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levels of intelligence. The early centuries of tlie Chmcli. how-
ever, did not favor rapid advani-e in this direction, and tlio new
Christianity and tlie old paganism kept step together for a long
time. What now would be treated as hysteria, epilepsy or
lunacy, was supposed to be '• possession " by the devil.

Gradually a distinct doctrine of witchcraft formed itself. Its
first principle was that Satan is in incessant warfare with the
Church, and works through the fallen angels, and especially
through human beings whom he has won to himself. These,
it was conceived, sold their soids to him formally and agi-eed
to help him. In return they were to be endoweil by him with
extra-natural power, enabling them to read men's thoughts,
to leave their bodies and retiirn to them, to fly tlirough the air,
to transform thtMiiselves into tlie shapes of animals, and to call
up the spirits of the dead. Tlie special weiglit of all charges
against them lay in the supposed fact that they not only had
freely sacrificed their souls, but also were striving to tempt men
to revolt against Christ's beneficent reign. It was held further
that Satan sealed the compact by a touch which calloused the
skin and left a permanent " witch-mark,'' and that the fountain
of tears was dried up. Witches oftenest were old women. •• wiz-
ard " being the term for a man thus " possessed." The distin-
guishing feature of •' the new witchcraft " of the Middlt; Ages
was the notion of the worship of Satan in the Snhhnt, an as-
sembly held at night. It was given out that wizards and witehes
sailed to this through the air, astride of a broomstick-, a goat or
a dog. And it was believed that the most infernal rites were
celebrated and the foulest license allowed.

Since the Church — which included the educated and well-
to-<lo people — soberly believed all this, of course the masses
lived in terror of these pests. Learneil writers proved, to the
general affright, that witches caused abortion, rendered men
inapotent and women barren, dried up a nursing mother's milk,
killed and ate infants, entered houses at night and slew sleep-
ing children by a touch, killed unbaptized children when they
could, raised tempests, hailstones, and plagues of locusts and
caterpillars, caused mortal sicknesses, and blasted men with


• Here a citation from Mr. Lea's learned work ^ is in order : —

To understand the credulity which accepted these marvels as the
most portentous and dreadful of realities, it must be borne in mind that
they . . . were facts substantiated by evidence irrefragable according
to the system of jurisprudence. . . . The criminal whom eniUcss repe-
tition of torment had reduced to stolid desjiair naturally sou^'ht to
make his confession square with the requirements of his juilge ; the
confession once made he was doomed, and knew that retraction, in
place of saving him, would only bring a renewal and prolongation
of his sufferings. He therefore adhered to his confession. ... In
many cases, moreover, torture and jnulonged imprisonment in the
foulest of dungeons doubtless produced partial derangement, leading
to belief that he had committed the acts so persistently im})uted to
him. In either case, desire to obtain the last sacrament, which was
essential to salvation, and which was only administered to contrite
and repentant sinnt-rs, would induce him to maintain to the la - t the
truth of his confession. No proof more unquestionable than this could
be had of any of the events of life, and belief in the figments of Nvitch-
craft was therefore unhesitating. To duubt, moreover, if not heresy,
was cause for vehement suspicion. The Church lent its overpowering
autliority to enforce belief on the souls of men. The malignant powers
of the witch were repeatedly set forth in the bulls of successive popes
for the implicit credence of the faithful.

Such being the convictions of the Romanism of the fifteenth
century, there was nothing in the dawning Protestantism of the
sixteentli to change at once the popular beliefs. Those who
undertook the herculean ta.sk of modifying public opinion as to
any matters of faith sought to excite as little antagonism as
possible. Moreover, the natural influence of Protestantism, in
throwing men back upon the Bible self-interpreted for the
grounds of belief — even while sowing seeds which would ripen
into a ration.al faitli that must uproot witchcraft — at first would
be to strengthen the existing conviction of its reality and bale-
ful power. In connnenting on the passage, "• Thou shalt not
suffer a witch to live,"' Calvin says : - " Since such illusions
carry with them a wicked renunciation of God, no wonder that
He would have them punished with death."

* iii : 502. For nn ofTici.nl snlpction of P.ip.il Bulls on this subject, see Corpus
Juris Canonici. Grey. Xlll. Lib. Sr/,t. Decretal, v. tit. \'l.
2 Exod. xxii: IS. Uariii. of Pent, ii: 'JO. Inst. I. xi? : 18.


The tenacity of this delusion, even in the Protestant niiud, is
shown by two facts. In 1GG5, Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Cliief
Justice of England, one of the most devout and humane of his
generation, charged a jury at Bury St. Edmunds ^ thus : —

That there are sucli creatures as witches, I make no (h)ubt at all ;
for first, tlie Scriptures have atlirined so mucli ; secondly, the wisdom
of all nations hath provided laws agaiust such persons.

The verdict was " guilty,"' and the accused died protesting
their innocence.

Exactly one hundred years later, Blackstone said in his
"Commentaries" 2 — and he sjwke within eiglit years of the emp-
tying into the dock at Boston of the tea from IJritish ships —

To deny the possibility, nay, actual existence, o£ witclicraft and
sorcery, is at once flatly to contradict tlie revealed word of God
and the thing itself is a trutli to which every nation in the world hath
in its turn borne te>tiinony. . . . The civd law punishes with death
not only the sorcerers tlu-niselves, but also those who consult them. .
And our own laws, both before and since the conquest, have been
equally penal ; ranking this crime in the same class with heresy, and
condemning both to the flames. The President Montescjuieu ranks '
them also both together, but with a very ditferent view : Laying it
down as an important maxim, that we ought to be very circum^l(ect
in the prosecution of magic and heresy ; because the most unexcfp-
tionable conduct, the purest morals, and the constant practice of every
duty in hfe, are not a suHicient security against the suspicion of crimes
like tliese. And indeed the ridiculous stories tluvt are generally told,
and the many impostures and delusions that have been discovered in
all ages, are enough to denioHsh 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 conclude, with an ingenious writer *
of our own, that in general there has been such a thing as witchcraft ;
though one cannot give credit to any particular modern instance of it.

It is true that there had lieen a few utterances on the other
side. In 1392 AValter Brute '" declared the Popish exorcisms
abominable and absurd. In, or about, 1577, John AVierus, j)hy-
sician to the Duke of Cleves, maintained " that persons accused

» Campbell. Lives of the Chief Justices (ed. 1S49), i : SO-I. « Ed. ITW. iv : CO.

' Spir. of Laws, Hk. IJ. c. 5. ♦ Addison. Sjjrclalor, No. 117.

* Stori/ of Walter lirnle. Jolui Fo\e. Arts and Monuments, ed. \>\-{.

• De I'rcitiijiis Iktmonum et Jncantaliouibus.


of witchcraft were unbalanced and deserved pity. Seven or
eight years l:\ter came out in London the courageous " Discovery
of Witchcraft," by Kcginald Scot, whose oljjoct was to stop the
cruel persecutions for witchcraft by proving that there was no
solid foundation for tlie infamous superstructure of popular be-
lief, lie insisted that the tales were fables ; that witches, who
were declared able to s(iueeze through keyholes, to become ani-
mals, to fly, and the like, never escaped thus from prison ; that
the hypothesis was against all just views of God, and that
the Bible rightly interpreted gave no countenance to the doc-
trine. But he was more than a century in advance of his age. and
King James, in 1597, tried to demolish him in the i)reface
to his own " Daemonologie," and at least was able to have Scots
book burned.

There was a revival of interest in this subject during the
seventeenth century. In IGOO Thomas Ady ' had publicly dis-
favored the extreme views then common, as had Tobias Tandle-
rus2 six years later, and six treatises,'^ reaffirming substantially
the old \-iews, were printed witliin twenty-five years; while at
least fourteen more * appeared before the close of the century

^ Treatise concerning Witchts and Wilchcraft. 4', 1000.

