What should constitute the true faith of a Christian, and set him apart from his fellowmen in duties and observances, was one of the crucial questions in the everyday life of the early New England colonists, and the hanging and discipline of witches was one of its necessary incidents.
It was the same spirit of intolerance and of religious animosity that was written in the treatment of the Quakers and Baptists at Boston; in the experience of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson; and of “The Rogerenes” in Connecticut, for “profanation of the Sabbath,” told in a chapter of forgotten history.
In the sunlight of the later revelation, is not the present judgment of the men and women of those far off times, “when the wheel of prayer was in perpetual motion,” when fear and superstition and the wrath of an angry God ruled the strongest minds, truly interpreted in the solemn afterthoughts which the poet ascribes to the magistrate and minister at the grave of Giles Corey?
“This is the Potter’s Field.
Behold the fate
Of those who deal in witchcrafts, and when questioned,
Refuse to plead their guilt or innocence,
And stubbornly drag death upon themselves.
“Those who lie buried in the Potter’s
Will rise again as surely as ourselves
That sleep in honored graves with epitaphs;
And this poor man whom we have made a victim,
Hereafter will be counted as a martyr.”
The New England Tragedies.
The Connecticut historians to a very recent date, in ignorance of the facts, and despite his notable services of twenty-four years to the colonies, left Ludlow to die in obscurity in Virginia or elsewhere, and some of the traditions, based on no record or other evidence, have been recently repeated. It is therefore proper to state here in few words who Ludlow was, what he did both in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and after his “return into England” in 1654.
Ludlow came of an ancient English family, which gave to history in his own time and generation such illustrious kinsmen as Sir Henry Ludlow, a member of the Long Parliament and one of the Puritan leaders, and Sir Edmund Ludlow, member of Parliament, Lieutenant-General under Cromwell, member of the court at King Charles’ trial, and whom Macaulay named “the most illustrious saviour of a mighty race of men, the judges of a king, the founders of a republic.”