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  • Witch Hunts and Census Conflicts:Becoming a Population in Colonial Massachusetts

The witch hunt that engulfed Salem, Massachusetts, and its environs in 1692 manifested long-standing conflicts over how, whether, and to what ends to count people. Although the two histories—the former a short-term crisis and the latter a long-simmering standoff with royal authorities—have until now been treated separately, tracing the origins of biopolitics requires investigating previously unrecognized interdependencies in the archive. This essay argues that colonial New England authorities' particular investment in ensuring that census counts serve divine purposes dovetails with the efforts to root out demonic threats to population in the Salem trials. Both endeavors involve scrutinizing reproductive processes and internalized affects to measure the health of the community. When contemporary chroniclers of the trials cite Jean Bodin, the political philosopher known both as the progenitor of population science and as the author of a witch-hunting handbook that inflamed seventeenth-century Europe, they do so as a way to turn the aftermath of the deadly panic into a lesson in how properly to feel like an enumerable population.

Time and again during the seventeenth century, colonial leaders in Massachusetts refused to produce a single official census to send to the Crown even as they repeatedly crafted and recrafted remarkably sophisticated legislation related to counting people. Censuses were crucial to the mercantilist vision of connecting the empire through bookkeeping, and they had immediate practical uses for calculating taxation as well. Yet no New England colony completed a census for royal authorities before 1708, though Barbados in 1680 had already submitted what was by far the most extensive seventeenth-century Anglo-colonial census. In the midst of all the stalling and evasion coming from Massachusetts, two seemingly unrelated events occurred in the colony in 1692. One was the infamous series of witch trials in and around Salem that left hundreds of people accused of witchcraft and ended twenty-five lives, eighteen of them female, through imprisonment, torture, and execution. That same year, in the aftermath of the restoration of its charter and the merger with Plymouth, the colony revised its vital statistics legislation yet again, doing so for the seventh time since 1639.1 Seventeenth-century political arithmetic was a crucial precursor to the systemic monitoring of life that characterizes biopolitics, and colonial spaces posed distinctive challenges in the development of these methods of population tracking.2

In seventeenth-century New England, hunting for witches and developing bookkeeping strategies to take accountings of people were interlaced forms of God's work. Like taking a census, witch hunting directly involved prying into the female-dominated realms of sex, pregnancy, birth, reproduction, caring for the sick, and protecting children. Also like a census, it involved legal authorities investigating the health of the community. Attempts to measure the population in a godly way and to root out intensely gendered satanic forces are projects that stem from similar impulses, touch on similar anxieties, and bring about similar ends. They work in tandem across intimate and transatlantic scales to [End Page 653] create communities of people who do not simply submit to official counts, but more intimately feel like populations accountable to God.

This essay argues that the witch hunt that engulfed Salem, Massachusetts, and its environs in 1692 manifested long-standing conflicts over how, whether, and to what ends to count people. Although the two histories—the former a short-term crisis and the latter a long-simmering standoff with royal authorities—have until now been treated separately, tracing the origins of biopolitics requires investigating previously unrecognized interdependencies in the archive. Colonial New England authorities' particular investment in ensuring that census counts serve divine purposes dovetails with the efforts to root out demonic threats to population in the Salem trials. Both endeavors involve scrutinizing reproductive processes and internalized affects to measure the health of the community. When contemporary chroniclers of the trials cite Jean Bodin, the French political philosopher known both as the progenitor of population science and as the author of a witch-hunting handbook that inflamed seventeenth-century Europe, they do so as a way to turn the aftermath of the deadly panic into a lesson in how properly to feel like an enumerable population.

Archival Affinities

The history of how people came to accept themselves as populations provides essential context for the witch trials that engulfed the area around Salem, and the witch trials in turn emerge as a chapter key to the story of the colonial origins of biopolitics. From the beginning, New England colonial leaders put enormous pressure on the politics of making visible the processes of reproduction.3 Their vital statistics registration laws were careful and advanced, making clerks of the state, rather than clergy, account for local births and deaths, and imposing penalties on parents, rather than clerks, for not registering births. At the same time, they displayed remarkable recalcitrance to the Crown's requests for census data, with Massachusetts holding out decades longer than other British Atlantic colonies in producing a census. The act of counting people had profound theological implications for seventeenth-century New England Puritans. Tracking the decline or increase in numbers offered a way for the community to measure its godliness over time. This turned census taking into an existential task colonial leaders were not about to cede to outside authorities. In this way, issues of fertility, breastfeeding, the health of children, and the status of childbearing women constituted anxiously sought-after information on both sides of the Atlantic, data that had to be both scrupulously tracked and rigorously concealed. [End Page 654]

