The History of Long Island,
from its earliest settlement to the present time.
NY Lewis Pub. Co. 1902
[transcribed by Coralynn Brown]
Persecutions - Religious - The troubles of the early Quakers - Trials for Witchcraft.
It is often stated by newspaper and other writers - sometimes even by reputable historical writers - that Long Island has been free from those persecutions which form a blot on the history of some of the other sections of this continent.
Certainly, they tell us, there were persecutions on Long Island - there is no use denying it - but they were not such as came from the malignant passions of the people, passions aroused by ignorance, or hysterical enthusiasm, or prejudice, or popular caprice. Even those who admit the existence of such a blot assure us that what persecutions there were were official rather than popular.
"It is true," says Dr. Prime (History, page 57), "that at an early period the Dutch Government of the New Netherland enacted severe laws against the Quakers and other sects whom they regarded as heretics; and in numerous other instances these laws were enforced with a degree of cruelty that was shocking to every feeling of humanity. But the people had no hand in the enactment of these laws and but few of them could be induced to take any part in their execution."
But we must remember that these were persecutions, and also that these persecutions were rendered possible in spite of the arbitrary and paternal rule of the Dutch Governors only by the fact that the people either acquiesced in them or were indifferent to them. Obnoxious laws - that is, laws which were really obnoxious to the hearts and consciences of the people - could not easily be enforced in New Netherland even in the days of the Dutch regime, and a people who could defy Governor Stuyvesant and bring him to terms were not likely to be coerced into actively supporting any law of which they did not more or less heartily approve.
The Director was a poweful potentate in the days when old Governor Pietrus stumped about, but he needed the help of the people when action was necessary.
There certainly were times of persecution on Long Island, as elsewhere; but they were never carried to the same extent as in many part of New England; and indeed it seems to us that so long ago as a man behaved himself even in the western end of the island where the Dutch influence was more secure, his religious or other sentiments were seldom, if ever, interfered with. When we went around proclaiming his differences with the ruling regime, or with the views held by the mass of the people, then trouble began. In the eastern end, where Puritan ideas held sway, each community passed judgment on each new-comer, and if he did not prove acceptable he was told to pass on. If he obeyed quietly, that was the end of the matter. But even among the Long Island Puritans, a Quaker or other heretic was never persecuted for the sake of his belief unless he persisted in proclaiming that belief "from the housetops."
That was the trouble with the Quakers at the beginning of their story in New Netherland, and that really led to all that was done against them in the way of persecution on Long Island. The Friends at that time were an aggressive body; and in the New World, where they expected that freedom of conscience would prevail, they never lost an opportunity of preaching the Word and proclaiming their doctrines. This aggressiveness led to their persecution in New England and to the severe penal laws there enacted against them. But penal laws have never yet been able to kill religious sentiment. Even the scaffold did not crush out Quakerism in Boston and public whippings and banishments and confiscations only served to show that these people were perfectly willing to suffer and even to die for the sake of the dictates of the conscience. They aimed to bring about a universal religion, they had no respect for mere forms, and believed that spirit could and did find utterance even through the most ignorant voice, and they put women, as public exhorters and in religious and all other matters, on an equality with men.
They scowled at form, at "isms," at lavishness in dress, and at mere human authority, whether manifested on a throne or in a pulpit. To them the theocratic notions of New England were as utterly unworthy of regard as the claims of the Church of Rome or that of England.
It was a theocracy founded on work; their theocracy was founded of the Spirit; it was a theocracy founded on wordly principles, on arms, on oaths, preserving social distinctions and upholding the authority of the civil magistrate, the represntatie of royalty, a combination at once of the cross and the sword; their theocracy was measured only by love.
Their ideas of religous toleration were complete and thoroughgoing, the ideas of the Puritans on that question were bounded by their meeting places and their church edicts. Certainly these early Quakers were extravagant in many ways,even at times extravagant enough to shock all sense of decency and propriety; but they were terribly in earnest and openly and vigorously proceeded as the declared the Spirit impelled them, to denounce what they regarded as the shortcomings of the Puritan system as practiced in New England as soon as they reached that favored land and surveyed its fleshpots and extravagances.
To the Puritan, regarding himself as the most perfect product of the religious spirit of the time, the representative of the chosen prophets of old, the highes development of religious thought and toleration, the extravagances of the Quakers, and in particular the extravagances of the Quaker women, were all wrong and needed to be repressed with a stong hand; and the strong hand at once put forth all its strength.
