Samuel Gardner Drake - Annals of Witchcraft in New England And Elsewhere in the United States (11.0 MB)
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THIS is the firft Attempt, fo far as is known to the Writer, to collect together the Annals of Witchcraft in this Country. Like all firft Attempts in an untrodden Path of Hiftory, this may fall ftiort of Expectation in feveral refpedts. Thofe who look for a Succeflion of Tales of Horrour of the moft terrible Kind may be difappointed, while others will rejoice that there are no more of them, and may be fatisfied that the Tragedies are interfperfed here and there by Comedies.It has doubtlefs been a Queftion with all Readers of... More >>>
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THIS is the firft Attempt, fo far as is known to the Writer, to collect together the Annals of Witchcraft in this Country. Like all firft Attempts in an untrodden Path of Hiftory, this may fall ftiort of Expectation in feveral refpedts. Thofe who look for a Succeflion of Tales of Horrour of the moft terrible Kind may be difappointed, while others will rejoice that there are no more of them, and may be fatisfied that the Tragedies are interfperfed here and there by Comedies.
It has doubtlefs been a Queftion with all Readers of Accounts of the Witchcraft Cafes which have occurred in this Country, how it happened that they were fo fimilar to thofe which took place in England. The Queflion is cafily anfwcrcd in other Words the Similarity is eafily accounted for. Witchcraft was itfelf imported by thofe who firft praftifed it here, and was perpetuated by the Importers and their immediate Defcendants. Books, on Magick, Sorcery and Witchcraft were brought to this Country by the early Settlers. Thefe were ftudied, and their Contents enlarged upon according to the Powers of the Imagination of thofe who were ambitious to appear wifer than their Neighbours.
So much Prominence has been given to what is called the Salem Witchcraft, that what had occurred in the Country before and fince 1692 is, and has been, overlooked or almoft entirely loft fight of. It will be feen by the following Work that it was a Part of the focial Life of the People, and to them of the greateft Importance through all the earlier Periods of their Hiftory from the Promulgation of their Laws to the year 1700. The Qyeftion arifes naturally, Why has the Subject of Witchcraft been pafTed over fo lightly by the general,
and almoft entirely by the local Hiftorian? It can hardly be fuppofed that they purpofely omit thofe Details with a Beliefthat they will be forgotten, and the Reproach they occafion with them.
This would be a fhort fighted Decifion indeed. But the Affair at Salem has not been omitted. That has been a Peg on which to hang Reproaches againft New England, early and late as though it were the Corner- ftone of all the Troubles of the Kind which ever happened in the Land. No Attempt will be made in Defence of that terrible Delufion, nor of thofe concerned in it as that would be to defend a debafing Ignorance, the Progenitor of the more debafing Superftition. It cannot but be acknowledged that thofe in Authority at that Day were men "fearing God," confcientious to the laft Degree, and therefore felt themfelves compelled to obey the folemn Injunction "not to fuffer a Witch to live." Their Confciences would allow them no Alternative but to obey that Command not entirely upon the Evidence of their own Senfes but always with the Decifion of twelve of the beft Citizens of the Community where the Cafes occurred. If thofe who are fo free with their Denunciations of the Proceedings of 1692 will refledt, they will find themfelves in a Dilemma of this Sort with Believers in the Injunctions of the Bible, or Difbelievers in them. The former obeyed thofe Injunctions, the latter evaded or difbelieved them.
This is a good Common Senfe Opening to his Work. I will in the next and laft Place give an Example of the oppofite Sort. His fourth Chapter is thus headed : " That Devils may do Mifchief to Man or Beaft, without any Aflbciation with Witch or Wizard." He then goes on :
" Though we do not deny, but (hall hereafter prove, that there are Witches, and Necromancers, and fuch Perfons as make wicked Contracts with the Devil, to the Ruin of their own Souls, and the Prejudice of others yet it is moft certain, that the Devil often does much Evil of himfelf (by God's Permiflion) without any Aflbciation with any of his forementioned Inftruments." It is unneceflary to extradt further from this Author, for his Attributes of the Devil do not differ materially from what is laid down by Dr. Mather both ofwhich
It may be faid have "whipped the Devil round the Stump," quite fufiiciently.