“Such Men are Dangerous is that rare book—a work of meticulous scholarship that is also a passionate indictment of American self-righteousness and intolerance. Frances Hill's point-by-point comparison of 17th-century Massachusetts and 21st-century Washington, DC, is chilling and thought-provoking. The witch-hunters are not only thriving—they are in power.”
—Mark Pendergrast, author of Mirror, Mirror and Victims of Memory
Whatever we may think of our leaders today, most Americans would agree that they are, at the very least, more enlightened than the witch-hunting Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But are they? Is it possible that people like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and even George W. Bush are just the modern-day equivalents of Cotton Mather, John Hathorne, and William Phips? Frances Hill thinks so. And she hopes that remembering the past may help us to avoid repeating it.
This book compares the men behind the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 to the Bush II Administration. The comparisons are distressingly close.
Massachusetts of the 1690s was a very rigid sort of place. Those in power were ideologues who believed that their version of Calvinism was the only way and the only truth. Everyone who came to Massachusetts was required by law to attend Puritan services. Belonging to any other church was forbidden, on pain of banishment or hanging. All dissent was equated to bonding with the devil. The Puritans believed you were "either with us or against us." Since Massachusetts thought itself a place where anyone could find work, poverty was considered a sign of general immorality and probable damnation.
America in 2004 is a place where those on the bottom are blamed instead of helped. Prisons are full of victims of poverty, and each year scores of Americans are legally executed. It stems from a point of view of self-seeking masquerading as righteousness, without regard for social justice. Selfishness is a virtue. Those who can't make it economically are wicked and contemptible. Today's leaders are as inhumane and self-righteous as those of 300 years ago
Paul Wolfowitz and Minister Cotton Mather tried to emulate their famous fathers. They both also see only what they want to see, and are slippery and self-serving in argument. Deputy Governor William Stoughton and Donald Rumsfeld both hold rigid ideological views, lack humanity and mercy, and are war mongers and hypocrites. Stoughton and Dick Cheney are willing to bend their view of the world to accommodate their pursuit of wealth and power. Magistrate John Hathorne and Richard perle were not part of their respective elites, but they were the first to push their respective agendas. Governor William Phips and George Bush were intellectually lacking, but they did have a talent for forming alliances and cultivating people. They also had very foul mouths and furious tempers, and owed everything to family connections.
It's disheartening to know that Americans have evolved so little in 300 years. This is quite an eye-opener of a book. An interest in Massachusetts of the 1690s would be a big help, but this is still fascinating and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
—Midwest Book Review
"Author Frances Hill, who has written three previous books on the Salem witch trials, presents a peculiar thesis that at first blush seems outrageous: The times we are living in, as a nation, closely parallel-perhaps even mirror-the tenor, politics, hysteria, and overall cultural milieu of Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1692, the era of the witch trials…Oddly, Hill is quite convincing about all of this. Her writing is breathlessly sharp and incisive, and her research is thorough, impeccable, and amply footnoted. The book reads like a thriller and stands as a walloping indictment of a government run amok, with far-reaching and bone-chilling implications for our future."
M.Polonsky, Fearless Reviews
"Such Men are Dangerous is that rare book—a work of meticulous scholarship that is also a passionate indictment of American self-righteousness and intolerance. Frances Hill's point-by-point comparison of 17th-century Massachusetts and 21st-century Washington, DC, is chilling and thought-provoking. The witch-hunters are not only thriving—they are in power."
—Mark Pendergrast, author of Mirror, Mirror
"In the flood of political nonfiction inspired by the Bush administration, Hill dares to get past complaining, actually making an intelligent case for learning from history."
—Eric Robbins of Apple Valley Books, Winthrop, ME in Bookselling This Week
"Frances Hill, in her book Such Men Are Dangerous, has drawn arresting parallels between the witchhunting pathology of Calvinism and of US neo-conservative politicians."
—The Independent (London)
"In her chapters, Hill plays off the 1692 fanatics with those in 2004. Each section is remarkably lucid and clear. . . . Her analysis of the witch trials is authoritative and perceptive. . . . The "spectral evidence" of Mather's day becomes the rumor and intelligence-gathering of the present day. The witches in prison suggest the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. Hysteria drives all, and fear is the fuel these politicians thrive on. The real story here . . . is the American penchant of witch hunts in general, the demagogic rush to skewer scapegoats, rouse the body politic, and launch crusades against various axes of evil."
—The Providence Journal
"Among the other inspired first-timers [in publishing political books this year] is Vermont's Upper Access. In addition to its [other] titles, the press will publish historian Frances Hill's Such Men Are Dangerous: The Fanatics of 1692 and 2004 (Mar., $22.95), which examines the similarities between Puritan ideologues and today's neo-conservatives."
"Hill posits that America at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with its poverty, lack of health care, overflowing prisons, and random executions, is a place of great savagery, comparable to Massachusetts at the end of the seventeenth century. According to Hill, the people running the country in 2004 are as self-righteous and inhumane as the Puritan leaders of 1692. That will be welcome reading to [at least] a segment of the American public.”