Skip to main content

‹‹‹ prev (612) Page 596Page 596

(614) next ››› Page 598Page 598

(613) Page 597 -
who, in reality, were only emerging from a state of semi-barbarism, sufficiently
attest the justice of this observation.
After the period of the Reformation from Popery, the Legislators of those
countries which had embraced the new Religion, seemed to vie with each other
in the zeal which they manifested in ' rooting out from the land' every vestige
of the professors of these ' works of darkness.' In Scotland, as the reader has
already had ufficient opportunity of remarking, great exertions were made
during the reign of King James VI, when hundreds of helpless creatiu-es were
destroyed, under form of law, — for those who wei'e tried before the High
Court of Justiciary bore a very small proportion to the very great numbers
who were tried and condemned by the Lords of Regai,ities, Bakon
Bailies, and by the Royal Co:mmissioxers. A very striking fact, mentioned
by Ihiroii Hume in his valuable Commentaries,' may be here briefly noted,
that ' no fewer than fourteen Connnissions ' for Trial of Witches were granted,
for difterent quarters of the country, in one sederunt, of the 7th of November,
1661 ; which year seems to have been the most fertile period of this sort of
accusation !' It is proper to remark, that such Commissioners had very ample
powers granted to them ; for their Commissions were expressly conceived for
the examination and trial, &c. of so many persons, nominatim, and a large blank
was commonly left for the insertion of such other persons as might be ' de-
laited,' or accused, during their sittings. Besides this, their jurisdiction extended
over considerable districts of country. As one unhapjiy creature was almost
universally induced to accuse several others of the same crime for which he
or she was to suffer, and as the evidence taken in one Trial was held to be
conclusive in other cases, where the pannels were thus proved to be ' notour
Witches,' it was competent for these Commissioners to try any number of per-
sons, and to ' justify them to the death ;' a practice which they were by no means
slack of performing.
Many very painful Trials for ^Mtchcraft, &c. have already been laid before
the reader ; but perhaps there cannot be adduced a more touching proof of the
nefarious wickedness which must have been perpetrated in Scotland, during the
reign of King James VI, than the following memorandum, which is preserved
by Thomas, Earl of Haddington, (a noted instrument of the King in all cases,
of whatever description,) in his Minutes of Privy Council proceedings.^ He
relates, under date December 1, l608, — ' The Erle of Mar declairit to the
CouNSALL, that liim wemen wer tane in Broichtoun, as Witches ; and being
' Hume on Piinistiment for Crimes, II., 559. - Granted by the Lorils of Privy Council.
' Haddington MSS., A. 4, 22. Adv. Library. Wliile Sir Tliomas Hamilton, lie held the great
Offices of Secretary of State, Lord Adi'ocate, President of tlie College of Justice, &c. ; and in all of
those stations forwarded his master's views with unremitting zeal and ability.

Images and transcriptions on this page, including medium image downloads, may be used under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence unless otherwise stated. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence