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DEMONOLOGY, as a general term, may be employed, for convenience, to include a whole class of ideas — which, under different names and a vast variety of conceptions, have come through all ages, and prevailed among all races of mankind — relating to the supposed agency of supernatural, invisible, and spiritual beings in terrestrial affairs. As necessarily applicable to evil spirits, particularly to the arch-enemy and supreme adversary of God and man under the name of Satan or the Devil, the term does not appear to have been used in ancient times. Professed communications with supernatural beings were not originally stamped with a diabolical character, but, like some alleged to be had in our day, were regarded as innocent, and even creditable. Men sought to hold intercourse with spirits belonging to the unseen world, as some persons do now; assuming that they were worthy of confidence, and that responses from Figure Uphv1371
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them were valuable and desirable. This was the case under the reign of classical mythology, and of heathen superstition in general. Those individuals who were supposed to be conversant with demons were looked upon by the credulous multitude as a highly privileged class; and they arrogated the credit of being raised to a higher sphere of knowledge than the rest of mankind.

It is one of the most remarkable peculiarities of the Hebrew polity, that it denounced such pretended communications as criminal, and subjected the practice to the highest penalties. It was assumed to be dangerous; the welfare of individuals and of society requiring that such pretensions and practices should be abandoned. The observation and experience of mankind have justified this view. In the first ages of Christianity, it was believed that the Divine Being alone was to be sought in prayer for light and guidance by the human soul. Gradually, as the dark ages began to settle upon Christendom, the doctrine of the Devil as the head and ruler of a world of demons, and as able to hold communications with mortals, to interfere in their affairs, and to exercise more or less control over the laws and phenomena of nature, began to become prevalent. It was believed that human beings could enter into alliance with the Prince of the power of the air; become his confederates; join in a league with him and wicked spirits subordinate to him, in undermining the Gospel and overthrowing the Church; and conspire and co-operate Figure Uphv1372
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in rebellion against God. This, of course, was regarded as the most flagrant of crimes, and constituted the real character of the sin denominated “witchcraft.”

As the fullest, most memorable, and, by the notice it has ever since attracted throughout the world, the pre-eminent instance and demonstration of this supposed iniquity was in the crisis that took place in Salem Village in 1692, it justly claims a place in history. The community in which it occurred has been fully described, in its moral, social, and intellectual condition, so far as the materials I have been enabled to obtain have rendered possible. It has, I believe, been made to appear, that, in their training, experience, and traits of character, they were well adapted to give full effect to any excitement, or earnest action of any kind, that could be got up among them, — a people of great energy, courage, and resolution, well prepared to carry out to its natural and legitimate results any movement, and follow established convictions fearlessly to logical conclusions. The experiment of bringing supernaturalism to operate in human affairs, to become a ground of action in society, and to interfere in the relations of life and the dealings of men with each other, was as well tried upon this people as it ever could or can be anywhere.

All that remains to be brought to view, before entering upon the details of the narrative, is to give a just and adequate idea of the form and shape in which the general subject of supernaturalism, in its aspect as demonology, lay in the minds of men here at that Figure Uphv1373
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time. To do this, I must give a sketch, as condensed and brief as I can make it, of the formation and progress of opinions and notions touching the subject, until they reached their full demonstration and final explosion, in this neighborhood, at Salem Village, near the close of the seventeenth century.

No person who looks around him on the scene in which he is placed, reflects upon the infinite wonders of creation, and meditates upon the equal wonders of his own mind, can be at a loss respecting the sources and causes of superstition. Let him transport himself back to the condition of a primitive and unlettered people, before whom the world appears in all its original and sublime mystery. Science has not lifted to their eyes the curtain behind which the secret operations of nature are carried on. They observe the tides rise and fall, but know not the attractive law that regulates their movements; they contemplate the procession of the seasons, without any conception of the principles and causes that determine and produce their changes; they witness the storm as it rises in its wrath; they listen with awe to the thunder-peal, and gaze with startling terror upon the lightning as it flashes from within the bosom of the black cloud, and are utterly ignorant to what power to attribute the dreadful phenomena; they look upward to the face of the sky, and see the myriad starry hosts that glitter there, and all is to them a mighty maze of dazzling confusion. It is for their fancy to explain, interpret, and fill up the brilliant and magnificent scene.

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The imagination was the faculty the exercise of which was chiefly called for in such a state as this. Before science had traced the operations and unfolded the secrets of nature, man was living in a world full of marvel and mystery. His curiosity was attracted to every object within the reach of his senses; and, in the absence of knowledge, it was imagination alone that could make answer to its inquiries. It is natural to suppose that he would be led to attribute all the movements and operations of the external world which did not appear to be occasioned by the exercise of his own power, or the power of any other animal, to the agency of supernatural beings. We may also conclude, that his belief would not be likely to fix upon the notion of a single overruling Being. Although revelation and science have disclosed to us a beautiful and entire unity and harmony in the creation, the phenomena of the external world would probably impress the unenlightened and unphilosophic observer with the belief that there was a diversity in the powers which caused them. He would imagine the agency of a being of an amiable and beneficent spirit in the bright sunshine, the fresh breeze, and the mild moonlight; and his fancy would suggest to his fears, that a dark, severe, and terrible being was in the ascendant during a day overshadowed by frowning clouds, or a night black with the storm and torn by the tempest.

By the aid of such reflections as these, we are easily conducted to a satisfactory and sufficient explanation of the origin of the mythology and fabulous superstitions Figure Uphv1375
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of all ancient and primitive nations. From this the progress is plain, obvious, and immediate to the pretensions of magicians, diviners, sorcerers, conjurers, oracles, soothsayers, augurs, and the whole catalogue of those persons who professed to hold intercourse with higher and spiritual powers. There are several classes into which they may be divided.

There were those who, to acquire an influence over the people, pretended to possess the confidence, and enjoy the friendship and counsel, of some one or more deities. Such was Numa, the early lawgiver of the Roman State. In order to induce the people to adopt the regulations, institutions, and religious rites he proposed, he made them believe that he had access to a divinity, and received all his plans and ideas as a communication from on high.

Persons who, in consequence of their superior acquirements, were enabled to excel others in any pursuit, or who could foresee and avail themselves of events in the natural world, were liable, without any intention to deceive, to be classed under some of these denominations. For instance, a Roman farmer, Furius Cresinus, surpassed all his neighbors in the skill and success with which he managed his agricultural affairs. He was accordingly accused of using magic arts in the operations of his farm. So far were his neighbors carried by their feelings of envy and jealousy, that they explained the fact of his being able to derive more produce from a small lot of land than they could from large ones, by charging him Figure Uphv1376
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with attracting and drawing off the productions of their fields into his own by the employment of certain mysterious charms. For his defence, as we are informed by Pliny, he produced his strong and well ploughs, his light and convenient spades, and his sun-burnt daughters, and pointing to them exclaimed: “Here are my charms; this is my magic; these only are the witchcraft I have used.” Zoroaster, the great philosopher and astronomer of the ancient East, was charged with divination and magic, merely, it is probable, because he possessed uncommon acquirements.

There were persons who had acquired an extraordinary amount of natural knowledge, and, for the sake of being regarded with wonder and awe by the people, pretended to obtain their superior endowments from supernatural beings. They affected the name and character of sorcerers, diviners, and soothsayers. It is easy to conceive of the early existence and the great influence of such impostors. Patient observation, and often mere accident, would suggest discoveries of the existence and operation of natural causes in producing phenomena before ascribed to superhuman agency. The knowledge thus acquired would be cautiously concealed, and cunningly used, to create astonishment and win admiration. Its fortunate possessors were enabled to secure the confidence, obedience, and even reverence, of the benighted and deceived people.

Every one, indeed, who could discover a secret of Figure Uphv1377
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nature, and keep it secret, was able to impose himself on the world as being allied with supernatural powers. Hence arose the whole host of diviners, astrologers, soothsayers, and oracles. After having once acquired possession of the credulous faith of the people, they could impose upon them almost without limit.

Those who pretended to hold this kind of intercourse with divinity became, as a natural consequence, the priests of the nation, constituted a distinct and regular profession, and perpetuated their body by the admission of new members, to whom they explained their arts, and communicated their knowledge. While they were continually discovering and applying the secret principles and laws of nature, and the people were kept in utter ignorance and darkness, it is no wonder that they reached a great and unparalleled degree of power over the mass of the population. In this manner we account for the origin, and trace the history, of the Chaldean priests in Assyria, the Bramins of India, the Magi of Persia, the Oracles of Greece, the Augurs of Italy, the Druids of Britain, and the Pow-wows, Prophets, or “Medicins,” as they sometimes called them, among our Indians.

It is probable that the witches mentioned in the Scriptures were of this description. Neither in sacred nor profane ancient history do we find what was understood in the days of our ancestors by witchcraft, which meant a formal and actual compact with the great Prince of evil beings. The sorcery of antiquity Figure Uphv1378
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consisted in pretending to possess certain mysterious charms, and to do by their means, or by the co of superhuman spirits, without any reference to their character as evil or good beings, what transcends the action of mere natural powers.

The witch of Endor, for instance, was a conjurer and necromancer, rather than a witch. By referring to the 28th chapter of 1 Samuel, where the interview between her and Saul is related, you will find no ground for the opinion that the being from whom she pretended to receive her mysterious power was Satan. Saul, as the ruler of a people who were under the special government, and enjoyed the peculiar protection of the true God, had forbidden, under the sanction of the highest penalties, the exercise of the arts of divination and sorcery within his jurisdiction. Some time after this, the unfortunate monarch was overtaken by trouble and distress. His enemies had risen up, and were gathered in fearful strength around him. His “heart greatly trembled,” a dark and gloomy presentiment came over his spirit, and his bosom was convulsed by an agony of solicitude. He turned toward his God for light and strength. He applied for relief to the priests of the altar, and to the prophets of the Most High; but his prayers were unanswered, and his efforts vain. In his sorrow and apprehension, he appealed to a woman who was reputed to have supernatural powers, and to hold communion with spiritual beings; thus violating his own law, and departing from duty and fidelity to his God. He Figure Uphv1379
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begged her to recall Samuel to life, that he might be comforted and instructed by him. She pretended to comply with his request; but, before she could commence her usual mysterious operations, Samuel arose! and the forlorn, wretched, and heart-broken king listened to his tremendous doom, as it was uttered by the spirit of the departed prophet.

I have alluded particularly to the witch of Endor, because she will serve to illustrate the sorcery or divination of antiquity. She was probably possessed of some secret knowledge of natural properties; was skilful in the use of her arts and pretended charms; had, perhaps, the peculiar powers of a ventriloquist; and, by successful imposture, had acquired an uncommon degree of notoriety, and the entire confidence of the public. She professed to be in alliance with supernatural beings, and, by their assistance, to raise the dead.

This passage has afforded a topic for a great deal of discussion among interpreters. It seems to me, on the face of the narrative, to suggest the following view of the transaction: The woman was an impostor. When she summoned the spirit of Samuel, instead of the results of her magic lantern, or of whatever contrivances she may have had, by the immediate agency of the Almighty the spirit of Samuel really rose, to the consternation and horror of the pretended necromancer. The writer appears to have indicated this as the proper interpretation of the scene, by saying, “that, when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud Figure Uphv1380
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voice;” thus giving evidence of alarm and surprise totally different from the deportment of such pretenders on such occasions: they used rather to exhibit joy at the success of their arts, and a proud composure and dignified complacency in the control they were believed to exercise over the spirits that appeared to have obeyed their call. Sir Walter Scott took this view of the transaction. His opinion, it is true, would be considered more important in any other department than that of biblical interpretation: on all questions, however, connected with the spiritual world of fancy and with its history, he must be allowed to speak, if not with the authority, at least with the tone of a master. This wonderful author, in the infinite profusion and variety of his productions, published a volume upon Demonology and Witchcraft: it is, of course, entertaining and instructive to all who are curious to know the capacity and to appreciate the operations of the human imagination.

It will be regarded by intelligent and judicious persons as a circumstance of importance in reference to the view now given of the transaction in which the witch of Endor acts the leading part, that Hugh Farmer, beyond all question the most learned, discreet, and profound writer on such subjects, is inclined to throw the weight of his authority in its favor. His ample and elaborate discussion of the question is to be seen in his work on Miracles, chap. iv. sec. 2.

Among the heathen nations of antiquity, the art of divination consisted, to a great degree, in the magical Figure Uphv1381
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use of mysterious charms. Many plants were considered as possessed of wonderful virtues, and there was scarcely a limit to the supposed power of those persons who knew how to use and apply them skilfully. Virgil, in his eighth eclogue, thus speaks of this species of sorcery: — “These herbs did Mœris give to me.And poisons pluckt at Pontus;For there they grow and multiplieAnd do not so amongst us:With these she made herselfe becomeA wolfe, and hid hir in the wood;She fetcht up souls out of their toome,Removing corne from where it stood.” In the fourth æneid, the lovesick Tyrian queen is thus made to describe the magic which was then believed to be practised: — “Rejoice,” she said: “instructed from above,My lover I shall gain, or lose my love;Nigh rising Atlas, next the falling sunLong tracts of Ethiopian climates run:There a Massylian priestess I have found,Honored for age, for magic arts renowned:The Hesperian temple was her trusted care;'Twas she supplied the wakeful dragon's fare;She, poppy-seeds in honey taught to steep,Reclaimed his rage, and soothed him into sleep;She watched the golden fruit. Her charms unbindThe chains of love, or fix them on the mind;She stops the torrent, leaves the channel dry,Repels the stars, and backward bears the sky.The yawning earth rebellows to her call,Pale ghosts ascend, and mountain ashes fall.”

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Tibullus, in the second elegy of his first book, gives the following account of the powers ascribed to a magician: — “She plucks each star out of his throne,And turneth back the raging waves;With charms she makes the earth to cone,And raiseth souls out of their graves;She burns men's bones as with a fire,And pulleth down the lights of Heaven,And makes it snow at her desireE'en in the midst of summer season.” These views continued to hold undisturbed dominion over the people during a long succession of centuries. As the twilight of the dark ages began to settle upon Christendom, superstition, that night-blooming plant, extended itself rapidly, and in all directions, over the surface of the world. While every thing else drooped and withered, it struck deeper its roots, spread wider its branches, and brought forth more abundantly its fruit. The unnumbered fables of Greek and Roman mythology, the arts of augury and divination, the visions of oriental romance, the fanciful and attenuated theories of the later philosophy, the abstract and spiritual doctrines of Platonism, and all the grosser and wilder conceptions of the northern conquerors of the Roman Empire, became mingled together in the faith of the inhabitants of the European kingdoms. From this multifarious combination, the infinitely diversified popular superstitions of the modern nations have sprung.

We first begin to trace the clear outlines of the doctrine Figure Uphv1383
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of witchcraft not far from the commencement of the Christian era. It presupposes the belief of the Devil. I shall not enter upon the question, whether the Scriptures, properly interpreted, require the belief of the existence of such a being. Directing our attention solely to profane sources of information, we discover the heathen origin of the belief of the existence of the Devil in the ancient systems of oriental philosophy. Early observers of nature in the East were led to the conclusion, that the world was a divided empire, ruled by the alternate or simultaneous energy of two great antagonist principles or beings, one perfectly good, and the other perfectly bad. It was for a long time, and perhaps is at this day, a prevalent faith among Christians, that the Bible teaches a similar doctrine; that it presents, to our adoration and obedience, a being of infinite perfections in the Deity; and to our abhorrence and our fears, a being infinitely wicked, and of great power, in the Devil.

It is obvious, that, when the entire enginery of supernaturalism was organized in adaptation to the idea of the Devil, and demonology became synonymous with diabolism, the credulity and superstition of mankind would give a wide extension to that form of belief. It soon occupied a large space in the theories of religion and the fancies of the people, and got to be a leading element in the life of society. It made its impress on the forms of speech, and many of the phrases to which it gave rise still remain in familiar use. It figured in the rituals of religion, in the paraphernalia of public shows, Figure Uphv1384
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and in fireside tales. It afforded leading characters to the drama in the miracle plays and the moral plays, as they were called, at successive periods. It offered a ready weapon to satire, and also to defamation. Gerbert, a native of France, who was elevated to the pontificate about the close of the tenth century, under the name of Sylvester II., is eulogized by Mosheim as the first great restorer of science and literature. He was a person of an extensive and sublime genius, of wonderful attainments in learning, particularly mathematics, geometry, and arithmetic. He broke the profound sleep of the dark ages, and awakened the torpid intellect of the European nations. His efforts in this direction roused the apprehensions and resentment of the monks; and they circulated, after Gerbert's death, and made the ignorant masses believe the story, that he had obtained his rapid promotion in the Church by the practice of the black art, which he disguised under the show of learning; that he secured the Archbishopric of Ravenna by bribery and corruption; and that, finally, he made a bargain with Satan, promising him his soul after death, on condition that he (Satan) should put forth his great influence over the cardinals in such a manner as would secure his election to the throne of St. Peter. The arrangement was carried into successful operation. Sylvester, the monks averred, consulted the Devil through the medium of a brazen head during his whole reign, and enjoyed his faithful friendship and unwavering patronage. But, when His Holiness came to die, he endeavored to defraud Satan Figure Uphv1385
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of his rightful claim to his soul, by repenting, and acknowledging his sin. This illustrates the way in which the popular idea of the Devil was used to awaken ridicule and gratify malignity.


The natural and ultimate effect of the diffusion of Christianity was to overthrow, or rather to revolutionize, the whole system of incantation and sorcery.

In heathen countries, as in the East at present and with those among us who profess to hold communications with spirits, no reproach or sentiment of disapprobation, as has already been observed, was necessarily connected with the arts of divination; for the supernatural beings with whom intercourse was alleged to be had were not, with a few exceptions, regarded as evil beings. The persons who were thought to be skilful in their use were, on the contrary, held in great esteem, and looked upon with reverence. Magicians and philosophers were convertible and synonymous terms. Learned and scientific men were induced to encourage, and turn to their own advantage, the popular credulity that ascribed their extraordinary skill to their connection with spiritual and divine beings. At length, however, they found themselves placed in a very uncomfortable predicament by the prevalence of the new theology. It was exceedingly difficult to dispel the delusion, and correct the error they had previously found it for their interest to perpetuate in the minds of the community. They could not convince them that their knowledge was acquired from natural sources, or their operations Figure Uphv1386
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conducted solely by the aid of natural causes and laws. The people would not surrender the belief, that the results of scientific experiments, and the accuracy of predictions of physical phenomena, were secured by the assistance of supernatural beings.

As the doctrines of the gospel gradually undermined the popular belief in other spiritual beings inferior to the Deity, and were at the same time supposed to teach the existence and extensively diffused energy of an almost infinite and omnipotent agent of evil, it was exceedingly natural, nay, it necessarily followed, that the credulity and superstition which had led to the supposition of an alliance between philosophers and spiritual beings should settle down into a full conviction that the Devil was the being with whom they were thus confederated. The consequence was that they were charged with witchcraft, and many fell victims to the general prejudice and abhorrence occasioned by the imputation. The influence of this state of things was soon seen: it was one of the most effectual causes of the rapid diffusion of knowledge in modern times. Philosophers and men of science became as anxious to explain and publish their discoveries as they had been in former ages to conceal and cover them with mystery. The following instances will be sufficient to illustrate the correctness of these views.

In the thirteenth century, Roger Bacon was charged with witchcraft on account of his discoveries in optics, chemistry, and astronomy; and, although he did what Figure Uphv1387
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he could to circulate and explain his own acquirements, he could not escape a papal denunciation, and two long and painful imprisonments. In 1305, Arnold de Villa Nova, a learned physician and philosopher, was burned at Padua, by order of inquisitors, on the charge of witchcraft. He was eighty years of age. Ten years afterwards, Peter Apon, also of Padua, who had made extraordinary progress in knowledge, was accused of the same crime, and condemned to death, but expired previous to the time appointed for his execution.

I will now present a brief sketch of the most noticeable facts relating to the subject in Europe and Great Britain previous to the close of the seventeenth century. Some writers have computed that thirty thousand persons were executed for this supposed crime, within one hundred and fifty years. It will of course be in my power to mention only a few instances.

In 1484, Pope Innocent the Eighth issued a bull encouraging and requiring the arrest and punishment of persons suspected of witchcraft. From this moment, the prosecutions became frequent and the victims numerous in every country. The very next year, forty-one aged females were consigned to the flames in one nation; and, not long after, a hundred were burned by one inquisition in the devoted valleys of Piedmont; forty-eight were burned in Ravensburg in five years; and, in the year 1515, five hundred were burned at Geneva in three months! One writer declares Figure Uphv1388
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that “almost an infinite number” were burned for witchcraft in France, — a thousand in a single diocese! These sanguinary and horrible transactions were promoted and sanctioned by theological hatred and rancor. It was soon perceived that there was no kind of difficulty in clearing the Church of heretics by hanging or burning them all as witches! The imputation of witchcraft could be fixed upon any one with the greatest facility. In the earlier part of the fifteenth century, the Earl of Bedford, having taken the celebrated Joan of Arc prisoner, put her to death on this charge. She had been almost adored by the people rescued by her romantic valor, and was universally known among them by the venerable title of “Holy Maid of God;” but no difficulty was experienced in procuring evidence enough to lead her to the stake as a servant and confederate of Satan! Luther was just beginning his attack upon the papal power, and he was instantly accused of being in confederacy with the Devil.

In 1534, Elizabeth Barton, “the Maid of Kent,” was executed for witchcraft in England, together with seven men who had been confederate with her. In 1541 the Earl of Hungerford was beheaded for inquiring of a witch how long Henry VIII. would live. In 1549 it was made the duty of bishops, by Archbishop Cranmer's articles of visitation, to inquire of their clergy, whether “they know of any that use charms, sorcery, enchantments, witchcraft, soothsaying, or any like craft invented by the Devil.” In 1563 Figure Uphv1389
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the King of Sweden carried four witches with him, as a part of his armament, to aid him in his wars with the Danes. In 1576, seventeen or eighteen were condemned in Essex, in England. A single judge or inquisitor, Remigius, condemned and burned nine hundred within fifteen years, from 1580 to 1595, in the single district of Lorraine; and as many more fled out of the country; whole villages were depopulated, and fifteen persons destroyed themselves rather than submit to the torture which, under the administration of this successor of Draco and rival of Jeffries, was the first step taken in the trial of an accused person. The application of the rack and other instruments of torment, in the examination of prisoners, was recommended by him in a work on witchcraft. He observes that “scarcely any one was known to be brought to repentance and confession but by these means”!