* De Fascino et Incantatione, Disserhitiones Phyairae-Medicae, IGW.

' G. Giffard, Dialogue concerning Witches and Witchcrafts. 4', lOOo. W. Perkins,
Discourse of the damned Art nf Witchcraff. etc., S°, lOUS. J. Cotta, The Triull of
Witchcraf, sheu-ing the True and Right Methode if the Discouery. 4^, ItUti. A. Hoherts,
A Treatise of Witchcraft, etc., 4^ ItilO. T. Cooper, The Mystery of Witchcraft,
etc., 12^ 1017. R. Bernard, .1 Guide to Grand lury men. etc, 1'4', 1(',27.

* J. Gavle, Select Cases of Conscience, concerning Witches and Witchcraf, 8',
1040. Stearne, Confrmation and Discovtry of Witchcrajt, 4', lii4'*. T. Ady,
Perfict Discovery of Witches, etc., 4', lOtU. J. Glanvil, .1 Blow at Modern Saddu-
cism In Some, or Philosophical Considerations aliout Witchcraft, etc.. i^, ItiiiO. M.
Casaubon, Of Credulity and Incredulity against the Sadducism of the Times in
denying Sjiirits, Witches, etc., S\ li5t>8. .1 Pleasant Treatise of Witchrs. Their
Imps, and Meetings, etc. By a pen near the Covent of Elvtiikict. l>'i~'.]. .J. Briuley,
A Discovery of the Impostures nf Witches and Astrologers. »', liWO. J. Brinley, A
Discourse of the Impostures Practised in .fudicial Astrology, >', 10^0. The second
part of the forti^oin::-. J. Glanvil, Saddiicismus Triumphatns, or Full ami Plain
Evidence Concerning H itches and .\/)/)aritions.S'^, KJ^l. R. Bovet, Pandaftnonium.
etc., 8^, KkSt. G. Sinclair, Satan's Invisible World disrovered. etc , ll'^. lOS.'). A
Discourse Proving by Scripture .j- Reason And the Best Authors, Ancient and
Modern, that there Are Witclns. etc, ItWiJ. I. Mather, Cases of Cm-sri, nee concerning

Witchcraft. 4^, 1091. Sir M. Hale, Collection of Modern Relations of Matter of Fact,
concerning Witches, 4', IG'J;).


on tbe same side, with two ^ in the main defending the doctrines
of Scot. We will glance at two of these.

Tbe " Guide to Grand lury men," in reference to witch trials,
was wTitten, two years after Robinson's death, by Richard lier-
nard, himsL'lf a Puritan, with whom Robinson had a controversy
upon church polity, but with whom in other essenti;U.s he was at
one. The object is to prove that although there may be both
self-deceived and counterfeit witches, nevertheless, there are
witches who make an express league with Satan ; and to declare
how bewitchment may be known and how witches are to be
detected. He believes in the "witch's mark," favors the tear-
test, and after enumerating various ways of inducing the suspect
to confess, he advocates torture, or " a shew thereof at least,"
and the death of those convicteil.

The " Discourse of the damned Art of Witchcraft " was
preached as sermons at St. Andrew's, in Caml)ridge, l)y William
Perkins, and was published after his death, in 1G02. No man
stood higher with the godly people of England than he. There
is reason to think that he was the spiritual teaeher of Robinson,
and Robinson certainly had a great regard for his oi)iiiions.
There can be no doubt that his views upon this subject were
those in which our fathers were indoctrinated. Perkins teaches
that witchcraft is an actual thing, which for wise reasons God
permits ; that tliere is a league between Satan and the \ntch ;
that witchcraft includes divination, necromancy and juggling ;
that there are good and bad witches ; that " of the two the
more horrible and detestable Monster is the good Witch," and
that all witches should be put to death. His meaning as to
these " good witches " perhaps conies out also in another treatise,
" A Resolution to the Countrey-man, proouing it vtterly v\\\a\v-
full to buie or use our yearely Prognostications," in which he
condenms the folly and wickedness of casting nativities, telling
fortunes, predicting floods or droughts, and prophesying life or
death. And this reminds us again that the public mind still was

