“The Revival of Puritanism” American Sentinel 14, 13, pp. 196, 197.

“HISTORY repeats itself;” not by accident, but because human nature is the same in all ages.

Human nature is the fallen nature. It is passionate, vindictive, superstitious. Out of the passions of human nature have arisen the persecutions which have stained the pages of history. Persecution is less seen to-day not because human nature has changed, not because men hate each other less than formerly, but because men hate each other less than formerly, but because the times have changed, and the methods which bigotry was once free to employ are no longer sanctioned.

But history will repeat itself in persecution, as in other things. “The spirit of the times may alter, will [197] alter.” The cruel channels through which hatred most delights to move, now barred by custom and popular sentiment, will be reopened. Public sentiment is susceptible to change, and familiarity breeds contempt for injustice, in the place of fear. The spirit which calls for religious legislation—the spirit of the Sunday laws—has already begun to familiarize the public mind with scenes of religious persecution. It is the identical spirit of former persecutions, and is working—as it must—in the same way, and toward the same ends.

But the people of this generation are not familiar with the workings of this spirit, and the results that follow; and herein lies one of the chief dangers of the present time. The experiment of enforcing morality will be the more readily tried to-day because it is new; and the “new broom sweeps clean.” There is a demand for the revival of Puritanism; and the movement for enforced morality means the re-establishment of Puritanism and nothing less. But what is Puritanism? In view of the manifest signs of the times, this question may well be asked by Americans and its answer kept constantly in mind. A full answer is given in early American history.

The nature of Puritanism is best shown by its acts. As an example of these, we cite the execution of Giles Corey, of Salem, Mass., for the crime of “witchcraft.” The following account is taken from “The Blue Laws of Connecticut,” a compilation from the early records, published by the “Truth Seeker” Company, New York City:—

“Giles Corey’s case was a hard one. He was a sufferer under High Priest Parris and his female accusers. His wife had been complained of, and he knowing her innocence, spoke strongly in her defense. He was arraigned before the same court, but could not be induced to make a plea either of guilty or not guilty. He was a man of some property and he wished what he had to go to his children. He knew that if he confessed or pleaded guilty, his effects, in case of conviction, instead of going to his heirs would be grabbed either by the church or the court that convicted him. He adhered to his resolution, confessing nothing, and making no plea though three times brought before the legal dignitaries. In consequence of the silence he maintained, the sentence of peine forte et dure, from the code of King James I., was passed upon him, which was that he be remanded to his low damp dungeon, to be there laid upon his back on the bare floor, naked for the most part, a board to be laid upon him, and weights enough piled on the board to nearly crush the life out of him, and to have no sustenance, save on the first day three morsals of very poor bread, and on the second day three drafts of standing or stagnant water, the nearest to be found to the prison door, and this to be alternately his daily diet until he died.

“This horrible sentence was carried out and the suffering that man passed through cannot be conceived… It is said the last act in this diabolical tragedy was enacted in an open field near the prison. The wretched sufferer begged his executioners to increase the weights which were crushing him that his agonies might be ended. The hope, however, that he would yield and acknowledge his guilt, so that his property could be secured, induced them not to hurry his death. But he assured them that it was of no use to expect him to yield; that there could be but one way of ending the matter, and that they might as well pile on the rocks and have the matter ended. Calef says that as his body yielded to the pressure, his tongue protruded from his mouth, and an official forced it back with his cane. This inhuman act is attributed to the pious Parris, who made himself so officious in the Salem trials and executions. Upham, in narrating this horrid cruelty, says: ‘For a person more than eighty-one years of age this must be allowed to have been a marvelous exhibition of prowess; illustrating, as strongly as anything in human history, the power of a resolute will over the utmost pain and agony of body, and demonstrating that Giles Corey was a man of heroic nerve and a spirit that could not be subdued.’ This was a case of Christian persecution, where the recipient was, as has been the case in thousands of other instances, vastly superior, in everything that constitutes manhood, to the person who inflicted it.”

And this, in company with all the other persecutions of that time, was done by men “of like passions” with the men of to-day. The lapse of two centuries has made no change in human nature. Human nature, inflamed by hatred, still delights in scenes of torture; and the burning of negroes at the stake, in this country, takes place even in defiance of the Constitution, which asserts that “cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted.” Let the Constitution be changed (and it is now being changed); let the spirit of religious legislation—of enforced “morality”—be revived (and it is being revived); let the public mind be familiarized with civil prosecutions for conscience’ sake (and it is being familiarized with such scenes); and the way will be fully open for a return of Puritanism, and the final extinguishing of the torch of “Liberty enlightening the world.”

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