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Unformatted text preview: Jean Bodin De la demonomanie des sorciers (Paris, 1580). Jean Bodin was a jurist, statesman, and humanist. He ranks among the most influential scholars of the sixteenth century, noted especially for his books on French legal theory and political theory. During his era, he enjoyed a reputation as a tolerant, humane, and judicious thinker. And he supported the witch hunts. The following excerpt from his treatise on witches, provides a fairly typical rationale for the need to hunt witches. Note that the law to which Bodin is referring (in addition to the law of God) is secular law, not ecclesiastical law. Like most of the other governments of Europe in the sixteenth-century, the government of France passed laws making witchcraft a crime. Most alleged witches were accused of violating those laws and were tried in secular (not church) courts. The excerpt is taken from George L. Burr, The Witch Persecutions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania History Department, 1897), 5-6. There are two means by which states are maintained in their weal and greatness-- reward and penalty: the one for the good, the other for the bad. And, if the distribution of these two be faulty, nothing else is to be expected than the inevitable ruin of the state. . . . But those greatly err who think that penalties are established only to punish crime. I hold that this is the least of the fruits which accrue therefrom to the state. For the greatest and the chief is the appeasing of the wrath of God, especially if the crime is directly against the majesty of God, as is this one. . . . Now, if there is any means to appease the wrath of God, to gain his blessing, to strike awe into some by the punishment of others, to preserve some from being infected by others, to diminish the number of evil-doers, to make secure the life of the well-disposed, and to punish the most detestable crimes of which the human mind can conceive, it is to punish with the utmost rigor the witches  . . . . Now, it is not within the power of princes to pardon a crime which the law of God punishes with the penalty of death-such as are the crimes of witches. Moreover, princes do gravely insult God in pardoning such horrible crimes committed directly against his majesty, seeing that the pettiest prince avenges with death insults against himself. Those too who let the witches escape, or who do not punish them with the utmost rigor, may rest assured that they will be abandoned by God to the mercy of the witches. And the country which shall tolerate this will be scourged with pestilences, famines, and wars; and those which shall take vengeance on the witches will be blessed by him and will make his anger to cease. Therefore it is that one accused of being a witch ought never to be folly [sic] acquitted and set free unless the calumny of the accuser is clearer than the sun, inasmuch as the proof of such crimes is so obscure and so difficult that not one witch in a million would be accused or punished if the procedure were governed by the ordinary rules. . . . or punished if the procedure were governed by the ordinary rules....
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This note was uploaded on 10/28/2008 for the course CULTURAL S 300 taught by Professor Mcquinn during the Spring '08 term at Pratt.
- Spring '08