Important Persons in the Salem Court Records

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Thomas Brattle

Thomas Brattle (1658 - 1713) was a well-educated and prosperous Boston merchant who served as treasurer of Harvard College, and was a member of the intellectually elite Royal Society. In early October 1692 he wrote a letter to an English clergyman which was critical of the Salem witch trials. The letter was circulated widely in Boston at the time, and it continues to be studied for its reasoned attack on the witchcraft trials in Salem. Brattle presents a compelling argument against the legal premises and procedures involved in the afflictions, accusations, and executions, with a particular focus on the validity of spectral evidence in proceedings. He was careful not to argue against the motives of the "Salem Gentlemen" as he calls the judges and ministers at the helm, but rather against the methods they employed. He concludes by saying "I am afraid that ages will not wear off that reproach and those stains which these things will leave behind them upon out land."

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