The most eminent persons of the sixteenth century were believers in the popular superstition respecting the existence of compacts between Satan and human beings, and in the notions associated with it. The excellent Melancthon was an interpreter of dreams and caster of nativities. Luther was a strenuous supporter of the doctrine of witchcraft, and seems to have seriously believed that he had had frequent interviews with the arch-enemy himself, and had disputed with him on points of theology, face to face. In his “Table,” he gives the following account of his intimacy with the Devil: speaking of his confinement in the Castle of Wartburg, he says, “Among other things Figure Uphv1390
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they brought me hazel-nuts, which I put into a box, and sometimes I used to crack and cat of them. In the night-times, my gentleman, the Devil, came and got the nuts out of the box, and cracked them against one of the bedposts, making a very great noise and rumbling about my bed; but I regarded him nothing at all: when afterwards I began to slumber, then he kept such a racket and rumbling upon the chamber stairs, as if many empty barrels and hogsheads had been tumbled down.” Kepler, whose name is immortalized by being associated with the laws he discovered that regulate the orbits of the heavenly bodies, was a zealous advocate of astrology; and his great predecessor and master, the Prince of Astronomers, as he is called, Tycho Brache, kept an idiot in his presence, fed him from his own table, with his own hand, and listened to his incoherent, unmeaning, and fatuous expressions as to a revelation from the spiritual world.

The following is the language addressed to Queen Elizabeth by Bishop Jewell. He was one of the most learned persons of his age, and is to this day regarded as the mighty champion of the Church of England, and of the cause of the Reformation in Great Britain. He was the terrible foe of Roman-Catholic superstition. “It may please Your Grace,” says he, “to understand that witches and sorcerers within these four last years are marvellously increased within Your Grace's realm; Your Grace's subjects pine away even unto the death; their color fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their speech is benumbed, their senses are bereft. I Figure Uphv1391
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pray God,” continues the courtly preacher, “they never practise further than upon the subject.” The petition of the polite prelate appears to have been answered. The virgin queen resisted inexorably the arts of all charmers, and is thought never to have been bewitched in her life.

It is probable that Spenser, in his “Faërie Queen,” has described with accuracy the witch of the sixteenth century in the following beautiful lines: — “There, in a gloomy hollow glen, she foundA little cottage built of sticks and weedes,In homely wise, and wald with sods around,In which a witch did dwell in loathly weedesAnd wilful want, all careless of her needes;So choosing solitarie to abideFar from all neighbors, that her devilish deedesAnd hellish arts from people she might hide,And hurt far off unknowne whomever she envide.” So prone were some to indulge in the contemplation of the agency of the Devil and his myrmidons, that they strained, violated, and perverted the language of Scripture to make it speak of them. Thus they insisted that the word “Philistines” meant confederates and subjects of the Devil, and accordingly interpreted the expression, “I will deliver you into the hands of the Philistines,” thus, “I will deliver you into the hands of demons.”

I cannot describe the extent to which the superstition we are reviewing was carried about the close of the sixteenth century in stronger language than the following, from a candid and learned French Roman Figure Uphv1392
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historian: “So great folly,” says he, “did then oppress the miserable world, that Christians believed greater absurdities than could ever be imposed upon the heathens.”

We have now arrived at the commencement of the seventeenth century, within which the prosecutions for witchcraft took place in Salem. To show the opinions of the clergy of the English Church at this time, I will quote the following curious canon, made by the convocation in 1603: —

“That no minister or ministers, without license and direction of the bishop, under his hand and seal obtained, attempt, upon any pretence whatsoever, either of possession or obsession, by fasting and prayer, to cast out any devil or devils, under pain of the imputation of imposture or cozenage, and deposition from the ministry.” In the same year, licenses were actually granted, as required above, by the Bishop of Chester; and several ministers were duly authorized by him to cast out devils!

During this whole century, there were trails and executions for witchcraft in all civilized countries. More than two hundred were hanged in England, thousands were burned in Scotland, and still larger numbers in various parts of Europe.

Edward Fairfax, the poet, was one of the most accomplished men in England. He is celebrated as the translator of Tasso's “Jerusalem Delivered,” in allusion to which work Collins thus speaks of him: —

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“How have I sate, while piped the pensive wind,To hear thy harp, by British Fairfax strung,Prevailing poet, whose undoubting mindBelieved the magic wonders that he sung.” This same Fairfax prosecuted six of his neighbors for bewitching his children. The trials took place about the time the first pilgrims came to America.

In 1634, Urbain Grandier, a very learned and eminent French minister, rendered himself odious to the bigoted nuns of Loudun, by his moderation towards heretics. Secretly instigated, as has been supposed, by Cardinal Richelieu, against whom he had written a satire, they pretended to be bewitched by him, and procured his prosecution: he was tortured upon the rack until he swooned, and then was burned at the stake. In 1640, Dr. Lamb, of London, was murdered in the streets of that city by the mob, on suspicion of witchcraft. Several were hanged in England, only a few years before the proceedings commenced in Salem. Some were tried by water ordeal, and drowned in the process, in Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire, at the very time the executions were going on here; and a considerable number of capital punishments took place in various parts of Great Britain, some years after the prosecution had ceased in America.

The trials and executions in England and Scotland were attended by circumstances as painful, as barbarous, and in all respects as disgraceful, as those occurring in Salem. Every species of torture seems to Figure Uphv1394
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have been resorted to: the principles of reason, justice, and humanity were set at defiance, and the whole body of the people kept in a state of the most fierce excitement against the sufferers. Indeed, there is nothing more distressing in the contemplation of these sanguinary proceedings than the spirit of deliberate and unmitigated cruelty with which they were conducted. No symptoms of pity, compassion, or sympathy, appear to have been manifested by the judges or the community. The following account of the expenses attending the execution of two persons convicted of witchcraft in Scotland, shows in what a cool, business-like style the affair was managed: —

“For ten loads of coal, to burn them¥368For a tar barrel0140For towes060For hurden to be jumps for them3100For making of them080For one to go to Finmouth for the Laird to sit upon their assize as judge060For the executioner for his pains8140For his expenses here0164”

The brutalizing effects of capital punishments are clearly seen in these, as in all other instances. They gradually impart a feeling of indifference to the value of human life, or to the idea of cutting it off by the hand of violence, to all who become accustomed to the spectacle. In various ways they exercise influences upon the tone and temper of society, which cannot Figure Uphv1395
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but be regarded with regret by the citizen, the legislator, the moralist, the philanthropist, and the Christian.

Sinclair, in his work called “Satan's Invisible World Discovered,” gives the following affecting declaration made by one of the confessing witches, as she was on her way to the stake: —

“Now all you that see me this day know that I am now to die as a witch by my own confession; and I free all men, especially the ministers and magistrates, of the guilt of my blood; I take it wholly upon myself, my blood be upon my own head: and, as I must make answer to the God of heaven presently, I declare I am as free of witchcraft as any child; but, being delated by a malicious woman, and put in prison under the name of a witch, disowned by my husband and friends, and seeing no ground of hope of my coming out of prison, or ever coming in credit again, through the temptation of the Devil, I made up that confession on purpose to destroy my own life, being weary of it, and choosing rather to die than live.”

Sir George Mackenzie says that he went to examine some women who had confessed, and that one of them, who was a silly creature, told him, “under secresie,” “that she had not confessed because she was guilty, but, being a poor creature, who wrought for her meat, and being defamed for a witch, she knew she would starve, for no person thereafter would either give her meat or lodging, and that all men would beat her, and hound dogs at her, and that therefore she Figure Uphv1396
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desired to be out of the world.” Whereupon she wept most bitterly, and, upon her knees, called God to witness to what she said.

A wretch, named Matthew Hopkins, rendered himself infamously conspicuous in the prosecutions for witchcraft that took place in the counties of Essex, Sussex, Norfolk, and Huntingdon, in England, in the years 1645 and 1646. The title he assumed indicates the part he acted: it was “Witch-finder-general.” He travelled from place to place; his expenses were paid; and he required, in addition, regular fees for the discovery of a witch. Besides pricking the body to find the witch-mark, he compelled the wretched and decrepit victims of his cruel practices to sit in a painful posture, on an elevated stool, with their limbs crossed; and, if they persevered in refusing to confess, he would prolong their torture, in some cases, to more than twenty-four hours. He would prevent their going to sleep, and drag them about barefoot over the rough ground, thus overcoming them with extreme weariness and pain: but his favorite method was to tie the thumb of the right hand close to the great toe of the left foot, and draw them through a river or pond; if they floated, as they would be likely to do, while their heavier limbs were thus sustained and upborne by the rope, it was considered as conclusive proof of their guilt. This monster was encouraged and sanctioned by the government; and he procured the death, in one year and in one county, of more than three times as many as suffered in Salem during the whole delusion. He Figure Uphv1397
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and his exploits are referred to in the following lines, from that storehouse of good sense and keen wit, Butler's “Hudibras:” — “Hath not this present ParliamentA leiger to the Devil sent,Fully empowered to freat aboutFinding revolted witches out?And has he not within a yearHanged threescore of them in one shire?” The infatuated people looked upon this Hopkins with admiration and astonishment, and could only account for his success by the supposition, which, we are told, was generally entertained, that he had stolen the memorandum-book in which Satan had recorded the names of all the persons in England who were in league with him!

The most melancholy circumstance connected with the history of this creature is, that Richard Baxter and Edmund Calamy — names dear and venerable in the estimation of all virtuous and pious men — were deceived and deluded by him: they countenanced his conduct, followed him in his movements, and aided him in his proceedings.

At length, however, some gentlemen, shocked at the cruelty and suspicious of the integrity of Hopkins, seized him, tied his thumbs and toes together, threw him into a pond, and dragged him about to their hearts' content. They were fully satisfied with the result of the experiment. It was found that he did not sink. He stood condemned on his own principles; and thus Figure Uphv1398
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the country was rescued from the power of the malicious impostor.

Among the persons whose death Hopkins procured, was a venerable, gray-headed clergyman, named Lewis. He was of the Church of England, had been the minister of a congregation for more than half a century, and was over eighty years of age. His infirm frame was subjected to the customary tests, even to the trial by water ordeal: he was compelled to walk almost incessantly for several days and nights, until, in the exhaustion of his nature, he yielded assent to a confession that was adduced against him in Court; which, however, he disowned and denied there and at all times, from the moment of release from the torments, by which it had been extorted, to his last breath. As he was about to die the death of a felon, he knew that the rites of sepulture, according to the forms of his denomination, would be denied to his remains. The aged sufferer, it is related, read his own funeral service while on the scaffold. Solemn, sublime, and affecting as are passages of this portion of the ritual of the Church, surely it was never performed under circumstances so well suited to impress with awe and tenderness as when uttered by the calumniated, oppressed, and dying old man. Baxter had been tried for sedition, on the ground that one of his publications contained a reflection upon Episcopacy, and was imprisoned for two years. It is a striking and melancholy illustration of the moral infirmity of human nature, that the author of the “Saints' Everlasting Figure Uphv1399
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Rest,” and the “Call to the Unconverted,” permitted such a vengeful feeling against the Establishment to enter his breast, that he took pleasure, and almost exulted, in relating the fate of this innocent and aged clergyman, whom he denominates, in derision, a “Reading Parson.”

Baxter's writings are pervaded by his belief in all sorts of supernatural things. In the “Saints' Everlasting Rest,” he declares his conviction of the reality and authenticity of stories of ghosts, apparitions, haunted houses, &c. He placed full faith in a tale, current among the people of his day, of the “dispossession of the Devil out of many persons together in a room in Lancashire, at the prayer of some godly ministers.” In his “Dying Thoughts,” he says, “I have had many convincing proofs of witches, the contracts they have made with devils, and the power which they have received from them;” and he seems to have credited the most absurd fables ever invented on the subject by ignorance, folly, or fraud.

The case to which he refers, as one of the “dispossession of devils,” may be found in a tract published in London in 1697, entitled, “The Surey Demoniac; or, an Account of Satan's strange and dreadful actings, in and about the body of Richard Dugdale, of Surey, near Whalley, in Lancashire. And how he was dispossessed by God's blessing on the Fastings and Prayers of divers Ministers and People. The matter of fact attested by the oaths of several creditable persons, before some of his Majestie's Justices of the Peace Figure Uphv1400
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in the said county.” The “London Monthly Repository” (vol. v., 1810) describes the affair as follows: “These dreadful actings of Satan continued above a year; during which there was a desperate struggle between him and nine ministers of the gospel, who had undertaken to cast him out, and, for that purpose, successively relieved each other in their daily combats with him: while Satan tried all his arts to baffle their attempts, insulting them with scoffs and raillery, puzzling them sometimes with Greek and Latin, and threatening them with the effects of his vengeance, till he was finally vanquished and put to flight by the persevering prayers and fastings of the said ministers.”

No name in English history is regarded with more respect and admiration, by wise and virtuous men, than that of Sir Matthew Hale. His character was almost venerated by our ancestors; and it has been thought that it was the influence of his authority, more than any thing else, that prevailed upon them to pursue the course they adopted in the prosecutions at Salem. This great and good man presided, as Lord Chief Baron, at the trial of two females, — Amy Dunny and Rose Cullendor, — at Bury St. Edmunds, in Suffolk, in the year 1664. They were convicted and executed.

Baxter relates the following circumstance as having occurred at this trial: “A godly minister, yet living, sitting by to see one of the girls (who appeared as a witness against the prisoners) in her fits, suddenly felt a force pull one of the hooks from his breeches; and, while he looked with wonder at what was become Figure Uphv1401
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of it, the tormented girl vomited it up out of her mouth.”

To give an idea of the nature of the testimony upon which the principal stress was laid by the government, I will extract the following passages from the report of the trial: “Robert Sherringham testified that the axletree of his cart, happening, in passing, to break some part of Rose Cullender's house, in her anger at it, she vehemently threatened him his horses should suffer for it; and, within a short time, all his four horses died; after which he sustained many other losses, in the sudden dying of his cattle. He was also taken with a lameness in his limbs, and so far vexed with lice of an extraordinary number and bigness, that no art could hinder the swarming of them, till he burned up two suits of apparel.” — “Margaret Arnold testified that Amy Dunny afflicted her children: they (the children), she said, would see mice running round the house, and, when they caught them and threw them into the fire, they would screech out like rats.” — “A thing like a bee flew at the face of the younger child; the child fell into a fit, and at last vomited up a two nail, with a broad head, affirming that the bee brought this nail, and forced it into her mouth.” — “She one day caught an invisible mouse, and, throwing it into the fire, it flashed like to gunpowder. None besides the child saw the mouse, but every one saw the flash!”

In this instance we perceive the influence of prejudice in perverting evidence. The circumstance that Figure Uphv1402
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the mouse was invisible to all eyes but those of the child ought to have satisfied the Court and jury that she was either under the power of a delusion or practising an imposture. But, as they were predisposed to find something supernatural in the transaction, their minds seized upon the pretended invisibility of the mouse as conclusive proof of diabolical agency.

Many persons who were present expressed the opinion, that the issue of the trial would have been favorable to the prisoners, had it not been for the following circumstance: Sir Thomas Browne, a physician, philosopher, and scholar of unrivalled celebrity at that time, happened to be upon the spot; and it was the universal wish that he should be called to the stand, and his opinion be obtained on the general subject of witchcraft. An enthusiastic contemporary admirer of Sir Thomas Browne thus describes him: “The horizon of his understanding was much larger than the hemisphere of the world: all that was visible in the heavens he comprehended so well, that few that are under them knew so much; and of the earth he had such a minute and exact geographical knowledge as if he had been by Divine Providence ordained surveyor-general of the whole terrestrial globe and its products, minerals, plants, and animals.” His memory is stated to have been inferior only to that of Seneca or Scaliger; and he was reputed master of seven languages. Dr. Johnson, who has written his biography, sums up his character in the following terms: “But it is not on the praises of others, but on his Figure Uphv1403
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own writings, that he is to depend for the esteem of posterity, of which he will not easily be deprived, while learning shall have any reverence among men: for there is no science in which he does not discover some skill; and scarce any kind of knowledge, profane or sacred, abstruse or elegant, which he does not appear to have cultivated with success.”

Sir Thomas Browne was considered by those of his own generation to have made great advances beyond the wisdom of his age. He claimed the character of a reformer, and gave to his principal publication the title of an “Enquiry into Vulgar Errors.” So bold and free were his speculations, that he was looked upon invidiously by many as a daring innovator, and did not escape the denunciatory imputation of heresy. Nothing could be more unjust, however, than this latter charge. He was a most ardent and zealous believer in the doctrines of the Established Church. He declares “that he assumes the honorable style of a Christian,” not because “it is the religion of his country,” but because, “having in his riper years and confirmed judgment seen and examined all, he finds himself obliged, by the principles of grace and the law of his own reason, to embrace no other name but this.” He exults and “blesses himself, that he lived not in the days of miracles, when faith had been thrust upon him, but enjoys that greater blessing pronounced to all that believed, and saw not:” nay, he goes so far as to say, that they only had the advantage “of a bold and noble faith, who lived before the Figure Uphv1404
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coming of the Saviour, and, upon obscure prophecies and mystical types, could raise a belief.” The fact that such a man was accused of infidelity is an affecting proof of the injustice that is sometimes done by the judgment of contemporaries.

This prodigy of learning and philosophy went into Court, took the stand, and declared his opinion in favor of the reality of witchcraft, entered into a particular discussion of the subject before the jury, threw the whole weight of his great name into the wavering scales of justice, and the poor women were convicted. The authority of Sir Thomas Browne, added to the other evidence, perplexed Sir Matthew Hale. A reporter of the trial says, “that it made this great and good man doubtful; but he was in such fears, and proceeded with such caution, that he would not so much as sum up the evidence, but left it to the jury with prayers, `that the great God of heaven would direct their hearts in that weighty matter.”'

The result of this important trial established decisively the interpretation of English law; and the printed report of it was used as an authoritative textbook in the Court at Salem.

The celebrated Robert Boyle flourished in the latter half of the seventeenth century. He is allowed by all to have done much towards the introduction of an improved philosophy, and the promotion of experimental science. But he could not entirely shake off the superstition of his age.

A small city in Burgundy, called Mascon, was Figure Uphv1405
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famous in the annals of witchcraft. In a work called “The Theatre of God's Judgments,” published, in London, by Thomas Beard in 1612, there is the following passage: “It was a very lamentable spectacle that chanced to the Governor of Mascon, a magician, whom the Devil snatched up in dinner-while, and hoisted aloft, carrying him three times about the town of Mascon, in the presence of many beholders, to whom he cried in this manner, `Help, help, my friends!' so that the whole town stood amazed thereat; yea, and the remembrance of this strange accident sticketh at this day fast in the minds of all the inhabitants of this country.” A malicious and bigoted monk, who discharged the office of chief legend-maker to the Benedictine Abbey, in the vicinity of Mascon, fabricated this ridiculous story for the purpose of bringing the Governor into disrepute. An account of another diabolical visitation, suggested, it is probable, by the one just described, was issued from the press, under the title of “The Devil of Mascon,” during the lifetime of Boyle, who gave his sanction to the work, promoted its version into English, and, as late as 1678, publicly declared his belief of the supernatural transaction it related.

The subject of demonology, in all its forms and phases, embracing witchcraft, held a more commanding place throughout Europe, in the literature of the centuries immediately preceding the eighteenth, than any other. Works of the highest pretension, elaborate, learned, voluminous, and exhausting, were published, Figure Uphv1406
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by the authority of governments and universities, to expound it. It was regarded as occupying the most eminent department of jurisprudence, as well as of science and theology.

Raphael De La Torre and Adam Tanner published treatises establishing the right and duty of ecclesiastical tribunals to punish all who practised or dealt with the arts of demonology. In 1484, Sprenger came out with his famous book, “Malleus Maleficarum;” or, the “Hammer of Witches.” Paul Layman, in 1629, issued an elaborate work on “Judicial Processes against Sorcerers and Witches.” The following is the title of a bulky volume of some seven hundred pages: “Demonology, or Natural Magic or demoniacal, lawful and unlawful, also open or secret, by the intervention and invocation of a Demon,” published in 1612. It consists of four books, treating of the crime of witchcraft, and its punishment in the ordinary tribunals and the Inquisitorial office. Its author was Don Francisco Torreblanca Villalpando, of Cordova, Advocate Royal in the courts of Grenada. It was republished in 1623, by command of Philip III. of Spain, on the recommendation of the Fiscal General, and with the sanction of the Royal Council and the Holy Inquisition. This work may be considered as establishing and defining the doctrines, in reference to witchcraft, prevailing in all Catholic countries. It was indorsed by royal, judicial, academical, and ecclesiastical approval; is replete with extraordinary erudition, arranged in the most scientific form, embracing Figure Uphv1407
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in a methodical classification all the minutest details of the subject, and codifying it into a complete system of law. There was no particular in all the proceedings and all the doctrines brought out at the trials in Salem, which did not find ample justification and support in this work of Catholic, imperial, and European authority.

But perhaps the writer of the greatest influence on this subject in England and America, during the whole of the seventeenth century, was William Perkins, “the learned, pious, and painful preacher of God's Word, at St. Andrew's, in Cambridge,” where he died, in 1602, aged forty-four years. He was quite a voluminous author; and many of his works were translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish. Fuller, in “The Holy State,” selects him as the impersonation of the qualities requisite to “the Faithful Minister.” In his glowing eulogium upon his learning and talents, he says: —

“He would pronounce the word damne with such an emphasis as left a doleful echo in his auditors' ears a good while after. And, when catechist of Christ's College, in expounding the Commandments, applied them so home, — able almost to make his hearers' hearts fall down, and hairs to stand upright. But, in his older age, he altered his voice, and remitted much of his former rigidness, often professing that to preach mercy was that proper office of the ministers of the gospel.” — “Our Perkins brought the schools into the pulpit, and, unshelling their controversies out of their hard school, made thereof plain and wholesome meat for his people; Figure Uphv1408
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for he had a capacious head, with angles winding, and roomy enough to lodge all controversial intricacies.” — “He had a rare felicity in speedy reading of books; so that, as it were, riding post through an author, he took strict notice of all passages. Perusing books so speedily, one would think he read nothing; so accurately, one would think he read all.”

