CHEERS to the return of historic Salem Witch Trials documents to the care of the state.
The documents – 527 of them – had been in the safekeeping of the Peabody Essex Museum and its predecessor, the Essex Institute, since 1980. The state’s archive storage system at the time was something of a mess.
The collection includes declarations, arrest warrants, summonses, as well as a death warrant. They are an important link to the trials and hysteria of 1692, when more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft, and more than 20 lost their lives.
It was a dark chapter in our collective history, and the documents deserve to be held in a public space, while also recognizing the outstanding care with which they were handled by the PEM. And there’s no disputing their importance.
“It is through the close study of authentic materials that we are able to humanize and more deeply understand the experience of the 25 men, women and children who lost their lives during the Salem Witch Trials,” said Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, the museum’s executive director and CEO.
The documents will be well cared for in the state’s new archives, which boast state-of-the-art climate-control systems with backup generators. It’s a setup also used to keep some of the nation’s founding documents in Washington, D.C.
“It’s really an amazing piece of history and it’s been an honor and privilege to have had them here,” said Dan Lipcan, the museum’s library director.
JEERS to the Massachusetts House of Representatives – especially House Speaker Ron Mariano – and its ham-handed fumbling of two close elections.
Democrat Margaret Scarsdale of Pepperell was just sworn in as representative for the 1st Middlesex district, more than two months after defeating Republican Andrew Shepherd and several weeks after a recount – certified by the Governor’s Council – confirmed the results.
Meanwhile, Kristin Kassner has to keep waiting. Kassner, of Hamilton, was declared the winner by a single vote of the 2nd Essex district race. Kassner had trailed Georgetown Republican Lenny Mirra by 10 votes before the recount. Again, the recount was certified by the Governor’s Council and legal challenges from Mirra were turned down.
By all accounts, Kassner and Scarsdale should have been sworn in with their colleagues Jan. 4. But Mariano chose to wade into the process with a special committee to investigate the process, casting doubt on the results after other elected officials – the Governor’s Council – and the courts decided they should stand.
It’s a bad look at a time when the nation is grappling with the false notion that our elections are rife with fraud.
And it leaves Kassner no time to meet Friday’s deadline to file legislation for consideration for the upcoming two-year session. Incredibly, Mariano is having Mirra continue to represent the district in the interim, despite having lost a certified election. And there’s no clear timeline for a decision, what that decision could be, or what weight it could bear.
“The process has left us in limbo for two months – far too long,” Bob Watts, chairman of the Georgetown Democratic Town Committee, told reporter Christian M. Wade. “Another week is another week too long.”