The official response to the Peabody Essex Museum’s reluctant admission to the removal of Salem’s historical archives to a storage facility in Rowley was the formation of a “Working Group” by Mayor Kimberley Driscoll and PEM CEO Dan Monroe. In partnership, Ms. Driscoll and Mr. Monroe chose the members of this group, identified as “stakeholders”, from among Salem’s local officials and heritage and tourism organizations. I was wary from the very announcement of this group, because I believe that all of Salem’s residents are “stakeholders”, impacted equally by a short-sighted and disrespectful policy which removed the material heritage of a great city. (I also really, really, really dislike that divisive and disingenuous term). Nevertheless, I knew that there were well-intentioned and thoughtful people in this Working Group, so I hoped for the best. Now it appears that the work of the Group is complete: as the agenda for its third (and presumably last) meeting this week includes the item “Final Statement”, I assume it’s a wrap.
So what has been accomplished? You don’t have to rely on my assessment: it’s all in the public statement issued on behalf of the Working Group on April 10. As a result of these “discussions” (one meeting was a meet-and-greet, the other a tour of the Rowley facility), the PEM has agreed to open Plummer Hall and the Saltstonall Reading Room of the former Phillips Library to the public as a “research facility” stocked with bound editions of the long-running Essex Institute journals the Essex Institute Historical Collections and American Neptune plus terminals that can be used to access “digital information from the Phillips Library”, very few items of which have been digitized! In fact, one of the few things that the PEM has seen fit to digitize is the American Neptune, and the Essex Institute Historical Collections is available right down Essex Street at the Salem Public Library, so this concession (which was actually announced before the formation of the Working Group) is a joke, an insult, and an outrage.
After I heard that the Working Group was concluding its work, just yesterday, the first image that flew in my head was that of Oliver Cromwell marching into Parliament on April 20, 1653 and dissolving the powerless remnant (Rump) that was all that remained of the Long Parliament for which he had waged a revolution, and afterwards overtaken, with the famously paraphrased speech: You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go! (It was likely a far more colorful dismissal ). An ineffectual body, but yet the only semblance of “representative” government, disbanded just like that. I’m sure I’m the only person in the world who could make such a connection: it must be the April dates—and my preparations for my summer graduate course on early modern English history. Or it might be my desire to find refuge in the past when the present is so bleak.
Four very different Cromwells dissolving the Rump Parliament on April 20, 1653: British Museum, 1790; Benjamin West, 1782, Montclair Museum of Art; and Cassell’s Illustrated History of England.
So the leadership of the Peabody Essex Museum remains resolute in their decades-long campaign to bury Salem’s history, successfully (so far) employing strategies of restricted access, the redeployment of resources, and a confusing (and likely very, very costly) renovation, aided very ably by the accommodations of our elected officials. There may be some external pressures from this point on, but I am so very sorry that those in positions of power and influence in historic Salem have chosen not to safeguard, much less fight for, its history.
I find myself these days full of feelings of dissent and resistance but looking for more whimsical ways to express the same, as you can’t be strident all the time. It’s boring, and exhausting. So a flashing reference caught my attention, to a dinner party in Baltimore in February of 1777 attended by two of the most strident people in history: John and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts. The next day, John noted in his diary [II, 434]: Last evening I supped with my friends, Dr. Rush and Mr. Sargeant, at Mrs. Page’s, over the bridge. The two Colonel Lees, Dr. Wisherspoon, Mr. Adams, Mr. Gerry, Dr. Brownson, made the company. They have a fashion, in this town, of reversing the picture of King George III in such families as have it. One of these topsy-turvy kings was hung up in the room where we supped, and under it were written these lines, by Mr. Throop, as we are told: Behold the man, who had it in his power/ To make a kingdom tremble and adore, Intoxicate with folly. See his head Placed where the meanest of his subjects tread. Like Lucier, the giddy tyrant fell; He lifts his heal to Heaven, but points his head to Hell.
