>>> Item number 192, dated 93/10/07 20:34:34 -- ALL
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1993 20:34:34 CDT Reply-To: Legal History discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> Sender: Legal History discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> From: email@example.com Subject: Increase Mather and the Law
I am reading Stephen Botein's _Early American Law and Society_ (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), which consists of four essays:
A Nation Among Peoples (about English law and the non-English of North America) Religion and the State (about the mix of morality and law, and colonial church establishments) Community and Conflict (about development of local law) The Stresses of Empire (about development of imperial colonial law)
and many short primary documents, including
1664 Maryland General Assembly Act defining African-American slavery 1619 Virginia General Assembly's "morals" laws 1758 Daniel Dulaney's plea against discriminating against the property rights of non-English settlers in Maryland
Among the documents, I am reading a portion of Increase Mather's "Witchcraft in Massachusetts (October 1692). Mather writes the following, after defining the evidence that is acceptable for convicting a witch (confession and affirmation of two individuals):
It were better that ten suspected Witches should escape, than that one innocent Person should be Condemned....I had rather judge a Witch to be an honest woman, than judge an honest woman as a Witch. (94)
This supports Botein's accompanying comment that, during the Salem Witch trials, the clergy was generally more temperate and level-headed than the judiciary.
I am interested in learning of other sources which support this conclusion, or discuss the legal aspects of the Salem witch trials.
University of Illinois-Chicago
>>> Item number 194, dated 93/10/08 16:13:04 -- ALL
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1993 16:13:04 CDT Reply-To: Legal History discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> Sender: Legal History discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Increase Mather and the Law
In response to Wendy's question about books on the Salem witch trials, and their legal aspects:
A fairly recent book (1991, I think), by Richard Godbeer, called _Devil's Dominion_ talks about the legal aspects of the trials (chapter 5 in fact is about nothing else). Even more helpful, his footnotes provide references to the primary and secondary sources about the legal response to witch craft in Europe.
Another source you might look at is John Hale's _A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft_ (1702). It was written after the Salem trials, by a minister, and talks about the use of spectral evidence (which was essentially the issue Mather was getting at). Hale shifted to support Mather's position that the court did the wrong thing, and sets out some of the arguments. Godbeer talks about that work in the epilogue of his book.
I haven't read Botein's book, I couldn't get a hold of it during my exams, but it sounds like his argument is a little simplistic. Or, more accurately, a little too *legal* in its perspective. AS Godbeer suggests, the legal traditions that influenced the court, reflected certain religious assumptions, and were in conflict with newer legal and religious assumptions. I tend to distrust an argument (all too common in early colonial legal histories) that a particular person had a *tolerant* approach to a legal issue. Tolerance all too often means thinks in a way that is reassuring to a person raised on late 20th century notions of legality, and in the case of the witchcraft trials, also means a person seems not to take that silly witchcraft stuff seriously.
As Godbeer, and Keith Thomas before him, suggest, the question of magic was real, and law and society struggled to find ways to deal with it.
U of Chicago
>>> Item number 195, dated 93/10/10 15:01:55 -- ALL
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1993 15:01:55 CDT Reply-To: Legal History discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> Sender: Legal History discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> From: email@example.com Subject: Re: Increase Mather and the Law
In response to Wendy Plotkin's request for legal aspects of the Salem witchtrials, Stanley Katz ("The Problem of a Colonial Legal History" in _British Colonial America: Essays in the New History of the Early Modern History_, J. P Greene and J. R. Pole, eds. [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1984], 477) mentions John Demos's use of Essex county legal records for his studies of witchcraft; see John Demos, "John Godfrey and His Neighbors: Witchcraft and the Social Web in Colonial Massachusetts," _WMQ_ 3d ser, 33 (1976): 242-65; and John Demos _Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England_ (NY, 1982). The Katz essay is, in general, indispensible for anyone interested in Colonial American legal history.
Peter Hoffer's _Law and People in Colonial America_ (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1992) discusses the witchcraft trials on pages 38-40, but does not go into much detail about the legal basis. His bibliographic essay, in addition to mentioning Demos, suggests Carol F. Karlsen, _The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England_ (NY, 1987); Chadwick Hansen, _Witchcraft at Salem_ (NY, 1969); and David Konig _Law and Society in Puritan Massachusetts: Essex County 1629-1692_ (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1979).
Konig writes about the witchcraft trials on pages 125, 169-85, and 144-54. He has quite a bit of detail about both the procedure and substance of the trials. You will also find his footnotes quite useful.
My copy of Friedman got lost in the move between California and Providence, otherwise I would have checked there too. --
>>> Item number 202, dated 93/10/14 18:48:56 -- ALL
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1993 18:48:56 CDT Reply-To: Legal History discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> Sender: Legal History discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Increase Mather and the Law
Elizabeth Dale raises the question of the European context within
which thinking about legal issues implicated by witchcraft trials in
America takes place. That reminds me that the classic European
"text" was the Malleus Maleficarum. However, I don't recall its being
cited by mather et al.
William M. Wiecek
Syracuse University College of Law
FAX: (315) 443-5394