In August 1675, a boat arrived in New York Bay from New England, having on board eleven Quakers who had been expelled from that colony. Two of them, women, as soon as they landed in New Amsterdam, began preaching on the streets to the astonishment and disgust of old Peter Stuyvesant, a straight-laced, single-minded supporter of the Dutch church. He did not understand the Quakers' theology, and as they seemed to him to mix questions of public policy along with their religion, he soon pronounced their sentiments and ongoings seditious, heretical and abominable. That settled the Quaker question and peace of mind in New Amsterdam for the time being.
The Quaker visitors soon scattered to pursuance of their mission to disseminate their doctrines, but at least one of them, Robert Hodgson, went to Long Island and as he journeyed, held conventicles by the way. He was arrested for this at Hempstead and promptly lodged in jail, along with two women wo had entertained him in their home. Stuyvesant at once ordered the three prisoners to be sent to New Amsterdam, where he seems to have released the women after giving them the supreme benefit of a piece of his mind. Hodgson, however, was to feel the full force of the ire of the doughty Governor. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment at hard labor or pay a fine of 600 guilders. Such a fine was beyond his power to liquidate and he was quickly put to the alternative. Chained to a wheelbarrow, he was ordered to work, but refused, and was thereupon lashed by a negro until he fainted. He remained in prison for some months, scourged at frequent intervals, until insensibility rendered the infliction of further pain unnecessary, and was humiliated in many ways. The cruelty practiced toward him was brutal in the extreme and its effects were threatening even his lfie. Then from sheer pity at his awful condition the Governor's sister interposed on his behalf and he was released, under a new sentence of banishment from the province.
The Governor seems never to have lost his enmity to the Quakers; but it is possible that. his venom was aroused by his political notions and by reasons other than religious. He certainly did not love their religious views, yet had they entertained these quietyly it is possible he would not have bothered his head about them. But he hated to see women preaching in public, and especially in the public streets, and he was opposed to conventicles or unauthorized religious meetings, becuase such gatherings, especially among people of English birth or New England associations, might be used to hatch conspiracies against the State or colony.
So he determined to stamp out conventicles whenver he found them, paying particular attention to Long Island, which was peculiarly subject to infection from Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Prosecutions were accordinly directed from time to time against John Bowne, Henry Townsend, John Townsend, Samuel Spicer, John Tilton, William Noble, Edward Hart and Edward Feake, all of whom confessed their adherance to the doctrines of the Quakers. Most of these (including Spicer, Tilton and the Bowne family) wre residents of Gravesend, and several, it is said, had accompanied Lady Moody from New England. In fact her ladyship's home was the headquarters of Quakerism, although she did not seem to have embraced all its teachings until a later period in her career.
The Townsends belonged to Flushing and the story of their persecution was different from that of the others, inasmuch as it evoked a spirited protest from their fellow citizens. On September 15, 1657, Henry Townsend was adjudged guilty of calling conventicles and fined eight pounds (Flanders), with the alternative of leaving the province. On the news of this becoming public the people of Flushing and Jamaica held a public meeting and drew up a remonstrance to the Governor in which they admonished him that Scirpturally he was wrong in his policy of suppression and that he was also acting in disregard of the laws of the Province, and against the tenor and the purpose of the patent under which these two communities were prospering. This document was signed by Edward Hart, the clerk of the meeting; Tobias Feake, the local Shefiff, and by William Noble, Nicholas Parsell, William Thorne Sr., Michael Milner, William Thorne Jr., Henry Townsend, Nicholas Blackford, George Wright, Edward Terk, John Foard, Mirabel Free, Henry Barntell , John Stoar, N. Cole, Benjamin Hubbard, Edward Hart, John Maidon, John Townsend, Edward Farrington, Phillip Ed, William Pidgion, George Blee, Elias Doughtre, Antonie Field, Richard Horton, Nathaniel Coe, Robert Field Sr. and Robert Field Jr.
As will be seen by these names the Dutch population seemingly took no interest in this affair and it was left for those of British stock to take the initiative in this skirmish for religious liberty. Very likely all of those who signed the document were themselves Quakers, or had pronounced leanings toward Quakerism; but be that as it may there is no reason to doubt that so far as the Dutch were concerned they were heartily in accord with the position assumed by Stuyvesant. Shefiff Feaks presented the remonstrance to the Governor and was promptly arrested. Farrington and Noble, two of the signers who held office as Magistrates, were arrested, as soon as possible after the redoubtable Governor Peter had deciphered their names in the remonstrance, or Nicasius De Sille, his Attorney General, had deciphered them for him. Clerk Hart was also called in question, admitted drawing up the remonstrance and was thereupon promptly arrested. Townsend was again fined.