The Salem region witch hunts, too, focused intensely on scenes relating to reproduction and issues of visibility and concealment. Like similar terror campaigns in Europe earlier in the century, the 1692 witch hunts arose in part as a result of the socioeconomic upheaval involved in the development of capitalism. In colonial Massachusetts, these economic shifts were occurring not in spite of a profoundly providentially oriented worldview but in complex cooperation with theological questions. Mercantilist ideas of statecraft fueled the drive to count people as laboring populations like any other commodity serving imperial wealth, and in Massachusetts these changing ideas combined and clashed with the impulse to use census counts to determine God's favor with this particular settler colonial endeavor.

In the immediate aftermath of the late and bloody witch hunts that occurred there, chroniclers of the events indirectly cite population discourse in their writings about confessions. Increase Mather cites Bodin at precisely the moment he considers the case of a falsely accused woman whose story left "few … [who] could refrain from tears" yet who, Mather goes on to argue, still deserved to die. Bodin's appearances in the archive highlight a complex deployment of forgiveness, sympathy, and trust among the Salem survivors. This affective regime helped draw people together into a governable, countable community that could strategically engage with and resist discourses of population.4

Bodin's philosophy mingles seventeenth-century population debates with witch-hunting fervor. Known today as the progenitor of population science because of his advocacy of regular peacetime state censuses in his 1576 treatise Six livres de la République (Six Books of the Commonwealth), he was best known in the subsequent century for his 1580 witch-hunting handbook, De la démonomanie des sorciers (On the Demon-Mania of Witches). Bodin's demonology was quickly translated across Europe and greatly contributed to the intensification of the early modern witch hunts that scarred communities from Germany to Scotland. Bodin's advocacy of witch hunts can be seen in part as a pronatalist strategy in the wake of the devastation of the previous centuries' bubonic plagues (to which he himself succumbed in 1596) because of the particular vulnerability of midwives and other older women who may have had special knowledge of reproductive processes to accusations of witchcraft.5 Before the eighteenth century, the mercantilist assumption that more people (rightly distributed) contribute to the wealth of a state prevailed. In this context, it makes sense that a manual for stoking witch-hunting fervor would be aligned with an interest in promoting population growth, promising to rid communities of people it repeatedly constructs as threats against healthy children and fertility. [End Page 655]

Bodin in Demon-Mania writes specifically about how witches cause miscarriages and monstrous births, such as one witch who "killed seven children in their mother's womb" and another who caused "a woman [to give] birth to a toad."6 Then, with the same attention to detail with which he explains how and to what ends states should take censuses and use them to redistribute people, his witch-hunting handbook describes how exactly to procure and settle on the evidence necessary to condemn witches to die. The question of evidence proved crucial to the trials, which reversed long-standing precedents on the admission of spectral evidence. Bodin specifically discusses how to approach the question of confession that was also exceptional in the Salem trials, since "no one who confessed was ever executed."7 For these reasons, it is not surprising that both Increase Mather and Robert Calef would cite Bodin in their responses to the crisis.

Citations of Bodin in Mather's and Calef's writings point to how witch hunting and counting people both involved extending authoritative scrutiny into the realm of reproduction. Contemporary critiques of liberalism and the colonial archive repeatedly insist on the way colonial hegemony manifests on the most intimate of levels, structuring affects and relationships. Reviewing the archive, Ann Laura Stoler traces "how deeply epistemic anxieties stir affective tremors within them," bringing to the surface the "discursive density … around assessments of affective dispositions and their beneficent and dangerous political effects."8 Population is one such "epistemic anxiety" that requires managing "affective dispositions," but the way we separate historical moments—like keeping a regional outbreak of hysteria distinct from a colonial legal reworking of birth and death registration—hides and distorts our understanding of the past and its hold on the present. Lisa Lowe insists that in order to manifest the "interdependencies" that maintain "colonial divisions of humanity," work in the archive must "read across the separate repositories organized by office, task, and function," questioning assumptions that colonial activities like counting people and hanging witches are unrelated. This archival approach explicitly involves connecting matters "deemed insignificant," like updates to the 1692 vital statistics codes, with "events that are well documented in the collected papers," like the Salem witch trials.9

