Page images



say, 'takes away their memory, and imposes on their brain.'»

Who, under such circumstances, would dare to be skeptical, or refuse to believe the confessors? Already, twenty persons had been put to death for witchcraft. Fifty-five had been tortured or terrified into penitent confessions. With accusations, confessions increased; with confessions, new accusations. Even “the generation of the children of God” were in danger of “falling under that condemnation.” The jails were full. One hundred and fifty prisoners awaited trial, two hundred more were accused or suspected. It was also observed that no one of the condemned confessing witchcraft had been hanged. No one that confessed, and retracted a confession, had escaped either hanging or imprisonment for trial. No one of the condemned who asserted innocence, even if one of the witnesses confessed to perjury, or the foreman of the jury acknowledged the error of the verdict, escaped the gallows. Favoritism was shown in listening to accusations, which were turned aside from friends or partisans. If a man began a career as a witch-hunter, and, becoming convinced of the imposture, declined the service, he was accused and hanged.

Samuel Parris had played a strong hand and was more than successful. His harvest of vengeance



seemed to have no end. Witches' Hill became a *Tyburn-hill, and as many as eight were hung at one time.

Matters had at last gone too far. The delusion reached its climax in the midsummer of 1692, and on the second Wednesday in October following, about a fortnight after the last hanging at Salem, the representatives of the colony assembled, and the people of Andover, their minister joining with them, appeared with their remonstrance against the doings of witch tribunals.

“We know not,” they said, “who can think himself safe, if the accusation of children and others under a diabolical influence shall be received against persons of good fame.” The discussions which ensued were warm, for Mr. Parris had defenders even in the legislature, who denounced Charles and Hattie Stevens “as murderers and exercisers of the black art." The general court did not place itself in direct opposition to the advocates of the trials. It ordered by bill a convocation of ministers, that the people might be led in the right way, as to the witchcraft. The reason for doing it and the manner were such, that the judges of the court, so wrote one of them, “consider themselves thereby dismissed.”

As to legislature, it adopted what King William rejected -the English law, word for word, as it was en



acted by a house of commons, in which Coke and Bacon were the guiding minds; but they abrogated the special court, and established a tribunal by statute. Phipps had, instantly on his arrival, employed his illegal court in hanging the witches. The representatives of the people delayed the first assembling of the legal court till January of the following year. Thus an interyal of more than three months from the last executions gave the public mind security and freedom. Though Phipps conferred the place of chief judge on Stoughton, yet jurors, representing the public mind, acted independently. When the court met at Salem, six women of Andover, at once renouncing their confessions, treated the witchcraft but as something so called,” the bewildered but as "seemingly afflicted." A memorial of like tenor come from the inhabitants of Andover.

More than one-half of the cases presented were dismissed; and, though bills were found against twenty-six persons, the trials showed the feebleness of the testimony on which others had been condemned. The minds of the juries had become enlightened, even before the prejudiced judges. The same testimony was produced, and there at Salem, with Stoughton on the bench, verdicts of acquittal followed.

One of the parties acquitted on this occasion was



an old acquaintance. Mr. Henry Waters, who had been arrested for his brother and taken to Virginia, suddenly appeared in Salem. John Louder, at once cried out against him and caused him to be arrested. On being arraigned, he plead not guilty and was put on his trial. John Louder was the principal witness. He stated that one day he and Bly were hunting and that defendant pursued them and bewitched their guns. Then he testified that he fired a silver bullet and wounded the defendant. He also testified to his appearing before him on the evening he went to stalk deer, and offering him a book to sign. It was known that the accused had suffered from a wound.

Mr. Waters then proceeded to explain:

“My name is Henry Waters, and, in early life, my brother and I were players. We were members of the Church of England and detested the Catholic Religion. The end of Charles II. was drawing near, and we reasoned that James II., his brother, would become heir to the throne. Our only hope was to organize a strong party and seize the throne for the Duke of Monmouth. I was sent to the American colonies to secure pledges of support, and get the names of all who would resist a papal monarch on my book. I came, leaving my brother and his child in England. On the way here, I was suddenly fired upon by an Indian



in ambush and wounded in the side. As these men were stalking a deer I passed along and affrighted the animal, so it ran away, and I was for this accused of being a wizard.”

He was then asked by the examining magistrate, if he did offer a book to Mr. John Louder to sign.

“I did,” he quickly answered.
“When was it?"
“At the time and place he states."
" What book was it?"

“I have it here," and he produced a small, redbacked blank book. “This has caused so much trouble. Examine it, and you will see it was to contain only the names of those who would resist the accession of the Duke of York to the throne."

The book was passed around to the Judge and Jury, and a smile dawned on the face of each, which was dangerous to the friends of the prosecution. That book would have hung Henry Waters during the reign of James II. ; but now it was his salvation. He was one of the first acquitted. The delusion was on the wane. " * Error died among its worshippers.”

« PreviousContinue »