On January 1658, the Magistrates of Jamaica (Rustdorp) turned informers and conveyed word to the irate Governor that Henry Townsend was still having conventicles in his house. So he was cited to appear before Stuyvesant. His brother John was also cited, but as his connection with the whole matter was not clear, he was held under only 12 lbs bail to ensure his appearance when desired by the authorities. The position of Henry was more grave, and we quote from Thompson:
On the 15th of January Henry Townsend attended and was told by the Attorney General that as he had treated the placards of the Director General and Council with contempt and persisted in lodging Quakers, he should be condemned in an amende of 100 lbs (Flanders) to be an example for the other transgressors and contumelious offenders of the good order and placards of the Director Genearl and Council in New Netherland, and so to remain arrested till the said amende be paid, besides the costs and mises of Justice.
On the 28th Sheriff Feaks was brought from prison, and "though", says the record, "he confessed he had received an order of the Director General not to admit into the aforesaid village (Jamaica) any of that heretical and abominable sect called Quakers, or procure them lodgings, yet did so in the face of the placards, and, what was worse, was a leader in composing a seditious and detestable chartabel, delivered by him and signed by him, and his accomplices, wherein they justify the abominable sect of the Quakers, who treat with contempt all political and ecclesiastical authority and undermine the foundations of all government and religion." He was therefore degraded from his office and sentenced to be banished or pay an amende of 200 guilders.
On the 26th of March, 1658, the Governor, in order to prevent as much as possible the consequences of Quaker influence among the people, resolved to change the municipal government of the town of Flushing, and therefore, after formally pardoning the town for its mutinous orders and resolutions, announced that "in future I shall appoint a sheriff, acquainted not only with the Dutch language but with Dutch practical law, and that in future there shall be chosen seven of the most reasonable and respectable of the inhabitants to be called tribunes or townsmen, and whom the sheriff and magistrates shall consult in all cases; and a tax of twelve stives per morgen is laid on the inhabitants for the support of an orthodox minister, and such as do not sign a written submission to the same in six weeks may dispose of their property at their pleasure and leave the soil of this government."
On the council records of January 8, 1661 (says Thompson), it is stated that the Governor addressed the people of Jamaica, informing them that he had received their petition for a minister to baptize some of their children, and their information that the Quakers and other sects held private conventicles. He tells them that he had dispatched his deputy sheriff, Resolve Waldron, and one of his clerks, Nicholas Bayard, to take notice thereof, and requiring the inhabitants to give exact information where and in what house such unlawful conventicles were kept, what men or women had been present who called the meeting, and of all the circumstances appertaining thereto. In consequence of this inquisitional espionage of the Governor's deputy, Henry Townsend was a third time dragged to the city and again incarcerated in the dungeons at Fort Amsterdam. On the day following he and Samuel Spicer, who had also given entertainment to a Quaker at his mother's house in Gravesend, were brought from their loathsome prison. It was proved by witnesses procured for the occasion that Townsend had given lodging to a Quaker, and besides notifying his neighbors had even allowed him to preach at his house and in his presence, also that Spicer was present both at the meeting at Jamaica and Gravesend and procured lodging for the Quaker at his mother's house. They were accordingly condemned in an amende of 600 guilders each, in conformity to the placard respecting conventicles, and to be imprisoned until such amende be paid. And further, that Henry Townsend be banished out of the province, for an example to others. The widow Spicer, mother of Samuel, was also arrested, accused and condemned to an amende of 15 lb. (Flanders).
The case against John Tilton and his wife, Mary, is also interesting. Tilton settled in Gravesend at the same time as Lady Moody and probabaly accompanied her from New England, where doubtless he got his first impressions of the doctrines of the Friends, the "abominable sect," according to Stuyvesant, "who villify both the policical magistrates and the ministers of God's holy Word."
