The Salem Journal: The People
John Procter: The Man Who Made a Difference
By Molly B, Florence A, and Aden G
A brave man not afraid to speak his mind has died a hero's death. John Proctor has been accused and hanged for being a wizard. Whether he is or is not innocent, the answer will be forever lost.
John Proctor was born on March 30th, 1632 in Ipswich. He grew up on his father's farm, which was of considerable value. He moved to the outskirts of Salem in 1666 and bought a farm of 700 acres with his father's inheritance, making the farm the biggest in all of Salem. John Proctor became one of the wealthiest property owners and was envied and respected by the villagers.
John Proctor divorced his first two wives, and had three children with his third wife, Elizabeth Basset. The kid's names were William, Mary, and John Proctor III, who was born while Elizabeth was in jail.
The afflicted girls accused Elizabeth because Elizabeth's sister, Rebecca Nurse, was accused. John Proctor came uninvited to her examination, and he stood up for her. He said that if the afflicted girls were to be believed "we should all be devils and witches quickly." He recommended that the girls be whipped or even hanged. Abigail Williams, the cousin of Betty Parris and one of the afflicted girls promptly accused him of being a wizard, and the Proctor's servant, Mary Warren, sided with her.
John Proctor was the first man to be accused in the Salem witch trials. He had his examination on April 11th, 1692. Proctor went to jail on July 23 1692 and there he wrote a plea to the clergy of Boston. Proctors letter states, " If it be possible our innocent blood may be spared, which undoubtedly otherwise will be shed, if the lord doth not mercifully step in. The magistrate's ministers, juries, and all the people in general, being so much enraged and incensed against us by the delusion of the Devil, which we can term no other, by reason we know in our own consciences themselves to be witches. Here are five persons who have lately confessed themselves to be witches, and do accuse some of us of being along with them at a sacrament, since we were committed into close prison, which we know to be lies. Two of the five are young men, who would not confess anything till they tied them neck and heels till the blood was ready to come out of their noses and "tis credibly believed and reported this was the occasion of making them confess that which they never did, by reason they said one had been a witch a month, and another five weeks, and that their mother had made them so, who has been confined here this nine weeks. My son William Proctor, when he was examined, because he would not confess that he was guilty, when he was innocent, they tied him neck and heels till the blood gushed out of his nose, and would have kept him so twenty-four hours, if one more merciful than the rest, had not taken pity on him, and caused him to be unbound. If it cannot be granted that we can have our trials at Boston, we humbly beg that you would endeavor to have these magistrates changed, and others in their rooms, begging also and beseeching you would be pleased to be here, if not all, some of you at our trials, hoping thereby you may be the means of saving the shedding our innocent bloods, desiring your prayers to the lord in our behalf, we rest your poor afflicted servants."
Proctor was saying that he thought that the trials should be moved to Boston or that Boston should send Salem some new, unbiased judges. He also stated that people are confessing to be witches because they are being tortured, not because they are actually witches.
When interviewed, thirty-six year old Sarah Vibber who was at Proctor's trials on August 5th, claimed that on June 3rd, "Proctor came to me and did most grievously torment me by pinching and pricking and almost pressing me to death urging me to drink, drink as red as blood, which of course I refused. He did torture me with a variety of tortures and immediately he vanished away."
The next person interviewed was seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Hubbard. She said, something very similar about Proctor, and proclaimed that on April 11th (the day of Proctors examination), "Proctor senior, has most grievously and did torture me most dreadfully, also in the time of his examination he afflicted me very much, and several times since the apparition of John Proctor senior, has most grievously tortured me by pinching and almost choking me urging me to write in his book."
The next person interviewed was Proctors" maid and servant named Mary Warren, who was twenty years old. She purported, "I have seen the apparition of John Proctor senior among the witches and he hath often tortured me by pinching me and biting me and chocking me, and pressing me on my stomach till the blood came out of my mouth " Proctor did most grievously torture me with variety of tortures, almost ready to kill me."
According to these people John Proctor is an awful man. It will forever be unknown if he really did this to people or if the afflicted girls were just making it up. We do know that even though there were many people against Proctor, there were also a lot of people for him. There were two petitions signed in favor of John and Elizabeth Proctor.
The first petition got thirty-two signatures and was from Proctors" neighbors. The petition claimed that Proctor was not a wizard and that he worshiped god and was religious and that they, the neighbors had not seen the Proctors doing any strange activity that would prove that they were witches or wizards. The neighbors said, "The foresaid John Proctor may have great reason to justify the divine sovereignty of God under those severe remarks of providence upon his peace and honor under a due reflection upon his life past and so the best of us have season to adore the great pity and indulgence of God's providence that we are not exposed to the utmost shame that the Devil can invent under the permissions of sovereignty though not for that sin forenamed yet..."
The second petition got twenty signatures. This petition said, " We whose names are underwritten having several years known John Proctor and his wife do testify that we never heard or understood that they were ever suspected to be guilty of the crime now charged upon them and several of us being their near neighbors do testify that to our apprehension they lived a Christian life in their family and were ever ready to help such as stood in need of their help."
Although there were a lot of people on Proctor's side, John Proctor still was hung on August 19th, 1692. He was one of the five hanged that day on Gallows hill. Proctor's wife, Elizabeth was spared her life because she was pregnant. Elizabeth and her son, John Proctor III remained in jail until May 16th 1693, when a general release freed all prisoners who remained in jail.
Even though it was thought that innocent people had been wrongly convicted, Elizabeth was still considered guilty. She was considered a "dead woman" and could not take any of her husband's estate. Elizabeth also stood up like her husband, but for the rights of women. She petitioned to the court to give her back her property and her legal rights, but nothing was done about her plea for the next seven years.
In June 1696, Elizabeth filed an appeal to challenge her husband's will. At the time John wrote his will, he had expected that Elizabeth would be executed already and so he had left her nothing. On September 22, 1696 Elizabeth married again to a man named Daniel Richards, moving on from her tragic past.
Even though John Proctor died, he died a fighter, a rebel, and a hero. Nobody knows whether he is or is not a wizard, but we do know he made a difference in the Salem Witch Trials and it cost him his life.