An octavo volume, written by this great scholar and divine, was published at Cambridge in England, under the title, “Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft.” It went through several editions, and had a wide and permanent circulation.

This work, the character of which is sufficiently indicated in its emphatic title, was the great authority on the subject with our fathers; and Mr. Parris had a copy of it in his possession when the proceedings in reference to witchcraft began at Salem Village.

John Gaule published an octavo volume in London, in 1646, entitled, “Select Cases of Conscience concerning Witches and Witchcraft.” He is one of the most exact writers on the subject, and arranges witches in the following classes: “1. The diviner, gypsy, or fortune-telling witch; 2. The astrologian, star-gazing, planetary, prognosticating witch; 3. The chanting, canting, or calculating witch, who works by signs and numbers; 4. The venefical, or poisoning witch; 5. The exorcist, or conjuring witch; 6. The gastronomic witch; 7. The magical, speculative, sciential, or arted witch; 8. The necromancer.”

Besides innumerable writers of this class, who spread out the scholastic learning on the subject, Figure Uphv1409
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and presented it in a logical and theological form, there were others who treated it in a more popular style, and invested it with the charms of elegant literature. Henry Hallywell published an octavo in London, in 1681, in which, while the main doctrines of witchcraft as then almost universally received are enforced, an attempt was made to divest it of some of its most repulsive and terrible features. He gives the following account of the means by which a person may place himself beyond the reach of the power of witchcraft: —

“It is possible for the soul to arise to such a height, and become so divine, that no witchcraft or evil demons can have any power upon the body. When the bodily life is too far invigorated and awakened, and draws the intellect, the flower and summity of the soul, into a conspiration with it, then are we subject and obnoxious to magical assaults. For magic or sorcery, being founded only in this lower or mundane spirit, he that makes it his business to be freed and released from all its blandishments and flattering devocations, and endeavors wholly to withdraw himself from the love of corporeity and too near a sympathy with the frail flesh, he, by it, enkindles such a divine principle as lifts him above the fate of this inferior world, and adorns his mind with such an awful majesty that beats back all enchantments, and makes the infernal fiends tremble at his presence, hating those vigorous beams of light which are so contrary and repugnant to their dark natures.”

The mind of this beautiful writer found encouragement and security in the midst of the diabolical spirits, Figure Uphv1410
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with whom he believed the world to be infested, in the following views and speculations: —

“For there is a chain of government that runs down from God, the Supreme Monarch, whose bright and piercing eyes look through all that he has made, to the lowest degree of the creation; and there are presidential angels of empires and kingdoms, and such as under them have the tutelage of private families; and, lastly, every man's particular guardian genius. Nor is the inanimate or material world left to blind chance or fortune; but there are, likewise, mighty and potent spirits, to whom is committed the guidance and care of the fluctuating and uncertain motions of it, and by their ministry, fire and vapor, storms and tempests, snow and hail, heat and cold, are all kept within such bounds and limits as are most serviceable to the ends of Providence. They take care of the variety of seasons, and superintend the tillage and fruits of the earth; upon which account, Origen calls them invisible husbandmen. So that, all affairs and things being under the inspection and government of these incorporeal beings, the power of the dark kingdom and its agents is under a strict confinement and restraint; and they cannot bring a general mischief upon the world without a special permission of a superior Providence.”

Spenser has the same imagery and sentiment: — “How oft do they their silver bowers leave,To come to succor us, that succor want?How oft do they with golden pinions cleaveThe flitting skies, like flying pursuivant,Against foul fiends to aid us militant?They for us fight, they watch and duly ward,And their bright squadrons round about us plant,And all for love and nothing for reward:Oh! why should heavenly God to man have such regard?”

Figure Uphv1411
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While there can be no doubt that the superstitious opinions we have been reviewing were diffused generally among the great body of the people of all ranks and conditions, it would be unjust to truth not to mention that there were some persons who looked upon them as empty fables and vain imaginations. Error has never yet made a complete and universal conquest. In the darkest ages and most benighted regions, it has been found impossible utterly to extinguish the light of reason. There always have been some in whose souls the torch of truth has been kept burning with vestal watchfulness: we can discern its glimmer here and there through the deepest night that has yet settled upon the earth. In the midst of the most extravagant superstition, there have been individuals who have disowned the popular belief, and considered it a mark of wisdom and true philosophy to discard the idle fancies and absurd schemes of faith that possessed the minds of the great mass of their contemporaries. This was the case with Horace, as appears from lines thus quite freely but effectively translated: — “These dreams and terrors magical,These miracles and witches,Night-walking spirites or Thessal bugs,Esteeme them not two rushes.” The intellect of Seneca also rose above the reach of the popular credulity with respect to the agency of supernatural beings and the efficacy of mysterious charms.

If we could but obtain access to the secret thoughts Figure Uphv1412
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of the wisest philosophers and of the men of genius of antiquity, we should probably find that many of them were superior to the superstitions of their times. Even in the thick darkness of the dark ages, there were minds too powerful to be kept in chains by error and delusion.

Henry Cornelius Agrippa, who was born in the latter part of the fifteenth century, was, perhaps, the greatest philosopher and scholar of his period. In early life, he was very much devoted to the science of magic, and was a strenuous supporter of demonology and witchcraft. In the course of his studies and meditations, he was led to a change of views on these subjects, and did all that he could to warn others from putting confidence in such vain, frivolous, and absurd superstitions as then possessed the world. The consequence was, that he was denounced and prosecuted as a conjurer, and charged with having written against magic and witchcraft, in order the more securely to shelter himself from the suspicion of practising them. As an instance of the calumnies that were heaped upon him, I would mention that Paulus Jovius asserted that “Cornelius Agrippa went always accompanied with an evil spirit in the similitude of a black dog;” and that, when the time of his death drew near, “he took off the enchanted collar from the dog's neck, and sent him away with these terms, `Get thee hence, thou cursed beast, which hast utterly destroyed me:' neither was the dog ever seen after.” Butler, in his “Hudibras,” has not neglected Figure Uphv1413
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to celebrate this remarkable connection between Satan and the man of learning: — “Agrippa kept a Stygian pugI' th' garb and habit of a dog,That was his tutor; and the curRead to th' occult philosopher.” John Wierus wrote an elaborate, learned, and judicious book, in which he treated at large of magic, sorcery, and witchcraft, and did all that scholarship, talent, and philosophy could do to undermine and subvert the whole system of the prevailing popular superstition. But he fared no better than his predecessor, patron, and master, Agrippa; for, like him, he was accused of having attempted to persuade the world that there was no reality in supernatural charms and diabolical confederacies, in order that he might devote himself to them without suspicion or molestation, and was borne down by the bigotry and fanaticism of his times.

King James merely gave utterance to the general sentiment, and pronounced the verdict of popular opinion, in the following extract from the preface to his “Demonologie:” “Wierus, a German physician, sets out a public apologie for all these crafts-folkes, whereby, procuring for them impunitie, he plainly bewrays himself to have been of that profession.”

In 1584, a quarto volume was published in London, the work of Reginald Scott, a learned English gentleman, whose title sufficiently indicates its import, “The Discovery of Witchcraft, wherein the lewde dealing of Figure Uphv1414
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witches and witchmongers is notably detected; the knavery of conjurers, the impiety of inchanters, the folly of soothsayers, the impudent falsehood of cozeners, the infidelity of atheists, the pestilent practices of pythonists, the curiosities of figure-casters, the vanity of dreamers, the beggarly art of alcumstrie, the abomination of idolatrie, the horrible art of poisoning, the virtue and power of natural magic, and all the conveniencies of legerdemaine and juggling, are discovered, &c.”

In 1599, Samuel Harsnett, Archbishop of York, wrote a work, published in London, to expose certain persons who pretended to have the power of casting out devils, and detecting their “deceitful trade.” This writer was among the first to bring the power of bold satire and open denunciation to bear against the superstitions of demonology. He thus describes the motives and the methods of such impostors: —

“Out of these,” saith he, “is shaped us the true idea of a witch, — an old, weather-beaten crone, having her chin and her knees meeting for age, walking like a bow, leaning on a staff; hollow-eyed, untoothed, furrowed on her face, having her limbs trembling with the palsy, going mumbling in the streets; one that hath forgotten her Pater-noster, and yet hath a shrewd tongue to call a drab a drab. If she hath learned of an old wife, in a chimney-end, Pax, Max, Fax, for a spell, or can say Sir John Grantham's curse for the miller's eels, `All ye that have stolen the miller's eels, Laudate dominum de cœlis: and all they that have consented thereto, Benedicamus domino:' why then, beware! look about Figure Uphv1415
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you, my neighbors. If any of you have a sheep sick of the giddies, or a hog of the mumps, or a horse of the staggers, or a knavish boy of the school, or an idle girl of the wheel, or a young drab of the sullens, and hath not fat enough for her porridge, or butter enough for her bread, and she hath a little help of the epilepsy or cramp, to teach her to roll her eyes, wry her mouth, gnash her teeth, startle with her body, hold her arms and hands stiff, &c.; and then, when an old Mother Nobs hath by chance called her an idle young housewife, or bid the Devil scratch her, then no doubt but Mother Nobs is the witch, and the young girl is owl blasted, &c. They that have their brains baited and their fancies distempered with the imaginations and apprehensions of witches, conjurers, and fairies, and all that lymphatic chimera, I find to be marshalled in one of these five ranks: children, fools, women, cowards, sick or black melancholic discomposed wits.”

In 1669, a work was published in London with the following title: “The Question of Witchcraft Debated; or, a Discourse against their Opinions that affirm Witches.” It is a work of great merit, and would do honor to a scholar and logician of the present day. The author was John Wagstaffe, of Oxford University: he is described as a crooked, shrivelled, little man, of a most despicable appearance. This circumstance, together with his writings against the popular belief in witchcraft, led his academical associates to accuse him, some of them in sport, but others with grave suspicion, of being a wizard. Wood, the historian of Oxford, says that “he died in a manner distracted, occasioned by a deep conceit of his own parts, and by a continual Figure Uphv1416
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bibbing of strong and high-tasted liquors.” But poor Wagstaffe was assailed by something more than private raillery and slander. His heretical sentiments exposed him to the battery of the host of writers who will always be found ready to advocate a prevailing opinion. But Wagstaffe was not left entirely alone to defend the cause of reason and truth. He had one most zealous advocate and ardent admirer in the author of a work on “The Doctrine of Devils,” published in 1676. This writer sums up a panegyric upon Wagstaffe's performance, by pronouncing it “a judicious book, that contains more good reason, true religion, and right Christianity, than all those lumps and cartloads of luggage that hath been fardled up by all the faggeters of demonologistical winter-tales, and witchcraftical legendaries, since they first began to foul clean paper.”

Dr. Balthasar Bekker, of Amsterdam, who was equally eminent in astronomy, philosophy, and theology, published in 1691 a learned and powerful work, called “The World Bewitched,” in which he openly assailed the doctrines of witchcraft and of the Devil, and anticipated many of the views and arguments presented in Farmer's excellent publications. As a reward for his exertions to enlighten his fellow-creatures, he was turned out of the ministry, and assaulted by nearly all the writers of his age.

Dr. Bekker was one of the ablest and boldest writers of his day, and did much to advance the cause of natural science, scriptural interpretation, and the principles Figure Uphv1417
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of enlightened Christianity. In 1680 he published an “Inquiry concerning Comets,” rescuing them from the realm of superstition, placing them within the natural physical laws, and exploding the then-received opinion, that, in any way, they are the presages or forerunners of evil. His “Exposition on the Prophet Daniel” gives proof of his learning and judgment. His great merits were recognized by John Locke and Richard Bentley. In the preface to his “World Bewitched,” he says, that it grieved him to see the great honors, powers, and miracles which are ascribed to the Devil. “It has come to that pass,” to use his own language, “that men think it piety and godliness to ascribe a great many wonders to the Devil, and impiety and heresy, if a man will not believe that the Devil can do what a thousand persons say he does. It is now reckoned godliness, if a man who fears God fear also the Devil. If he be not afraid of the Devil, he passes for an atheist, who does not believe in God, because he cannot think that there are two gods, the one good, the other bad. But these, I think, with much more reason, may be called ditheists. For my part, if, on account of my opinion, they will give me a new name, let them call me a monotheist, a believer of but one God.” The work struck down the whole system of demonology and witchcraft, by proving that there never was really such a thing as sorcery or possession, and that devils have no influence over human affairs or the persons of men. It is not surprising that it raised a great clamor. The wonder is that it did not cost him Figure Uphv1418
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his life. It is probable that his protection was the confidence the people had in his character and learning. Attempts were made to diminish that confidence, and bring him into odium, by levelling against him every form of abuse. A medal was struck, and extensively circulated, representing the Devil, clothed like a minister or priest, riding on an ass. The device was so arranged as to excite ridicule and abhorrence, in the vulgar mind, against Bekker. But it was found impossible to turn the popular feeling, which had set in his favor; and his-persecutors and defamers were completely baffled. He was followed, soon after, by the learned Thomasius, whose writings against demonology produced a decided effect upon the convictions of the age.

While Bekker, and the other writers of his class, endeavored to overthrow the superstitious practices and fancies then prevalent respecting demonology and communications with spiritual beings, they so far acceded to the popular theology as to maintain the doctrine of the personality of the Devil. They believed in the existence of the arch-fiend, but denied his agency in human affairs. They held that he was kept confined “to bottomless perdition, there to dwell —

“In adamantine chains and penal fire.”

Sir Robert Filmer, in 1680, published “An Advertisement to the jurymen of England, touching Witches,” in which he criticised and condemned many of the opinions and methods then countenanced on the subject.

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But Bekker, Thomasius, and Filmer appeared too late to operate upon the prevalent opinions of Europe or America prior to the witchcraft delusion of 1692. The productions of the other writers, in the same direction, to whom I have referred, probably had a very limited circulation, and made at the time but little impression. Error is seldom overthrown by mere reasoning. It yields only to the logic of events. No power of learning or wit could have rooted the witchcraft superstitions out of the minds of men. Nothing short of a demonstration of their deformities, follies, and horrors, such as here was held up to the view of the world, could have given their death-blow. This was the final cause of Salem Witchcraft, and makes it one of the great landmarks in the world's history.

A full and just view of the position and obligations of the persons who took part in the transactions at Salem requires a previous knowledge of the principles and the state of the law, as it was then in force and understood by the courts, and all concerned in judicial proceedings. Although the ancients did not regard pretended intercourse between magicians and enchanters and spiritual beings as necessarily or always criminal, we find that they enacted laws against the abuse of the power supposed to result from the connection. The old Roman code of the Twelve Tables contained the following prohibition: “That they should not bewitch the fruits of the earth, nor use any charms to draw their neighbor's corn into their own fields.” There were several special edicts on the subject during Figure Uphv1420
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the existence of the Roman State. In the early Christian councils, sorcery was frequently made the object of denunciation. At Laodicea, for instance, in the year 364, it was voted to excommunicate any clergymen who were magicians, enchanters, astrologers, or mathematicians! The Bull of Pope Innocent VIII., near the close of the fifteenth century, has already been mentioned.

Dr. Turner, in his history of the Anglo-Saxons, says that they had laws against sorcerers and witches, but that they did not punish them with death. There was an English statute against witchcraft, in the reign of Henry VIII., and another in that of Elizabeth.

Up to this time, however, the legislation of parliament on the subject was merciful and judicious: for it did not attach to the guilt of witchcraft the punishment of death, unless it had been used to destroy life: that is, unless it had become murder.

On the demise of Elizabeth, James of Scotland ascended the throne. His pedantie and eccentric character is well known. He had an early and decided inclination towards abstruse or mysterious speculations. Before he had reached his twentieth year, he undertook to accomplish what only the most sanguine and profound theologians have ever dared to attempt: he expounded the Book of Revelation. When he was about twenty-five years of age, he published a work on the “Doctrine of Devils and Witchcraft.” Not long after, he succeeded to the British crown. It may easily be imagined that the subject of demonology Figure Uphv1421
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soon became a fashionable and prevailing topic of conversation in the royal saloons and throughout the nation. It served as a medium through which obsequious courtiers could convey their flattery to the ears of their accomplished and learned sovereign. His Majesty's book was reprinted and extensively circulated. It was of course praised and recommended in all quarters.

The parliament, actuated by a base desire to compliment the vain and superstitious king, enacted a new and much more severe statute against witchcraft, in the very first year of his reign. It was under this law that so many persons here and in England were deprived of their lives. The blood of hundreds of innocent persons was thus unrighteously shed. It was a fearful price which these servile lawgivers paid for the favor of their prince.

But this was not the only mischief brought about by courtly deference to the prejudices of King James. It was under his direction that our present translation of the Scriptures was made. To please His Royal Majesty, and to strengthen the arguments in his work on demonology, the word “witch” was used to represent expressions in the original Hebrew, that conveyed an entirely different idea; and it was freely inserted in the headings of the chapters.* A person having “a familiar spirit” was a favorite description of a witch in the king's book. The translators, Figure Uphv1422
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forgetful of their high and solemn function, endeavored to establish this definition by inserting it into their version. Accordingly, they introduced it in several places; in the eleventh verse of the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, for instance, “a consulter with familiar spirits.” There is no word in the Hebrew which corresponds with “familiar.” And this is the important, the essential word in the definition. It conveys the idea of alliance, stated connection, confederacy, or compact, which is characteristic and distinctive of a witch. The expression in the original signifies “a consulter with spirits,” — especially, as was the case with the “Witch of Endor,” a consulter with departed spirits. It was a shocking perversion of the word of God, for the purpose of flattering a frail and mortal sovereign! King James lived to see and acknowledge the error of his early opinions, and he would gladly have counteracted their bad effect; but it is easier to make laws and translations than it is to alter and amend them.

While the law of the land required the capital punishment of witches, no blame ought to be attached to judges and jurors for discharging their respective duties in carrying it into execution. It will not do for us to assert, that they ought to have refused, let the consequences to themselves have been what they would, to sanction and give effect to such inhuman and unreasonable enactments. We cannot consistently take this ground; for there is nothing more certain than that, with their notions, our ancestors had at least as Figure Uphv1423
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good reasons to advance in favor of punishing witchcraft with death, as we have for punishing any crime whatsoever in the same awful and summary manner. We appeal, in defence of our capital punishments, to the text of Moses, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” The apologist of our fathers, for carrying into effect the law making witch a capital offence, tells us in reply, in the first place, that this passage is not of the nature of a precept, but merely of an admonition; that it does not enjoin any particular method of proceeding, but simply describes the natural consequences of cruel and contentious conduct; and that it amounts only to this: that quarrelsome, violent, and bloodthirsty persons will be apt to meet the same fate they bring upon others; that the duellist will be likely to fall in private combat, the ambitious conqueror to perish, and the warlike nation to be destroyed, on the field of battle. If this is not considered by us a sufficient and satisfactory answer, he advances to our own ground, points to the same text where we place our defence, and puts his finger on the following plain and authoritative precept: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Indeed we must acknowledge, that the capital punishment of witches is as strongly supported and fortified by the Scriptures of the Old Testament — at least, as they appear in our present version — as the capital punishment of any crime whatever.

If we adopt another line of argument, and say that it is necessary to punish some particular crimes with Figure Uphv1424
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death, in order to maintain the security of society, or hold up an impressive warning to others, here also we find that our opponent has full as much to offer in defence of our fathers as can be offered in our own defence. He describes to us the tremendous and infernal power which was universally believed by them to be possessed by a witch; a power which, as it was not derived from a natural source, could not easily be held in check by natural restraints: neither chains nor dungeons could bind it down or confine it. You might load the witch with irons, you might bury her in the lowest cell of a feudal prison, and still it was believed that she could send forth her imps or her spectre to ravage the fields, and blight the meadows, and throw the elements into confusion, and torture the bodies, and craze the minds, of any who might be the objects of her malice.

Shakspeare, in the description which he puts into the mouth of Macbeth of the supernatural energy of witchcraft, does not surpass, if he does justice to, the prevailing belief on the subject: — “I conjure you, by that which you profess,(Howe'er you came to know it) answer me, —Though you untie the winds, and let them fightAgainst the churches; though the yesty wavesConfound and swallow navigation up;Though bladed corn be lodged, and trees blown down;Though castles topple on their warders' heads;Though palaces and pyramids do slopeTheir heads to their foundations; though the treasureOf nature's germins tumble all together,Even till destruction sicken, — answer meTo what I ask you.”

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There was indeed an almost infinite power to do mischief associated with a disposition to do it. No human strength could strip the witch of these mighty energies while she lived; nothing but death could destroy them. There was, as our ancestors considered, incontestable evidence, that she had put them forth to the injury, loss, and perhaps death, of others.

Can it be wondered at, that, under such circumstances, the law connecting capital punishment with the guilt of witchcraft was resorted to as the only means to protect society, and warn others from entering into the dark, wicked, and malignant compact?

It is not probable that even King James's Parliament would have been willing to go to the length of Selden in his “Table-Talk,” who takes this ground in defence of the capital punishment of witches. “The law against witches does not prove there be any, but it punishes the malice of those people that use such means to take away men's lives. If one should profess, that, by turning his hat thrice and crying Buzz,' he could take away a man's life (though in truth he could do no such thing), yet this were a just law made by the State, that whoever should turn his hat thrice and cryBuzz,' with an intention to take away a man's life, shall be put to death.”

