to town judiciary service, he was a member of the local militia, responsible in part for frontier defense against Native Americans, and he reached the rank of Colonel.
Saltonstall died on May 21, 1707 in Haverhill, Massachusetts at around 68 years of age.