- November 5
) was a judge for the 1692 Salem witch trials
in early colonial America
Thomas Danforth was born in Framlingham, Suffolk, England as the eldest son of Nicholas Danforth (1589-1639) and Elizabeth Symmes (1596-1629). Danforth immigrated with his father, brothers Samuel Danforth and Jonathan, and sisters Anna, Elizabeth, and Lydia to New England in 1634 on the ship the Griffin; Anne Hutchinson was also aboard ship. The family along with the 200 or so other passengers aboard left to escape prosecution for their Puritan beliefs. (Archbishop William Laud had begun his persecution of Puritans in England in 1633).
Personal life and careers
Soon after his arrival in the colonies he acquired great influence in the management of public affairs. Bancroft speaks of him as the probable author of the report on natural and chartered rights, made by Simon Bradstreet
, Increase Mather
, John Norton
, and others in 1661. In 1643 Danforth was admitted a freeman of New England. He was named as Treasurer
in the Harvard Charter of 1650. From 1659 to 1678 he was an assistant under the Massachusetts
government, becoming Deputy Governor in 1679. In the latter year he was elected president in the Province of Maine
, then independent of Massachusetts which he served from 1680 to 1686, then again 1689 to 1692. He opened his court at York
, and granted several parcels of land. He held the offices of Deputy Governor and president until the arrival of Sir Edmund Andros
in 1688. Meanwhile he had also been made a judge of the superior court, and in 1681, with Daniel Gookin
, Elisha Cooke and others, opposed the acts of trade and asserted the charter rights of the country.
Thomas Danforth married Mary Withington in 1644. The couple had 12 children, however only 2 daughters survived to adulthood; 6 of their children died before the age of 2.
Danforth owned about outside of Boston known as Danforth's Farm. Danforth's Farm would later become the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, which Danforth named after his home town in England.
Fictional character in The Crucible
As a character in the play The Crucible
by Arthur Miller
, and the 1996 movie
by the same name directed by Nicholas Hytner
, he is portrayed as a pretentious and selfish judge, who is extremely loyal to the rules and regulations of his position. Public opinion and his reputation are most important to him. He seems to secretly know that the witch trials are all a lie yet will not release any of the prisoners because he is afraid of being viewed as weak and having his theocratic
reputation undermined. When John Proctor
, an accused, defies his authority at the end of the play by refusing to lie and sign a public confession saying that he is a witch and accusing others, he is mercilessly sentenced to hang by Danforth immediately along with the other prisoners including Rebecca Nurse