The Witch and We the People
The Witch and We the People
The article The Witch and We The People follows the events taking place in Philadelphia in 1787. At the time, Philadelphia was unquestionably the capital of the United States. It was a large city home to many noble and respectable people. The city had a rich history and is the city where America gained independence. In the year 1787, world leaders including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison, among others gathered for a Constitutional Convention. All day, the men met and discussed ideas on creating a solid government and kept diaries of all they believed and discussed. It was barely less than a century since the Salem trials took place in 1692 and rumors about witches had diminished.
Believing in witches was seen as a silly superstition as not everyone believed in them. 1787 was the age of Enlightenment, but still, people held prejudice concerning witchcraft.
The deaths of children, dogs, horses, and the citizens of Philadelphia was blamed on witches. One such witch was a German lady known as Korbmacher or the basketmaker. She was being persecuted as she had been accused of being a witch. At the time, witchcraft was not recognized by the law and the Church too did not consent to violent rituals that members of the public subjected a convicted or suspected witch. In Places like Philadelphia, the practice of witchcraft was perceived as an evil that had to be destroyed. As such, Korbmacher went through numerous violent attacks inflicted by a mob. She suffered embarrassment and was dragged through the streets and was insulted by the people. As if that was not enough, she went through violent beatings until the day a newspaper reported her death. Eventually, a trial was made, and various people found responsible for her death were punished. However, the injustice against suspected witches has still not been addressed properly.
Edmund Morgan, the author of the article, tries to argue that witchcraft was not being prosecuted anymore, the fear in people’s minds notwithstanding. For this reason, the author uses the cutting on the forehead and trial by water as avenues of punishing suspected witches. The German witch Korbmacher is dragged in embarrassment through the streets, and a few days later, she is found dead. The older woman accused of causing various diseases realizes that she will be turned the victim and resorts to authorities, but the people’s rage against her is too intense. The author emphasizes the irony behind the notion of democracy and its negative effect on people if they are not prepared for it. The author shows the contradicting events taking place in Philadelphia at the time. There were various individuals taking part in the Constitutional Convection, devising ways to deal with democracy in the country at the time. At the same time, a section of the city was carrying out violent actions that contradicted the ideals of the Constitutional Convention. Democracy at the time depicted the savageness that people held against a woman accused of witchcraft. The author points to the fact that enlightenment has not reached culmination during the time of the drafting of the constitution and that there was still a long way to go. The fact remains that women were labeled as witches because of superstitions. This should not have to be the case and it should not occur in a civilized society. The article points to the need for a constitution and its role in enlightening society. The author emphasized that innocent people often suffer and are blamed for things they had no hand in. The author argues that displaying democracy in this kind of way is wrong and life-threatening. In essence, the author tells a story of America’s history and the significance of justice for the people.
My thoughts about the article are that society needs to take action to prevent the death of people that are labeled as witches. Although the law did not recognize witches at the time, they should have done something to prevent the death of women who had been branded witches. Drowning people suspected of being witches is an inhumane way to treat people. The Church too, did not help the situation; it should have condemned the acts of mob justice and instead used the proper channel to convict suspected witches. Without a doubt, in Philadelphia, there were even worse criminals who continued to roam the streets freely. While others were in chains, such kind of punishment would have been better than murdering witches without convicting them. The article showed me that democracy is not always what it seems. It is not always the people’s rule by the people; instead, it can have dire effects on the people. While it represents the general will that people would want implemented, sometimes considering the majority’s will is not such a good thing. At times, the majority might be wrong and it might cost an innocent person their life. The people accused of practicing witchcraft and causing death to the children and animals might have been innocent because witchcraft is just a superstition at the end of the day. As such, the maltreatment, dragging the suspected witches thorough the streets and drowning them in water is unacceptable. At the time, had the Constitution Convection been successful in designing a law, then the lives of these people would have been spared because there is a chance that they might have been innocent after all.