King George III by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, National Trust, Uppark
Well I like this “fashion”, and can certainly think of one or two people I’d like to turn upside down at the moment. I’m sure we all can. Apologies to my British friends: I couldn’t find an image of a Baltimore dining room with a topsy-turvy portrait of King George, so I simply turned him upside down myself. But we must note that like so many of their revolutionary sensibilities, the new Americans were simply following a British example: in this case the “world turned upside down” sentiments of the English Revolution in the previous century. The leader of that revolution, Oliver Cromwell, was himself turned upside down when an Indian monarchist of the Victorian era purchased his portrait and displayed it topsy-turvy in a delayed protest of the regicide: the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery followed suit when it acquired the portrait, and Tate Britain when it exhibited it. Another topsy-turvy ruler is Philip V of Spain, whose portrait is traditionally upended in the Almodí Museum in Xàtiva, in retribution for the burning of the city at the close of the War of the Spanish Succession.
Robert Walker (in the style of), Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
The first Bourbon King of Spain, Philip V.
Later in the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth, the upside-down, topsy-turvy motif was mostly used in a satirical or critical way, the point having been established: “it is monstrous that the feet should direct the head” (in the words of my favorite queen, Elizabeth I, to make up for turning George III upside down) or something’s not right here. There was also a two-sides-of-the-same-coin message in some topsy-turvy images, as well as a general sense of we’re being tossed about/PLAYED. That’s how I feel.
Topsy-turvy “Talons” Kaiser Wilhelm I and Emperor Napoleon III, 1878, Victoria & Albert Museum; the Topsy-turvy Economy, 1978, Jean Michel Folon, Smithsonian/National Portrait Gallery.
On this day in 1649 King Charles Iof England was executed in London, marking the first procedural regicide in European history. After two civil wars, intrigues with both the Scots and the Irish, and numerous protestations that he was above the law, Parliament put the King on trial, found him guilty, and executed him. This was obviously a momentous moment in British and world history, but it had a local angle as well: eleven years after the execution of Charles, with his son newly enthroned, Hugh Peter, the fourth pastor of the First Church of Salem from 1636-41, was himself executed after his identification as one of the royal regicides.
Hugh Peter (s)
How did a colonial pastor find himself on a London scaffold? The answer lies in his passionate Puritanism and his close personal connection to Oliver Cromwell, victorious leader of the Parliamentary army in the Civil Wars and then ruler of all England in the “interregnum” between the death of Charles and the restoration of his son Charles II. Peter traveled to England in 1641 as an agent of the colonial government and remained, serving successively as a very vocal chaplain to the army and to Cromwell himself. After the defeat and death of Charles, a collective cult of remorse developed in England, and Cromwell’s public perception changed from that of liberator to tyrant. With the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, anyone who had any direct association with Cromwell was in danger, and so Peter fell into the net.
THE CULT OF CHARLES I: The King’s speech before dying, Royalist memorial jewelry (pendant with Charles I and Charles II and ring), and anonymous late seventeenth-century portrait of Charles as divine-right ruler ( National Portrait Gallery, London).
THE DEMONIZATION OF OLIVER CROMWELL: two 1660 pamphlets from the British Library, demonizing Cromwell and his Cabinet by association. At right, Hugh Peter (L) has his back to us.
I’m not sure why Hugh Peter remained in England after the Restoration. He had certainly made his mark in New England, preaching, acquiring lots of land, forging strong political connections, and participating in the trial of Anne Hutchinson—why not return? Perhaps he thought he was safe, as he was not one of the 59 signers of Charles’ death warrant. Perhaps he simply didn’t have time to leave, as his arrest, imprisonment and trial followed very shortly after the accession of Charles II. He was vigorously attacked in the pamphlet press at the time (one pamphleteer even accused him of being Charles I’s masked executioner, as he was not present at the proceedings) and his prosecution was popular. While in prison, he was visited every day by his Salem-born daughter Elizabeth, to whom he dedicated his final work, A Dying Fathers Last Legacy to an Onely Child, which was published shortly after his death(by hanging, drawing and quartering) on 16 October 1660.