Focusing on seventeenth-century origins of biopolitics in vital statistics registration and its connection to deeply gendered witch hunts enables an analysis that interweaves the strains of economics, gender, colonialism, empiricism, and affect that recur throughout the extensive historiography. Often these issues appear in complementary ways, but are not kept simultaneously in [End Page 656] the foreground. For example, the powerfully influential analysis arguing that the Salem witch trials manifested social tensions involved in the transition to capitalism, Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum's Salem Possessed, centers the connection between feelings and economics without explicitly discussing affect. Over thirty years after the book's publication, the authors highlight as "a key to the meaning"10 of their book a passage that emphasizes affects:

We have over and over again stressed the conflicting emotions most Salem Villagers must have felt as they witnessed the transformation of Salem Town into a major commercial center, and as they saw an altered social and economic order beginning to take shape. The witchcraft testimony itself makes plain that even those who felt most uneasy about those developments were also deeply attracted by them.11

(italics mine)

This history shows how changes in the "social and economic order" churn "conflicting emotions" that play out as much within as between sides in the Salem regional crisis. Both affects and economics emerge as powerful forces driving the witch hunts, drawing boundaries around the community as well as within individuals. Left out, too, from this socioeconomic analysis, as a generation of scholars have addressed afterward, is a fundamental role for the politics of gender and sexuality.12 As Jane Kamensky describes, the trials created a "topsy turvy world" in which "magistrates became bit players who ceded center stage to groups of laywomen."13 Carol F. Karlsen links frames of wealth and misogyny, addressing the question of why those targeted were overwhelmingly female by recharacterizing the trials as battles over inheritances held by older women.14 Historians have addressed, too, the question of why it matters that the trials began with a group of young "afflicted girls" from both psychoanalytic and transatlantic angles. John Demos detects internal psychoanalytic conflict in the way their fits are described with sexualized "'oral' imagery" including "biting" and "succor";15 and taking this focus on internal mental distress in a different direction, Mary Beth Norton identifies some of the afflicted girls as traumatized survivors of war on the Maine frontier, thereby casting the trials as a stage on which much larger colonial conflicts were playing out. Connecting the trials to census tensions does not so much add to or replace these historical explanations as supply an essential piece of the puzzle connecting them together into the framework of understanding how emerging biopolitical sensibilities played out on a local level, and vice versa.

The tie between establishing an imitable framework for witch hunting and counting population goes further than merely turning the former into a direct strategy for eliminating people who might pose challenges to increasing the [End Page 657] birth rate, either through spectral powers or experience with contraception, abortion, and infanticide. Witch hunts helped turn people into the biopolitical populations that censuses track. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century terrors about witches prepared people to be laborers for emerging capitalist economies, as Sylvia Federici has argued.16 She identifies the "new disciplinary methods that the state adopted in this period to regulate procreation and break women's control over reproduction" as the "first elements of a population policy and a 'bio-power' regime."17 But we know that biopolitics in a settler colonial environment works not only through disciplinary methods like surveillance and legal controls but also on the level of affect, or what Kyla Schuller calls "the biopolitics of feeling." Examining race and science in the nineteenth-century US, Schuller shows how "biopower consolidated in a sentimental mode that regulated the circulation of feeling throughout the population."18 Sympathy—its extension, and its withdrawal—was essential to the Salem trials, as Abram Van Engen has shown, because it served to negotiate the boundaries of the Puritan community.19 In late seventeenth-century colonial Massachusetts, economics, censuses, witch hunts, and affective regulation all constellated into a distinctive early manifestation of the kind of sentimentalism-infused biopolitics that took hold much later.20 The genocidal aspirations inherent to settler colonialism combined with theologically driven interest in counting people, and both of these projects were fueled by an increasingly capitalist world-system. By connecting this witchcraft crisis to the history of New England censuses, the Salem witch hunts appear essential to our understanding of how affect, economics, colonialism, and state scrutiny of reproduction aligned.

Census Tensions

For the Puritans, censuses could be either divine or satanic, and the consequences of consenting to a satanic census would be a population-devastating event. In the biblical book of Numbers, God ordains two censuses at the beginning and at the end of the wandering of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. But as the poet John Milton depicted in his 1671 epic Paradise Regained, Satan tempted David into ordering an unauthorized census that resulted in God's depopulating punishment meted out on his people. In the poem, Jesus rejects a similar temptation, reminding Satan that with David, "thou stood'st up his Tempter to the pride / Of numb'ring Israel, which cost the lives / Of threescore and ten thousand Israelites / By three days' Pestilence?"21 This belief in the satanic possibilities of censuses solidified New England leaders' resistance to outside requests for population data, but it did not [End Page 658] stop them from taking their own. On the contrary, it likely drew them even more to census work because it could be interpreted as part of their divinely ordained providential errand into the wilderness—taking godly censuses like Moses rather than worldly ones like David. The result was that by the end of the seventeenth century, Massachusetts had some of the most innovative vital statistics legislation around the Atlantic.

After seven years of outside rule by a royally appointed governor, one of the major difficulties colonial leaders faced in 1691 with the restoration of their charter was how to merge the complex existing codes relating to vital statistics in the previously separate Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies. Some of the innovations between the two sets of codes included making state officials, rather than clergy, responsible for tracking births and deaths; and requiring parents, rather than the local clerk, to report a child's birth.22 The updated law for the new charter written the year the witch hunts broke out in Salem seemed to suggest that the clerk was expected to conduct a census: the law states that "the clerk is empowered and required to take an account of all persons that shall be born or die" (italics mine). In addition, the penalties inflicted on parents neglecting to register births were "made more severe," and, in a reversal from the past, the clerks were no longer required "to send copies of their records to a central agency or have the records certified by a court."23 In sum, the law included the most explicit expectation yet of censuses while ensuring that these censuses would be hard to certify and would intensify the burden for statistical knowledge on individual reproductive families. This burden on birthing had been first introduced in Boston in 1642, after clerks complained of having to wander "house to house" in search of midwives to collect data.24 Seventeenth-century New England had since its founding placed unique pressure on its communities to report vital statistics, and the 1692 law was likely designed to be a more durable replacement to previous statutes, as evidenced by the fact that the codes put in place that year in Massachusetts remained in effect until after its statehood in 1796.25

The population concerns in seventeenth-century New England, and Massachusetts in particular, were both pressing and distinctive. The colonial governors knew that censuses are very helpful, even necessary, for optimal tax collection, and so refusing to provide them was an attempt to keep colonial assets in colonial hands. But dismissing the repeated wrangling over statistics legislation and census demands from the Crown as purely financial is to impose a much later historical mind-set onto a volatile seventeenth-century historical landscape in which ideas about applying numbers to bodies were being formed. Much of the rhetoric around colonial New England's persistent [End Page 659] refusal to submit to imperial censuses revolved around the claim that it would constitute the "sin of David." This referred to a theological interpretation of the Bible that forbade any accounting of people that had not been explicitly divinely ordained, warning that a trespass of this prohibition would result in God sending a plague or other depopulating event.

Bodin had spent considerable energy in his Six Books of the Commonwealth engaging with and attempting to dismantle appeals to the "sin of David" as a way to stop censuses, claiming that King David's sin of ordering a census had not been the mere taking of the count but the fact that his count was only of those who could "beare armes" and therefore had excluded women, children, and the elderly or those otherwise unable to fight.26 In this way, rendering previously unaccountable bodies, particularly reproductive ones, subject to enumeration was a central focus for metropolitan mercantilists who were clamoring for imperial censuses. New Englanders, for their part, had been taking censuses of men, women, and children from the moment of their arrival in North America, but these constituted delicate matters relating to evidence of God's satisfaction with the colony. The Puritans believed that counting people was doing God's work, and ceding control of that work posed not merely a political or financial but also an existential threat to the colonial leaders. In their view, taking a census was a profoundly theological endeavor, one that must be divinely ordained and carefully interpreted.

Given this context, invocations of the "sin of David" were not simply diversionary tactics. The Biblical passage quotes David ordering a count of Israel and Judah solely "so that I may know the number of the people,"27 and afterward, God claims thousands of lives from pestilence. This moment casts the desire to count population numbers for no other reason than to "know" them as both an overreach into knowledge that normally should be reserved for God alone and a spiteful refusal to trust God's promise to Abraham in Genesis that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. Despite Bodin's efforts to articulate a theological counterinterpretation of this moment, biblically framed opposition to censuses continued well into the next two centuries. By the eighteenth century, colonial references to the "sin of David" often occurred in the context of excuses for wrong-thinking others rather than sincere refusals. For example, the governor of New York in 1712 wrote a letter apologizing for the incompleteness of his census returns because "the people were deterred by a simple superstition and observation that sickness followed upon the last numbering of the people."28 Similarly, the New Jersey governor in 1726 wrote a letter claiming that he would have undertaken a census like the one recently completed in New York, [End Page 660]

but I was advised that it might make the people uneasy, they being generally of a new England extraction, and thereby enthusiasts; and that they would take it for a reputation of the same sin that David committed in numbering the people, and might bring on the same judgments. This notion put me off at that time, but, since your lordships require it, I will give the orders to the sheriffs that it may be done as soon as may be.29

These letters seem to complain about superstitious New Englanders who are obstructing rational plans with their religious enthusiasm. Yet the protests are framed less as religious belief or a refusal to disobey God's commands than as genuinely held fears that "the same judgments" like the "sickness [that] followed upon the last numbering" would ensue. The letters complain of people holding real fears of depopulation as a result of the census, as though it could do perceptible malevolent work in the world. Moreover, as Sarah Rivett has shown, New England clergy aligned theological beliefs with the kind of philosophical empiricism required for the development of statistical technologies. Rivett describes how, in the Salem witch trials, the devil was a figure that served to negotiate the inevitability of empirical uncertainty, not a distraction from it.30 Satan's role in the advancement of empiricism helps explain how rather than shutting down inquiries into how best to count people, beliefs about the satanic potential of censuses fostered the repeated development of regulatory codes tracking births and deaths meant to ensure that this colonial work be providential.

The effectiveness of the refusal of those "of a new England extraction," as the New Jersey governor put it, to submit to an imperial census came in part because of their historic fixation on human accounting. William Bradford included a census in his history Of Plymouth Plantation of the original Mayflower passengers, and then another thirty years later manipulated the numbers to show that, despite the horrendous losses the colony had suffered, ultimately there had been a net growth. Moreover, maintaining control over the information about colonial population was an essential tool in wars against New England's indigenous peoples. Despite the serious threats Native communities posed to settler colonial projects, colonial historians like Increase Mather after King Philip's War insisted that indigenous deaths after each battle always outnumbered Anglo-colonial ones, painting a distorted picture of New England that cast deliberate ignorance about the real numbers of population living beyond colonial settlements as evidence of an enemy in inevitable decline.31 As Norton argued, the Salem trials were inextricably linked to failures in the Maine frontier wars, and so they occurred in the wake of another population-threatening campaign. [End Page 661]

In addition to using counting as a strategy against threats from outside the settler colonial community, New England religious leaders paid close attention to growth or decline in church attendance and membership throughout the colonial period.32 Beyond mere bodies living within the bounds of the colony, the question remained whether those bodies newly imported to the community—either through migration or reproduction—were adhering to the local religious orthodoxy. Counts of church attendance provided tools for wrangling with the question of whether the colonists were straying from their original purpose or fulfilling it.

Other than the practical matter of clarifying legal matters of probate—a significant issue Karlsen tied to the targeting of witches in Salem—it appears that in Massachusetts "vital events were registered because they were among the fundamental facts which had to be known by any community intent upon preserving a record of itself."33 Put another way, Massachusetts was putting significant and continuous legal energy across the seventeenth century into innovating ways to record population "facts" that would reflect and preserve an image of its community. In light of all these overlapping pressures, we can understand why Massachusetts was willing to endure even severe penalties imposed by metropolitan authorities to maintain internal control over what kind of counting was done within the colony and how those counts were used.

In 1690 William Petty outlined his plan for connecting the British Empire through accounting in the pamphlet Political Arithmetick, just two years before the paranoia erupted in Salem. By tracking population like any other form of imperial goods, Petty argued, the Crown could maximize its wealth and efficiency. Yet in an era when vital statistics were just beginning as a science; when censuses were irregular and unstandardized; and when there was large-scale disagreement on how and to what purpose and even whether states should count people at all, Petty was setting out a considerable challenge. Seventeenth-century colonial New England organized itself into a unique and shifting hotbed of resistance to this strategy. The colonial official who was unable to fulfill his orders to bring accurate Massachusetts census data back to the Crown, Edward Randolph, wrote the warrant in 1683 that led to the revocation of the colony's charter the following year. At the end of King Philip's War in 1676—the same war that Mather chronicled by repeatedly drawing on body counts—the Lords of Trade sent Randolph to collect information on the population of New England, but the Massachusetts colonial governors were "evasive and uncooperative" to the point that Randolph wrote home about how "troublesome" they were.34 The antipathy between Increase Mather and Randolph grew so hostile that in 1688 Randolph had a warrant [End Page 662] issued for Mather's arrest, sending Mather fleeing on a boat to London; and the following year a mob in Boston threw Randolph into prison at gunpoint.35 But the British imperial government was not playing around in its increasing quest for colonial data. The revocation of Massachusetts' charter meant that the colonial leaders had to submit to royal governance, fostering a social instability that lasted even after this period of the Dominion of New England had ended, and likely contributed to the witchcraft crisis in Essex county, the region around Salem.36

Even when other Anglo-colonial administrators successfully submitted census data in the seventeenth century, the Crown was not necessarily satisfied: after Barbados compiled its extraordinarily detailed 1680 census, the governor was promptly fired under suspicion of withholding information. New England colonies all displayed their determination to make censuses a point of hostility between themselves and the metropolitan authorities, but Massachusetts was foremost among them. In this environment of contention around counting, Massachusetts managed to hold out by far the longest of all Anglo-American colonies around the Atlantic from submitting an official census, waiting to do so until 1765.37 The 1692 law did not smooth over the conflicts, but instead in the eighteenth century the wall of secrecy around censuses "transformed into a deliberate effort to frustrate the wishes of the Crown," as the historian James Cassedy puts it.38

Seventeenth-century witch-hunting terror campaigns routinely occurred during periods of political instability, and the bloodiest colonial witch-hunting terror campaign prior to Salem, that in Bermuda in 1655, follows this pattern, since it occurred during the Interregnum in England.39 The crisis around Salem does as well, since it flared on the heels of England's Glorious Revolution in 1688 and immediately after the restoration of the colonial charter. The historian John M. Murrin ties the particular bloodiness that erupted in Salem to the aftermath of the imperial conflicts. For Murrin, the "dramatic reversal of thirty years of judicial restraint in resolving complaints about witchcraft" came about in part because of the judges' reaction to the compromises made after the colony's charter was revoked: "Most of the judges … had cooperated much too willingly with the Dominion of New England, a royal regime that truly did threaten to undermine the godly commonwealth of the seventeenth century." Murrin portrays the Salem judges as feeling the need for forgiveness for their compromising behavior during the period of royal control, and suggests that the judges "projected this need" for "forgiveness … upon the people accused of witchcraft."40 We do not usually think of the particularly murderous Salem witch trials as being a result of forgiveness or leniency, but [End Page 663] Murrin points out that it created a unique and "deadly pattern" in which the judges consistently ordered executions for anyone who refused to admit to their guilt, and pardoned those who confessed. This meant that the "court hanged the most courageous people it encountered"—those who refused to confess—"and rewarded those too cowardly to stick by the truth, that they were indeed innocent."41 If this unusual approach to confession was what made the Salem witch trials particularly lethal, then the trials were fundamentally tied to questions of colonial leaders' degree of cooperation with imperial authorities. And these were precisely the questions that characterized the ongoing disputes over delivering population data.

Intimate Scrutiny

Petty's 1690 pamphlet calling for detailed imperial bookkeeping had touched on many of the same issues that different historians have teased out of the Salem witch trials—the connectedness of places as distant as Salem and Barbados, from where the enslaved Tituba (one of the first accused of witchcraft) had come; the relationship between constantly circulating bodies and state control; the management of wealth transfers across generations; and the impetus for sovereigns to focus more intently on tracking bodies that had in prior eras been left out of censuses, like those of children and women. The witch trial transcripts in New England repeatedly depict an abundance of violence directed at women and children. In other words, during the same historical moment when Petty was planning for an empire connected through mercantilist accounting methods that tracked population like any other commodity, and while Massachusetts was weathering sanctions for its recalcitrance in the face of the Crown's demands to offer up enumerations of its people, witch trials publicized supposed attacks made by devilish outside forces on reproduction.

Four years before the Salem cases, Cotton Mather reflected on the protective power of breastfeeding in the case of the Goodwin children's possession. In this instance, an entire family of children was afflicted with the exception of the patriarch and an infant who had not yet weaned:

Of these children, all but the eldest, … and the youngest, who lies yet upon the breast of its mother, have labored under the direful effects of a (no less palpable than) stupendous witchcraft. Indeed that exempted son had also, as was thought, some lighter touches of it, in unaccountable stabs and pains now and then upon him; as indeed every person in the family at some time or other had, except the godly father, and the sucking infant, who never felt any impressions of it.42 [End Page 664]

Here the children who are free to move about in the world beyond "the breast of [their] mother" are the vulnerable victims; and coming closer to maturity, like the eldest "exempted" child, also seems to be a protective factor, but not entirely so, given that he still suffers "unaccountable stabs and pains." The children who are most vulnerable to adoption into a foreign group—those young enough to be impressionable, but old enough to survive in the world beyond their mother's body—are the primary targets of the witches' violence.