There are other considerations that deserve to be weighed before a final judgment should be made up respecting the conduct of our fathers in the witchcraft delusion. Among these is the condition of physical science in their day. But little knowledge of the Figure Uphv1426
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laws of nature was possessed, and that little was confined to a few. The world was still, to the mass of the people, almost as full of mystery in its physical departments as it was to its first inhabitants. Politics, poetry, rhetoric, ethics, and history had been cultivated to a great extent in previous ages; but the philosophy of the natural and material world was almost unknown. Astronomy, chemistry, optics, pneumatics, and even geography, were involved in the general darkness and error. Some of our most important sciences, such as electricity, date their origin from a later period.

This remarkable tardiness in the progress of physical science for some time after the era of the revival of learning is to be accounted for by referring to the erroneous methods of reasoning and observation then prevalent in the world. A false logic was adopted in the schools of learning and philosophy. The great instrument for the discovery and investigation of truth was the syllogism, the most absurd contrivance of the human mind; an argumentative process whose conclusion is contained in the premises; a method of proof, in the first step of which the matter to be proved is taken for granted.* In a word, the whole system of philosophy was made up of hypotheses, and Figure Uphv1427
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the only foundation of science was laid in conjecture. The imagination, called necessarily into extraordinary action, in the absence of scientific certainty, was still further exercised in vain attempts to discover, unassisted by observation and experiment, the elements and first principles of nature. It had reached a monstrous growth about the time to which we are referring. Indeed it may be said, that all the intellectual productions of modern times, from the seventeenth century back to the dark ages, were works of imagination. The bulkiest and most voluminous writings that proceeded from the cloisters or the universities, even the metaphysical disquisitions of the Nominalists and Realists, and the boundless subtleties of the contending schools of the “Divine Doctors,” Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, fall under this description. Dull, dreary, unintelligible, and interminable as they are, they are still in reality works of fancy. They are the offspring, almost exclusively, of the imaginative faculty. It ought not to create surprise, to find that this faculty predominated in the minds and characters of our ancestors, and developed itself to an extent beyond our conception, when we reflect that it was almost the only one called into exercise, and that it was the leading element of every branch of literature and philosophy.

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It is true, that, in the earlier part of the seventeenth century, Lord Bacon made his sublime discoveries in the department of physical science. By disclosing the true method of investigation and reasoning on such subjects, he may be said to have found, or rather to have invented, the key that unlocked the hitherto unopened halls of nature. He introduced man to the secret chambers of the universe, and placed in his hand the thread by which he has been conducted to the magnificent results of modern science, and will undoubtedly be led on to results still more magnificent in times to come. But it was not for human nature to pass in a moment from darkness to light. The transition was slow and gradual: a long twilight intervened before the sun shed its clear and full radiance upon the world.

The great discoverer himself refused to admit, or was unable to discern, some of the truths his system had revealed. Bacon was numbered among the opponents of the Copernican or true system of astronomy to the day of his death; so also was Sir Thomas Browne, the great philosopher already described, and who flourished during the latter half of the same century. Indeed, it may be said, that, at the time of the witchcraft delusion, the ancient empire of darkness which had oppressed and crushed the world of science had hardly been shaken. The great and triumphant progress of modern discovery had scarcely begun.

I shall now proceed to illustrate these views of the state of science in the world at that time by presenting Figure Uphv1429
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a few instances. The slightest examination of the accounts which remain of occurrences deemed supernatural by our ancestors will satisfy any one that they were brought about by causes entirely natural, although unknown to them. For instance, the following circumstances are related by the Rev. James Pierpont, pastor of a church in New Haven, in a letter to Cotton Mather, and published by him in his “Magnalia:”* —

In the year 1646, a new ship, containing a valuable cargo, and having several distinguished persons on board as passengers, put to sea from New Haven in the month of January, bound to England. The vessels that came over the ensuing spring brought no tidings of her arrival in the mother-country. The pious colonists were earnest and instant in their prayers that intelligence might be received of the missing vessel. In the month of June, 1648, “a great thunder-storm arose out of the north-west; after which (the hemisphere being serene), about an hour before sunset, a ship of like dimensions with the aforesaid, with her canvas and colors abroad (although Figure Uphv1430
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the wind was northerly), appeared in the air, coming up from the harbor's mouth, which lies southward from the town, — seemingly with her sails filled under a fresh gale, holding her course north, and continuing under observation, sailing against the wind for the space of half an hour.” The phantom-ship was borne along, until, to the excited imaginations of the spectators, she seemed to have approached so near that they could throw a stone into her. Her main-topmast then disappeared, then her mizzen-topmast; then her masts were entirely carried away; and, finally, her hull fell off, and vanished from sight, — leaving a dull and smoke-colored cloud, which soon dissolved, and the whole atmosphere became clear. All affirmed that the airy vision was a precise copy and image of the missing vessel, and that it was sent to announce and describe her fate. They considered it the spectre of the lost ship; and the Rev. Mr. Davenport declared in public, “that God had condescended, for the quieting their afflicted spirits, this extraordinary account of his sovereign disposal of those for whom so many fervent prayers were made continually.”

The results of modern science enable us to explain the mysterious appearance. It is probable that some Dutch vessel, proceeding slowly, quietly, and unconsciously on her voyage from Amsterdam to the New Netherlands, happened at the time to be passing through the Sound. At the moment the apparition was seen in the sky, she was so near, that her reflected image was painted or delineated, to the eyes of the Figure Uphv1431
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observers, on the clouds, by laws of optics now generally well known, before her actual outlines could be discerned by them on the horizon. As the sun sunk behind the western hills, and his rays were gradually withdrawn, the visionary ship slowly disappeared; and the approach of night effectually concealed the vessel as she continued her course along the Sound.

The optical illusions that present themselves on the sea-shore, by which distant objects are raised to view, the opposite capes and islands made to loom up, lifted above the line of the apparent circumference of the earth, and thrown into every variety of shape which the imagination can conceive, are among the most beautiful phenomena of nature; and they impress the mind with the idea of enchantment and mystery, more perhaps than any others: but they have received a complete solution from modern discovery.

It should be observed, that the optical principles which explain these phenomena have recently afforded a foundation for the science, or rather art, of nauscopy; and there are persons in some places, — in the Isle of France, as I have been told, — whose calling and profession is to ascertain and predict the approach of vessels, by their reflection in the atmosphere and on the clouds, long before they are visible to the eye, or through the glass.

The following opinion prevailed at the time of our narrative. The discoveries in electricity, itself a recent science, have rendered it impossible for us to contemplate it without ridicule. But it was the sober Figure Uphv1432
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opinion of the age. “A great man has noted it,” says a learned writer, “that thunders break oftener on churches than any other houses, because demons have a peculiar spite at houses that are set apart for the peculiar service of God.”

Every thing that was strange or remarkable — every thing at all out of the usual course, every thing that was not clear and plain — was attributed to supernatural interposition. Indeed, our fathers lived, as they thought, continually in the midst of miracles; and felt themselves surrounded, at all times, in all scenes, with innumerable invisible beings. The beautiful verse of Milton describes their faith: — “Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earthUnseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.” What was to him, however, a momentary vision of the imagination, was to them like a perpetual perception of the senses: it was a practical belief, an everyday common sentiment, an all-pervading feeling. But these supernatural beings very frequently were believed to have become visible to our superstitious ancestors. The instances, indeed, were not rare, of individuals having seen the Devil himself with their mortal eyes. They may well be brought to notice, as illustrating the ideas which then prevailed, and had an immediate, practical effect on the conduct of men, in reference to the power, presence, and action of the Devil in human affairs. This, in fact, is necessary, that we may understand the narrative we are preparing to contemplate of transactions based wholly on those ideas.

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The following passage is extracted from a letter written to Increase Mather by the Rev. John Higginson: —

“The godly Mr. Sharp, who was ruling elder of the church of Salem almost thirty years after, related it of himself, that, being bred up to learning till he was eighteen years old, and then taken off, and put to be an apprentice to a draper in London, he yet notwithstanding continued a strong inclination and eager affection to books, with a curiosity of hearkening after and reading of the strangest and oddest books he could get, spending much of his time that way to the neglect of his business. At one time, there came a man into the shop, and brought a book with him, and said to him, `Here is a book for you, keep this till I call for it again;' and so went away. Mr. Sharp, after his wonted bookish manner, was eagerly affected to look into that book, and read it, which he did: but, as he read in it, he was seized on by a strange kind of horror, both of body and mind, the hair of his head standing up; and, finding these effects several times, he acquainted his master with it, who, observing the same effects, they concluded it was a conjuring book, and resolved to burn it, which they did. He that brought it in the shape of a man never coming to call for it, they concluded it was the Devil. He, taking this as a solemn warning from God to take heed what books he read, was much taken off from his former bookishness; confining himself to reading the Bible, and other known good books of divinity, which were profitable to his soul.”

Kircher relates the following anecdote, with a full belief of its truth: He had a friend who was zealously and perseveringly devoted to the study of alchemy. Figure Uphv1434
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At one time, while he was intent upon his operations, a gentleman entered his laboratory, and kindly offered to assist him. In a few moments, a large mass of the purest gold was brought forth from the crucible. The gentleman then took his hat, and went out: before leaving the apartment, however, he wrote a recipe for making the precious article. The grateful and admiring mortal continued his operations, according to the directions of his visitor; but the charm was lost: he could not succeed, and was at last completely ruined by his costly and fruitless experiments. Both he and his friend Kircher were fully persuaded that the mysterious stranger-visitor was the Devil.

Baxter has recorded a curious interview between Satan and Mr. White, of Dorchester, assessor to the Westminster Assembly: —

“The Devil, in a light night, stood by his bedside. The assessor looked a while, whether he would say or do any thing, and then said, `If thou hast nothing to do, I have;' and so turned himself to sleep.” Dr. Hibbert is of opinion, that the Rev. Mr. White treated his satanic majesty, on this occasion, with “a cool contempt, to which he had not often been accustomed.”

Indeed, there is nothing more curious or instructive, in the history of that period, than the light which it sheds upon the influence of the belief of the personal existence and operations of the Devil, when that belief is carried out fully into its practical effects. The Christian doctrine had relapsed into a system almost identical with Manicheism. Wierus thus describes Figure Uphv1435
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Satan, as he was regarded in the prevalent theology: “He possesses great courage, incredible cunning, superhuman wisdom, the most acute penetration, consummate prudence, an incomparable skill in veiling the most pernicious artifices under a specious disguise, and a malicious and infinite hatred towards the human race, implacable and incurable.” Milton merely responded to the popular sentiment in making Satan a character of lofty dignity, and in placing him on an elevation not “less than archangel ruined.” Hallywell, in his work on witchcraft, declares that “that mighty angel of darkness is not foolishly nor idly to be scoffed at or blasphemed. The Devil,” says he, “may properly be looked upon as a dignity, though his glory be pale and wan, and those once bright and orient colors faded and darkened in his robes; and the Scriptures represent him as a prince, though it be of devils.” Although our fathers cannot be charged with having regarded the Devil in this respectful and deferential light, it must be acknowledged that they gave him a conspicuous and distinguished — we might almost say a dignified — agency in the affairs of life and the government of the world: they were prone to confess, if not to revere, his presence, in all scenes and at all times. He occupied a wide space, not merely in their theology and philosophy, but in their daily and familiar thoughts.*

Figure Uphv1436
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Cotton Mather, in one of his sermons, carries home this peculiar belief to the consciences of his hearers, in a manner that could not have failed to quicken and startle the most dull and drowsy among them.

“No place,” says he, “that I know of, has got such a spell upon it as will always keep the Devil out. The meeting-house, wherein we assemble for the worship of God, is filled with many holy people and many holy concerns continually; but, if our eyes were so refined as the servant of the prophet had his of old, I suppose we should now see a throng of devils in this very place. The apostle has intimated that angels come in among us: there are angels, it seems, that hark how I preach, and how you hear, at this hour. And our own sad experience is enough to intimate that the devils are likewise rendezvousing here. It is reported in Job i. 5, `When the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan came also among them.' When we are in our church assemblies, oh, how many devils, do you imagine, crowd in among us! There is a devil that rocks one to sleep. There is a devil that makes another to be thinking of, he scarcely knows what himself. And there is a devil that makes another to be pleasing himself with wanton and wicked speculations. It is also possible, that we have our closets or our studies gloriously perfumed with devotions every day; but, alas! can we shut the Devil out of them? No: let us go where we will, we shall still find a devil nigh unto us. Only when we come to heaven, we shall be out of his reach for ever.”

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It is very remarkable, that such a train of thought as this did not suggest to the mind of Dr. Mather the true doctrine of the Bible respecting the Devil. One would have supposed, that, in carrying out the mode of speaking of him as a person to this extent, it would have occurred to him, that it might be that the scriptural expressions of a similar kind were also mere personifications of moral and abstract ideas. In describing the inattention, irreverence, and unholy reflections of his hearers as the operations of the Devil, it is wonderful that his eyes were not opened to discern the import of our Saviour's interpretation of the Parable of the Tares, in which he declares, that he understands by the Devil whatever obstructs the growth of virtue and piety in the soul, the causes that efface good impressions and give a wrong inclination to the thoughts and affections, such as “the cares of this world” or “the deceitfulness of riches.” By these are the tares planted, and by these is their growth promoted. “The enemy that sowed them is the Devil.”

Satan was regarded as the foe and opposer of all improvement in knowledge and civilization. The same writer thus quaintly expresses this opinion: He “has hindered mankind, for many ages, from hitting those useful inventions which yet were so obvious and facile that it is everybody's wonder that they were not sooner hit upon. The bemisted world must jog on for thousands of years without the knowledge of the loadstone, till a Neapolitan stumbled upon it about three hundred years ago. Nor must the world be blessed with Figure Uphv1438
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such a matchless engine of learning and virtue as that of printing, till about the middle of the fifteenth century. Nor could one old man, all over the face of the whole earth, have the benefit of such a little, though most needful, thing as a pair of spectacles, till a Dutchman, a little while ago, accommodated us. Indeed, as the Devil does begrudge us all manner of good, so he does annoy us with all manner of woe.” In one of his sermons, Cotton Mather claimed for himself and his clerical brethren the honor of being particularly obnoxious to the malice of the Evil One. “The ministers of God,” says he, “are more dogged by the Devil than other persons are.”

Without a knowledge of this sentiment, the witchcraft delusion of our fathers cannot be understood. They were under an impression, that the Devil, having failed to prevent the progress of knowledge in Europe, had abandoned his efforts to obstruct it effectually there; had withdrawn into the American wilderness, intending here to make a final stand; and had resolved to retain an undiminished empire over the whole continent and his pagan allies, the native inhabitants. Our fathers accounted for the extraordinary descent and incursions of the Evil One among them, in 1692, on the supposition that it was a desperate effort to prevent them from bringing civilization and Christianity within his favorite retreat; and their souls were fired with the glorious thought, that, by carrying on the war with vigor against him and his confederates, the witches, they would become chosen and honored Figure Uphv1439
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instruments in the hand of God for breaking down and abolishing the last stronghold on the earth of the kingdom of darkness.

That this opinion was not merely a conceit of their vanity, or an overweening estimate of their local importance, but a calm, deliberate conviction entertained by others as well as themselves, can be shown by abundant evidence from the literature of that period. I will quote a single illustration of the form in which this thought occupied their minds. The subject is worthy of being thoroughly appreciated, as it affords the key that opens to view the motives and sentiments which gave the mighty impetus to the witchcraft prosecution here in New England.

Joseph Mede, B.D., Fellow of Christ's College, in Cambridge, England, died in 1638, at the age of fifty years. He was perhaps, all things considered, the most profound scholar of his times. His writings give evidence of a brilliant genius and an enlightened spirit. They were held in the highest esteem by his contemporaries of all denominations, and in all parts of Europe. He was a Churchman; but had, to a remarkable degree, the confidence of nonconformists. He entertained, as will appear by what follows, in the boldest form, the then prevalent opinions concerning diabolical agency and influence; but, at the same time, was singularly free from some of the worst traits of superstition and bigotry. His intimacy with the learned Dr. William Ames, and the general tone and tendency of his writings, naturally made him an Figure Uphv1440
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authority with Protestants, particularly the Pilgrims and Puritans of New England. His posthumous writings, published in 1652, are exceedingly interesting. They contain fragments found among his papers, brief discussions of points of criticism, philosophy, and theology, and a varied correspondence on such subjects with eminent men of his day. Among his principal correspondents was Dr. William Twiss, himself a person of much ingenious learning, and whom John Norton, as we are told by Cotton Mather, “loved and admired” above all men of that age. The following passages between them illustrate the point before us.

In a letter dated March 2, 1634, Twiss writes thus:—

“Now, I beseech you, let me know what your opinion is of our English plantations in the New World. Heretofore, I have wondered in my thoughts at the providence of God concerning that world; not discovered till this Old World of ours is almost at an end; and then no footsteps found of the knowledge of the true God, much less of Christ; and then considering our English plantations of late, and the opinion of many grave divines concerning the gospel's fleeting westward. Sometimes I have had such thoughts, Why may not that be the place of the New Jerusalem? But you have handsomely and fully cleared me from such odd conceits. But what, I pray? Shall our English there degenerate, and join themselves with Gog and Magog? We have heard lately divers ways, that our people there have no hope of the conversion of the natives. And, the very week after I received your last letter, I saw a letter, written from New Figure Uphv1441
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England, discoursing of an impossibility of subsisting there; and seems to prefer the confession of God's truth in any condition here in Old England, rather than run over to enjoy their liberty there; yea, and that the gospel is like to be more dear in New England than in Old. And, lastly, unless they be exceeding careful, and God wonderfully merciful, they are like to lose that life and zeal for God and his truth in New England which they enjoyed in Old; as whereof they have already woful experience, and many there feel it to their smart.”

Mr. Mede's answer was as follows:—

“Concerning our plantations in the American world, I wish them as well as anybody; though I differ from them far, both in other things, and on the grounds they go upon. And though there be but little hope of the general conversion of those natives or any considerable part of that continent, yet I suppose it may be a work pleasing to Almighty God and our blessed Saviour to affront the Devil with the sound of the gospel and the cross of Christ, in those places where he had thought to have reigned securely, and out of the din thereof; and, though we make no Christians there, yet to bring some thither to disturb and vex him, where he reigned without check.

“For that I may reveal my conceit further, though perhaps I cannot prove it, yet I think thus, — that those countries were first inhabited since our Saviour and his apostles' times, and not before; yea, perhaps, some ages after, there being no signs or footsteps found among them, or any monuments of older habitation, as there is with us.

“That the Devil, being impatient of the sound of the gospel and cross of Christ, in every part of this Old World, Figure Uphv1442
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so that he could in no place be quiet for it; and foreseeing that he was like to lose all here; so he thought to provide himself of a seed over which he might reign securely, and in a place ubi nec Pelopidarum facta neque nomen audiret. That, accordingly, he drew a colony out of some of those barbarous nations dwelling upon the Northern Ocean (whither the sound of Christ had not yet come), and promising them by some oracle to show them a country far better than their own (which he might soon do), pleasant and large, where never man yet inhabited; he conducted them over those desert lands and islands (of which there are many in that sea) by the way of the north into America, which none would ever have gone, had they not first been assured there was a passage that way into a more desirable country. Namely, as when the world apostatized from the worship of the true God, God called Abraham out of Chaldee into the land of Canaan, of him to raise a seed to preserve a light unto his name: so the Devil, when he saw the world apostatizing from him, laid the foundations of a new kingdom, by deducting this colony from the north into America, where they have increased since into an innumerable multitude. And where did the Devil ever reign more abso lutely, and without control, since mankind first fell under his clutches?

“And here it is to be noted, that the story of the Mexican kingdom (which was not founded above four hundred years before ours came thither) relates, out of their own memorials and traditions, that they came to that place from the north, whence their god, Vitziliputzli, led them, going in an ark before them: and, after divers years' travel and many stations (like enough after some generations), they came to the place which the sign he had given them at Figure Uphv1443
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their first setting-forth pointed out; where they were to finish their travels, build themselves a city, and their god a temple, which is the place where Mexico was built. Now, if the Devil were God's ape in this, why might he not be likewise in bringing the first colony of men into that world out of ours? namely, by oracle, as God did Abraham out of Chaldee, whereto I before resembled it.

“But see the hand of Divine Providence. When the offspring of these runagates from the sound of Christ's gospel had now replenished that other world, and began to flourish in those two kingdoms of Peru and Mexico, Christ our Lord sends his mastives, the Spaniards, to hunt them out, and worry them; which they did in so hideous a manner, as the like thereunto scarce ever was done since the sons of Noah came out of the ark. What an affront to the Devil was this, where he had thought to have reigned securely, and been for ever concealed from the knowledge of the followers of Christ!

“Yet the Devil perhaps is less grieved for the loss of his servants by the destroying of them, than he would be to lose them by the saving of them; by which latter way, I doubt the Spaniards have despoiled him but of a few. What, then, if Christ our Lord will give him his second affront with better Christians, which may be more grievous to him than the former? And, if Christ shall set him up a light in this manner to dazzle and torment the Devil at his own home, I hope they (viz., the Americans) shall not so far degenerate (not all of them) as to come into that army of Gog and Magog against the kingdom of Christ, but be translated thither before the Devil be loosed; if not, presently after his tying up.”

Figure Uphv1444
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Dr. Twiss, in a reply to the above, dated April 6, 1635, thanks Mede for his letter, which he says he read “with recreation and delight;” and, particularly in reference to the “peopling of the New World,” he affirms that there is “more in this letter of yours than formerly I have been acquainted with. Your conceit thereabouts, if I have any judgment, is grave and ponderous.”

This correspondence, while it serves as a specimen of the style of Mede, is a remarkable instance of the power of a sagacious intellect to penetrate through the darkness of theoretical and fanciful errors, and behold the truth that lies behind and beyond. The whole superstructure of the Devil, his oracles, and his schemes of policy and dominion, covers, in this brief familiar epistle, what is, I suppose, the theory most accredited at this day of the origin and traduction of the aboriginal races of America, proceeding from the nearest portions of the ancient continent on the North, and advancing down over the vast spaces towards Central and South America. The letter also foreshadows the decisive conflict which is here to be waged between the elements of freedom and slavery, between social and political systems that will rescue and exalt humanity, and those which depress and degrade it. In the phraseology of that age, it was to be determined whether — the Old World, in the language of Twiss, “being almost at an end” — a “light” should be “set up” here to usher in the “kingdom of Christ,” Figure Uphv1445
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or America also be for ever given over to the “army of Gog and Magog.”

