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We will conclude our rapid summary of the laws against Quakers, with the following extract from the Plymouth Record of 1660 :
“It is enacted by the court and the authoritie thereof, that if any person or persons commonly called Quakers, or any other such like vagabonds shall come into any towne of this gúvernment, the marshall or constable shall apprehend him or them, and upon examination, soe appearing, hee shall whip then: or cause them to be whipt with rodds," '&c.
Talk of the Spanish inquisition after this ! And yet these laws were not a mere dead letter, as the early history of Massachusetts abundantly proves. It appears, from the public Records themselves, that the following persons were banished, after having suffered imprisonment, and probably the other terrible penalties of the law ;— Humphrey Norton, Samuel Shattock, Lawrence Southwick and wife, Nicholas Phelps, Joshua Buffam. and Josiah Southwick; that William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and Mary Dyer were sentenced to death, and the two first executed ; and that the treasurer was empowered to sell into slavery
to any of the English nation at Virginia and Barbadoes, Daniel and Provided Southwick, son and daughter of Lawrence Southwick,” because they had been either unwilling or unable to pay the fines imposed on them for recusancy.'
The Quakers loudly protested against this high-handed injustice and glaring crualty; but their protest was either allowed to pass unheeded, or it was met with additional insult Thus “Humphrey Norton, who was a Quaker, and who had smarted under the rod of persecution of the governor of the Plymouth patent,” addressed a letter, “ with care and speed,” to the chief of his persecutors, upon whom, after having charged him with uttering eight palpable lies, he thus denounced the divine vengeance : • The
persue thee day and night for other men's goods, hard speeches, unrieghteouse actions which thou hast done and spoken against us and others, without and contrary to the righteouse law;
the days of thy wailing will be like unto that of a woman that murthers the fruite of her wombe; the anguish and paine that will enter upon the reignes will be like gnawing wormes lodging betwixt thy hart and liver ; when these things come upon thee, and thy back bowed downe with paine, in that daye and houre thou shalt know to thy grief that prophetts to the Lord God wee are, and the God of vengeance is our God."
What reply was made to this and similar protests? The General Court of Massachusetts published an elaborate “declaration,” which is found spread out on the Records, and in which the course pursued against the Quakers is defended by a long train of arguments, copiously interlar led with texts of Scripture! The Court tius openly defended the doctrine of persecution on the authority of the Bible. This strongly reminds us of John Calvin's famous, or rather infamous book in favor of punishing heretics, written by him expressly to vindicate his agency ir the burning of Servetus. Verily the disciples were worthy of their master ; but neither the one nor the other had any right even to pronounce the soul. thrilling word — LIBERTY. 2 P. 17, seqq.
ị l'p. 23-4.
1 P. 84
But we are tired of unfolding these cruelties ; and we willingly pass from the sad history of the formal and demure New England Quakers, to that of the fantastic and mischief-loving New England witches. We know not upon what principle of philosophy or theology we are to account for the singular fact, that witches were at that time so abundant in New England ; but the fact itself seems undeniable, at least if we are to give any credit to the testimony of the Rev. Cotton Mather, and of scores of other grave and cotemporary witnesses. Speaking of the great number of cases of witchcraft, which had occurred during his time, the Rev. Cotton Mather says:
· For every one of which we have such a sufficient evidence, that no reasonable man in this whole country ever did question them; and it wils be unreasonable to do it in
other." Another grave old chronicler, John Josselyn, gent., gives the following testimony on the same subject :
“ There are none that beg in this country, but there be witches too many — bottle-bellied witches and others that produce many strange apparitions, if you will believe report, of a shallop at sea manned with women, and of a ship and great red horse standing by the mainmast, the ship being in a small cove to the eastward vanished of a sudden,"? &c.
Whoever will reject these authorities, must be very hard to convince, indeed; and had a person so skeptical chanced to live in New England at the time of the famous trials for witchcraft, he would have been in great danger of being hung as a wizard himself, — that's all. We can scarcely even guess, why it was that the witches took so remarkable a fancy to the early Yankees. Whether it was that there was some secret congeniality of feeling between the two, or that the evil one envied, and sought to mar, by his diabolical incantations, the extraordinary sanctity of the pilgrim fathers, we know not, but leave it to the shrewdness of our readers to divine. Perhaps the following passages from “the wonders of the invisible world,” written by the Rev. Cotton Mather, exhibiting the reputed origin, the characteristic symptoms, and the fearful ravages of the New England witchcraft, may aid us greatly in coming to a right conclusion on a subject so important:
“It is to be confessed and bewailed,” says this grave old Puritan minister, “that many inhabitants of New England, and young people especially, had been led away with little sorceries, wherein they did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God; they would often cure hurts with spells, and practice detestable conjurations with sieves, and keys, and peas, and nails, and horse shoes, to learn the things for which they had a forbidden and impious curiosity. Wretched books had stolen into the land, wherein fools were instructed how to become able fortune tellers.