1 J. Wa^t.-»fre. Question of Witchcraft Thbatfd . . . again.<t their opinion that njrirm
Witches. S-. MTl. J. Webster. Displaying of Supposed Witchrran ■ ■ ■ that tl. r> is
a corporeal U ague made betwixt the Devil and the Witch, etc., utterly disproved, foL


niled by superstitions in regard to the influence of the planets,
stars and moon upon hunuiu fortunes.

A pertinent illustration is found in a little volume by Rich-
ard Harvey, in 1583, in which w-ith utmost sincerity he declares
that the ^ malice of tlie vnlucky planet Saturne, hath by his
mischieuous importunitie ouercoinc and vanquished the good.
wholsome & sweete nature of the benevolous and favourable
planet lupiter." This will cause floods, cold weather, envy,
debate, quarrelling, going to law, persecution, poverty, sterilitv.
barrenness, fire, shipwrecks, pestilence, and many other mournful
things. And he adds that certain direful consequences of a
small eclipse of the sun in the previous June remained to be
experienced, which he particularizes thus : ' —

The whole yeare, to spcake more vniversally, is like to prone hut a
bad yeare for al maner of cattel, but especially and pnncii)ully for
sheepe. Pease & Beanes, I suppose, will be plentiful and pood cheape :
but wheate, by my conicctures. will be scarce & very deare. Barlie
shall be indifferent, but yet of the two, rather deare than clieajjc. We
are like to haue good store of Honie, &. sufTicient plentie of Oyle.
Butter and Cheese shal be some what deare : we are not to looke for
anie store or aboundaunce of fruitu : a dearth of victualles is luuohe to
be feared: grleuous losses by shij)wracke : sundrie danmiages by fire :
manie shamefull whoredomes, thefts, robberies, spoiles, o])i)ressions.
treacheries, and mutinies greatly to be dreaded : perillous factions, sedi-
tions, tumultes. insurrections & nprores. togither with bote preparance
[preparation] for warre to be looked for. especially in y« Northeast
countries. Manv infirmities and diseases, shal generally raigne. both
amongst men, women, & children, proceeding of unnatural moist-
nesse, & distem])erate heat, as by ye event wil more sensibly ajipeare.
The deatli of some mightie, and renowmcd Magistrate by al Astrolo-
gical coniecturcs is to ensue : and finally, a sore mortalltie is very like
to inuade manye places, as well somcwliat neare liande, as farther otf.

The community was not wise enough to treat this as nonsense,
and the book threw the whole kingdom into consternation.
Even the PriAy Council censured the author, especially because
of the foretold death of " some mightie, and renowmed ]Magns-
trate," supposed to mean Queen Elizabeth.

^ An Astrological disrourse vpnn the great and nnlah!e Coniunclion nf the two Su-
periuur rianets, S-tTcRXE i)- IvptrtR, which shall happen the ~'S day of April, LiSS,
14, 74.


Public thinking was saturated with infatuations and Tnisjud" -
ments, and nothing seemed too inciedil>l»' for sober accejitanee.
It was not long since Kicobaldi gravi'ly had asserted, tiiat an
Italian woman luul luul forty-two children before her fortiftli
year ; ' and the " Osnaburg Chronicle " had declared that one
mother had 300 sons at a birth,- and that a man, named Xico-
lanus Piscis, because of maternal malediction, lived in the sea,
unable to exist out of water.