  • For a thorough discussion of the several Hebrew words that relate to Divination and Magic, see Wierus de Præstigiis, L. 2, c. 1.

    • The syllogism was originally designed to serve as a method of determining the arrangement and classification of truth already shown; and, when employed for this purpose, was of great value and excellence. It was its perverted application to the discovery of truth which rendered utterly worthless so large a part of the learning and philosophy of the middle ages. The reader will perceive, that it is to the syllogism, as thus misapplied and misunderstood by the schoolmen, not as designed and used by Aristotle, that the remarks in the text are intended to apply.
  • The manner in which Dr. Mather brings forward this affair shows how loose and inaccurate he was in his description of events. It also illustrates the tendency of the times to exaggerate, or to paint in the highest colors, whatever was susceptible of being represented as miraculous. There is no reason, however, to doubt that the facts took place substantially as described in the text. The reader is referred, on this on all points connected with our early history, to Mr. Savage's instructive, elaborate, and entertaining edition of Winthrop “New England.”

  • It is much to be regretted, that Farmer, after having written with such admirable success upon the temptation, the demoniacs, miracles, and the worship of human spirits, did not live to accomplish his original design, by giving the world a complete discussion and elucidation of the Scripture doctrine of the Devil.


Our fathers were justified in feeling that this was the sense of their responsibility entertained by all learned men and true Christians in the Old World; and they were ready to meet and discharge it faithfully and manfully. They were told, and they believed, that it had fallen to their lot to be the champions of the cross of Christ against the power of the Devil. They felt, as I have said, that they were fighting him in his last stronghold, and they were determined to “tie him up” for ever.

This is the true and just explanation of their general policy of administration, in other matters, as well as in the witchcraft prosecutions.

The conclusion to which we are brought, by a review of the seventeenth century up to the period when the prosecutions took place here, is, that the witchcraft delusion pervaded the whole civilized world and every profession and department of society. It received the sanction of all the learned and distinguished English judges who flourished within the century, from Sir Edward Coke to Sir Matthew Hale. It was countenanced by the greatest philosophers and physicians, and was embraced by men of the highest genius and accomplishments, even by Lord Bacon himself. It was established by the convocation of bishops, and preached by the clergy. Dr. Henry More, of Christ's College, Cambridge, in addition to his admirable poetical and philosophical works, wrote volumes to defend it. It Figure Uphv1446
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was considered as worthy of the study of the most cultivated and liberal minds to discover and distinguish “a true witch by proper trials and symptoms.” The excellent Dr. Calamy has already been mentioned in this connection; and Richard Baxter wrote his work entitled “The Certainty of the World of Spirits,” for the special purpose of confirming and diffusing the belief. He kept up a correspondence with Cotton Mather, and with his father, Increase Mather, through the medium of which he stimulated and encouraged them in their proceedings against supposed witches in Boston and elsewhere. The divines of that day seem to have persuaded themselves into the belief that the doctrines of demonology were essential to the gospel, and that the rejection of them was equivalent to infidelity. A writer in one of our modern journals, in speaking of the prosecutions for witchcraft, happily and justly observes, “It was truly hazardous to oppose those judicial murders. If any one ventured to do so, the Catholics burned him as a heretic, and the Protestants had a vehement longing to hang him for an atheist.” The writings of Dr. More, of Baxter, Glanvil, Perkins, and others, had been circulating for a long time in New England before the trials began at Salem. It was such a review of the history of opinion as we have now made, which led Dr. Bentley to declare that “the agency of invisible beings, if not a part of every religion, is not contrary to any one. It may be found in all ages, and in the most remote countries. It is then no just subject for our admiration, that a Figure Uphv1447
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belief so alarming to our fears, so natural to our prejudices, and so easily abused by superstition, should obtain among our fathers, when it had not been rejected in the ages of philosophy, letters, and even revelation.”

The works on demonology, the legal proceedings in prosecutions, and the phraseology of the people, gave more or less definite form to certain prominent points which may be summarily noticed. Several terms and expressions were employed to characterize persons supposed to be conversant with supernatural and magic art; such as diviner, enchanter, charmer, conjurer, necromancer, fortune-teller, soothsayer, augur, and sorcerer. These words are sometimes used as more or less synonymous, although, strictly speaking, they have meanings quite distinct. But none of them convey the idea attached to the name of witch. It was sometimes especially used to signify a female, while wizard was exclusively applied to a male. The distinction was not, however, often attempted to be made; the former title being prevailingly applied to either sex. A witch was regarded as a person who had made an actual, deliberate, formal compact with Satan, by which it was agreed that she should become his faithful subject, and do all in her power to aid him in his rebellion against God and his warfare against the gospel and church of Christ; and, in consideration of such allegiance and service, Satan, on his part, agreed to exercise his supernatural powers in her favor, and communicate to her those powers, in a greater or less Figure Uphv1448
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degree, as she proved herself an efficient and devoted supporter of his cause. Thus, a witch was considered as a person who had transferred allegiance and worship from God to the Devil.

The existence of this compact was supposed to confer great additional power on the Devil, as well as on his new subject; for the doctrine seems to have pervailed, that, for him to act with effect upon men, the intervention, instrumentality, and co-operation of human beings was necessary; and almost unlimited potency was ascribed to the combined exertions of Satan and those persons in league with him. A witch was believed to have the power, through her compact with the Devil, of afflicting, distressing, and rending whomsoever she would. She could cause them to pine away, throw them into the most frightful convulsions, choke, bruise, pierce, and craze them, subjecting them to every description of pain, disease, and torture, and even to death itself. She was believed to possess the faculty of being present, in her shape or apparition, at a different place, at any distance whatever, from that which her actual body occupied. Indeed, an indefinite amount of supernatural ability, and a boundless freedom and variety of methods for its exercise, were supposed to result from the diabolical compact. Those upon whom she thus exercised her malignant and mysterious energies were said to be bewitched.

Beside these infernal powers, the alliance with Satan was believed to confer knowledge such as no other mortal possessed. The witch could perform the same Figure Uphv1449
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wonders, in giving information of the things that belong to the invisible world, which is alleged in our day, by spirit-rappers, to be received through mediums. She could read inmost thoughts, suggest ideas to the minds of the absent, throw temptations in the path of those whom she desired to delude and destroy, bring up the spirits of the departed, and hear from them the secrets of their lives and of their deaths, and their experiences in the scenes of being on which they entered at their departure from this.

When we consider that these opinions were not merely prevalent among the common people, but sanctioned by learning and philosophy, science and jurisprudence; that they possessed an authority, which but few ventured to question and had been firmly established by the convictions of centuries, — none can be surprised at the alarm it created, when the belief became current, that there were those in the community, and even in the churches, who had actually entered into this dark confederacy against God and heaven, religion and virtue; and that individuals were beginning to suffer from their diabolical power. It cannot be considered strange, that men looked with more than common horror upon persons against whom what was regarded as overwhelming evidence was borne of having engaged in this conspiracy with all that was evil, and this treason against all that was good.

Elaborate works, scientific, philosophical, and judicial in their pretensions and reputation, — to some of which reference has been made, — defined and particularized Figure Uphv1450
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the various forms of evidence by which the crime of confederacy with Satan could be proved.

It was believed that the Devil affixed his mark to the bodies of those in alliance with him, and that the point where this mark was made became callous and dead. The law provided, specifically, the means of detecting and identifying this sign. It required that the prisoner should be subjected to the scrutiny of a jury of the same sex, who would make a minute inspection of the body, shaving the head and handling every part. They would pierce it with pins; and if, as might have been expected, particularly in aged persons, any spot could be found insensible to the torture, or any excrescence, induration, or fixed discoloration, it was looked upon as visible evidence and demonstration of guilt. A physician or “chirurgeon” was required to be present at these examinations. In conducting them, there was liability to great roughness and unfeeling recklessness of treatment; and the whole procedure was barbarous and shocking to every just and delicate sensibility. There is reason to believe, that, in the trials here, there was more considerateness, humanity, and regard to a sense of decent propriety, than in similar proceedings in other countries, so far as this branch of the investigation is regarded.

Another accredited field of evidence, recognized in the books and in legal proceedings, was as follows: It was believed, that, when witches found it inconvenient from any cause to execute their infernal designs upon Figure Uphv1451
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those whom they wished to afflict by going to them in their natural human persons, they transformed themselves into the likeness of some animal, — a dog, hog, cat, rat, mouse, or toad; birds — particularly yellow birds — were often imagined to perform this service, as representing witches or the Devil. They also had imps under their control. These imps were generally supposed to bear the resemblance of some small insect, — such as a fly or a spider. The latter animal was prevailingly considered as most likely to act in this character. The accused person was closely watched, in order that the spider imp might be seen when it approached to obtain its nourishment, as it was thought to do, from the witchmark on the body of the culprit. Within the cells of a prison, spiders were, of course, often seen. Whenever one made its appearance, the guard attacked it with all the zeal and vehemence with which it was natural and proper to assault an agent of the Wicked One. If the spider was killed in the encounter, it was considered as an innocent animal, and all suspicion was removed from its character as the diabolical confederate of the prisoner; but if it escaped into a crack or crevice of the apartment, as spiders often do when assailed, all doubt of its guilty connection with the person accused of witchcraft was removed: it was set down as, beyond question or cavil, her veritable imp; and the evidence of her confederacy with Satan was thenceforward regarded as complete. The books of law and other learned writings, as well as the practice of courts in the old Figure Uphv1452
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countries, recognized this doctrine of transformation into the shapes of animals, and the employment of imps. Where judicial tribunals countenanced the popular credulity in maintaining these ideas, there was no security for innocence, and no escape from wrong. No matter how clear and certain the evidence adduced, that an accused individual, at the time alleged, was absent from the specified place; no matter how far distant, whether twenty or a thousand miles, it availed him nothing; for it was charged that he was present, and acted through his agent or imp. This notion was further enlarged by the establishment of the additional doctrine, that a witch could be present, and act with demoniac power upon her victims, anywhere, at all times, and at any distance, without the instrumental agency of any other animal or being, in her spirit, spectre, or apparition. When the person on trial was accused of having tortured or strangled or pinched or bruised another, it did not break the force of the accusation to bring hundreds of witnesses to prove that he was, at the very time, in another remote place or country; for it was alleged that he was present in the spectral shape in which Satan enabled his spirit to be and to act any and every where at once. It was impossible to disprove the charge, and the last defence of innocence was swept away.

If any thing strange or remarkable could be discovered in the persons, histories, or deportment of accused persons, the usage of the tribunals, and the books of authority on the subject, allowed it to be brought in Figure Uphv1453
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evidence against them. If any thing they had forewarned, or even conjectured, happened to come to pass, any careless speech had been verified by events, any extraordinary knowledge had been manifested, or any marvellous feats of strength or agility been displayed, they were brought up with decisive and fatal effect.

A witch was believed to have the power of operating upon her victims, at any distance, by the instrumentality of puppets. She would procure or make an object like a doll, or a figure of some animal, — any little bunch of cloth or bundle of rags would answer the purpose. She would will the puppet to represent the person whom she proposed to torment or afflict; and then whatever she did to the puppet would be suffered by the party it represented at any distance, however remote. A pin stuck into the puppet would pierce the flesh of the person whom she wished to afflict, and produce the appropriate sensations of pain. So would a pinch, or a blow, or any kind of violence. When any one was arrested on the charge of witchcraft, a search was immediately made for puppets from garret to cellar; and if any thing could be found that might possibly be imagined to possess that character, — any remnant of flannel or linen wrapped up, the foot of an old stocking, or a cushion of any kind, particularly if there were any pins in it, — it was considered as weighty and quite decisive evidence against the accused party.

A writer, in a recent number of the “North Figure Uphv1454
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Review,” on the superstitions of the American Indians, makes the following statement: —

“The sorcerer, by charms, magic songs, magic feats, and the beating of his drum, had power over the spirits, and those occult influences inherent in animals and inanimate things. He could call to him the souls of his enemies. They appeared before him in the form of stones. He chopped and bruised them with his hatchet; blood and flesh issued forth; and the intended victim, however distant, languished and died. Like the sorcerer of the middle ages, he made images of those he wished to destroy, and, muttering incantations, punctured them with an awl; whereupon the persons represented sickened and pined away.”

It was a received opinion, accredited and acted upon in courts, that a person in confederacy with the Evil One could not weep. Those accused of this crime, both in Europe and America, were, in many instances, of an age and condition which rendered it impossible for them, however innocent, to escape the effect of this test. A decrepit, emaciated person, shrivelled and desiccated by age, was placed at the bar: and if she could not weep on the spot; if, in consequence of her withered frame, her amazement and indignation at the false and malignant charges by which she was circumvented, her exhausted sensibility, her sullen despair, the hopeless horror of her situation, or, from what often was found to be the effect of the treatment such persons received, a high-toned consciousness of innocence, and a brave defiance and stern condemnation of her maligners and persecutors; if, from any cause, Figure Uphv1455
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the fountain of tears was closed or dried up, — their failure to come forth at the bidding of her defamers was regarded as a sure and irrefragable proof of her guilt.

King James explains the circumstance, that witches could not weep, in rather a curious manner: —

“For as, in a secret murther, if the dead carkasse bee at any time thereafter handled by the murtherer it will gush out of bloud, as if the bloud were crying to the heaven for revenge of the murtherer, God having appointed that secret supernaturall signe for triall of that secret unnaturall crime; so it appeares that God hath appointed (for a supernaturall signe of the monstrous impietie of witches), that the water shall refuse to receive them in her bosome that have shaken off them the sacred water of baptisme, and wilfully refused the benefite thereof: no, not so much as their eyes are able to shed teares (threaten and torture them as ye please), while first they repent (God not permitting them to dissemble their obstinacie in so horrible a crime), albeit the woman kind especially be able otherwise to shed teares at every light occasion when they will, — yea, although it were dissemblingly like the crocodiles.”

Reginald Scott, in introducing a Romish form of adjuration, makes the following excellent remarks on the trial by tears: —

“But alas that teares should be thought sufficient to excuse or condemn in so great a cause, and so weightie a triall! I am sure that the worst sort of the children of Israel wept bitterlie; yea, if there were any witches at all in Israel, they wept. For it is written, that all the children Figure Uphv1456
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of Israel wept. Finallie, if there be any witches in hell, I am sure they weepe; for there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. But God knoweth many an honest matron cannot sometimes in the heaviness of her heart shed teares; the which oftentimes are more readie and common with crafty queans and strumpets than with sober women. For we read of two kinds of teares in a woman's eie; the one of true greefe, and the other of deceipt. And it is written, that `Dediscere flere fœminam est mendacium;' which argueth that they lie, which saie that wicked women cannot weepe. But let these tormentors take heed, that the teares in this case which runne down the widowe's cheeks, with their crie, spoken of by Jesus Sirach, be not heard above. But, lo, what learned, godlie and lawful meanes these Popish Inquisitors have invented for the triall of true or false teares: —

`I conjure thee, by the amorous tears which Jesus Christ, our Saviour, shed upon the crosse for the salvation of the world; and by the most earnest and burning teares of his mother, the most glorious Virgine Marie, sprinkled upon his wounds late in the evening; and by all the teares which everie saint and elect vessell of God hath poured out heere in the world, and from whose eies he hath wiped awaie all teares, — that, if thou be without fault, thou maist poure downe teares aboundantlie; and, if thou be guiltie, that thou weep in no wise. In the name of the Father, of the Sonne, and of the Holie Ghost. Amen.'

“The more you conjure, the lesse she weepeth.”

A distinction was made between black and white witches. The former were those who had leagued with Satan for the purpose of doing injury to others, Figure Uphv1457
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while the latter class was composed of such persons as had resorted to the arts and charms of divination and sorcery in order to protect themselves and others from diabolical influence. They were both considered as highly, if not equally, criminal. Fuller, in his “Profane State,” thus speaks of them: “Better is it to lap one's pottage like a dog, than to eat it mannerly, with a spoon of the Devil's giving. Black witches hurt and do mischief; but, in deeds of darkness, there is no difference of colors. The white and the black are both guilty alike in compounding with the Devil.” White witches pretended to extract their power from the mysterious virtues of certain plants. The following form of charmed words was used in plucking them: — “Hail to thee, holy herb,Growing in the ground;On the Mount of Calvarie,First wert thou found;Thou art good for many a grief,And healest many a wound:In the name of sweet Jesu,I lift thee from the ground.” Then there was the evidence of ocular fascination. The accused and the accusers were brought into the presence of the examining magistrate, and the supposed witch was ordered to look upon the afflicted persons; instantly upon coming within the glance of her eye, they would scream out, and fall down as in a fit. It was thought that an invisible and impalpable fluid darted from the eye of the witch, and penetrated the brain of the bewitched. By bringing the witch so Figure Uphv1458
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near that she could touch the afflicted persons with her hand, the malignant fluid was attracted back into her hand, and the sufferers recovered their senses. It is singular to notice the curious resemblance between this opinion — the joint product of superstition and imposture — and the results to which modern science has led us in the discoveries of galvanism and animal electricity. The doctrine of fascination maintained its hold upon the public credulity for a long time, and gave occasion to the phrase, still in familiar use among us, of “looking upon a person with an evil eye.” Its advocates claimed, in its defence, the authority of the Cartesian philosophy; but it cannot be considered, in an age of science and reason, as having any better support than the rural superstition of Virgil's simple shepherd, who thus complains of the condition of his emaciated flock:— “They look so thin,Their bones are barely covered with their skin.What magic has bewitched the woolly dams?And what ill eyes beheld the tender lambs?” Witchcraft, in all ages and countries, was recognized as a reality, just as much as any of the facts of nature, or incidents to which mankind is liable. By the laws of all nations, Catholic and Protestant alike, in the old country and in the new, it was treated as a capital offence, and classed with murder and other highest crimes, although regarded as of a deeper dye and blacker character than them all. Indictments and trials of persons accused of it were not, therefore, Figure Uphv1459
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considered as of any special interest, or as differing in any essential particulars from proceedings against any other description of offenders. There had been many such proceedings in the American colonies, — more, perhaps, than have come to our knowledge, — previous to 1692. They were not looked upon as sufficiently extraordinary to be transferred, from the oblivion sweeping like a perpetual deluge over the vast multitude of human experiences, to the ark of history, which rescues only a select few. The following are the principal facts of this class of which we have information:—

William Penn presided, in his judicial character, at the trial of two Swedish women for witchcraft; the grand jury, acting under instructions from him, having found bills against them. They were saved, not in consequence of any peculiar reluctance to proceed against them arising out of the nature of the alleged crime, but only from some technical defect in the indictment. If it had not been for this accidental circumstance, as the annalist of Philadelphia suggests, scenes similar to those subsequently occurring in Salem Village might have darkened the history of the Quakers, Swedes, Germans, and Dutch, who dwelt in the City of Brotherly Love and the adjacent colonies. There had been trials and executions for witchcraft in other parts of New England, and excitements had obtained more or less currency in reference to the assaults of the powers of darkness upon human affairs. These incidents prepared the way for the delusion in Salem, and Figure Uphv1460
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provided elements to form its character. They must not, therefore, be wholly overlooked. But the memorials for their elucidation are very defective. Hutchinson “History of Massachusetts” is, perhaps, the most valuable authority on the subject. He enjoyed an advantage over any other writer, before, since, or hereafter, so far as relates to the witchcraft proceedings in 1692; for he had access to all the records and documents connected with it, a great part of which have subsequently been lost or destroyed. His treatment of that particular topic is more satisfactory than can elsewhere be found. But of incidents of the sort that preceded it, his information appears to have been very slight and unreliable. It is a singular fact, that we know more of the history of the first century of New England than was known by the most enlightened persons of the intermediate century. There was no regular organized newspaper press, the commemorative age had not begun, and none seem to have been fully aware of the importance of putting events on record. The publication, but a few years since, of the colonial journals of the first half-century of Massachusetts; researches by innumerable hands among papers on file in public offices; the printing of town-histories, and the collections made by historical and genealogical societies, — have rescued from oblivion, and redeemed from error, many points of the greatest interest and importance.

Winthrop, in his “Journal,” gives an account of the execution of Margaret Jones, of Charlestown, who had been tried and condemned by the Court of Assistants. Figure Uphv1461
Page 416.
The charges against her were, that she had a malignant touch, so that many persons, — “men, women, and children,” — on coming in contact with her, were “taken with deafness, vomiting, or other violent pains or sickness;” that she practised physic, and her medicines, “being such things as (by her own confession) were harmless, as aniseed, liquors, &c., yet had extraordinary violent effects;” and that they found on her body, “upon a forced search,” the witchmarks, particularly “a teat, as fresh if it had been newly sucked.” Other ridiculous allegations were made against her. As for the effects of the touch, it is obvious that they could be easily simulated by evil-disposed persons. The whole substance of her offence seems to have been, that she was very successful in the use of simple prescriptions for the cure of diseases. Her practice was charged as “against the ordinary course, and beyond the apprehension of all physicians and surgeons.” A bitter animosity was, accordingly, raised against her. She treated her accusers and defamers with indignant resentment. “Her behavior at her trial,” says Winthrop, “was very intemperate, lying notoriously, and railing upon the jury and witnesses, &c.; and, in the like distemper, she died.” We shall find that the bold assertion of innocence, and indignant denunciations of the persecutors and defamers who had destroyed their reputations and pursued them to the death, by persons tried and executed for witchcraft, in 1692, were regarded by some, as they were by Winthrop, as proofs of ill-temper and falsehood. The Governor closes his statement Figure Uphv1462
Page 417.
about Margaret Jones, by relating what he regarded as a demonstration of her guilt: “The same day and hour she was executed, there was a very great tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many trees, &c.” The records of the General Court contain no express notice of this case. Perhaps it is referred to in the following paragraph, under date of May 13, 1648: —

“This Court, being desirous that the same course which hath been taken in England for the discovery of witches, by watching, may also be taken here, with the witch now in question, and therefore do order that a strict watch be set about her every night, and that her husband be confined to a private room, and watched also.”

