The witch and we the people

Daniel Andrews Other victims include two dogs who were shot or killed after being suspected of witchcraft.

The witch and we the people

It will be four years before we can celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of what happened in Philadelphia that summer. And it will be something worth celebrating. The United States Constitution was the culminating achievement of the Enlightenment in America, if not in the world.

Fifty-five men agreed on a way of government that has been more successful in almost every way than any other in a thousand years and more.

Yes, the members of the Constitutional Convention all had their special interests to protect, among them the interests of slaveholders, not among them the interests of slaves.

But they listened to each other. And what they did was not unreasonable. It is hard to think that those fifty-five men were much closer in time to the Salem witch trials of than they were to us.

It is still harder to think that in Philadelphia that summer in the very week when they were hammering out the most crucial provisions of the Constitution, they could have witnessed, perhaps did witness, in the streets they daily walked, an event that tied them more closely to the dark world of superstition than to the enlightenment they cherished.

In Philadelphia was unquestionably the intellectual capital of the United States. It was not simply the fact that Philadelphia was much larger in population than New York or Boston; it was the distinction of its citizens that made the city a magnet for foreign visitors and the obvious meeting place for men who thought, as Alexander Hamilton put it, continentally, men who could see beyond the boundaries of their town or parish or county or state.

It was the home of the American Philosophical Society, the only significant learned society on the continent. It had a flourishing theater where, despite lingering objections from Quaker moralists, ladies and gentlemen could laugh at a farce or weep at a tragedy.

Philadelphia was the place to be, the place to go. During that summer the great convention was not the only assemblage of notables to gather there. Sooner or later, it seemed, everyone came to Philadelphia. The members of the convention began arriving in May, the Virginians first.

James Madison got there on the fifth, plans for a wholly new national government already forming in his head. George Washington rode in on the thirteenth, suffering from embarrassment that he had declined, on the pretext of his private affairs, to attend the meeting of the Cincinnati and now was to be in Philadelphia anyhow.

Edmund Randolph,with whom Madison concerted his plans, was there by the fifteenth. Benjamin Franklin, of course, was already on hand. He had just completed an addition to his house on Market Street, and on the sixteenth he entertained the new arrivals at an elegant dinner there, along with John Penn, grandson of the founder of Pennsylvania.

The other delegates trickled in at intervals. It was May 25 before enough were present for the convention to begin.

What they said to each other on the upper floor of the statehouse has been preserved for us by Madison, in one of the most exciting journals of American history.

What they said in the evenings as clumps of them dined together at their taverns and boardinghouses can only be guessed at. Presumably they continued to talk, when no outsiders were present, about the things they had argued over during the day.

But what did they think about events that went on around them in the city? Were their daytime thoughts affected by the sights and sounds, the stench, the dangers, the alarms and excursions that confronted them when they stepped out of the statehouse?

Although we cannot know the answer, we can know a little about the darker side of what they saw. It may not have affected the outcome of what they did, but it may affect our own understanding of the world they lived in and were trying to change.

The members of the convention were concerned, we know, about law and order. The times were hard, bankruptcies looming everywhere, mortgages foreclosing, beggars conspicuous in the city.

The witch and we the people

In Massachusetts there had been open defiance of government; and in several other states, too, including Connecticut, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, mobs had assembled to close the courts or to retrieve property seized for debts or taxes.

Law and order were threatened, and when walking the streets of Philadelphia that summer, one could not escape meeting up with people who made defiance of law and order a way of life. Even as the convention sat, an ugly kind of crime made its appearance in the city.

They had provided themselves with poles, attaching a little cap at the end, which they thrust out to passersby to beg for coins. To refuse was to invite a barrage of curses by expert cursers.

It was well known what the prisoners did with the coins. Nor was it possible to escape the curses of prisoners simply by shunning the vicinity of the prison. A new state law had prescribed labor on the city streets as a substitute for imprisonment in many cases.

Convicts with shaved heads, shackled with ball and chain and an iron collar, were to be seen everywhere at work, or allegedly at work, under the supervision of overseers. In some areas of Philadelphia large numbers of houses were deserted and offered shelter to gangs of footpads.The story “The Witch and We, the People” by Edmund S.

Morgan describes the events that took place in , inPhiladelphia, which “was unquestionably the intellectual capital of . Sep 24,  · Check out our top Free Essays on The Witch And We The People By Edmund S Morgan to help you write your own Essay. Salem Witch Trials. Salem. The events that took place in the town of Salem and nearby towns in Massachusetts will be forever regarded as one of our young nation's most tarnished moments in history.

Although we cannot know the answer, we can know a little about the darker side of what they saw. It may not have affected the outcome of what they did, but it may affect our own understanding of the world they lived in and were trying to change. May 26,  · All music in Teen Witch was composed by Larry Weir.

"Top That" is performed by T.K. Michaels.

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