Later, in Salem, spectral breasts become a crucial issue in the trials, as witches embody perverted visions of reproduction. Three convicted women, after being subjected to a physical examination, had been found to have "a preternaturall Excresence of flesh between ye pudendum and Anus much like to tetts & not vsuall in women," which then, a few hours later, had vanished, despite having earlier been like a "breast … very full."43 The judges executed two of the women found to have satanic breasts—Rebecca Nurse and Bridget Bishop—and the third, Elizabeth Procter, only survived because she was pregnant. As the editors of the Salem documents describe, "The search was for evidence of 'Familiars' of the Devil sucking from witches."44 Whether describing breasts that protect children or discovering breasts that feed the devil, witch hunting extends intense scrutiny onto reproductive bodies to track the processes of cultivating desirable populations.

Deodat Lawson's Brief and True Account of the events in Salem foregrounds attacks on children and especially young, potentially reproductive, women:

The number of the afflicted persons were about that time ten, viz. four married women, Mrs. Pope, Mrs. Putnam, Goodwife Bibber, and an ancient woman, named Goodall, three maids, Mary Walcot, Merc Lewis, at Thomas Putnams, and a maid of Dr. Griggs's, there were three girls from 9 to 12 years of age, each of them, or thereabouts.45

Most, though not all, of these victims would be the same girls and women that Petty was interested in tracking through census data to forecast their childbearing capacity. The list of four married women—one of them "ancient" like a midwife—three maids, and three young girls depicts a serious attack that cuts across generations and threatens the colony's future birth rate.

Even more than imperiling girls and women of childbearing age, the witch trial transcripts involve malevolent forces sickening infants and domestic settings of cradles and bedsides. The stories recounted in the aftermath of the Salem panic abound with these: much of the spectral evidence offered in the cases that Increase Mather's son Cotton describes in Wonders of the Invisible World revolves around cradles and murdered infants. For example, one witch sickens a formerly healthy child: [End Page 665]

Samuel Gray, testified, … that he then saw plainly a woman between the cradle, and the bedside.… The child in the cradle gave a great screech, and the woman disappeared. It was long before the child could be quieted; and though it were a very likely thriving child, yet from this time it pined away, and after divers months died in a sad condition.46

Coming between "the bedside" and "the cradle," "a woman" intervenes to extinguish Gray's family's contributions to the colonial population. Similarly, the text describes how Samuel Shattuck "testified … that his eldest child, which was of as promising health and sense, as any child of its age, began to droop exceedingly" whenever the accused witch visited, and "the oftener that [she] came to the house, the worse grew the child."47 Even more so than killing a child immediately, sickening previously healthy ones makes the witches in these stories appear to be embodiments of population threats like the plague or smallpox.

At other times, the witches are examples of mothers who fail to protect their children: another accused woman, Sarah Good, was pregnant at the time of her imprisonment, giving birth to an infant who died shortly before her execution, and was accused of spreading her witchcraft to her daughter Dorcas, who was "4 or 5" years old. Here, the depiction of this epidemic of witchcraft disrupts both the physical and the social processes required to reproduce and increase population. When young girls and reproductive women, children, and infants are marked as particularly precarious; when breasts can alternately be singularly protective and singularly spectral; and when old, wise helping women or young, bad mothers can be infectious to the community, the colony has a population problem. By this I mean the kind of "problem of population" that Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse describe with regard to late eighteenth-century narratives in which governance structures struggle with transforming a heterogeneous assemblage of individuals into a governable and coherent population, as well as in a more mercantilist seventeenth-century sense of a problem populating, or ensuring that the community will continue to expand through regeneration.48 Even as the colony was crafting legislation increasing penalties for parents who failed to make births more visible, and as imperial advisers pressured colonies to submit such data, the Salem witch trials as a whole depicted the process of reproduction in serious disarray. The political tensions were manifesting themselves in discussions about intimate scrutiny of reproductive bodies and sexual practices, as well as about profoundly intimate relationships between parents and children. [End Page 666]

