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[465] asked no absolution; they paid no tithes; they saw in
Chap X.}
the priest nothing more than a man; ordination was no more than an approbation of the officer, which might be expressed by the brethren, as well as by other ministers;1 the church, as a place of worship, was to them but a meeting-house; they dug no graves in consecrated earth; unlike their posterity, they married without a minister, and buried the dead without a prayer.2 Witchcraft had not been made the subject of skeptical consideration; and in the years in which Scotland sacrificed hecatombs to the delusion, there were three victims in New England. Dark crimes, that seemed without a motive, may have been pursued under that name; I find one record of a trial for witch craft, where the prisoner was proved a murderess.3

On every subject but religion, the mildness of Puritan legislation corresponded to the popular character of Puritan doctrines. Hardly a nation of Europe has as yet made its criminal law so humane as that of early New England. A crowd of offences was at one sweep brushed from the catalogue of capital crimes. The idea was never received, that the forfeiture of life may be demanded for the protection of property; the punishment for theft, for burglary, and highway robbery, was far more mild than the penalties imposed even by modern American legislation. Of divorce I have found no example; yet a clause in one of the statutes recognizes the possibility of such an event. Divorce from bed and board, the separate maintenance without the dissolution of the marriage contract,—an anomaly in Protestant legislation, that punishes the innocent more than the guilty,—was utterly abhorrent from their prin

1 Trumbull's Conn. i. 283.

2 Shepherd's Clear Sunshine, 36.

3 Records, II. 54, 55.

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