June 25 (June 15, o.s.)

Massachusetts: The ministers asked for their opinions on the witchcraft crisis on June 13 submit their answer to the council.  They praise the efforts of the judges to root out witchcraft, as well as their piety, but they caution against putting too much faith in the spectral evidence given by the afflicted persons, and state clearly that the Devil can appear in the shape of any person to afflict others directly, without the need for a witch as intermediary.  This statement directly contradicts the position taken by William Stoughton, chief judge of the Court of Oyer and Terminer and lieutenant governor of the colony, who, in response to the frequent use by witchcraft suspects of the defense that the Devil has taken on their form to afflict people directly, has argues that the Devil cannot take on the form of anyone truly innocent.  The ministers, however, disagree.  They also criticize the tendency for the judges to conduct initial interrogations of suspects in the presence of both the afflicted persons and the general public, and insist that only well-established legal tests of witchcraft should be used.  Despite these criticisms, however, the ministers do condone the proceedings, and they recommend the “speedy and vigorous prosecutions” of those who have “rendered themselves obnoxious” through their witchcraft.

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Published in: on June 25, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on June 25 (June 15, o.s.)  
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