Tilton and his wife were arrested October 5, 1662, and lodged in the prison at Fort Amsterdam. They remained in durance vile for a few days, when they were brought before the Council, found guilty of entertaining Quakers and attending conventicles and ordered to leave the province before the 20th of November following, under the penalty of being publicly whipped. Their sentences seem to have been remitted, however, probably through the influence of Lady Moody, for Mary Tilton continued to reside at Gravesend until her death, May 23, 1683, and John Tilton also maintained his home there until he, too, passed away, in 1688. He was, we take it, a man of deep religious sentiment, and so continued to the end, most probably becoming more and more devoted to Quakerism as the time went on, for by his will, which he had drawn up about a year before his death, he bequeathed a piece of land as a burial ground "for all persons in ye everlasting truthe of the Gospel."
In many ways the most notable of all Stuyvesant's experiences with Quakers lay around the case of John Bowne of Flushing, not only because the extreme measures which he adopted showed the malignancy of his feelings toward these people, but because it brought down upon him, what he probably felt more keenly than he could any other form of misfortune, a clear-cut rebuke from his home Government and the nullification of the sentence he imposed.
On September 1, 1662, Bowne was arrested, and on the 14th of that month the Governor and his Council considered his case and imposed a fine of 25lb on his being found guilty of lodging Quakers and permitting conventicles to be held in his house. Being a man of substance, he was permitted at once to go at large; but as he showed no intention of paying his fine he was again arrested. On Bowne peremptorily refusing to pay, the Governor determined to make a terrible example of him and ordered him to be deported to Holland and there be punished by the highest authorities and in a manner in keeping with the enormity of the case.
Accompanying Bowne was a formal letter on his offense, drawn up by the Governor and Council and addressed to the Directors of the West India Company, "honorable, right respectable gentlemen," Stuyvesant called them.
In the communication the authorities were told how the Governor's "placards" against Quakerism were treated with contempt, how the local authorities complained about the "unsufferable obstinacy" of these people, and so forth. "Among others as one of their principal leaders, named John Bowne, who for his transgressions was, in conformity to the placards, condemned in an amende of 150 guilders in seawant, who has been place under arrest more than three months for his unwillingness to pay, obstinately persisting in his refusal, in which he still continues, so that we at last resolved, or rather were compelled, to transport him in ship from this province in the hope that others might, by it, be discouraged. If, nevertheless, by these means no more salutary impression is made upon others, we shall, though against our inclinations, be compelled to prosecute such persons in a mroe severe manner, on which we previously solicit to be favored with your honors' wise and far-seeing judgment."
Bowne's case was patiently investigated by the West India Company at Amsterdam, and he was finally set at liberty and declared free to return to his home across the sea whenver he so listed. Besides, the company sent the Governor a letter, dated Amsterdam, April 6, 1663, conveying a most severe and pointed rebuke for his entire policy against the Quakers, saying: "Although it is our anxious desire that similar and other sectarians (Quakers, etc.) may not be found among us, yet we doubt extremely the policy of adopting rigorous measures against them. In the youth of your existence you ought rather to encourage than check the population of the colony. The consciences of men ought to be free and unshackled as long as they continue moderate, peaceable, inoffensive and not hostile to the Government. Such has been the maxims of prudence and toleration by which the Magistrates of this city have been governed, and the consequences have been that the oppressed and persecuted of every country have found among us an asylum from distress. Follow in the same steps and you will be blessed."
The blood in Peter Stuyvesant's veins doubtless bounded with such vigor when he read this stinging rebuke that he must have felt it circulate even in the silver ferrule of his wooden leg! We can imagine how he swore; but it was the beginning of the end; his reign was virtually over and his whims and prejudices and opinions were beginning to lose their authority. Unknown to him then, the enemy was almost at his gate, and by the time John Bowne reached New Amsterdam on his return from Europe the Province was in the hands of the British and Stuyvesant had retired to his Bouwerie, to nurse his wrath and moralize over his fallen greatness as best he could. It is said that he afterward acquired a measure of respect for Bowne and was impelled to regard him as a good, honest citizen. That we doubt. But the Governor was himself an honest man, a man of undoubted courage, and he probably could not help entertaining a feeling of admiration for the man who had worsted him in the height of his power and had drawn down upon him the frowns of those whom he duteously regarded as "the salt of the earth."
