William Stoughton

William Stoughton

Death 7 Jul 1701 (aged 69)
Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Memorial ID 19534328 · View Source
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Colonial figure. Salem Witch trial jurist, preacher. He held a degree in theology from Harvard College, and a masters from Oxford. He was preacher of the church in Dorchester (now part of Boston) until the Massachusetts Bay colony's charter was revoked, when he entered public life as deputy president of the colony's temporary government from 1674 to 1676 and from 1680 to 1686. In this capacity he presided over the colony's courts. From 1676 to 1679 he was also the agent for the Massachusetts Bay colony at the court of Charles II in England. During the Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692, despite any formal legal training, he was named by Governor William Phips as chief justice of the court of oyer and terminer, specifically appointed to hear evidence against those accused of witchcraft. Stoughton ignored or deliberately disregarded established legal protections for the accused, including depriving them of counsel, allowing closed conversations between accusers and judges, and allowing spectators to interrupt the proceedings with personal remarks and hearsay against the accused. He is most notorious, however, for allowing so-called spectral evidence, and for turning judges into interrogators and de facto prosecutors, so that guilty findings were largely a forgone conclusion. This gave those accused no options but to admit to crimes they hadn't committed to save their lives, or go to the gallows pleading their innocence. After the hysteria was officially repudiated, Stoughton refused to apologize for his role in the tragedy, unlike his colleague Samuel Sewall. Nor did his role in the notorious affair hurt him civically. In 1694, he became acting governor of the colony and died a prosperous landholder in Dorchester.

Bio by: Bob on Gallows Hill

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob on Gallows Hill
  • Added: 26 May 2007
  • Find a Grave Memorial 19534328
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Stoughton (30 Sep 1631–7 Jul 1701), Find a Grave Memorial no. 19534328, citing Dorchester North Burying Ground, Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .