University of Virginia Library

Chapter IV.

Here was generally acknowledged to be an error (at least on the one hand) but the Querie is, Wherein?

[A.] 1. I have heard it said, That the Presidents[418] in England were not so exactly followed, because in those there had been previous quarrels and threatnings of the Afflicted by those that were Condemned for Witchcraft; but here, say they, not so. To which I answer.

1. In many of these cases there had been antecedent personal quarrels, and so occasions of revenge; for some of those Condemned, had been suspected by their Neighbours several years, because after quarrelling with their Neighbours, evils had befallen those Neighbours. As may be seen in the Printed Tryals of S. M. and B. B.[419] and others: See Wonders of the


Invisible World, Page 105 to 137.[420] And there were other like Cases not Printed.

2. Several confessors acknowledged they engaged in the quarrels of other their confederates to afflict persons. As one Timothy Swan suffered great things by Witchcrafts, as he supposed and testifyed. And several of the confessors said they did so torment him for the sake of one of their partners who had some offence offer'd her by the said Swan. And others owned they did the like in the behalf of some of their confederates.[421]

3. There were others that confessed their fellowship in these works of darkness, was to destroy the Church of God (as is above in part rehearsed) which is a greater piece of revenge then[422] to be avenged upon one particular person.

[A.] 2. It may be queried then, How doth it appear that there was a going too far in this affair.

1. By the numbers of the persons accused which at length increased to about an hundred and it cannot be imagined that in a place of so much knowledge, so many in so small a compass of Land should so abominably leap into the Devils lap at once.

2. The quality of several of the accused was such as did bespeak better things, and things that accompany salvation. Persons whose blameless and holy lives before did testify for them. Persons that had taken great pains to bring up their Children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: Such as we had Charity for, as for our own Souls: and Charity is a Christian duty commended to us. 1 Cor. 13 Chapt., Col. 3. 14, and in many other Scriptures.

3. The number of the afflicted by Satan dayly increased, till about Fifty persons were thus vexed by the Devil. This gave just ground to suspect some mistake, which gave advantage to the accuser of the Brethren[423] to make a breach upon us.

4. It was considerable [424] that Nineteen were Executed, and all denyed the Crime to the Death, and some of them were


knowing persons, and had before this been accounted blameless livers. And it is not to be imagined, but that if all had been guilty, some would have had so much tenderness as to seek Mercy for their Souls in the way of Confession and sorrow for such a Sin. And as for the condemned confessors at the Bar (they being reprieved) we had no experience whether they would stand to their Self-condemning confessions, when they came to dye.

5. When this prosecution ceased, the Lord so chained up Satan, that the afflicted grew presently well. The accused are generally quiet, and for five years since, we have no such molestations by them.

6. It sways much with me that I have since heard and read of the like mistakes in other places. As in Suffolk in England about the year 1645 was such a prosecution, until they saw that unless they put a stop it would bring all into blood and confusion.[425] The like hath been in France, till 900 were put to Death,[426] And in some other places the like; So that N. England is not the only place circumvented by the wiles of the wicked and wisely Serpent in this kind.

Wierus de Prœstigiis Demonum, p. 678,[427] Relates, That an Inquisitor in the Subalpine Valleys, enquired after Women Witches, and consumed above an hundred in the Flames, and daily made new offerings to Vulcan of those that needed Helebore more than Fire,[428] Until the Country peole rose and by force of Arms hindred him, and refer the matter to the Bishop. Their Husbands, men of good Faith, affirmed that in that very time they said of them, that they played and danced under a tree, they were in bed with them.


R. Burton of Witches, etc. p. 158,[429] Saith, That in Chelmsford in Essex, Anno 1645, were Thirty tryed at once before Judge Coniers, and Fourteen of them hanged, and an hundred more contained in several Prisons in Suffolk and Essex.

If there were an Error in the proceedings in other places, and in N. England, it must be in the principles proceeded upon in prosecuting the suspected, or in the misapplication of the principles made use of. Now as to the case at Salem, I conceive it proceeded from some mistaken principles made use of; for the evincing whereof, I shall instance some principles made use of here, and in other Countrys also, which I find defended by learned Authors writing upon that Subject.[430]





Susannah Martin and Bridget Bishop.


At pp. 223-236, above.


Timothy Swan, aged thirty, died early in February, 1692/3 (N. E. Hist. and Gen. Reg., II. 380; Mrs. Bailey, Historical Sketches of Andover, p. 237).




I. e., Satan (see Rev. xii. 10).


Deserving of consideration.


The famous witch-hunt in which Matthew Hopkins was the leading spirit (1645-1646).


What is in thought is doubtless the boast of Nicolas Remy (Remigius), on the title-page of his Dœmonolatreia (1595), that his book rests on the trials of nine hundred, put to death for witchcraft within fifteen years; but this was in Lorraine, not yet a part of France, though in close relations with it.


Lib. VI., cap. 20, of this notable book by which the eminent Rhenish physician Wierus (Johann Weyer, 1515-1588) gave to the zeal of the witch-haters its first effective check. This passage, however, he borrows bodily from the Parergon Juris (VIII. 22) of an earlier opponent of witch persecution, the Italian jurist Andrea Alciati.


I. e., those crazed more than criminal: hellebore was counted a cure for insanity.


See p. 416, note 5. “Burton” has merely inserted into his Kingdom of Darkness (pp. 148-159) the contents of the contemporary True and Exact Relation (1645) which narrates this Essex persecution.


The following chapters (V.-XVII.) are devoted to the nature of witchcraft and the proper means for its detection.