But Governor Stuyvesant was not the only persecutor of the Quakers in Long Island. The same prejudice existed in the eastern division of the island against these people that existed in the west where the Dutch ruled, possibly because the people in the east were in touch with the dwellers in New England, and the stories of the doings of, and against, these religious enthusiasts aroused the same sentiment of animosity east of Oyster Bay that existed in Boston and Rhode Island. We find a notable instance of this in the history of Southold. One of the most outspoken and troublesome of the New England Quakers, Humphrey Norton, made a name for himself there by the force of his denunciations against the Puritan preachers and by the assiduity with which he wrote insulting letters to the Magistrates wherever he sojouned. He had no sooner reached Southold on his travels than he went to its church, interrupted good old Dominie Youngs in his discourse, denounced, the local authorities, and raised a disturbance all around. This was more than Southold could endure; so Norton was at once placed in confinement and as soon as possible sent to Connecticut for trial. That event took place in March, 1658, when he was duly convicted, after conducting himself in "an insolent and boisterous" way in the presence of the judges. After careful consideration these Solons declared that "the least they could do and discharge good conscience toward God" was to order Norton to pay a fine of 20lb, to be severely whipped, to be branded with the letter H upon his hand, and then to be banished from the jurisdiction of the court. This was a pretty cumulative array of punishments; but certainly Norton's manner and methods were not such as to inspire much sympathy for his religious views; and in his case, at all events, he was probably punished as much for being a general disturber of the peace, and for his outspoken contempt for the lawful rulers of the people, as for his theological tenets. In the eastern end of the island the Quakers were regarded as malefactors and as people to be shunned, but this seems to have been the only instance when the law was invoked against one of them and pushed to its limit. But it was not for nearly a century later that the same animus against the Friends subsided, and by that time these people had themselves thrown off much of the vehemence and angularities which had for a long time raise up enemies against them wherever they went.
Under the British Government they found no more scope for their antics than they had experienced under doughty old Peter. In the opening of the eighteenth century we read of a case which created a great deal of interest in its day, and with a recapitulation of its incidents we may fittingly close this section of the present chapter.
One of the strangest and most erratic of the early preachers in America was George Keith, who was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1645. He was educated at Marechal College, with the view of becoming a Presbyterian clergyman. Soon after he was graduated, Keith renounced Presbyterianism and joined the Society of Friends. He was then induced by the leading Quakers in his native city to emigrate to America, with the view not only of improving his own temperal position but also of helping to spread their doctrines in the New World. He arrived at New York in 1684, and for four years was Surveyor of New Jersey. In 1689 he removed to Philadelphia, where he conducted a Friends' school, but that occupation was too quiet and monotonous to suit his notions, and he soon gave it up. We next find him traveling through the country like a Quaker Don Quixote trying to win people over to the views of the Society. In New England he engaged in heated controversies with Increase Mather, Cotton Mather and others, and he made considerable commotion, but, as far as can be made out, few converts. On his return to Philadelphia, being in a belligerent mood, he quarreled with the Quakers there, the quarrel being undoubtedly caused by his own infirm temper, his own sense of the failure of his mission, and to some peculiar innovations he advocated and which non of the brethren seemed disposed to listen to.
Then he went to England and laid his whole case before William Penn; but that leader denounced him as an apostate and Keith was excommunicated from the Society, as completely as the gentle Quakers could excommunicate anybody.
Then Keith founded a religious denomination of his own, which he called the Christian or Baptist Quakers (properly called the Keithians), in which he had a chance for ventilating some original views he held on the millennium and concerning the transmigration of souls. The Keithians, however, did not hold long together, and in 1701 its founder was a full-fledged and enthusiastic minister of the Church of England!
Here, probably, because years had softened the natural contentiousness of his disposition, or the church itself allowed more latitude for individual views on various doctrinal matters, he found a secure foothold. Nay, more, he found an opportunity for repaying the Society of Friends for its rather summary treatment of him. He was sent as a mssionary to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with the view of converting, or perverting, as many Quakers as possible, and he afterward was wont to boast that in that expedition some 700 Friends were by his instrumentality received into communion with the English Church.
It was then that he visited Long Island. Soon after his return to England he was appointed vicar of Edburton, in Essex, and in that beautiful parish his declining years were spent in tranquility.
Keith was a man of a decidedly superior cast of intellect, an eloquent and attractive speaker and preacher, an able and ready controversialist, and, but for his choleric disposition, would have lived a live of more than ordinary usefullness and might even have attained real power and eminence. He was a voluminous writer, and in the fifty or more volumes, some in bulky quarto, or pamphlets which we know to have come from his pen, we can trace the current of his religious views through all their changes. He appears in them all to have been singularly honest, made no attempt to conceal or belittle his own denominational changes and even published retractions of his own published writings. His later works were mainly taken up with what he regarded as the fallaciousness of Quakerism, and he attacked the Society of Friends from every point of view and with the utmost savagery!