“ Although these diabolical divinations are more ordinarily committed perhaps all over the world, than they are in the country of New England, yet that being a country devoted unto the worship and service of the Lord Jesus Christ above the rest of the world, he signalized his vengeance (in)
i llistory of New England, b. vi, ch. 7. Quoted by Irving. Works i, 119. 2 Quoted by Irving. Ibid.
these wickednesses with such extraordinary dispensations as have not often (been) seen in other places.
“The devils which had been so played withall, and it may be by some few criminals more explicitly engaged and employed, now broke in upon the country after as astonishing a manner as was ever heard of. Some scores of people, first about Salem, the centre and first born of all the towns in the colony, and afterwards in other places, were arrested with many preternatural vexations upon their bodies, and a variety of cruel torments which were evidently from the demons of the invisible world. The people that were infected and infested with such demons, in a few days' time arrived unto such a refining operation upon their eyes, that they could see their tormenters; they saw a devil of a little stature, and of a tawny color, attended still with spectres that appeared in more human circumstances.
“The tormenters tendered to the afflicted a book, requiring them to sign it, or to touch it at least in token of their consenting to be listed in the service of the devil; which they refusing to do, the spectres under the command of that black man, as they called him, would apply themselves to torture them with prodigious molestations.
“The afflicted wretches were horribly distorted and convulsed ; they were pinched black and blue ; pins would be run every where in their flesh; they would be scalded till they had blisters raised on them ; and a thousand other things, before hundreds of witnesses, were done unto them, evidently preternatural; for if it were preternatural to keep a rigid fast for nine, yea, for fifteen days together; or if it were preternatural to have one's hands tied close together with a rope to be plainly seen, and then by unseen hands presently pulled a great way from the earth, before a crowd of people ; such preternatural things were endured by them.
* But of all the preternatural things which these people suffered, there were none more unaccountable than those wherein the prestigious demons would ever now and then cover the most corporeal things in the world with a fascinating mist of invisibility. As now, a person was cruelly assaulted by a spectre, that she said came at her with a spindle, though no body else in the room could see either the spectre or the spindle; at last, in her agonies, giving a snatch at the spectre, she pulled the spindle away; and it was no sooner got into her hand, but the other folks then present beheld that it was indeed a real, proper, iron spindle ; which, when they locked up very safe, it was, nevertheless, by the demons taken away to do farther mischief.
“ Again, a person was haunted by a most abusive spectre, which came to her, she said, with a sheet about her, though seen to none but herself, After she had undergone a deal of teaze from the annoyance of the spectre, she gave a violent snatch at the sheet that was upon it; whereupon she tore a corner, which in her hand immediately was beheld by all that were present, a palpable corner of a sheet: and her father, which was of her, catched, that he might see what his daughter had so strangely seized; but the spectre had like to have wrung his hand off, by endeavoring to wrest it from him; however, he still held it; and several times this odd accident was renewed in the family. There wanted not the oaths of good credible people to these particulars.
"Also is it known, that these wicked spectres did proceed so far as to steal several quantities of money from divers people, part of which individual money dropt sometimes out of the air, before sufficient spectators, into the hands of the afflicted, while the spectres were urging them to snbscribe their covenant with death. Moreover, poisons, to the standers
by wholly invisible, were sometimes forced upon the afflicted, which, when they have with much reluctancy swallowed, they have swola presently, so that the common medicines for poisons have been found necessary to relieve them; yea, sometimes the spectres in the struggles have so dropt the poisons, that the standers-by have smelt them ind viewed them, and beheld the pillows of the miserable stained with them. Yet more, the miserable have complained bitterly of burning rags run into their forcibly distended mouths ; though no body could see any such clothes, or indeed any fires in their chambers, yet presently the scalds were seen plainly by every body on the mouths of the complainers, and not only the smell, but the smoke of the burning sensibly filled the chambers.
“Once more, the miserable exclaimed of branding irons, heating at the fire on the hearth to mark them; now the standers-by could see no irons, yet they could see distinctly the prints of them in the ashes, and smell them too, as they were carried by the not-sean furies unto the poor creatures for whom they were intended; and those poor creatures were thereupon so stigmatized with them, that they will bear the marks of them to their dying day. Nor are these the tenih part of the prodigies that fell out among the inhabitants of New England.
