Monday, July 27, 2015

History: The Year is 1612

I've uploaded year 1612 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Killing a Man Twice... in the 17th Century and the 20th -- Edward is burned at the stake... twice... probably out of compassion. In California a death row inmate was sent to the gas chamber twice, probably out of compassion.

Witches Are All Wet and Lights are Magical -- The dunk test is first used on accused witches. I talk about why witches are being found at this time and how technology is often indistinguishable from magic.

Killing a Man Twice... in the 17th Century and the 20th

Edward Wightman sometimes engages in debate with the local Puritan ministers. He has also written books from which he is glad to recite at length in the public square. Edward came to the attention of the Bishop of Litchfield probably because Edward offered an opinion on the the disposition of the soul of a recently departed official. Edward gave testimony to the Bishop and sent a written defense of his religious position to everyone he could think of, including King James the 1st of Great Britain. King James takes his title of "Defender of the Faith" seriously... really, really seriously. Edward's fate is sealed. Now he has been tied to the stake in the public square and is being burned to death... a second time. The first time, he felt the flames and witnesses thought they heard him recanting, so they pulled him out of the fire. They wrote up a formal retraction letter but he refused to sign it. That is how Edward ended up burning at the stake... twice. Nothing remains of him today except for a small plaque in the public square acknowledging him as the last man to be burned for heresy. 17th century England is done killing men and women for religious dissent. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
In 1992, Robert Alton Harris was executed by the State of California for the murder of two teenage boys. Harris was taken to the gas chamber, and strapped in but at the last minute a judge issued a stay of execution. Harris was taken back to his cell while public officials worked this out. This wasn't a pardon from the governor. It was a delay issued by a lower court judge to consider whether capital punishment using the gas chamber was cruel and unusual punishment. Within the hour the question went to the Supreme Court which vacated the stay. The lower court issued a 2nd stay and a 3rd. After the 4th stay the Supreme Court ordered that no more stays be issued. On that 1st walk to the gas chamber, everyone was professional, including Harris. We follow procedure and discipline ourselves so that we don't become the same as the monsters that we are putting to death. My own memory of the Harris execution is that he broke down the 2nd time that he had to take that walk. Killing a man twice, regardless of how it is done, has to be cruel and unusual. An old proverb comes to mind: "Those who will be kind when they should be cruel will one day be cruel when they should be kind." [8] [9] [10] [11]

Witches Are All Wet and Lights are Magical

This year a new test is used to find suspected witches. They are dunked in the water. If they float, they are witches. If they sink, they are not. (There is a modern notion that this test caused death in either case but a rope was tied to the subject so that they could be pulled out if they sank.) The Witches of Northamptonshire were tried for various bewitchings. Their crimes were not sensational but this new method of testing witches began with them. A few weeks later the Pendle Hill Witch Trials got started. Out of the ten accused, only one was found not guilty. One woman openly confessed that she had bewitched a man. She was hanged along with all the others found guilty. While it looks bad in England, it's a whole lot worse in Europe... especially Germany. Lots of people are going to die, many of them professing their guilt and grateful for being caught. [12] [13]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK... what's really going on here? King James the 1st was pressing the local authorities to make sure that everyone was going to church and taking communion. Communion is a significant Christian religious ritual and it was considered a crime if you refused to participate. In the midst of this crack down some folks were pointed out as witches. At the time witches were local healers, herbalists, seers and makers of joint pain medicines. Today we call these people therapists, life coaches and moonshiners. While these professions have nothing to do with magic, in the 17th century it was difficult to distinguish between a love potion and distilled alcohol. Franz Mesmer won't be born for another 100 years, but people can still be mesmerized and hypnotized. They just don't know what to call it yet so they call it witchcraft. As Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." For most people in the modern day, an electric light is magic. They have no idea how it works. They just flip a switch and it works. Simply because their jaws don't drop every time they turn one on makes it no less magical from a Clarke perspective.

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1612, Wikipedia.

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