On March 24, 1702, Samuel Bownas left England, as a missionary from the Society of Friends, and landed at Baltimore. From there after a while he started out on a preaching expedition, but wherever he went he was followed by Keith, who by that time had fairly entered upon his campaign against his former co-religionists, and the two passed through Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Long Islan, the one preaching the Gospel of love, the other virtaully the "gospel" of hate. At Hempstead, on November 21, 1702, Bownas preached in the home of Thomas Pearsall. Then knowing the despicable attitude of the reigning Governor, Lord Cornbury, toward all shades of sectarianism, Keith, finding he could silence Bownas no other way, manipulated matters so that the information of the meeting should be laid before the magistracy. As a result, Bownas was arrested on November 29, while engaged in a "conventicle" in a house at Flushing. He was taken to Jamaica and given an examination before Justices Joseph Smith, Edward Burroughs, John Smith and Jonathan Whitehead; but the result of the hearing was never in doubt, although it is said that Whitehead not only sympathized with the prisoner but would have set him at liberty. He was ordered to give bail in 2,000 lb. to answer, but he replied that he would give no bail, not even were it reduced to three half pence. Justice Whitehead expressed his willingness to provide the bail, but the prisoner remained obdurate and was sent to prison for three months. He passed the days of his incarceration in learning how to make shoes, in which he ultimately became so proficient that he was able to earn fifteen shillings a week and so support himself wherever he went.
In February, 1703, Bownas was duly brought to trial at a special Oyer and Terminer Court held in Jamaica, with Chief Justice Bridges and Justices Robert Miller, Thomas Willet, John Jackson and Edward Burroughs as associates. A grand jury was impanelled, consisting of Richard Cornell, Ephraim Goulding, John Clayer, Isaac Hicks, Robert Hubbs, Reginald Mott, Richard Valentine, Nathaniel Coles, Joseph Dickerson, Isaac Doughty, Samuel Emery, John Smith, John Sering, John Oakley, Samuel Hallet, Richard Alsop, John Hunt, James Clement and William Bloodgood, men whose memory should ever be held in honor by all who value the blessings of religious liberty and toleration. An indictment against Bownas was prescribed to this Grand Jury for consideration and approval, but it was returned to the bench indorsed "Ignoramus," the legal term formerly used on a bill of indictment when there was not deemed sufficient evidence to convict or sufficient ground to form an offense. The Judges appear to have stormed and threatened, but the members of the Grand Jury not only remained unmoved but even threatened the Judges in their turn. Bownas was re-committed to prison, Judge Bridges ordering him to be confined more closely than ever and threatening even to send him to England in chains. The little crisis created quite a commotion and Keith made it the excuse for issuing a pamphlet on the case full of the vituperation of which he was such a master and which so villified Bownas that it defeated its purpose and added to the number of the Quaker's friends.
One of the Grand Jurors, Thomas Hicks, visited Bownas in prison and comforted him to the best of his ability, assuring him that the threat to send him to England could not be carried out, as it was in direct opposition to the laws of the province. Despite his many friends, however, Bownas remained in close confinement until October, when he again faced a grand jury. It also considered his case, indorsed the word "Ignoramus," across the indictment and he was accordingly discharged from custody and legal persecution.
The movement against witchcraft which is such a foul disgrace in the history of New England as well as of old England, may well be - and it often is - put down among the list of religious persecutions which, together or singly, darken the story of the Christian religion. In the case of witchcraft there was added not only the horror or an alleged association with the Prince of Darkness and his cohorts, and the implied upsetting of all goodness and piety, but also a sense of personal danger which brought the resultant malignant horrors of witchcraft into the homes even of the humblest people, and so imposed on all the duty of suppressing it not alone by the mehse of the law but also by any means which might safely bring it about. The witch, unlike the Quaker, was not alone the enemy of the magistrate and the minister, but of all classes of the people, for the spells and cantrips of all those who had sold themselves to the Evil One were directed as freely against the babe in the cradle, the woman engaged in her household duties, the farmer in the field, against the live stock, the growing crop, the ship at sea, as against those who held high places, those who made and enacted the laws; against the mansion, the cottage.
Therefore we can understand how, when the delusion against withcraft once seized the popular mind, it aroused passions and instigated cruelties to an extent at which in the present day we wonder and shudder.