Margaret Jones was executed in Boston on the 15th of June. Hutchinson refers to the statement made by Johnson, in the “Wonder-working Providence,” that “more than one or two in Springfield, in 1645, were suspected of witchcraft; that much diligence was used, both for the finding them and for the Lord's assisting them against their witchery; yet have they, as is supposed, bewitched not a few persons, among whom two of the reverend elder's children.” Johnson loose and immethodical narrative covers the period from 1645 till toward the end of 1651; and Hutchinson was probably misled in supposing that the Springfield cases occurred as early as 1645. The Massachusetts colonial records, under the date of May 8, 1651, have this entry: —

Figure Uphv1463
Page 418.

“The Court, understanding that Mary Parsons, now in prison, accused for a witch, is likely, through weakness, to die before trial, if it be deferred, do order, that, on the morrow, by eight o'clock in the morning, she be brought before and tried by the General Court, the rather that Mr. Pinchon may be present to give his testimony in the case.”

Mr. Pinchon was probably able to stay a few days longer. She was not brought to trial before the Court until the 13th, under which date is the following: —

“Mary Parsons, wife of Hugh Parsons, of Springfield, being committed to prison for suspicion of witchcraft, as also for murdering her own child, was this day called forth, and indicted for witchcraft. By the name of Mary Parsons, you are here, before the General Court, charged, in the name of this Commonwealth, that, not having the fear of God before your eyes nor in your heart, being seduced by the Devil, and yielding to his malicious motion, about the end of February last, at Springfield, to have familiarity, or consulted with, a familiar spirit, making a covenant with him; and have used divers devilish practices by witchcraft, to the hurt of the persons of Martha and Rebecca Moxon, against the word of God and the laws of this jurisdiction, long since made and published.' To which indictment she pleadedNot guilty.' All evidences brought in against her being heard and examined, the Court found the evidences were not sufficient to prove her a witch, and therefore she was cleared in that respect.

“At the same time, she was indicted for murdering her child. `By the name of Mary Parsons, you are here, before the General Court, charged, in the name of this Commonwealth, Figure Uphv1464
Page 419.
that, not having the fear of God before your eyes nor in your heart, being seduced by the Devil, and yielding to his instigations and the wickedness of your own heart, about the beginning of March last, in Springfield, in or near your own house, did wilfully and most wickedly murder your own child, against the word of God and the laws of this jurisdiction, long since made and published.' To which she acknowledged herself guilty.

“The Court, finding her guilty of murder by her own confession, &c., proceeded to judgment: `You shall be carried from this place to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, and there hang till you be dead.”'

Under the same date — May 13 — is an order of the Court appointing a day of humiliation “throughout our jurisdiction in all the churches,” in consideration, among other things, of the extent to which “Satan prevails amongst us in respect of witchcrafts.”

The colonial records, under date of May 31, 1652, recite the facts, that Hugh Parsons, of Springfield, had been tried before the Court of Assistants — held at Boston, May 12, 1652 — for witchcraft; that the case was transferred to a “jury of trials,” which found him guilty. The magistrates not consenting to the verdict of the jury, the case came legally to the General Court, which body decided that “he was not legally guilty of witchcraft, and so not to die by law.”

When these citations are collated and examined, and it is remembered that Mr. Moxon was the “reverend elder” of the church at Springfield, it cannot be doubted Figure Uphv1465
Page 420.
that the case of the Parsonses is that referred to by Johnson in the “Wonder-working Providence,” and that Hutchinson was in error as to the date. We are left in doubt as to the fate of Mary Parsons. There is a marginal entry on the records, to the effect that she was reprieved to the 29th of May. Neither Johnson nor Hutchinson seem to have thought that the sentence was ever carried into effect. It clearly never ought to have been. The woman was in a weak and dying condition, her mind was probably broken down, — the victim of that peculiar kind of mania — partaking of the character of a religious fanaticism and perversion of ideas — that has often led to child-murder.

These instances show, that, at that time, the General Court exercised consideration and discrimination in the treatment of questions of this kind brought before it.

Hutchinson, on the authority of Hale, says that a woman at Dorchester, and another at Cambridge, were executed, not far from this time, for witchcraft; and that they asserted their innocence with their dying breath. He also says, that, in 1650, “a poor wretch, — Mary Oliver, — probably weary of her life from the general reputation of being a witch, after long examination, was brought to a confession of her guilt; but I do not find that she was executed.”

In 1656, a very remarkable case occurred. William Hibbins was a merchant in Boston, and one of the most prominent and honored citizens of Massachusetts. He was admitted a freeman in 1640; was deputy in the Figure Uphv1466
Page 421.
General Court in that and the following year; was elected an assistant for twelve successive years, — from 1643 to 1654; represented the Colony, for a time, as its agent in England, and received the thanks of the General Court for his valuable service there. No one appears to have had more influence, or to have enjoyed more honorable distinction, during his long legislative career. He died in 1654. Hutchinson says, in the text of his first and second volumes, that his widow was tried, condemned, and hanged as a witch in 1655, although he corrects the error in a note to the passage in the first volume. The following is the statement of the case in the Massachusetts colonial records, under the date of May 14, 1656: —

“The magistrates not receiving the verdict of the jury in Mrs. Hibbins her case, having been on trial for witchcraft, it came and fell, of course, to the General Court. Mrs. Ann Hibbins was called forth, appeared at the bar, the indictment against her was read; to which she answered, `Not guilty,' and was willing to be tried by God and this Court. The evidence against her was read, the parties witnessing being present, her answers considered on; and the whole Court, being met together, by their vote, determined that Mrs. Ann Hibbins is guilty of witchcraft, according to the bill of indictment found against her by the jury of life and death. The Governor, in open Court, pronounced sentence accordingly; declaring she was to go from the bar to the place from whence she came, and from thence to the place of execution, and there to hang till she was dead.

“It is ordered, that warrant shall issue out from the secretary to the marshal general, for the execution of Mrs. Hibbins, Figure Uphv1467
Page 422.
on the fifth day next come fortnight, presently after the lecture at Boston, being the 19th of June next; the marshal general taking with him a sufficient guard.”

Mrs. Hibbins is stated to have been a sister of Richard Bellingham, at that very time deputy-governor, and always regarded as one of the chief men in the country. Strange to say, very little notice appears to have been taken of this event, beyond the immediate locality; but what little has come down to us indicates that it was a case of outrageous folly and barbarity, justly reflecting infamy upon the community at the time. Hutchinson, who wrote a hundred years after the event, and evidently had no other foundation for his opinion than vague conjectural tradition, gives the following explanation of the proceedings against her: “Losses, in the latter part of her husband's life, had reduced his estate, and increased the natural crabbedness of his wife's temper, which made her turbulent and quarrelsome, and brought her under church censures, and at length rendered her so odious to her neighbors as to cause some of them to accuse her of witchcraft.”

While this is hardly worthy of being considered a sufficient explanation of the matter, — it being beyond belief, that, even at that time, a person could be condemned and executed merely on account of a “crabbed temper,” — it is not consistent with the facts, as made known to us from the record-offices. She could not have been so reduced in circumstances as to produce such extraordinary effects upon her character, for she Figure Uphv1468
Page 423.
left a good estate. The truth is, that the tongue of slander was let loose upon her, and the calumnies circulated by reckless gossip became so magnified and exaggerated, and assumed such proportions, as enabled her vilifiers to bring her under the censure of the church, and that emboldened them to cry out against her as a witch. Hutchinson expresses the opinion that she was the victim of popular clamor. But that alone, without some pretence or show of evidence, could not have brought the General Court, in reversal of the judgment of the magistrates, to condemn to death a person of such a high social position.

The only clue we have to the kind of evidence bearing upon the charge of witchcraft that brought this recently bereaved widow to so cruel and shameful a death, is in a letter, written by a clergyman in Jamaica to Increase Mather in 1684, in which he says, “You may remember what I have sometimes told you your famous Mr. Norton once said at his own table, — before Mr. Wilson, the pastor, elder Penn, and myself and wife, &c., who had the honor to be his guests, — that one of your magistrate's wives, as I remember, was hanged for a witch only for having more wit than her neighbors. It was his very expression; she having, as he explained it, unhappily guessed that two of her persecutors, whom she saw talking in the street, were talking of her, which, proving true, cost her her life, notwithstanding all he could do to the contrary, as he himself told us.” Nothing was more natural than for her to suppose, knowing the parties, witnessing their Figure Uphv1469
Page 424.
manner, considering their active co-operation in getting up the excitement against her, which was then the all-engrossing topic, that they were talking about her. But, in the blind infatuation of the time, it was considered proof positive of her being possessed, by the aid of the Devil, of supernatural insight, — precisely as, forty years afterwards, such evidence was brought to bear, with telling effect, against George Burroughs. — The body of this unfortunate lady was searched for witchmarks, and her trunks and premises rummaged for puppets.

It is quite evident that means were used to get up a violent popular excitement against her, which became so formidable as to silence every voice that dared to speak in her favor. Joshua Scottow, a citizen of great respectability and a selectman, ventured to give evidence in her favor, counter, in its bearings, to some testimony against her; and he was dealt with very severely, and compelled to write an humble apology to the Court, to disavow all friendly interest in Mrs. Hibbins, and to pray “that the sword of justice may be drawn forth against all wickedness.” He says, “I am cordially sorry that any thing from me, either by word or writing, should give offence to the honored Court, my dear brethren in the church, or any others.”

Hutchinson states that there were, however, some persons then in Boston, who denounced the proceedings against Mrs. Hibbins, and regarded her, not merely as a persecuted woman, but as “a saint;” that a deep feeling of resentment against her persecutors long Figure Uphv1470
Page 425.
remained in their minds; and that they afterwards “observed solemn marks of Providence set upon those who were very forward to condemn her.” It is evident that the Court of Magistrates were opposed to her conviction, and that Mr. Norton did what he could to save her. He was one of the four “great Johns,” who were the first ministers of the church in Boston; and it is remarkable, as showing the violence of the people against her, that even his influence was of no avail in her favor. But she had other friends, as appears from her will, which, after all, is the only source of reliable information we have respecting her character. It is dated May 27, 1656, a few days after she received the sentence of death. In it she names, as overseers and administrators of her estate, “Captain Thomas Clarke, Lieutenant Edward Hutchinson, Lieutenant William Hudson, Ensign Joshua Scottow, and Cornet Peter Oliver.” In a codicil, she says, “I do earnestly desire my loving friends, Captain Johnson and Mr. Edward Rawson, to be added to the rest of the gentlemen mentioned as overseers of my will.” It can hardly be doubted, that these persons — and they were all leading citizens — were known by her to be among her friends.

The whole tone and manner of these instruments give evidence, that she had a mind capable of rising above the power of wrong, suffering, and death itself. They show a spirit calm and serene. The disposition of her property indicates good sense, good feeling, and business faculties suitable to the occasion. In the Figure Uphv1471
Page 426.
body of the will, there is not a word, a syllable, or a turn of expression, that refers to, or is in the slightest degree colored by, her peculiar situation. In the codicil, dated June 16, there is this sentence: “My desire is, that all my overseers would be pleased to show so much respect unto my dead corpse as to cause it to be decently interred, and, if it may be, near my late husband.”

When married to Mr. Hibbins, she was a widow, named Moore. There were no children by her last marriage, — certainly none living at the time of her death. There were three sons by her former marriage, — John, Joseph, and Jonathan. These were all in England; but the youngest, hearing of her situation, embarked for America. When she wrote the codicil, — three days before her execution, — she added, at the end, having apparently just heard of his coming, “I give my son Jonathan twenty pounds, over and above what I have already given him, towards his pains and charge in coming to see me, which shall be first paid out of my estate.” There is reason to cherish the belief that he reached her in the short interval between the date of the codicil and her death, from the tenor of the following postscript, written and signed on the morning of her execution: “My further mind and will is, out of my sense of the more than ordinary affection and pains of my son Jonathan in the times of my distress, I give him, as a further legacy, ten pounds.” The will was proved in Court, July 2, 1656. The will and codicil speak of her “farms at Muddy River;” and Figure Uphv1472
Page 427.
of chests and a desk, in which were valuables of such importance that she took especial pains to intrust the keys of them to Edward Rawson, in a provision of the codicil. The estate was inventoried at ¥344. 14s., which was a considerable property in those days, as money was then valued.

Hutchinson mentions a case of witchcraft in Hartford, in 1662, where some women were accused, and, after being proceeded against until they were confounded and bewildered, one of them made the most preposterous confessions, which ought to have satisfied every one that her reason was overthrown; three of them were condemned, and one, certainly, — probably all, — executed. In 1669, he says that Susanna Martin, of Salisbury, — whom we shall meet again, — was bound over to the Court on the same charge, “but escaped at that time.” Another case is mentioned by him as having occurred, in 1671, at Groton, in which the party confessed, and thereby avoided condemnation. In 1673, a case occurred at Hampton; but the jury, although, as they said, there was strong ground of suspicion, returned a verdict of “Not guilty;” the evidence not being deemed quite sufficient. There were several other cases, about this time, in which some persons were severely handled in consequence of being reputed witches; and others suffered, as they imagined, “under an evil hand.”

In this immediate neighborhood, there had been several attempts, previous to the delusion at Salem Village in 1692, to get up witchcraft prosecutions, Figure Uphv1473
Page 428.
but without much success. The people of this county had not become sufficiently infected with the fanaticism of the times to proceed to extremities.

In September, 1652, the following presentment was made by the grand jury: —

“We present John Bradstreet, of Rowley, for suspicion of having familiarity with the Devil. He said he read in a book of magic, and that he heard a voice asking him what work he had for him. He answered, `Go make a bridge of sand over the sea; go make a ladder of sand up to heaven, and go to God, and come down no more.'

“Witness hereof, Francis Parat and his wife, of Rowley.

“Witness, William Bartholomew, of Ipswich.”

On the 28th of that month, the jury at Ipswich, “upon examination of the case, found he had told a lie, which was a second, being convicted once before. The Court sets a fine of twenty shillings, or else to be whipped.”

Bradstreet was probably in the habit of romancing, and it was wisely oncluded not to take a more serious view of his offences.

In 1658, a singular case of this kind occurred in Essex County. The following papers relating to it illustrate the sentiments and forms of thought prevalent at that time, and give an insight of the state of society in some particulars: —

“To the Honored Court to be holden at Ipswich, this twelfth month, '58 or '59.

“Honored Gentlemen, — Whereas divers of esteem with us, and as we hear in other places also, have for Figure Uphv1474
Page 429.
some time suffered losses in their estates, and some affliction in their bodies also, — which, as they suppose, doth not arise from any natural cause, or any neglect in themselves, but rather from some ill-disposed person, — that, upon differences had betwixt themselves and one John Godfrey, resident at Andover or elsewhere at his pleasure, we whose names are underwritten do make bold to sue by way of request to this honored court, that you, in your wisdom, will be pleased, if you see cause for it, to call him in question, and to hear, at present or at some after sessions, what may be said in this respect.

“James Davis, Sr., in the behalf of his son Ephraim Davis.

John Haseldin, and Jane his wife.

Abraham Whitaker, for his ox and other things.

Ephraim Davis, in the behalf of himself.”

The petitioners mention in brief some instances in confirmation of their complaint. There are several depositions. That of Charles Browne and wife says: —

“About six or seven years since, in the meeting-house of Rowley, being in the gallery in the first seat, there was one in the second seat which he doth, to his best remembrance, think and believe it was John Godfrey. This deponent did see him, yawning, open his mouth; and, while he so yawned, this deponent did see a small teat under his tongue. And, further, this deponent saith that John Godfrey was in this deponent's house about three years since. Speaking about the power of witches, he the said Godfrey spoke, that, if witches were not kindly entertained, the Devil will appear unto them, and ask them if they were grieved or vexed with anybody, and ask them what he should do for them; and, if Figure Uphv1475
Page 430.
they would not give them beer or victuals, they might let all the beer run out of the cellar; and, if they looked steadfastly upon any creature, it would die; and, if it were hard to some witches to take away life, either of man or beast, yet, when they once begin it, then it is easy to them.”

The depositions in this case are presented as they are in the originals on file, leaving in blank such words or parts of words as have been worn off. They are given in full.

“The Deposition of Isabel Holdred, who testifieth that John Godfree came to the house of Henry Blazdall, where her husband and herself were, and demanded a debt of her husband, and said a warrant was out, and Goodman Lord was suddenly to come. John Godfree asked if we would not pay him. The deponent answered, Yes, to-night or to, if we had it; for I believe we shall not.... we are in thy debt.' John Godfree answered,That is a bitter word;'.... said, I must begin, and must send Goodman Lord.' The deponent answered,.... when thou wilt. I fear thee not, nor all the devils in hell!' And, further, this deponent testifieth, that, two days after this, she was taken with those strange fits, with which she was tormented a fortnight together, night and day. And several apparitions appeared to the deponent in the night. The first night, a humble-bee, the next night a bear, appeared, which grinned the teeth and shook the claw: Thou sayest thou art not afraid. Thou thinkest Harry Blazdall's house will save thee.' The deponent answered,I hope the Lord Jesus Christ will save me.' The apparition then spake: Thou sayst thou art not afraid of all the devils in hell; but I will <a id="vI431"></a> <span markdown class="figure">[![Figure Uphv1476](archives/upham/gifs/Uphv1476.gif)](archives/upham/large/Uphv1476.jpg)<br>Page 431.</span> have thy heart's blood within a few hours!' The next was the apparition of a great snake, at which the deponent was exceedingly affrighted, and skipt to Nathan Gold, who was in the opposite chimney-corner, and caught hold of the hair of his head; and her speech was taken away for the space of half an hour. The next night appeared a great horse; and, Thomas Hayne being there, the deponent told him of it, and showed him where. The said Tho. Hayne took a stick, and struck at the place where the apparition was; and his stroke glanced by the side of it, and it went under the table. And he went to strike again; then the apparition fled to the.... and made it shake, and went away. And, about a week after, the deponent.... son were at the door of Nathan Gold, and heard a rushing on the.... The deponent said to her son,Yonder is a beast.' He answered, 'Tis one of Goodman Cobbye's black oxen;' and it came toward them, and came within.... yards of them. The deponent her heart began to ache, for it seemed to have great eyes; and spoke to the boy,Let's go in.' But suddenly the ox beat her up against the wall, and struck her down; and she was much hurt by it, not being able to rise up. But some others carried me into the house, all my face being bloody, being much bruised. The boy was much affrighted a long time after; and, for the space of two hours, he was in a sweat that one might have washed hands on his hair. Further this deponent affirmeth, that she hath been often troubled with.... black cat sometimes appearing in the house, and sometimes in the night.... bed, and lay on her, and sometimes stroking her face. The cat seemed.... thrice as big as an ordinary cat.”

“Thomas Hayne testifieth, that, being with Goodwife Holdridge, she told me that she saw a great horse, and Figure Uphv1477
Page 432.
showed me where it stood. I then took a stick, and struck on the place, but felt nothing; and I heard the door shake, and Good. H. said it was gone out at the door. Immediately after, she was taken with extremity of fear and pain, so that she presently fell into a sweat, and I thought she would swoon. She trembled and shook like a leaf.

“Thomas Hayne.”

“Nathan Gould being with Goodwife Holgreg one night, there appeared a great snake, as she said, with open mouth; and she, being weak, — hardly able to go alone, — yet then ran and laid hold of Nathan Gould by the head, and could not speak for the space of half an hour.

“Nathan Gould.”

“William Osgood testifieth, that, in the yeare '40, in the month of August, — he being then building a barn for Mr. Spencer, — John Godfree being then Mr. Spencer's herdsman, he on an evening came to the frame, where divers men were at work, and said that he had gotten a new master against the time he had done keeping cows. The said William Osgood asked him who it was. He answered, he knew not. He again asked him where he dwelt. He answered, he knew not. He asked him what his name was. He answered, he knew not. He then said to him, How, then, wilt thou go to him when thy time is out?' He said,The man will come and fetch me then.' I asked him, Hast thou made an absolute bargain?' He answered that a covenant was made, and he had set his hand to it. He then asked of him whether he had not a counter covenant. Godfree answered,No.' W. O. said, What a mad fellow art thou to make a covenant in this manner!' He said,He's an honest man.' — How knowest thou?' said W. O. J. Godfree answered.He looks like one.' W. O. then Figure Uphv1478
Page 433.
answered, I am persuaded thou hast made a covenant with the Devil.' He then skipped about, and said,I profess, I profess!'

William Osgood.”

The proceedings against Godfrey were carried up to other tribunals, as appears by a record of the County Court at Salem, 28th of June, 1659: —

“John Godfrey stands bound in one hundred pound bond to the treasurer of this county for his appearance at a General Court, or Court of Assistants, when he shall be legally summonsed thereunto.”

What action, if any, was had by either of these high courts, I have found no information. But he must have come off unscathed; for, soon after, he commenced actions in the County Court for defamation against his accusers, with the following results: —

“John Godfery plt. agst. Will. Simonds & his son dfts. in an action of slander that the said son to Will. Simons, hath don him in his name, Charging him to be a witch, the jury find for the plt. 2d damage & cost of Court 29sh., yet notwithstanding doe conceiue, that by the testmonyes he is rendred suspicious.”

“John Godfery plt. agst. Jonathan Singletary defendt. in an action of Slander & Defamation for calling him witch & said is this witch on this side Boston Gallows yet, the attachmt. & other evidences were read, committed to the Jury & are on file. The Jury found for the plt. a publique acknowledgmt, at Haverhill within a month that he hath done the plt. wrong in his words or 10sh damage & costs of Court ¥2-16-0.”

Figure Uphv1479
Page 434.

