Colonial America

Conspiracies & Paranoia

Dr. Kane Social Science 116 | MWF 12:35-1:30 PM

Office Hrs: M 10:20 - 11:20 & F 1:30 - 3:30 Social Science 60S

Wednesday, October 25

coming up

  • Argumentation paper Oct 27 - this Friday!
  • Friday - come to class prepared to talk about 1. your topic 2. the major disagreement you saw

today's class

  • finishing up discussion of 1741
  • what happened at Salem?


  • Mary Burton - 177, 193, 200-202, 211-212
  • William Kane - 178-182, 193
  • Will (Ward) - 173-175, 188-189 & Othello (DeLancey) - 171-173, 189-192
  • Adam (Murray) - 167-169, 172, 181-182
  • James Alexander - 115-117, 165-166, 180, 200-201
  • John Ury - 177-178, 181-182, 192-197

Mary Burton

  • servant girl who was (eventually) granted freedom
  • lived with Houghson, Horsemanden found her captivating
  • once she started changing her story and hinting at prominent white involvement she was publicly seen as not credible

William Kane

  • first white New Yorker to admit to plot, poor Irishman
  • called out: Jerry Corker, John Coffin, David Fegan, John Ury, Henry Holt
  • Kane introduced two new plots: testimony was viewed as valuable because it began matching other testimonies, but it was originally thought to be false because he was lying


  • belonged to DeLancey
  • had been accused of plotting to burn the Chief Justice's house and murder his family


  • owned by Ward, a watchmaker
  • confessed right before his execution
  • said that Quack had plotted with two Irish soldiers, Kane and Kelly
  • confession brought no reduction of his sentence
  • burned at the stake
  • like many other slaves, his testimony was seen as credible only in terms of names given to the court


  • slave of Joseph Murray, said to be part of the plot to kill his owner's family
  • associated with Murray's slaves Congo, Caesar, Jack, and Dido
  • at one point (others?) didn't believe Adam was part of the plot but Adam confessed

James Alexander

  • writer, attorney, member of NY society, though to be involved in "Spanish Negros" trial as defense
  • questioned Mary Burton, questioned by Kane
  • his credibility is not damaged but Burton's and Kane's credibility is because they challence a well-respected, connected businessman

John Ury

  • priest, instructor, white
  • Hughson brings Ury to the scene
  • Mary Burton identifies him Ury cross examines Burton
  • Delancy was suspicious, considered Ury best suspect
  • Adam & Kane identify Ury on day of arrest, Kane witnessed Ury Christening a child
  • Not viewed as creditable, lied about being a priest

Lepore's conclusions

  • 1734 Zenger trial as crisis of government resolved in 1741
  • fears & confessions influenced by prior slave rebellions
  • conflation of Catholicism & slave rebellion
  • danger of black conspiracy made political parties more acceptable

background to Salem

  • European witch trials peak 1580-1630
  • legal: can spectral evidence be admitted as real evidence?
  • medical: can witchcraft be explained by science?
  • religious: would God allow the Devil to influence the world?
  • secular: does God, the Devil, and the supernatural exist?

the accusations

  • Betty Parris & Abigail Williams' "epileptic fits"
  • spread of affliction to daughters & servants of prominent families
  • first accusations against low status older women
  • later accusations against church members, skeptics, children, ministers

the evidence

  • spectral evidence: apparition of the person afflicting
  • can the Devil use the form of a person who does not consent?
  • witchcake: can the Devil help against the Devil?
  • touch test: venom of affliction returns to the body of the witch

the punishments

  • hanging: crime against social order
  • pressing: cheating justice by refusing to plea
  • breaking: lingering example to others
  • burning: treason against God or King