To the credit of Long Island be it said that whle the people there seemed to fully realize all the imputations against witchcraft, to believe in them, and to possess a fair share of the element of superstitions which seems to enter into the human mental make-up in spite of education, of experience, of the dictates of science and common sense, they did not proceed to any of the outrageous excesses which disfigure the annals, for instance, of Boston. We do not read of torturings and persecutions and indignities and wanton insults which throw such a hideous haze over the story of New England's greatness. Still the craze found root in what we now call the Empire State and its most noted local instances form part of the record of Long Island.
The most curious of these took place in 1660, when Mary Wright was arrested in Oyster Bay charged with having sold herself to Satan and with practicing witchcraft. We know nothing of the details of her alleged crimes and misdemeanors, but local gossip and inherent fear doubtless called aloud for her conviction. She was old, and poor, and ignorant, and apparently without any friends. The local Dogberrys sat in judgment on her case, but, after due cogitation, concluded it was too involved to be understood by them or tool diabolical in its nature for them to inflict a severe enough punishment. Possibly, too, they wanted to get rid of a case which seemed to be full of trouble all around and in which any punishment they should inflict might by some unseen agency result in their own spiritual and natural undoing. So they resolved to steer clear of it altogether and sent the poor woman for trial to the Genearl Court of Massachusetts, where all the most absolute and up-to-date methods of detecting withcraft were employed with the most perfect results. There she was conducted and in due time tried; but as no evidence could be found she was acquitted. Her evil fate, however, still pursued her for she was no sooner cleared of the charge of being a witch than she was accused of being a Quaker, and on that grave indictment she was tried, found guilty, sentenced to banishment, and so passes from our view.
Somewhat similar in several of its details was the case of Goody Garlicke of Easthampton, who, in 1657, was arrested and hailed before the magistrates of that town charged with practicing witchcraft. The evidence against her was held to be remarkably clear and involved amost other details the death of a child. Goody, before her marriage to John Garlicke, had been employed as a domestic in the house of Lion Gardiner. One of the other women servants employed about the place had taken an Indian child to nurse for the sake of some small remuneration therfor, and in doing so had starved her own child who pined away and died. To shield herself from the consequences of her own cruelty and neglect she ascribed the death of her chld to witchcraft and in due time openly accused Goody of being the witch.
From this, however, she was ultimately cleared by the evidence of Lion Gardiner, who openly accused the mother of being a murderess. The magistrates of Easthampton, however, with the evidence before them, entertain no doubt of Goody's guilt, but, owing to the heinousness of the crime, ordered the case sent ot the Genearl Court at Hartford for final adjudication. There the matter seemed to have somehow ended. It is indeed doubtful if Goody was really deported to Hartford, and probably the influence of Gardiner saved her from further legal persecution, if it did not restore her to the good opinion and confidence of her neighbors and gossips.
Brookhaven furnishes us with a case which gives us a much clearer view than do either of the above of the manner in which such prosecutions were carried on. In 1665, Ralph Hall and his wife were suspected by their neighbors at Setucket with practicing witchcraft, and probably Dominie Brewster, a descendant of one of the Pilgrims and a Puritan of the strictest school, believed in their guilt or otherwise the case would never have reached the state of public trial. As in the other cases the local authorities declined the final adjudication of the matter and after a hearing the prisoners were sent to New York. There the trial came off Oc. 2, 1665, before a jury composed, as will be seen, of six from the city of New York. We copy the account of the trial which appears in O'Callaghan's "Documentary History," vol 4, page 133:
At ye Court of Assizes held in New Yorke ye 2d day of October 1665 &c.
The tryall of Ralph Hall and Mary his wife, upon suspicion of Witchcraft.
The names of the Persons who served on the Grand Jury: Thomas Baker, fforeman of ye Jury, of East Hampton; Capt. John Symonds of Hempstead; Mr. Hallet, Anthony Waters, Jamaica; Thomas Wandall of Marshpath Kills; Mr. Nicolls of Stamford; Balthazer de Haart, John Garland, Jacob Leisler, Anthonio de Mill, Alexander Munro, Thomas Searle of New Yorke.
The Prisoners being brought to the Barr by Allard Anthony, Sheriffe of New Yorke, This following Indict was read, first against Ralph Hall and then agst Mary yis wife, vizt.