In the trial of the case between Godfrey and Singletary, the latter attempted to prove the truth of his allegations against the former, by giving the following piece of testimony, which, while it failed to convince the jury, is worth preserving, from the inherent interest of some of its details: —

“Date the fourteenth the twelfth month, '62. — The Deposition of Jonathan Singletary, aged about 23, who testifieth that I, being in the prison at Ipswich this night last past between nine and ten of the clock at night, after the bell had rung, I being set in a corner of the prison, upon a sudden I heard a great noise as if many cats had been climbing up the prison walls, and skipping into the house at the windows, and jumping about the chamber; and a noise as if boards' ends or stools had been thrown about, and men walking in the chambers, and a crackling and shaking as if the house would have fallen upon me. I seeing this, and considering what I knew by a young man that kept at my house last Indian Harvest, and, upon some difference with John Godfre, he was presently several nights in a strange manner troubled, and complaining as he did, and upon consideration of this and other things that I knew by him, I was at present something affrighted; yet considering what I had lately heard made out by Mr. Mitchel at Cambridge, that there is more good in God than there is evil in sin, and that although God is the greatest good, and sin the greatest evil, yet the first Being of evil cannot weane the scales or overpower the first Being of good: so considering that the author of good was of greater power than the author of evil, God was pleased of his goodness to keep me from being out of measure frighted. So this noise abovesaid Figure Uphv1480
Page 435.
held as I suppose about a quarter of an hour, and then ceased: and presently I heard the bolt of the door shoot or go back as perfectly, to my thinking, as I did the next morning when the keeper came to unlock it; and I could not see the door open, but I saw John Godfre stand within the door and said, Jonathan, Jonathan.' So I, looking on him, said,What have you to do with me?' He said, I come to see you: are you weary of your place yet?' I answered,I take no delight in being here, but I will be out as soon as I can.' He said, If you will pay me in corn, you shall come out.' I answered,No: if that had been my intent, I would have paid the marshal, and never have come hither.' He, knocking of his fist at me in a kind of a threatening way, said he would make me weary of my part, and so went away, I knew not how nor which way; and, as I was walking about in the prison, I tripped upon a stone with my heel, and took it up in my hand, thinking that if he came again I would strike at him. So, as I was walking about, he called at the window, Jonathan,' said he,if you will pay me corn, I will give you two years day, and we will come to an agreement;' I answered him saying, Why do you come dissembling and playing the Devil's part here? Your nature is nothing but envy and malice, which you will vent, though to your own loss; and you seek peace with no man.' —I do not dissemble,' said he: `I will give you my hand upon it, I am in earnest.' So he put his hand in at the window, and I took hold of it with my left hand, and pulled him to me; and with the stone in my right hand I thought I struck him, and went to recover my hand to strike again, and his hand was gone, and I would have struck, but there was nothing to strike: and how he went away I know not; for I could Figure Uphv1481
Page 436.
neither feel when his hand went out of mine, nor see which way he went.”

It can hardly be doubted, that Singletary's story was the result of the workings of an excited imagination, in wild and frightful dreams under the spasms of nightmare. We shall meet similar phenomena, when we come to the testimony in the trials of 1692.

Godfrey was a most eccentric character. He courted and challenged the imputation of witchcraft, and took delight in playing upon the credulity of his neighbors, enjoying the exhibition of their amazement, horror, and consternation. He was a person of much notoriety, had more lawsuits, it is probable, than any other man in the colony, and in one instance came under the criminal jurisdiction for familiarity with other than immaterial spirits; for we find, by the record of Sept. 25, 1666, that John Godfrey was “fined for being drunk.”

I have allowed so much space to the foregoing documents, because they show the fancies which, fermenting in the public mind, and inflamed by the prevalent literature, theology, and philosophy, came to a head thirty years afterwards; and because they prove that in 1660 a conviction for witchcraft could not be obtained in this county. The evidence against none of the convicts in 1692, throwing out of view the statements and actings of the “afflicted children,” was half so strong as that against Godfrey. Short work would have been made with him then.

There is one particularly interesting item in Singletary Figure Uphv1482
Page 437.
deposition. It illustrates the value of good preaching. This young man, in his gloomy prison, and overwhelmed with the terrors of superstition, found consolation, courage, and strength in what he remembered of a sermon, to which he had happened to listen, from “Matchless Mitchel.” It was indeed good doctrine; and it is to be lamented that it was not carried out to its logical conclusions, and constantly enforced by the divines of that and subsequent times.

In November, 1669, there was a prosecution of “Goody Burt,” a widow, concerning whom the most marvellous stories were told. The principal witness against her was Philip Reed, a physician, who on oath declared his belief that “no natural cause” could produce such effects as were wrought by Goody Burt upon persons whom she afflicted. Her range of operations seems to have been confined to Marblehead, Lynn, Salem, and the vicinity: as nothing more was ever heard of the case, another evidence is afforded, that an Essex jury, notwithstanding this positive opinion of a doctor, was not ready to convict on the charge of witchcraft. This same Philip Reed tried very hard to prosecute proceedings, eleven years afterwards, against Margaret Gifford as a witch. But she failed to appear, and no effort is recorded as having been made to apprehend her.

In 1673, Eunice Cole, of Hampton, was tried before a county court, at Salisbury, on the charge of witchcraft; and she was committed to jail, in Boston, for Figure Uphv1483
Page 438.
further proceedings. She was subsequently indicted by the Grand Jury for the Massachusetts jurisdiction for “familiarity with the Devil.” The Court of Assistants found that there was “just ground of vehement suspicion of her having had familiarity with the Devil,” and got rid of the case by ordering her “to depart from and abide out of this jurisdiction.”

At a County Court, held at Salem, Nov. 24, 1674, a case was brought up, of which the following is all we know: —

“Christopher Browne having reported that he had been treating or discoursing with one whom he apprehended to be the Devil, which came like a gentleman, in order to his binding himself to be a servant to him, upon his examination, his discourse seeming inconsistent with truth, &c., the Court, giving him good counsel and caution, for the present dismiss him.”

It would have been well if the action of this Court had been followed as an authoritative precedent.

In the year 1679, the house of William Morse, of Newbury, was, for more than two months, infested in a most strange and vexatious manner. The affair was brought into court, where it played a conspicuous part, and was near reaching a tragical conclusion. The history of the proceedings in reference to it is very curious.

Mr. John Woodbridge, of Newbury, had been for some time an associate county judge, and was commissioned to administer oaths and join persons in marriage. The following is a record of what occurred Figure Uphv1484
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before him, sitting as a magistrate, and as a commissioner to adjudicate in small, local causes, and hold examinations in matters that went to higher courts: —

“Dec. 3, 1679. — Caleb Powell, being complained of for suspicion of working with the Devil to the molesting of William Morse and his family, was by warrant directed to the constable brought in by him. The accusation and testimonies were read, and the complaint respited till the Monday following.

“Dec. 8, 1679. — Caleb Powell appeared according to order, and further testimony produced against him by William Morse, which being read and considered, it was determined that the said William Morse should prosecute the case against said Powell at the County Court to be held at Ipswich the last Tuesday in March ensuing; and, in order hereunto, William Morse acknowledgeth himself indebted to the Treasurer of the County of Essex the full sum of twenty pounds. The condition of this obligation is, that the said William Morse shall prosecute his complaint against Caleb Powell at that Court.

Caleb Powell was delivered as a prisoner to the constable till he could find security of twenty pounds for the answering of the said complaint, or else he was to be carried to prison. Jo: Woodbridge, Commissioner.”

Powell was accordingly brought before the Court at Ipswich, March 30, 1680, under an indictment for witchcraft. Before giving the substance of the evidence adduced on this occasion, it will be well to mention the manner in which he got into the case as Figure Uphv1485
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a principal. He was a mate of a vessel. While at home, between voyages, he happened to hear of the wonderful occurrences at Mr. Morse's house. His curiosity was awakened, and he was also actuated by feelings of commiseration for the family under the torments and terrors with which they were said to be afflicted. Determined to see what it all meant, and to put a stop to it if he could, he went to the house, and soon became satisfied that a roguish grandchild was the cause of all the trouble. He prevailed upon the old grandparents to let him take off the boy. Immediately upon his removal, the difficulty ceased.

New-England navigators, at that time and long afterwards, sailed almost wholly by the stars; and Powell probably had often related his own skill, which, as mate of a vessel, he would have been likely to acquire, in calculating his position, rate of sailing, and distances, on the boundless and trackless ocean, by his knowledge and observations of the heavenly bodies. He had said, perhaps, that, by gazing among the stars, he could, at any hour of the night, however long or far he had been tossed and driven on the ocean, tell exactly where his vessel was. Hence the charge of being an astrologist. Probably, like other sailors, Powell may have indulged in “long yarns” to the country people, of the wonders he had seen, “some in one country, and some in another.” It is not unlikely, that, in foreign ports, he had witnessed exhibitions of necromancy and mesmerism, which, in various forms and under different names, Figure Uphv1486
Page 441.
have always been practised. Possibly he may have boasted to be a medium himself, a scholar and adept in the mystic art, able to read and divine “the workings of spirits.” At any rate, when it became known, that, at a glance, he attributed to the boy the cause of the mischief, and that it ceased on his taking him away from the house, the opinion became settled that he was a wizard. He was arrested forthwith, and brought to trial, as has been stated, for witchcraft. His astronomy, astrology, and spiritualism brought him in peril of his life.

“The Testimony of William Morse: which saith, together with his wife, aged both about sixty-five years: that, Thursday night, being the twenty-seventh day of November, we heard a great noise without, round the house, of knocking the boards of the house, and, as we conceived, throwing of stones against the house. Whereupon myself and wife looked out and saw nobody, and the boy all this time with us; but we had stones and sticks thrown at us, that we were forced to retire into the house again. Afterwards we went to bed, and the boy with us; and then the like noise was upon the roof of the house.

“2. The same night about midnight, the door being locked when we went to bed, we heard a great hog in the house grunt and make a noise, as we thought willing to get out; and, that we might not be disturbed in our sleep, I rose to let him out, and I found a hog in the house and the door unlocked: the door was firmly locked when we went to bed.

“3. The next morning, a stick of links hanging in the chimney, they were thrown out of their place, and we Figure Uphv1487
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hanged them up again, and they were thrown down again, and some into the fire.

“4. The night following, I had a great awl lying in the window, the which awl we saw fall down out of the chimney into the ashes by the fire.

“5. After this, I bid the boy put the same awl into the cupboard, which we saw done, and the door shut to: this same awl came presently down the chimney again in our sight, and I took it up myself. Again, the same night, we saw a little Indian basket, that was in the loft before, come down the chimney again. And I took the same basket, and put a piece of brick into it, and the basket with the brick was gone, and came down again the third time with the brick in it, and went up again the fourth time, and came down again without the brick; and the brick came down again a little after.

“6. The next day, being Saturday, stones, sticks, and pieces of bricks came down, so that we could not quietly dress our breakfast; and sticks of fire also came down at the same time.

“7. That day in the afternoon, my thread four times taken away, and came down the chimney; again, my awl and gimlet, wanting, came down the chimney; again, my leather, taken away, came down the chimney; again, my nails, being in the cover of a firkin, taken away, came down the chimney. Again, the same night, the door being locked, a little before day, hearing a hog in the house, I rose, and saw the hog to be mine: I let him out.

“8. The next day being sabbath-day, many stones and sticks and pieces of bricks came down the chimney: on the Monday, Mr. Richardson and my brother being there, the frame of my cowhouse they saw very firm. I sent my boy Figure Uphv1488
Page 443.
out to scare the fowls from my hog's meat: he went to the cowhouse, and it fell down, my boy crying with the hurt of the fall. In the afternoon, the pots hanging over the fire did dash so vehemently one against the other, we set down one that they might not dash to pieces. I saw the andiron leap into the pot, and dance and leap out, and again leap in and dance and leap out again, and leap on a table and there abide, and my wife saw the andiron on the table: also I saw the pot turn itself over, and throw down all the water. Again, we saw a tray with wool leap up and down, and throw the wool out, and so many times, and saw nobody meddle with it. Again, a tub his hoop fly off of itself and the tub turn over, and nobody near it. Again, the woollen wheel turned upside down, and stood up on its end, and a spade set on it; Steph. Greenleafe saw it, and myself and my wife. Again, my rope-tools fell down upon the ground before my boy could take them, being sent for them; and the same thing of nails tumbled down from the loft into the ground, and nobody near. Again, my wife and boy making the bed, the chest did open and shut: the bed-clothes could not be made to lie on the bed, but fly off again.

“Again, Caleb Powell came in, and, being affected to see our trouble, did promise me and my wife, that, if we would be willing to let him keep the boy, we should see ourselves that we should be never disturbed while he was gone with him: he had the boy, and had been quiet ever since.

“Tho. Rogers and George Hardy, being at William Morse his house, affirm that the earth in the chimney-corner moved, and scattered on them; that Tho. Rogers was hit with somewhat, Hardy with an iron ladle as is supposed. Somewhat hit William Morse a great blow, but it was so swift that they could not certainly tell what it was; but, Figure Uphv1489
Page 444.
looking down after they heard the noise, they saw a shoe. The boy was in the corner at the first, afterwards in the house.

“Mr. Richardson on Saturday testifieth that a board flew against his chair, and he heard a noise in another room, which he supposed in all reason to be diabolical.

“John Dole saw a pine stick of candlewood to fall down, a stone, a firebrand; and these things he saw not what way they came, till they fell down by him.

“The same affirmed by John Tucker: the boy was in one corner, whom they saw and observed all the while, and saw no motion in him.

“Elizabeth Titcomb affirmeth that Powell said that he could find the witch by his learning, if he had another scholar with him: this she saith were his expressions, to the best of her memory.

“Jo. Tucker affirmeth that Powell said to him, he saw the boy throw the shoe while he was at prayer.

“Jo. Emerson affirmeth that Powell said he was brought up under Norwood; and it was judged by the people there, that Norwood studied the black art.

“A further Testimony of William Morse and his Wife. — We saw a keeler of bread turn over against me, and struck me, not any being near it, and so overturned. I saw a chair standing in the house, and not anybody near: it did often bow towards me, and so rise up again. My wife also being in the chamber, the chamber-door did violently fly together, not anybody being near it. My wife, going to make a bed, it did move to and fro, not anybody being near it. I also saw an iron wedge and spade was flying out of the chamber on my wife, and did not strike her. My wife going into the cellar, a drum, standing in the house, did roll Figure Uphv1490
Page 445.
over the door of the cellar; and, being taken up again, the door did violently fly down again. My barn-doors four times unpinned, I know not how. I, going to shut my barn-door, looking for the pin, — the boy being with me, as I did judge, — the pin, coming down out of the air, did fall down near to me. Again, Caleb Powell came in, as beforesaid, and, seeing our spirits very low by the sence of our great affliction, began to bemoan our condition, and said that he was troubled for our afflictions, and said that he had eyed this boy, and drawed near to us with great compassion: Poor old man, poor old woman! this boy is the occasion of your grief; for he hath done these things, and hath caused his good old grandmother to be counted a witch.'Then,' said I, how can all these things be done by him?' Said he,Although he may not have done all, yet most of them; for this boy is a young rogue, a vile rogue: I have watched him, and see him do things as to come up and down.' Caleb Powell also said he had understanding in astrology and astronomy, and knew the working of spirits, some in one country, and some in another; and, looking on the boy, said, `You young rogue, to begin so soon. Goodman Morse, if you be willing to let me have this boy, I will undertake you shall be free from any trouble of this kind while he is with me.' I was very unwilling at the first, and my wife; but, by often urging me, till he told me whither, and what employment and company, he should go, I did consent to it, and this was before Jo. Badger came; and we have been freed from any trouble of this kind ever since that promise, made on Monday night last, to this time, being Friday in the afternoon. Then we heard a great noise in the other room, oftentimes, but, looking after it, could not see any thing; but, afterwards looking into the room, we saw a board hanged to the press. Then Figure Uphv1491
Page 446.
we, being by the fire, sitting in a chair, my chair often would not stand still, but ready to throw me backward oftentimes. Afterward, my cap almost taken off my head three times. Again, a great blow on my poll, and my cat did leap from me into the chimney corner. Presently after, this cat was thrown at my wife. We saw the cat to be ours: we put her out of the house, and shut the door. Presently, the cat was throwed into the house. We went to go to bed. Suddenly, — my wife being with me in bed, the lamp-light by our side, — my cat again throwed at us five times, jumping away presently into the floor; and, one of those times, a red waistcoat throwed on the bed, and the cat wrapped up in it. Again, the lamp, standing by us on the chest, we said it should stand and burn out; but presently was beaten down, and all the oil shed, and we left in the dark. Again, a great voice, a great while, very dreadful. Again, in the morning, a great stone, being six-pound weight, did remove from place to place, — we saw it, — two spoons throwed off the table, and presently the table throwed down. And, being minded to write, my inkhorn was hid from me, which I found, covered with a rag, and my pen quite gone. I made a new pen; and, while I was writing, one ear of corn hit me in the face, and fire, sticks, and stones throwed at me, and my pen brought to me. While I was writing with my new pen, my inkhorn taken away: and, not knowing how to write any more, we looked under the table, and there found him; and so I was able to write again. Again, my wife her hat taken from her head, sitting by the fire by me, the table almost thrown down. Again, my spectacles thrown from the table, and thrown almost into the fire by me, and my wife and the boy. Again, my book of all my accounts thrown into the fire, and had been burnt presently, if I had not taken it up. Again, Figure Uphv1492
Page 447.
boards taken off a tub, and set upright by themselves; and my paper, do what I could, hardly keep it while I was writing this relation, and things thrown at me while a-writing. Presently, before I could dry my writing, a mormouth hat rubbed along it; but I held so fast that it did blot but some of it. My wife and I, being much afraid that I should not preserve it for public use, did think best to lay it in the Bible, and it lay safe that night. Again, the next, I would lay it there again; but, in the morning, it was not there to be found, the bag hanged down empty; but, after, was found in a box alone. Again, while I was writing this morning, I was forced to forbear writing any more, I was so disturbed with so many things constantly thrown at me.

“This relation brought in Dec. 8.

“I, Anthony Morse, occasionally being at my brother Morse's house, my brother showed me a piece of a brick which had several times come down the chimney. I sitting in the corner, I took the piece of brick in my hand. Within a little space of time, the piece of brick was gone from me, I knew not by what means. Quickly after, the piece of brick came down the chimney. Also, in the chimney I saw a hammer on the ground: there being no person near the hammer, it was suddenly gone, by what means I know not. But, within a little space after, the hammer came down the chimney. And, within a little space of time after that, came a piece of wood down the chimney, about a foot long; and, within a little after that, came down a firebrand, the fire being out. This was about ten days ago.

“John Badger affirmeth, that, being at William Morse his house, and heard Caleb Powell say that he thought by astrology, and I think he said by astronomy too, with it, he could find out whether or no there were diabolical means Figure Uphv1493
Page 448.
used about the said Morse his trouble, and that the said Caleb said he thought to try to find it out.

“The Deposition of Mary Tucker, aged about twenty. — She remembered that Caleb Powell came into her house, and said to this purpose: That he, coming to William Morse his house, and the old man, being at prayer, he thought not fit to go in, but looked in at the window; and he said he had broken the enchantment; for he saw the boy play tricks while he was at prayer, and mentioned some, and, among the rest, that he saw him to fling the shoe at the said Morse's head.

“Taken on oath, March 29, 1680, before me,

“Jo: Woodbridge, Commissioner.

“Mary Richardson confirmed the truth of the above written testimony, on oath, at the same time.”

There seem to have been several hearings before Commissioner Woodbridge. The boy had returned to his grandparents before the last deposition of William Morse, and his audacious operations were persisted in to the last. The final decision of the Court was as follows: —

“Upon the hearing the complaint brought to this Court against Caleb Powell for suspicion of working by the Devil to the molesting of the family of William Morse of Newbury, though this court cannot find any evident ground of proceeding further against the said Caleb Powell, yet we determine that he hath given such ground of suspicion of his so dealing that we cannot so acquit him, but that he justly deserves to bear his own share and the costs of the prosecution of the complaint.

“Referred to Mr. Woodbridge to examine and determine the charges.”

Figure Uphv1494
Page 449.

The entry of this sentence, in the records of the County Court, is as follows; the clerk strangely mistaking the name of the party: —

“The Court held at Ipswich, the 30th of March, 1680.

“In the case of Abell Powell, though the Court do not see sufficient to charge further, yet find so much suspicion as that he pay the charges. The ordering of the charges left to Mr. Jo: Woodbridge.”

The matter of Powell's connection with the affair being thus disposed of, and no one seeming to entertain his idea of the guilt of the boy, the next step was to fasten suspicion upon the good old grandmother; and a general outcry was raised against her. Her arrest and condemnation were clamored for. But the result of Powell's trial, and all preceding cases, showed that an Essex jury could not yet be relied on for a conviction in witchcraft cases; and it was resolved to institute proceedings in a more favorable quarter. The Grand Jury returned a bill of indictment against her to the Court of Assistants, sitting in Boston. This was the highest tribunal in the country, subject only to the General Court, and embracing the whole colony in its jurisdiction. The following is the substance of the record of the case: —

At a Court of Assistants, on adjournment, held at Boston, on the 20th of May, 1680.

The Grand Jury having presented Elizabeth Morse, wife of William Morse, she was tried and convicted of the crime of witchcraft. The Governor, on the 27th Figure Uphv1495
Page 450.
of May, “after the lecture,” in the First Church of Boston, pronounced the sentence of death upon her. On the 1st of June, the Governor and Assistants voted to reprieve her “until the next session of the Court in Boston.” At the said next session, the reprieval was still further continued. This seems to have produced much dissatisfaction, as is shown by the following extract from the records of the House of Deputies: —

“The Deputies, on perusal of the Acts of the Honored Court of Assistants, relating to the woman condemned for witchcraft, do not understand the reason why the sentence, given against her by said Court, is not executed: and the second reprieval seems to us beyond what the law will allow, and do therefore judge meet to declare ourselves against it, with reference to the concurrence of the honored magistrates hereto.

William Torrey, Clerk.”

The action of the magistrates, on this reference, is recorded as follows: —

“3d of November, 1680. — Not consented to by magistrates.

Edward Rawson, Secretary.”