" Flashy people,” adds the old Puritan divine, “may burlesque these things, but when hundreds of the most sober people, in a country where they have as much mother-wit certainly as the rest of mankind, know them to be true, nothing but the absurd and froward spirit of Saducism can question them. I have not yet mentioned one thing that will not be justified, if it be necessary, by the oaths of more considerate persons than can ridicule these odd phenomena.”
Verily, if all these things be true, we must admit that the demons were particularly intimate with the early Puritans of New England; rather more intimato, in fact, than was at all comfortable for the latter. Shrewd and calculating as were the early Yankees, the imps who played such fantastic tricks among them, were much shrewder. Those devices of the spindle, of the sheet, of the branding-irons, in particular, were truly capital! The invisible spirits knew their trade much better than to try wooden hams or nutmegs, or to attempt the impossible task of overreaching their friends in a bargain. Cunning tricksters were those same witches of New England !
Now, we are Sadducees enough to laugh at all those impostures, and also at the Pharisees who gave them credit and importance. But alas for the poor witches of New England! They were doomed to have other tormentors than the spirits of the invisible world. The Puritan fathers leagued with the demons to torture them to death. What the “ devils and the spectres” could not or would not do with their sheets and spindles, and branding-irons, that the early Puritans boldly accomplished with the halter. The extermination of the luckless witches was decreed on earth, as a carrying out of the mischievous plot originally devised in the lower invisible world.
Space fails us to recount all the trials for witchcraft, and all the executions which ensued, chiefly at and about Salem, in the year 1692.
Blue Laws, &c., p 299, SAQ
They are given in great detail by our author of the Blue Laws, and also by Bancroft, in the third volume of his “ History of the United States." We will content ourselves with a few extracts from this latter highly respectable historian :
“At the trial of George Burroughs, a minister, the bewitched persons pretended to be dumb. • Who hinders those witnesses,' says Stoughton (the deputy governor), “from testifying?' 'I suppose the devil,' – answered Burroughs. How comes the devil,' retorted the chief judge, 6 so loath to have any testimony borne against you?' And the question was effective. Besides he had given proofs of great, if not preternatural muscular strength. Cotton Mather calls the evidence 'enough;' the jury gave a verdict of guilty."
At the execution of Burroughs, Cotton Mather made one of the most heartless, and almost fiendish speeches we have ever chanced to read: he seemed even to exult over the imminent damnation of the convicted wizard !? And another preacher, named Noyes, on seeing eight persons hung up together as witches, had the heartlessness to exclaim : “ THERE HANG EIGHT FIREBRANDS OF HELL!!” Alas for the tender mercies of the pilgrim fathers !
Well, the delusion at length subsided; but not until a great number of crazy, “afflicted,” or innocent persons, had been sacrificed to the insatiable Moloch of religious fanaticism, or rather to the senseless idol of a stupid superstition. The Rev. Cotton Mather thus coolly winds up his narrative of the New England witchcraft :
“Now upon a deliberate review of these things, his excellency (Sir William Phips) first reprieved, and then pardoned many of them that had been condemned; and there fell out several strange things that caused the spirit of the country to run as vehemently on the acquitting of all the accused, as it by mistake ran at first upon the condemning of them. fine, the last courts that sate upon this thorny business, finding that it was impossible to penetrate into the whole meaning of the things that had happened, and that so many unsearchable cheats were interwoven into the conclusion of a mysterious business, which perhaps had not crept thereinto at the beginning of it, they cleared the accused as fast as they tried them; and within a little while the afflicted were most of them delivered out of their troubles also ; and the land had peace restored unto it, by the God of peace treading Satan under foot." 3'
That is, the good Puritans first hung the witches, and then found out that they were perhaps innocent! Shrewd jurists they, and enlightened, merciful Christians! We leave other comments on this “thorny business" to our readers; merely remarking that it ill becomes the children of the Puritans to taunt Catholics with superstition, fanaticism, intolerance, or cruelty.
We conclude this paper with the following humorous passage from Washington Irving's “History of New York :"
“ The witches were all burnt, banished, or panic-struck, and in a little while there was not an ugly old woman to be found throughout New England, — which is doubtless one reason why all the young women 1 Vol. ill. p. 84.
3 Blue Lawe, &c., p. 300
2 Seo ibid. p. 93.