Important Persons in the Salem Court Records

People and TopicsBiographical Data

John Hathorne

Born into a well-established Salem family on August 5, 1641, John Hathorne became a local Salem magistrate and was chosen by Governor Sir William Phips to be a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. During the trials, Hathorne took on the role of a prosecutor rather than an impartial judge. Hathorne's questioning always began with a presumption of guilt rather than innocence, and he appeared to be on the side of the accusers. Hathorne altered the tradition of previous witch trials by encouraging those under examination not only to confess to witchcraft but also to name others who might be witches - a move that accelerated the number of accusations. He died in Salem on May 10, 1717, and was later a prominent target of criticism by his own great-grandson, Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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