With all this superstition there was a hardness of feeling
which looked without emotion upon human suffering, and toler-
ated social conditions now abliorrent. Some favorite amuse-
ments of the peo})le were cruel. There was a " Master of the
King's games of bears, buUs, and mastiff dogs,"' ^ and one wrote
in 1575 as follows : * —

It waz a sport very pleazaunt of theez beastz ; to see the bear with
hiz pink nyez [eyes] leering after hiz enmies approch. the nimhhiess
and wayt of ye dog too take hiz auantage, and the fi)rs and oxi)eri-
ense of tlie bear agayn to avoyd the assauts : ... if he wear taken
onez, then what sliyft with byting, with clawyng, with roriiig. tij>>iiig
and tuiubhng. he woold woork to wynde hymself from them ; and
when he waz lose, to shake liiz earz twyse or thryse wyth tlie l)hid
and the slauer about his fizuamy [physiognomy] waz a matter of
a goodly releef .

In 1598 Paul Ilentzner also said : —

There is still another ])lace, built in the fonn of a theatre, which
serves for the baiting of Bulls and Bears, they are fastened behinil.
and then worried by great English liull-dogs. . . . To tliis entertain-
ment there often follows that of wliip])ing a blinded Bear.

All this continued far into the seventeenth centmy. Tlie
ducking-stool, also, and the scold's bridle, often were cruelly
used upon the innocent and helpless, as well as ujx)n those
who perhaps had earned them fairly.

* Fort, ^f€d. Econ. during Mid. Ages, o^'i-olV].

' Evelyn, September 1, lt>41. describes seeing'' .at Leyden both a nionuinent to a
Countess of Ilollaud wlio bad -l^'io cbildri'ii .it one birth, and also the basins \a
which they were baptized! So Howolis (Fainil. Letters (ed. 1754), 9), and Pepys,
Ma J 19-'-", t, ICGO.

» Kye, 21.->.

* Robert Lauebaiu, Lftter from Kenilworth Castle (ed. 1821), 25.
» 42.


This hardness of the general heart was manifested especially
in the treatment of prisoners. If a man struck another in the
king's court so as to draw blood, his right liand was chopped
oil' and the stump seared mth a hot iron.^ The stocks and the
pilloiy were designed at once to disgrace a culprit and to tempt
the brutality of the multitude. Sometimes, when one was pil-
loried, his ears were nailed to the post and he was left to tear
himself away.- The rabble were expected to pay their respects
to such captives by pelting tlieni with stones and garbage.
There also was a place of detention hard by the stocks, appar-
ently open to public view and called the •' cage," in which \wt-
sons arrested for slight otfcnces were kept. A generation later,
in 1631, at Salisbury, a prisoner about to be condemned to
transportation for felony, threw a stone at the judge, which
broke the wainscoting ; whereupon his right hand was cut off,
and he was hung upon an extemporized gallows in the presence
of the court. 3 Hanging usuidly was done by driving the pris-
oner in a cart under the gallows, and driving on tlie cart,
leaving him to dangle ; or by making him ascend a ladder,
which then was knocked away.

Ti-eason — and many things then were accounted as treason
which lonjj since have been transferred to a lower jrrade of
guilt and penalty — was punished with awful severity, as
appears from the sentence of the Earl of Carlisle : —

The award of the Court is that for yoiu- treason you be drawn, and
hanged, and beheaded ; that your heart, and bowels, and entrails,
whence came your traitorous thoughts, be torn out, and burnt to ashes,
and that tlie aslics be scattered to tlie winds ; that your body be cut
into four (quarters, and that one of them be banged upon the Tower

» Stowe, Annals, 581.

^ See case of Timothy Penredd. Pike, ii : 82, 8.1, 8.5, 010. The ]nat person to be
pilloried in Enfrl.ind is tliought to have been Robert James Bossy, sentenced for
perjury to transportation for seven years, and to stand one hour in tlie pillory at
the Old Bailey, vhich he diil. June 24, 1S.',4. ■ — Olil and New L'nif/on, ii : 471.