The evidence against Mrs. Morse was frivolous to the last degree, without any of the force and effect given to support the prosecutions in Salem, twelve years afterwards, by the astounding confessions of the accused, and the splendid acting of the “afflicted children;” yet she was tried and condemned in Boston, and sentenced there on “Lecture-day.” The representatives of the people, in the House of Deputies, cried out against her reprieve. She was saved Figure Uphv1496
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by the courage and wisdom of Governor Bradstreet, subsequently a resident of Salem, where his ashes rest. He was living here, at the age of ninety years, during the witchcraft prosecutions in 1692; but, old as he was, he made known his entire disapprobation of them. It is safe to say, that, if he had not been superseded by the arrival of Sir William Phipps as governor under the new charter, they would never have taken place. Notwithstanding all this, — in spite of the remonstrances, at the time, of Brattle, and afterwards of Hutchinson, — Boston and other towns (earlier, if not equally, committed to such proceedings) have, by a sort of general conspiracy, joined the rest of the world in trying to throw and fasten the whole responsibility and disgrace of witchcraft prosecutions upon Salem.

Things continued in the condition just described, — Mrs. Morse in jail under sentence of death; that sentence suspended by reprieves from the Governor, from time to time, until the next year, when her husband, in her behalf and in her name, presented an earnest and touching petition “to the honored Governor, Deputy-governor, Magistrates, and Deputies now assembled in Court, May the 18th, 1681,” that her case might be concluded, one way or another. After referring to her condemnation, and to her attestation of innocence, she says, “By the mercy of God, and the goodness of the honored Governor, I am reprieved.” She begs the Court to “hearken to her cry, a poor prisoner.” She places herself at the foot of the tribunal Figure Uphv1497
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of the General Court: “I now stand humbly praying your justice in hearing my case, and to determine therein as the Lord shall direct. I do not understand law, nor do I know how to lay my case before you as I ought; for want of which I humbly beg of your honors that my request may not be rejected.” The House of Deputies, on the 24th of May, voted to give her a new trial. But the magistrates refused to concur in the vote; and so the matter stood, for how long a time there are, I believe, no means of knowing. Finally, however, she was released from prison, and allowed to return to her own house. This we learn from a publication made by Mr. Hale, of Beverly, in 1697. It seems, that, after getting her out of prison and restored to her home, to use Mr. Hale's words, “her husband, who was esteemed a sincere and understanding Christian by those that knew him, desired some neighbor ministers, of whom I was one, to discourse his wife, which we did; and her discourse was very Christian, and still pleaded her innocence as to that which was laid to her charge.” From Mr. Hale's language, it may be inferred that she had not been pardoned or discharged, but still lay under sentence of death, after her removal to her own house: for he and his brethren did not “esteem it prudence to pass any definite sentence upon one under her circumstances;” but they ventured to say that they were “inclined to the more charitable side.” Mr. Hale states, that, “in her last sickness, she was in much trouble and darkness of spirit, which occasioned a Figure Uphv1498
Page 453.
judicious friend to examine her strictly, whether she had been guilty of witchcraft; but she said no, but the ground of her trouble was some impatient and passionate speeches and actions of hers while in prison, upon the account of her suffering wrongfully, whereby she had provoked the Lord by putting contempt upon his Word. And, in fine, she sought her pardon and comfort from God in Christ; and died, so far as I understand, praying to and relying upon God in Christ for salvation.”

The cases of Margaret Jones, Ann Hibbins, and Elizabeth Morse illustrate strikingly and fully the history and condition of the public mind in New England, and the world over, in reference to witchcraft in the seventeenth century. They show that there was nothing unprecedented, unusual, or eminently shocking, after all, in what I am about to relate as occurring in Salem, in 1692. The only real offence proved upon Margaret Jones was that she was a successful practitioner of medicine, using only simple remedies. Ann Hibbins was the victim of the slanderous gossip of a prejudiced neighborhood; all our actual knowledge of her being her Will, which proves that she was a person of much more than ordinary dignity of mind, which was kept unruffled and serene in the bitterest trials and most outrageous wrongs which it is possible for folly and “man's inhumanity to man” to bring upon us in this life. Elizabeth Morse appears to have been one of the best of Christian women. The accusations against them, as a whole, cover nearly the Figure Uphv1499
Page 454.
whole ground upon which the subsequent prosecutions in Salem rested. John Winthrop passed sentence upon Margaret Jones, John Endicott upon Ann Hibbins, and Simon Bradstreet upon Elizabeth Morse. The last-named governor performed the office as an unavoidable act of official duty, and prevented the execution of the sentence by the courageous use of his prerogative, in defiance of public clamor and the wrath of the representatives of the whole people of the colony. These facts sufficiently show, that the proceedings afterwards had in Salem accorded with those in like cases, of that and preceding generations; and were sanctioned by the all but universal sentiments of mankind and a uniform chain of precedents.

The trial of Bridget Bishop, in 1680, before the County Court at Salem, for witchcraft, and her acquittal, have already been mentioned in the account of Salem Village, in the First Part.

In 1688, an Irish woman, named Glover, was executed in Boston for bewitching four children belonging to the family of a Mr. Goodwin. She was a Roman Catholic, represented to have been quite an ignorant person, and seems, moreover, from the accounts given of her, to have been crazy. The oldest of the children was only about thirteen years of age. The most experienced physicians pronounced them bewitched. Their conduct, as it is related by Cotton Mather, was indeed very extraordinary. At one time they would bark like dogs, and then again they would purr like Figure Uphv1500
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cats. “Yea,” says he, “they would fly like geese, and be carried with an incredible swiftness, having but just their toes now and then upon the ground, sometimes not once in twenty feet, and their arms waved like the wings of a bird.”

One of the children seems to have had a genius scarcely inferior to that of Master Burke himself: there was no part nor passion she could not enact. She would complain that the old Irish woman had tied an invisible noose round her neck, and was choking her; and her complexion and features would instantly assume the various hues and violent distortions natural to a person in such a predicament. She would declare that an invisible chain was fastened to one of her limbs, and would limp about precisely as though it were really the case. She would say that she was in an oven; the perspiration would drop from her face, and she would exhibit every appearance of being roasted: then she would cry out that cold water was thrown upon her, and her whole frame would shiver and shake. She pretended that the evil spirit came to her in the shape of an invisible horse; and she would canter, gallop, trot, and amble round the rooms and entries in such admirable imitation, that an observer could hardly believe that a horse was not beneath her, and bearing her about. She would go up stairs with exactly such a toss and bound as a person on horseback would exhibit.

After some time, Cotton Mather took her into his own family, to see whether he could not exorcise her. Figure Uphv1501
Page 456.
His account of her conduct, while there, is highly amusing for its credulous simplicity. The cunning and ingenious child seems to have taken great delight in perplexing and playing off her tricks upon the learned man. Once he wished to say something in her presence, to a third person, which he did not intend she should understand. He accordingly spoke in Latin. But she had penetration enough to conjecture what he had said: he was amazed. He then tried Greek: she was equally successful. He next spoke in Hebrew: she instantly detected the meaning. At last he resorted to the Indian language, and that she pretended not to know. He drew the conclusion that the evil being with whom she was in compact was acquainted familiarly with the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, but not with the Indian tongue.

It is curious to notice how adroitly she fell into the line of his prejudices. He handed her a book written by a Quaker, to which sect it is well known he was violently opposed: she would read it off with great ease, rapidity, and pleasure. A book written against the Quakers she could not read at all. She could read Popish books, but could not decipher a syllable of the Assembly's Catechism. Dr. Mather was earnestly opposed to the order and liturgy of the Church of England. The artful little girl worked with great success upon this prejudice. She pretended to be very fond of the Book of Common Prayer, and called it her Bible. It would relieve her of her sufferings, in a moment, to put it into her hands. While she could Figure Uphv1502
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not read a word of the Scriptures in the Bible, she could read them very easily in the Prayer-book; but she could not read the Lord's Prayer even in this her favorite volume. All these things went far to strengthen the conviction of Dr. Mather that she was in league with the Devil; for this was the only explanation that could be given to satisfy his mind of her partiality to the productions of Quakers, Catholics, and Episcopalians, and her aversion to the Bible and the Catechism.

She exhibited the most exquisite ingenuity in beguiling Dr. Mather by the force of a charm, the power of which he could not resist for a moment, — flattery. He thus describes, with a complacency but thinly concealed under the veil of affected modesty, the part she played, in order to give the impression — which it was the great object of his ambition to make upon the public mind — that the Devil stood in special fear of his presence: —

“There then stood open the study of one belonging to the family, into which, entering, she stood immediately on her feet, and cried out, `They are gone! they are gone! They say that they cannot, — God won't let 'em come here!' adding a reason for it which the owner of the study thought more kind than true; and she presently and perfectly came to herself, so that her whole discourse and carriage was altered into the greatest measure of sobriety.”

Upon quitting the study, “the demons” would instantly again take hold of her. Mather continues the statement, by saying that some persons, wishing to try Figure Uphv1503
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the experiment, had her brought “up into the study;” but he says that she at once became —

“so strangely distorted, that it was an extreme difficulty to drag her up stairs. The demons would pull her out of the people's hands, and make her heavier than, perhaps, three of herself. With incredible toil (though she kept screaming, They say I must not go in'), she was pulled in; where she was no sooner got, but she could stand on her feet, and, with altered note, say,Now I am well.' She would be faint at first, and say `she felt something to go out of her' (the noises whereof we sometimes heard like those of a mouse); but, in a minute or two, she could apply herself to devotion. To satisfy some strangers, the experiment was, divers times, with the same success, repeated, until my lothness to have any thing done like making a charm of a room, caused me to forbid the repetition of it.”

Even in her most riotous proceedings, she kept her eye fixed upon the doctor's weak point. When he called the family to prayers, she would whistle and sing and yell to drown his voice, would strike him with her fist, and try to kick him. But her hand or foot would always recoil when within an inch or two of his body; thus giving the idea that there was a sort of invisible coat of mail, of heavenly temper, and proof against the assaults of the Devil, around his sacred person! After a while, Dr. Mather concluded to prepare an account of these extraordinary circumstances, wherewithal to entertain his congregation in a sermon. She seemed to be quite displeased at the thought of his making public the doings of her master, the Evil Figure Uphv1504
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One, attempted to prevent his writing the intended sermon, and disturbed and interrupted him in all manner of ways. For instance, she once knocked at his study door, and said that “there was somebody down stairs that would be glad to see him.” He dropped his pen, and went down. Upon entering the room, he found nobody there but the family. The next time he met her, he undertook to chide her for having told him a falsehood. She denied that she had told a falsehood. “Didn't you say,” said he, “that there was somebody down stairs that would be glad to see me?” — “Well,” she replied, with inimitable pertness, “is not Mrs. Mather always glad to see you?”

She even went much farther than this in persecuting the good man while he was writing his sermon: she threw large books at his head. But he struggled manfully against these buffetings of Satan, as he considered her conduct to be, finished the sermon, related all these circumstances in it, preached, and published it. Richard Baxter wrote the preface to an edition printed in London, in which he declares that he who will not be convinced by all the evidence Dr. Mather presents that the child was bewitched “must be a very obdurate Sadducee.” It is so obvious, that, in this whole affair, Cotton Mather was grossly deceived and audaciously imposed upon by the most consummate and precocious cunning, that it needs no comment. I have given this particular account of it, because there is reason to believe that it originated the delusion in Salem. It occurred only four years Figure Uphv1505
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before. Dr. Mather's account of the transaction filled the whole country; and it is probable that the children in Mr. Parris's family undertook to re-enact it.

There is nothing in the annals of the histrionic art more illustrative of the infinite versatility of the human faculties, both physical and mental, and of the amazing extent to which cunning, ingenuity, contrivance, quickness of invention, and presence of mind can be cultivated, even in very young persons, than such cases as this just related. It seems, at first, incredible that a mere child could carry on such a complex piece of fraud and imposture as that enacted by the little girl whose achievements have been immortalized by the famous author of the “Magnalia.” Many other instances, however, are found recorded in the history of the delusion we are discussing.

That of the grandchild of William and Elizabeth Morse, in Newbury, was nearly as marvellous, and perfectly successful in deceiving the whole country except Caleb Powell; and he got into much trouble in consequence of seeing through it. A similar instance of juvenile imposture is related as having occurred at Amsterdam in 1560. Twenty or thirty boys pretended to be suddenly seized with a kind of rage and fury, were cast upon the ground, and tormented with great agony. These fits were intermittent; and, when they had passed off, their subjects did not seem to be conscious of what had taken place. While they lasted, the boys threw up, apparently from their stomachs, large quantities of needles, pins, thimbles, pieces of Figure Uphv1506
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cloth, fragments of pots and kettles, bits of glass, locks of hair, and a variety of other articles. There was no doubt, at the time, that they were suffering under the influence of the Devil; and multitudes crowded round them, and gazed upon them with wonder and horror.

The details of the cases in Newbury and Charlestown were dressed up by Cotton Mather and other writers in the strongest colors that credulous superstition and the peculiar views of that age on the subject of demonology could employ. They were almost universally received as proof that Satan had commenced an onslaught, such as had never before been known, upon the Church and the world! They appear to us as simply absurd, and the result of precocious knavery; not so to the people of that generation. They were looked upon as fearful demonstrations of diabolical power, and preludes to the coming of Satan, with his infernal confederates, to overwhelm the land. The imaginations of all were excited, and their apprehensions morbidly aroused. The very air was filled with rumors, fancies, and fears. The ministers sounded the alarm from their pulpits. The magistrates sharpened the sword of justice. The deputy of the colony, Danforth, began to arrest suspected persons months before proceedings commenced, or were thought of, in Salem Village. It was believed that evil spirits had been seen, by men's bodily eyes, in a neighboring town. They glided over the fields, hovered around the houses, appeared, vanished, Figure Uphv1507
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and re-appeared on the outskirts of the woods, in the vicinity of Gloucester. Their movements were observed by several of the inhabitants; and the whole population of the Cape was kept in a state of agitation and alarm, in consequence of the mysterious phenomena, for three weeks. The inhabitants retired to the garrison, and put themselves in a state of defence against the diabolical besiegers. Sixty men were despatched from Ipswich, in military array, to re-enforce the garrison, and several valiant sallies were made from its walls. Much powder was expended, but no corporeal or incorporeal blood was shed. An account of these events was drawn up by the Rev. John Emerson, then the minister of the first parish in Gloucester, from which the facts now mentioned have been selected. It is very minute and particular. The appearance and dress of the supernatural enemies are described. They wore white waistcoats, blue shirts, and white breeches, and had bushy heads of black hair. Mr. Emerson concludes his account by expressing the hope that “all rational persons will be satisfied that Gloucester was not alarmed last summer for above a fortnight together by real French and Indians, but that the Devil and his agents were the cause of all the molestation which at this time befell the town.”

These wonderful things took place at Cape Ann, about the time that the great conflict between the Devil and his confederates on the one hand, and the ministers and magistrates on the other, at Salem Village, was reaching its height. It is said that it was Figure Uphv1508
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regarded by the most considerate persons, at the time, as an artful contrivance of the Devil to create a diversion of the attention of the pious colonists from his operations through the witches in Salem, and, by dividing and distracting their forces, to obtain an advantage over them in the war he was waging against their churches and their religion.

We are now ready to enter upon the story of Salem witchcraft. We have endeavored to become acquainted with the people who acted conspicuous parts in the drama, and to understand their character; and have tried to collect, and bring into appreciating view, the opinions and theories, the habits of thought, the associations of mind, the passions, impulses, and fantasies that guided, moulded, and controlled their conduct. The law, literature, and theology of the age, as they bore on the subject, have been brought before us. The last great display of the effects of the doctrines of demonology, of the belief of the agency of invisible, irresponsible beings, whether fallen angels or departed spirits, upon the actions of men and human affairs, is now to open before us. The final results of superstitions and fables and fancies, accumulating through the ages, are to be exhibited in a transaction, an actual demonstration in real life. They are to present an exemplification that will at once fully display their power, and deal their death-blow.

Without the least purpose or wish to cover up or extenuate the follies, excesses, or outrages I am about Figure Uphv1509
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to describe, into which the community suffered itself to be led in the witchcraft proceedings of 1692, — with a desire, on the contrary, to make the lesson then given of the mischief resulting from misguided enthusiasm, and which will always result when popular excitement is allowed to wield the organized powers of society, as impressive as facts and truth will justify, — I feel bound to say, in advance, that there are some considerations which we must keep before us, while reviewing the incidents of the transaction. The theological, legal, and philosophical doctrines and the popular beliefs, on which it was founded, have, as I have shown, led, in other countries and periods, to similar, and often vastly more shameful, cruel, and destructive results. But there was something in the affair, as it was developed here, that has arrested the notice of mankind, and clothed it with an inherent interest, beyond all other events of the kind that have elsewhere or ever occurred.

The moral force engendered in the civilization planted on these shores, and pervading the whole body of society, supplied a mightier momentum, as it does to this day, and ever will, to the movement of the people, acting in a mass and as a unit, than can anywhere else be found. A population, invigorated by hardy enterprise, and the constant exercise of all the faculties of freedom, and actuated throughout by individual energy of character, must be mightier in motion than any other people. Such a population multiplies tenfold its physical forces, by the addition of Figure Uphv1510
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moral and intellectual energies. The men of the day and scene we are now to contemplate, however deluded, to whatever extremities carried, were controlled by fixed, absolute, sharply defined, and, in themselves, great ideas. They believed in God. They also believed in the Devil. They bowed in an adoration that penetrated their inmost souls, before the one as a being of infinite holiness: they regarded the other as a being of an all but infinite power of evil. They feared and worshipped God. They hated and defied the Devil. They believed that Satan was waging war against Jehovah, and that the conflict was for the dominion of the world, for the establishment or the overthrow of the Church of Christ. The battle, they fully believed, could have no other issue than the salvation or the ruin of the souls of men. This was not, with them, a mere technical, verbal creed. It was a deepseated conviction, held earnestly with a clear and distinct apprehension of its import, by every individual mind. For this warfare, they put on the whole armor of faith, rallied to the banner of the Most High, and met Satan face to face. In this one great idea, a stern, determined, unflinching, all-sacrificing people concentrated their strength. No wonder that the conflict reached a magnitude which made it observable to the whole country and all countries at the time, and will make it memorable throughout all time. Those engaged in it, with this sentiment absorbing their very souls, passed, for the time, out of the realm of all other sentiments, and were insensible to all other considerations. Figure Uphv1511
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The nearer and dearer the relatives, the higher and more conspicuous the persons, who, in their belief, were in league with the Devil, the more profound the abhorrence of their crime, and the determination to cut off and destroy them utterly. They believed that Satan had, once before, “against the throne and monarchy of God, raised impious war and battle proud;” and that for this he had been cast out from “heaven, with all his host of rebel angels;” that he, with his army of subordinate wicked spirits, was making a desperate effort to retrieve his lost estate, by a renewed rebellion against God; and they were determined to drive him, and all his confederates, for ever from the confines of the earth. The humble hamlet of Salem Village was felt to be the great and final battle-ground. However wild and absurd this idea is now regarded, it was then sincerely and thoroughly entertained, and must be taken into the account, in coming to a just estimate of the character of the transaction, and of those engaged in it.

One other thought is to be borne in mind, as we pass through the scenes that are to be spread before us. The theology of Christendom, at that time, so far as it relates to the power and agency of Satan and demonology in general, — and this is the only point of view on which I ever refer to theology in this discussion, — and the whole fabric of popular superstitions founded upon it, had reached their culmination. The beginning, middle, and close of the seventeenth century, witnessed the greatest display of those superstitions, Figure Uphv1512
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and prepared the way for their final explosion. As the hour of their dissolution was at hand, and they were doomed to vanish before the light of science and education, to pass from the realm of supposed reality into that of acknowledged fiction, it seems to have been ordered that they should leave monuments behind them, from which their character, elements, and features, and their terrible influence, might be read and studied in all subsequent ages.

The ideas in reference to the agency and designs of the great enemy of God and man, and all his subordinate hosts, witches, fairies, ghosts, “gorgons and hydras, and chimeras dire,” “apparitions, signs, and prodigies,” by which the minds of men had so long been filled, and their fearful imaginations exercised, as they took their flight, imprinted themselves, for perpetual remembrance, in productions which, more than any works of mere human genius, are sure to live for ever. They left their forms crystallized, with imperishable lineaments, in the greatest of dramas and the greatest of epics. The plays of Shakespeare, as the century opened, and the verse of Milton in its central period, are their record and their picture.

But there was another shape and aspect in which it was pre-eminently important to have their memory preserved; and that was their application to life, their influence upon the conduct of men, the action of tribunals, and the movements of society, and, in general, their effects, when allowed full operation, upon human happiness and welfare. This want was supplied, as Figure Uphv1513
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the century terminated, by the tragedy in real life, whose scenes are now to be presented in Witchcraft at Salem Village.

However strange it seems, it is quite worthy of observation, that the actors in that tragedy, the “afflicted children,” and other witnesses, in their various statements and operations, embraced about the whole circle of popular superstition. How those young country girls, some of them mere children, most of them wholly illiterate, could have become familiar with such fancies, to such an extent, is truly surprising. They acted out, and brought to bear with tremendous effect, almost all that can be found in the literature of that day, and the period preceding it, relating to such subjects. Images and visions which had been portrayed in tales of romance, and given interest to the pages of poetry, will be made by them, as we shall see, to throng the woods, flit through the air, and hover over the heads of a terrified court. The ghosts of murdered wives and children will play their parts with a vividness of representation and artistic skill of expression that have hardly been surpassed in scenic representations on the stage. In the Salem-witchcraft proceedings, the superstition of the middle ages was embodied in real action. All its extravagances, absurdities, and monstrosities appear in their application to human experience. We see what the effect has been, and must be, when the affairs of life, in courts of law and the relations of society, or the conduct or feelings of individuals, are suffered to Figure Uphv1514
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be under the control of fanciful or mystical notions. When a whole people abandons the solid ground of common sense, overleaps the boundaries of human knowledge, gives itself up to wild reveries, and lets loose its passions without restraint, it presents a spectacle more terrific to behold, and becomes more destructive and disastrous, than any convulsion of mere material nature; than tornado, conflagration, or earthquake. END OF VOL. I.

Upham: Salem Witchcraft