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A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 17

Two years later Holt tried Elizabeth Horner at Exeter


became chief justice of the king's bench on the accession of William and Mary. Not one of the great names in English judicial rolls, his decided stand against superstition makes him great in the history of witchcraft. Where and when he had acquired his skeptical attitude we do not know. The time was past when such an attitude was unusual. In any case, from the moment he assumed the chief justiceship he set himself directly against the punishment of witchcraft. As premier of the English judiciary his example meant quite as much as his own rulings. And their cumulative effect was not slight. We know of no less than eleven trials where as presiding officer he was instrumental in securing a verdict of acquittal. In London, at Ipswich, at Bury, at Exeter, in Cornwall, and in other parts of the realm, these verdicts were rendered, and they could not fail to influence opinion and to affect the decisions of other judges. Three of the trials we shall go over briefly--those at Bury, Exeter, and Southwark.

In 1694 he tried Mother Munnings at Bury St. Edmunds,[19] where his great predecessor Hale had condemned two women. Mother Munnings had declared that a landlord should lie nose upward in the church-yard before the next Saturday, and, sure enough, her prophecy had come true. Nevertheless, in spite of this and other testimony, she was acquitted. Two years later Holt tried Elizabeth Horner at Exeter, where Raymond had condemned three women in 1682. Bishop

Trelawny of Exeter had sent his sub-dean, Launcelot Blackburne (later to be Archbishop of York), to look into the case, and his report adds something to the account which Hutchinson has given us.[20] Elizabeth was seen "three nights together upon a large down in the same place, as if rising out of the ground." It was certified against her by a witness that she had driven a red-hot nail "into the witche's left foot-step, upon which she went lame, and, being search'd, her leg and foot appear'd to be red and fiery." These testimonies were the "most material against her," as well as the evidence of the mother of some possessed children, who declared that her daughter had walked up a wall nine feet high four or five times backwards and forwards, her face and the fore part of her body parallel to the ceiling, saying that Betty Horner carried her up. In closing the narrative the archdeacon wrote without comment: "My Lord Chief Justice by his questions and manner of hemming up the evidence seem'd to me to believe nothing of witchery at all, and to disbelieve the fact of walking up the wall which was sworn by the mother." He added, "the jury brought her in not guilty."

The case of Sarah Moordike of London _versus_ Richard Hathaway[21] makes even clearer the attitude of Holt. Sarah Moordike, or Morduck, had been accused years before by a Richard Hathaway of causing his illness. On several occasions he had scratched her. Persecuted by the rabble, she had betaken herself from Southwark to London. Thither Richard Hathaway followed her and soon had several churches praying for his recovery. She had appealed to a magistrate for protection, had been refused, and had been tried at the assizes in Guildford, where she was acquitted. By this time, however, a good many people had begun to think Hathaway a cheat.

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