' The account shows the odd. semi-French lin^o tlien in use: —

"Richardson, C. J. de C. Banc. al. Assizes at Salisbury in summer, 10.31, fait
as.sault per pri-soner la condemne pur felony ; que puLs son condemnation, ject nn
brickbat a le dit Justice, qui narrowly mist; ct pur ceo ininiediately fuit indict-
ment drawn per Roy [Attor.' Gen'] envers le prisoner, et son dexter manus ampute
and fix at pbbet, sur que luy meme immediatement hange in presence de Court.'
— Treby, C. J., Xotes to Oyer't Eiports, fol. ed. 188, b.


of Carlisle, another upon the Tower of Newcastle, a third upon the
Bridge of York, and the fourth at Shrewsbury ; and that your head
be set upon London bridge.

Those convicted of robbery were hung in chains and left to
the weather. Perhaps the worst punishment of all was tlio pi ine
forte ct dure, which, about 1400, succeeded the prison forte. f.t
cfure, which had been conlinenieut in a narrow cell and absolute
starvation. The terms of the inHiction of this jK'naltv — to
which those were sentenced who refused to plead to their indict-
ments, and so could not be convicted, and preserved their lands
for their heirs — were these : ^ —

That you be taken back to the prison whence you came, to a low
dungeon into wliich no light can enter; that you be laid on your iuick
on tlie bare floor, with a cloth round your loins, but elsewhere naked ;
that there be set upon your body a weight of iron as great as you can
bear — and greater; th.at you have no sustenance, save, on the tirst
day, three morsels of the coarsest l)read, on the second day tliree
draughts of stagnant water from the pool nearest to the prison door,
on the third day again three morsels of bread as before, and such
bread and such water alternately from day to day until you die.

Gradur.lly it became customary to place a sharp piece of timber
beneath the back of the sufferer to hasten death. In 1G58 a
portion of the mass of iron and stone laid upon one Strangeways
was placed angle-wise over his heart. This proving insufficient
to crush out his life, the attendants added the weight of their
own bodies.-

Otlier methods of torture also were tolerated, and ajiparently
approved. There was the room in the Tower, " Little Ease."'
where standing erect and lying at length alike were impossible.
There was the " Dungeon among tlie l\ats." There were the
thumb-screw, the wlii})-cord chawn tighter and tighter around
the thumbs; the rack, and " Skevington's Daugliter." invented
by a lieutenant of that name. The last two were complemi'iitary
to each otlier ; the former straining the joints and ligaments
apart, the latter forcing tlie legs back to the thighs, the thighs
to the stomach, and drawing the whole body together by iron
bands, until the blood was forced out of the tips of the fingers,

* Pike, i : 220, 3S7. ' HarUian Miscellany, iv : 1-11.


the toes, the nostrils and the mouth, and the ril>.s and breast-
bone were crushed in.

The strange insensibility of even the educated classes to injus-
tice and cruelty is shown strikingly by two cases almost a gen-
eration later. In 1G21 one Floyd, a gentleman imprisoned in
the Fleet, spoke slightingly of the Elector Palatine and his wife.
Just then the comment excited popular displeasure, especially
as Floyd was a Romanist. The House of Conuuons took up the
matter and the king interfered to protect Floyd, which did him
no good, as the king was susjiected of leaning towards Popery.
Floyd actually was sentenced ^ — and tliis took place within six
months after the sailing of the Maj-flower — to be degraded
from his gentility and held infamous, and incompetent to testify
in a court ; to ride from tlie Fleet to Cheapside on horseback
v^nth no saddle and with liis face to the horse's tail, which he
was to hold in his hand ; there to stand two hours in the })illory
and to be branded with the letter K : four days later to ride
in the same manner from the Fleet to Westminster, and there
stand two hours in the pillory with words on a paper on his hat
setting forth his crime : to be whipped at the cart"s tail from
the Fleet to "Westminster Hall ; to p.ay a fine of £5000 ; and
to reiaaiu in Xcwgate a prisoner for life. On Prince Charles's

Online LibraryHenry Martyn DexterThe England and Holland of the Pilgrims → online text (page 5 of 65)