In other civil-rights news, Connecticut’s General Assembly failed again this year to pass a resolution that would have cleared the names of those prosecuted for witchcraft there during the 17th century.
This marks the 361st year in a row that the Connecticut legislature has failed to address the issue.
The Assembly’s legislative research service found that about four dozen people were accused (some more than once), convicted (usually just once) and/or executed (once each) during the Connecticut trials. “In each of the New England colonies,” the report states, probably hoping to get you thinking about Massachusetts, “witchcraft was a capital crime that involved having some type of relationship with or entertaining Satan.”
First to be convicted of entertaining Satan was Alice Young, accused in 1647 and later hanged, her powers apparently useless against rope. Others included:
- Elizabeth Goodman, acquitted in 1655 and let off with a “warning”;
- Mary Sanford, convicted and hanged in 1662;
- James Wakeley, accused in 1662 and 1665 (“fled both times”); and
- Elizabeth Seager, who was tried, acquitted, tried again, acquitted again, tried again, convicted, and then pardoned by the governor (or possibly Satan in governor’s form).
S.J. 26 was requested by some of the accused witches’ descendants, a number of whom testified in support of the measure. Formally titled “Resolution Concerning Certain Convictions in Colonial Connecticut” — I found it in the legislative index under “Witchcraft,” between “Wiretapping” and “Witness Fees” — the resolution would have noted that:
such accusations were sometimes made simply because a person habitually muttered to himself or herself, or talked to unseen persons, or used vulgar language, or gave evil looks, or was a notorious liar, or was a nonconformist, or caused discord among his or her neighbors . . . .
All of which I think I did on the bus this morning, so I’m glad this doesn’t happen anymore.
The resolution then would have declared that the Assembly considers the whole affair “shocking,” and — in the only operative language of the resolution — that “no disgrace or cause for distress should attach to the descendants of these accused and convicted persons by reason of such proceedings.” There is then a much longer paragraph making absolutely clear that the resolution will have no legal effect whatsoever.
Still, the resolution didn’t make it out of committee. Comments made by Rep. Michael Lawlor, the state judiciary committee co-chairman, suggest that this was partly because time ran short, and partly because they did not really give a sh*t about witch descendants.
“Although that’s an interesting bill and important in its own way,” said Lawlor, “compared to some of the other things we’re having to do, we were trying to prioritize it.” (Translation: eat it, witches.) “[N]ext year,” he continued, “I’m sure the legislature will take it up again and give it some more discussion.” He added, “It’s been 350 years. I don’t think another year will hurt.”
Lawlor was never seen again.