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fence of witchcraft, conjuration, inchantment, or sorcery, To deny the possibility, nay, actual existence, of witch. craft and forcery, is at once flatly to contradict the revealed word of God, in various passages both of the old and new testament : and the thing itself is a truth to which every nation in the world hath in its turn born testimony, by either examples seemingly well attested, or prohibitory law's, which at least suppose the possibility of a commerce with evil spirits. The civil law punishes with death not only the forcerers themselves, but also those who consult them(e); imitating in the former the exprefs law of God (f), “ thou fhalt not fuffer a witch to live.” And our own laws both before and since the con. quest, have been equally penal; ranking this crime in the same class with herefy, and condemning both to the flames (g). The presideut Montesquieu (h) ranks them also both together, but with a very different view : laying it down as an important maxim, that we ought to be very circumspect in the prosecution of magic and herefy; because the most unexceptionable conduct, the purest morals, and the constant practice of every duty in life, are not a sufficient security against the fufpicion of crimes like these. And indeed the ridiculous stories that are generally told, and the many impostors and delusions that have been discovered in all ages, are enough to demolish all faith in such a dubious crime; if the contrary, evidence were not also extremely strong. Wherefore it seems to be the most eligible way to couçlude, with an ingenuous writer of our own (i), that in general there has been such a thing as witchcraft; though one cannot give credit to any particular modern instance of it.
Our forefathers were stronger believers, when they enacted by statute 33 Hen. VIII. c. 8. all witchcraft and Torcery to be felony without benefit of clergy; and again by statute 1 Jac. I. c. 12. that all persons invoking any
(e) Cod. 1. 9. t. 18 (h) Sp. L. b. 12. c. 5.
evil spirit, or cousulting, covenanting with, entertaining, employing, seeding, or rewarding an evil spirit; or taking up dead bodies from their graves to be used in any witchcraft, forcery, or inchantment; or killing or other. wise hurting any person by such infernal arts ; should be guilty of felony without the benefit of clergy, and fuffer death. And, if any person should attempt by forcery to discover hidden treasure, or to restore stolen goods, or to provoke unlawful love, or to hurt any man or beast, though the same were not effected, he or she should suffer imprisonment or pillory for the first offence, and death for the second. These acts continued in force till lately, , to the terror of all the ancient females in the kingdom : and many poor wretches were facrificed thereby to the prejudice of their neighbours; and their own illusions ; not a few having, by some means or other, confessed the fact at the gallows. But all executions for this dubious. crime is now at an end ; our legislature having at length followed the wise example of Louis XIV in France, who thought proper by an edict to restrain the tribunals of justice from receiving information of witchcraft (k) And accordingly it is with us enacted by statute 9 Geo. II. c. 5. that no persecution shall for the future be carried on against any person for conjuration, witchcraft, forcery or inchantinent. But the misdemefnor of persons pretending to use witchcraft, tell fortunes, or discover: stolen goods by skill in occult sciences, is still deservedly punished with a year's imprifonment, and standing four times in the pillory.
A seventh species of offenders in this class are all religious impostors : such as falfly pretend an extraordina. ry commission from heaven; or tērrisy and abuse the people with false denunciations of judgments. These, as tending to subvert all religion, by bringing it into ridicule
(k) Voltaire Siecl. Louis xiv. Mod. Univ. Hist. xxv. 215. Yet Vouglans, (de droit criminel, 353. 359.). still reckons up forcery and witchcraft among the crimes punishable in France.
and contempt, are punishable by the temporal courts with fine, imprisonment, and infamous corporal punishment (1).
The several methods of trial and conviction of offen.. ders, established by the laws of England, were formerly niore numerous than at present, through the superstition of our Şaxon ancestors : who, like other northern nati. ons, were extremely addicted to divination ; a character, which Tacitius obferves of the antient Germans*. They therefore invented a considerable number of me. thods of purgation or trial, to preserve innocence from the danger of false witnesses, and in consequence of a notion that God would always interpose miraculously, to vindicate the guiltless..
The most ancient species of trial was that by ordeal ; which was peculiarly distinguished by the appellation of judicium Dei; and sometimes vulgaris purgatio, to diftinguish it from the canonical purgation, which was by the oath of the party. This was of two sortst, either by fire-ordeal, or water-ordeal; the former being confined to persons of higher rank, the latter to common people. Both these might be performed by deputy: but the prin. cipal was to answer for the success of the trial; the deputy only venturing some corporal pain, for hire, or perhaps for frendship (d). Fire-ordeal was performed either by taking up in the hand, unhurt, a peice of red hot iron, of one, two, or three pounds weight; or else by walking barefoot, and blindfold, over nine redhot plowshares, laid lengthwise at unequal distances : and if the party escaped being hurt, he was adjudged innocent; but if it happened otherwise, as without collusion it usually did, he was then condemned as guilty.
However, by this
(1) 1 Hawk. P. C. 7. * de mori germ. 10.
+ Mirr. c. fec. 23. (d) This is still expressed in that common form of speech, of “going through fire and water serve another.
latter method queen Emma, the mother of Edward the confessor, is mentioned to have cleared her character, when suspected of familiarity with Alwyn bishop of Winchester (e).
Water-ordeal was performed, either by, plunging the bare arm up to the elbow in boiling water, and escaping unhurt thereby : and, if he floated therein without any action of swimming, it was deemed an evidence of his guilt: but, if he funk, he was acquitted. It is easy to trace out the traditional relics of this water-ordeal, in the ignorant barbarity still practised in many countries to dif. cover witches, by casting them into a pool of water, and drowning them to prove their innocence. And in the Eastern empire the fire-ordeal was ufed to the fame purpose by the emperor Theodore Lascaris; who, attributing his fickness to magic, caused all those whom he sufpected to handle the hot iron : thus joining, as has been well remarked, f to the most dubious crime in the world, the most dubious proof of innocence.
The progress of science is fatal to every species of er
We fee with indubitable clearness that the witch. craft, enchantment, and sorceries of former ages, are vanishing away before the diffusive light of knowledge and men of literary habits, even though in some measure superstitious, are becoming every day more unwilling to subscribe to such degrading follies. Me have seen by the preceding passages that the learned Blackstone was wibrating between rational and scriptural impulses ;-be. tween the dictates of his understanding and the fear of popular censure. The divine authority of the sacred writings was the caufe of this, and so long as books are substituted for the solid truths of the moral and physical world, so long man will be subjected to a baneful influence, and the powers of his understanding benumbed by the voice of authority.
It is in vain to talk of the
(e) Tho. Rudborne Hist. maj. Winton. I. 4. C. I.
$ Sp. L. b. 12. C. 5.
wisdom of our ancestors--to extol the knowledge of ana tiquity, and place it in opposition to the modern deduction of reason, when historic details present us with such a mais of witchcraft and disgusting stuff as that which is contained in the short extracts from Blackstone's Com. mentaries. Societies will be confidered as as a fortuitous aggregation of children until they shall emancipate themselves from the degrading bondage of a belief in the stupid nonsense of witchcraft, forcerers, dreams ghosts and a thousand other phantasms of which religious superstie tion is the legitimate parent.
OF THE SABBATH-DAY OF CONNECTICUT.
The word, fabbath, means rest, that is, ceffation from Tabour ; but the stupid Blue Laws* of Connecticut make a labour of rest; for they oblige a person to sit still from fun-rise to fun-set on a fabbath day, which is hard work. Fanatcism made those laws and hypocrisy pretends to reverence them, for where such laws prevạil hypocrisy will prevail also.
One of those laws says, “ No person shall run on a fab. bath-day, nor walk in his garden, nor elsewhere, but re. verently to and from meeting.” These fanatical hypocrites forgot that that God dwells not in temples made with hands, and that the earth is full of his glory. One of the finest scenes and subjects of religious contempla. tion is to walk into the woods and fields, and survey the works of the God of the creation. The wide expanse of heaven, the earth covered with verdure, the lofty forest, the waving corn, the magnificent roll of mighty rivers, and the murmuring melody of the cheerful brooks are fcenes that inspire the mind with gratitude and delight; but this the gloomy Calvinist of Connecticut must not be.
* They were called Blue Laws because they were orin ginally printed on blue paper.