I desire to call attention to certain errors in the current history of Witchcraft in Massachusetts, and must ask your indulgence for any inability to make these dry bones live in more pleasing forms. The first errors I note are in the statements—that there was no colonial or provincial law against witchcraft in force at the time of the witchcraft proceedings in 1692, in Massachusetts—that the prosecutions took place entirely under English law, that law being the statute of James I.— and that witchcraft was not a criminal offence at common law. It is probable that these errors may be traced mainly to Hutchinson, whose statements I quote. It should be remembered that Hutchinson was not originally bred to the profession of the law. to the flames. I suppose Hutchinson's error arose in part from the following passage in Hale's History of the Pleas of the Crown : "If a man either by working upon the fancy of another, or possibly by harsh or unkind usage puts another into such a passion of grief or fear, that the party either dies suddenly, or contracts some disease, where of he dies, tho as the circumstances of the case may be, this may be murder or man-slaughter in the sight of God, yet in foro humano it cannot come under the judgment of Felony, because no external act of violence was offered whereof the common law can take notice, and secret things belong to God; and hence it was, that before the statute of 1 Jac. Cap. 12, witchcraft or fascination was not felony, because it wanted a trial,though some constitutions of the law make it penal.

 

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Notes on the History of Witchcraft in Massachusetts - George Moore

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