Jacket Flaps

ISBN 0-9647362-2-5


The 1696 Acquittal of Thomas Maule
of Salem, Massachusetts,
on Charges of Seditious Libel
and Its Impact on The Development
of First Amendment Freedoms


Three hundred years ago, an outspoken Quaker
living in Salem, Massachusetts, criticized the self-
selected Church-State elite for its religious
persecution and intolerance, its attempt to impose
its views on the citizenry, its hypocrisy, and its
mismanagement of the witchcraft crisis. When
arrested and tried for seditious libel, he persuaded
a Puritan jury to disregard the Court's direction to
convict. In acquitting Thomas Maule of the
charges, the jury agreed with his principal
argument: The court had no right to suppress his
expression of religious belief.
     Thomas Maule's triumph over a coercive
theocracy was a significant event in the march
toward the adoption of the First Amendment.
Though this episode in the continuing battle
between lovers of liberty and those who fear
unfettered expression happened long ago, the
underlying tension between governmental control
and individual liberties continues unabated in the
late twentieth century. Book bannings, speech
codes, burnings of newspaper print runs, proposed
content restrictions on telecommunications
carriers, and other attempts to control and restrict
the words uttered by American citizens
demonstrate that modern repressionists need to
learn the same lesson Thomas Maule taught to the
Puritan elite: Advocating one's views through
carefully reasoned expression rather than coercive
imposition is the morally correct choice.

      (continued on back flap)
(continued from front flap)

     This book is an analytical biography not
only of Thomas Maule, the Salem Quaker, but also
of his legal encounter with the Puritan elite of
Massachusetts. In breaking with those who praise
Thomas Maule's acquittal as the "first victory for
freedom of the press in America," James Edward
Maule concludes that the acquittal contributed to
the idea that there were at least some matters on
which a person could comment without being
punished by the government and that the trial not
only influenced the development of First
Amendment rights in general, but also contributed
significantly to the establishment of the freedom of
religious expression.

     Reproduced in this volume, and available
for the first time in other than microform, are
Thomas Maule's four extant writings: the
offending treatise, Truth Held Forth and
Maintained, his sequel, New England Pesecutors
(sic) Mauled With their own Weapons, and two
letters, An Abstract of the Letter to Cotton Mather
and For the Service of Truth. Also reproduced is
Rev. Joseph R. Maule's previously unpublished
M.A. thesis, Basis for the Maule Characterizations
in the Romance, House of the Seven Gables.

James Edward Maule is a law professor at
Villanova University School of Law. The author of
The History and Genealogy of the Maule Family,
he has also written numerous tax and other books,
and is a recipient of the 1993 BNA Tax
Management Distinguished Author award.

Cover art   1995 Denis Andruchovici

A JEMBook Publishing Company Book
Published by James Edward Maule

Back Cover

An Outspoken Quaker Challenges the Puritan Church-State:
"[F]or it were better that one hundred Witches should live, than that one person be put to death for a Witch, which is not a Witch; . . . "

"Therefore People ought well to consider whom they establish to rule for their outward Peace among themselves; for where men of Persecuting Principles are appointed by the People to rule, where they once gain Power by the consent of the People, to persecute, their unrighteous Work draws the judgments of God upon the Inhabitants of the whole place where they rule; . . . "

With Good Reason:
"Maule understood the danger of creating a state in which a theology or ideology monopolizes expression and behavior. He objected not to the fact that the Puritans considered themselves the only religion privy to the will of God, for he himself exhibited an attitude of superiority on the same matter, but to the arrogance of a theocracy that imposed its interpretation of God's will on everyone within its reach."

Arrested and Tried, He Persuades the Jury to Ignore the Court's Instruction to Convict:
"Maule's jury saw the Quaker writer as a symbol of a popular cause. Maule had correctly concluded that the witchcraft proceedings provided the best, and most impressionable, example of the point he was making, but it would be shortchanging both him and the jury to conclude that its decision was limited to an expression of censure with respect to the Salem witchcraft proceedings. The excessive anger of the judges at both Maule and the verdict exposed their appreciation for how the foundational weaknesses of their City on the Hill had been laid bare. The dangers of church interference in secular matters and civil interference in ecclesiastical issues had been pointedly illustrated."

With Far-Reaching Consequences:
"If the authorities had ever considered the threat of criminal seditious libel convictions to be the ultimate deterrence of openly expressed and published critical opinion, they now had to reconsider their strategy for repression. Maule had shown that the limits on governmental repression of opinions were more extensive than the Puritans had imagined."

ISBN 0-9647362-2-5

Last Revised November 15, 1995