Acting Royal Governor of Massachusetts: 1694-1699, 1700-1701
William Stoughton is perhaps best remembered as the first Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. While serving as Lieutenant Governor, Stoughton was named Chief Justice of the new court in order that he presides over the remaining cases of the Salem Witch trials. Judge Stoughton had no legal training and served both as judge and prosecutor. Accusations of witchcraft spiraled out of control, and eventually Governor William Phips had to deny the enforcement of the Court's orders.
Yet, William Stoughton's political life was remarkably unaffected by his connection to the Salem Witch Trials. When Governor Phips was recalled to London, Stoughton ascended to the Governor's office, while still serving as Chief Justice. He was an adroit politician, who managed the factions of the Colony's politics using the power of his governorship and judgeship and appointments to both his council and to lower courts.
Stoughton died while serving as Acting Governor, following the death Governor Richard Coote.