Much like its subject, this book has a long and circuitous
history. More than a decade in development, it began with a simple
suggestion that I reprint the works of Thomas Maule, a prominent
Quaker in Salem, Massachusetts, during the late seventeenth and
early eighteenth centuries. It evolved into a biography, history,
and interpretation of legal proceedings that occurred three
centuries ago.
     The idea of republishing Maule's writings emerged shortly
after the publication of The History and Genealogy of the Maules
in 1981. The fairly brief and incomplete account in that book of
his trial and acquittal generated interest among some of his
descendants for an opportunity to read his materials, which until
now have been available only on microfiche in certain libraries.
     The assertion by Matt Bushnell Jones that Maule, acting as
his own attorney, "won the first victory for freedom of the press
in America"1 suggested that any republication of Maule's books be
accompanied by a commentary explaining the significance of what
he had done. Research into the matter not only demonstrated the
inaccuracy of Jones' opinion but also questions about Maule's
origins and motives, the complexity of his personality, the
relevance of the previous century's theological developments,
the dispute over his position during the witchcraft trials, the
turbidity of his writing style, the unusual aspects of his
seditious libel trial, the intricacy of the legal issues, and the
controversy over the impact of his acquittal and its relationship
to the development of the First Amendment freedoms. What had
started as a simple republication had grown into a full-fledged
     One of the discoveries made during the research undertaken for
this book was the appropriateness of Harold Nelson's complaint that
not all the seditious libel cases have been unearthed, that the
coverage not only is chronological or broad and loose but also does
not permit analysis of seditious libel and other instruments of
press control in their proper perspectives.2 Hopefully, this book
will not only cast a brighter light on one of those cases but also
help illuminate some of the surrounding historical landscape. That
it does little to resolve Nelson's concerns is merely an indication
of its narrow scope.
     In the century following A. C. Goodell's 1861 assertion to the
Essex Institute that Thomas Maule "has never had a biographer,"3
Jones published his article about Maule, Peleg Chandler used much
of Maule's own account when reporting Maule's case in his American
Criminal Trials,4 and two very brief outlines of his life
appeared.5 Nonetheless, he has remained a "little known but important
figure."6 James Phillips unintentionally explains why this may be so:

     Thomas Maule, the Quaker, perhaps deserves mention here
     also, though not with the emphasis which some modern
     historians consider it necessary to give those who were
     regarded chiefly as trouble-makers by their own

That there could be a debate about the need for a complete
biography of Thomas Maule of Salem is fitting, given all the other
arguments about this controversial character. Needless to say, the
existence of this book manifests my belief that Thomas Maule should
no longer be "little known but important" but "well known and

                                James Edward Maule
                                Professor of Law
                                Villanova University School of Law
                                Villanova, Pennsylvania


1. Matt Bushnell Jones, Thomas Maule, The Salem Quaker, and Free Speech in Massachusetts Bay, with Bibliographical Notes, 72 Essex Inst. Hist. Coll. 1, 25 (1936).
2. Harold L. Nelson, Seditious Libel in Colonial America, 3 Amer. J. Legal Hist. 160, 161 (1959).
3. A.C. Goodell, An Account of Thomas Maule, 3 Essex Inst. Hist. Coll. 238, 253 (1861).
4. 1 Peleg W. Chandler, American Criminal Trials (Boston, Little Brown 1841).
5. [Richard L. Nicholson], Genealogy of the Maule Family With A Brief Account of Thomas Maule of Salem, Massachusetts (Phila., Pa. n.p. 1868); Lawrence W. Murphy, Thomas Maule: The Neglected Quaker, 29 Journalism Q. 171 (1952).
6. Murphy at 171 (Editor's Note).
7. James Duncan Phillips, Salem in the Eighteenth Century 20 (1969).

Last Revised February 29, 1996