The Constable and Overseers of the Towne of Seatallcott, in the East Riding of Yorkhire upon Long Island, Do Present for our soveraigne Lord the King, That Ralph Hall of Seatallcott aforesaid, upon ye 25th day of December; being Christmas day last, was Twelve Monthes, in the 15th yeare of the Raigne of our Soveraigne Lord, Charles ye Second, by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, ffrance and Ireland, Defender of the ffaith &c, and severall other dayes and times since that day, by some detestable and wicked Arts, commonly called Witchcraft and Sorcery, did (as is suspected) maliciously and feloniously, practice and Exercise at the said Towne of Seatalcott in the East Riding of Yorkshire on Long Island, aforesaid, on the Person of George Wood, late of the same place by which wicked and detestable Artgs, the said George Wood (as is suspected) most dangeously and mortally sickned and languished, And not long after by the aforesaid wicked and detestable Arts, the said George Wood (as is likewise suspected) dyed.
Moreover, The Constable and overseers of the said Towne of Seatalcott, in the East Riding of Yorkshirfe upon Long Island aforesaid, do further Present for our Soveraigne Lord the King, That some while after the death of the aforesaid George Wood, The said Ralph Hall did (as is suspected) divers times by ye like wicked and detestable Arts, commonly called Witchcraft and Sorcery, Malciously and feloniously practise and Exercise at the said Towne of Seatalcott, in the East Riding of Yorkshire upon Long Island aforesaid, on the Person of an Infant Childe of Ann Rogers, widdow of ye aforesaid George Wood deceased, by wh wicked and detestable Arts, the said Infant Childe (as is suspected) most dangerously & mortally sickned and languished, and not long after by the said Wicked and detestable Arts (as is likewise suspected) dyed, And so ye said Constable and Overseers do Present, That the said George Wood, and the sd Infante sd Childe by the wayes and means aforesaid, most wickedly maliciously and feloniously were (as is suspected) murdered by the said Ralph Hall at the times and place foresaid, agst ye Peace of Our Soveraigne Lord ye King and against the Laws of this Government in such Cases Provided.
The like Indictmt was read, against Mary the wife of Ralph Hill.
There upon severall Depositions, accusing ye Prisonrs of ye fact for which they were endicted were read, but no witnesses appeared to give Testimony in Court vive voce.
Then the Clarke calling upon Ralph Hall, bad him hold up his hand, and read as follows:
Ralph Hall thou standest here indicted for that having not ye feare of God before thine eyes. Thou didn'st upon the 25th day of December, being Christmas day last ws 12 moneths, and at sev'all other times since, as is suspected, by some wicked and detestable Arts, commonly called witchcraft and Sorcery, maliciously and feloniously practice and Exercise, upon the Bodyes of George Wood, an Infant Childe of Ann Rogers, by which said Arts, the said George Wood and the Infant Childe (as is suspected) most dangerously and mortally fell sick, and languisht unto death. Ralph Hall, what dost thou say for thyselfe, art thous guilty, or not guilty?
Whereupon their case was referr'd to ye Jury, who brought in to the Court, the following verdict vizt:
Wee having seriously considered the Case committed to our Charge, against ye Prisoners at the Barr, and having well wieghed ye Evidence, of what the woman is Charged with, but nothing considerable of value to take away her life. But in reference to the man wee finde nothing considerable to charge him with.
The Court there upon gave this sentence, That the man should bee bound Body and Goods for his wife's Appearance, at the next Sessions, and so on from Sessions to Sessions as long as they stay within this Government, In the meanwhile to bee of ye good Behavior. So they were return'd into the Sheriff's Custody and upon Entring into a Recognizance, according to the Sentence of the Court, they were released,
The end of the case was reached some three years later, when Governor Nicholls peremptorily removed it from further legal consideration by issuing the following order:
A Release to Certify all whom it may Concerne That Ralph Hall & Mary his wife (at present living upon Great Minifords Island) are hereby released acquitted from any & all Recognizances, bonds of appearance or other obligations - entered int by them or either of them for the peace or good behavior upon account of any accusatiion of Indictment upon suspition of Witch Craft brought into the Cort of Assizes against them in the year 1665. There haueving beene no direct proofes nor futhr prosecucon of them or either of them since - Given undr my hand at Fort James in New Yorke this 21st day f August, 1668.
There is no doubt that the influence of the Dutch preachers as well as the presence among the population of so much Dutch practical common sense not only prevented the spread of the witchcraft craze to the western end of the island but exerted a material influence in averting its wild development in the eastern section. Indeed the Dutch influence was everywhere sturdily set against it and it is to this factor more than to anything else that the State of New York is free from a reproach which darkens the bright pages of the record of so many other places in the Old World and the New.