Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706

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A BRIEF AND TRUE NARRATIVE

   A Brief and True Narrative Of some Remarkable Passages Relating to sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village Which happened from the Nineteenth of March, to the Fifth of April, 1692.

   Collected by Deodat Lawson.

   Boston, Printed for Benjamin Harris and are to be Sold at his Shop, over-against the Old-Meeting-House. 1692. 16

 

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   On Thursday the Twenty fourth of march, (being in course the Lecture Day, at the Village,) Goodwife N. was brought before the Magistrates Mr. Hathorne and Mr. Corwin, 29 about Ten of [the] Clock, in the Fore Noon, to be Examined in the Meeting House; the Reverend Mr. Hale 30 begun with Prayer, and the Warrant being read, she was required to give answer, Why she aflicted those persons? she pleaded her owne innocency with earnestness. Thomas Putman's Wife, Abigail Williams and Thomas Putmans daughter accused her that she appeared to them, and afflicted them in their fitts: but some of the other said, that they had seen her, but knew not that ever she had hurt them; amongst which was Mary Walcut, who was presently after she had so declared bitten, and cryed out of her in the meeting-house; producing the Marks of teeth on her wrist. It was so disposed, that I had not leisure to attend the whole time of Examination, 31 but both Magistrates

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and Ministers told me, that the things alledged by the afflicted, and defences made by her, were much after the same manner, as the former was. And her Motions did produce like effects as to Biteing, Pinching, Bruising, Tormenting, at their Breasts, by her Leaning, and when, bended Back, were as if their Backs was broken. The afflicted persons said, the Black Man whispered to her in the Assembly, and therefore she could not hear what the Magistrates said unto her. They said also that she did then ride by the Meeting-house, behind the Black Man. Thomas Putman's wife had a grievous Fit, in the time of Examination, to the very great Impairing of her strength, and wasting of her spirits, insomuch as she could hardly move hand, or foot, when she was carryed out. Others also were there grievously afflicted, so that there was once such an hideous scrietch and noise, (which I heard as I walked, at a little distance from the Meeting house,) as did amaze me, and some that were within told me the whole assembly was struck with consternation, and they were afraid, that those that sate next to them, were under the influence of Witchcraft. This woman also was that day committed to Salem Prison. The Magistrates and Ministers also did informe me, that they apprehended a child of Sarah G. 32 and Examined it, being between 4 and 5 years of Age, And as to matter of Fact, they did Unanimously affirm, that when this Child did but cast its eye upon the afflicted persons, they were tormented, and they held her Head, and yet so many as her eye could fix upon were afflicted. Which they did several times make careful observation of: the afflicted complained, they had often been Bitten by this child, and produced the marks of a small set of teeth, accordingly, this was also committed to Salem Prison; the child looked hail, and well as other Children. I saw it at Lieut. Ingersols. 33 After the commitment of Goodw. N., Tho: Putmans wife was much better, and had no violent fits

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at all from that 24th of March to the 5th of April. Some others also said they had not seen her so frequently appear to them, to hurt them.
 
 

Notes


[16]. Title-page of the original.
 

[29]. Jonathan Corwin was, like Hathorne, a member of the Court of Assistants, the highest legislative and judicial body of the colony, and like him the son of one of its founders. They were the men of highest note in the Salem region. Corwin lived in the town.
 

[30]. Of Beverly. As to him
 

[31]. What drew Mr. Lawson away from the examinations was doubtless the need to complete his preparation for the important sermon of that day; and it must have been this on which he was pondering when (as he records a few lines later) the shrieks of the afflicted reached him as he walked, "a little distance from the meeting-house." That sermon was, however, no extempore production, but a studied disquisition on the power and malice of the Devil, who "Contracts and Indents with Witches and Wizzards, that they shall be the Instruments by whom he may more secretly Affect and Afflict the Bodies and Minds of others." "And the Devil," taught Lawson, committing himself wholly to belief in the worth of that "spectral evidence" which was to play such a part in the Salem episode, "having them in his subjection, by their Consent, he will use their Bodies and Minds, Shapes and Representations, to Affright and Afflict others at his pleasure." The magistrates were present at the sermon; and to them he dedicated the sermon when, in the following year, he gave it to the press under the title of Christ's Fidelity the only Shield against Satan's Malignity. A second edition was printed under his eye at London in 1704 (see p. 149, above).
 

[32]. Sarah Good, who with Sarah Osburn and Parris's slave-woman Tituba had been examined and committed to jail on March 1, before Lawson's visit (see p. 343, below).
 

[33]. Little Dorcas Good, thus sent to prison "as hale and well as other children," lay there seven or eight months, and "being chain'd in the dungeon was so hardly used and terrifyed" that eighteen years later her father alleged "that she hath ever since been very chargeable, haveing little or no reason to govern herself." See his petition for damages, September 13, 1710 (printed in the N. E. Hist. and Gen. Register, XXXV. 253 -- the MS. is now in the President White Library at Cornell University). He was allowed £30.