Feeling Accountable

Population theorist–cum-demonologist Bodin appears in the archive of the Salem witch trials at the moment when Increase Mather considers the question of confessions and internal emotions—precisely the issues that Murrin argues led to the singular collapse of restraint in ordering the executions. The elder Mather owned a copy of Bodin's Demon-Mania, signed with his name,49 and he explicitly cites Bodin in his 1693 work in response to the trials, Cases of Conscience. The reference appears at a key moment just before Mather offers an example of a scenario demonstrating that even though extorted confessions are not valid, any executions that may have resulted from them are still just and deserved. This reiterates Mather's strategy for the work as a whole of distancing the community from the panic that led to the spate of executions in the previous year without condemning it. First, Mather addresses the question "what is sufficient proof?"50 Responding to his own question, Mather first insists on the solid reliability of confessions as evidence: "A free and Voluntary Confession of the Crime made by the Person Suspected and Accused after Examination, is a sufficient ground of Conviction."51 However, he immediately goes on to qualify this assertion by making an exception of cases involving extreme affective disturbance: "Indeed, if Persons are Distracted or under the Power of Phrenetick Melancholy that alters the case. But the jurors that examine them, and their Neighbours that know them may easily determine that case."52 The first exception to the rule that confessions are a reliable form of evidence that Mather introduces originates within the bodies of the accused, and he trusts that the legal and social networks surrounding them could overcome this threat of unreliability. Mather's next sentence cites Bodin to insert the possibility that threats to the trustworthiness of confessions as evidence could come from outside the accused bodies: "Or if Confession be [it is here that Mather inserts a footnote to Bodin's "Demonmania"] extorted, the Evidence is not so clear and Convictive." Mather refers to Bodin's qualification with regard to confessions made under torture that are later recanted as requiring corroboration: "As for forced confession which is made under torture," Bodin writes, "it can certainly be used as proof if the accused persists in his confession after the interrogation. If he does not persist, it is a 'presumption' rather than a 'necessary proof.'"53 Rather than reiterate or elaborate on the incompleteness of "forced" confessions, Mather instead moves on after the Bodin reference: "But if any Persons out of Remorse of Conscience, or from a Touch of God on their Spirits, confess and shew their Deeds," detailing what they have done, Mather [End Page 667] insists, "Nothing can be more clear."54 For only a moment, Mather entertains the idea that confessions could be "extorted" through external pressure—could be evidence of nefarious worldly activity, rather than affective "distraction" or satanic interference—and he passes the responsibility of doing the work of sorting out this distinction entirely onto Bodin. Mather also here downplays the thorny question of the role of torture in confessions, leaving any explicit mention of its use to Bodin and not himself. The reference to Bodin enables Mather to push the work of interrogating oppressive state or social pressure outside of his own text and return immediately to the certainty with which he began the discussion: when it comes to confessions as evidence, "Nothing can be more clear."

Bodin enters Mather's discussion as a way to navigate questions swirling around affect and control. In the wake of such a shocking episode—after which the colony imposed a day of mourning and reflection—we might expect chronicles of the event to engage with ideas about the regulation of "passions," to use the early modern term, in order to advocate remaining clearheaded and avoiding a repetition of the frenzy of vengeance. Instead, Mather tells a story about the right and wrong way to feel after a false witchcraft accusation, making prescriptive control of feelings a necessity for moving on from the witch hunts.

First, Mather lingers on the question of what to do with unreliable confessions by returning to the qualification he had initially propounded regarding intense affects that leave someone "Distracted or under the Power of Phrenetick Melancholy." This enables Mather to contemplate the notion of extending sympathy for the falsely accused in a way that keeps authorities safe from facing any accountability. As Van Engen argues, the witch trials were partly a way to demarcate the limits of community through the extension of sympathy: if the accused expressed sympathy rightly—with the victims—then that was evidence of their membership. "Sympathy meant a drawing together of like unto like," Van Engen argues, creating a line of separation across which "no compassion or kindness—no fellow feeling—should pass."55 In the wake of the crisis, the elder Mather nuances this deployment of sympathy to allow it to cross over into feeling for the victims of false accusations without withdrawing sympathy from their accusers. After citing Bodin, he argues that if suicidal despair leads someone to confess to the capital crime of witchcraft, then the crime of lying and wishing to die would be enough to justify their execution anyway: "It is by some objected that persons in Discontent may falsely accuse themselves. I say, if they do so, and it cannot be proved, that they are false Accusers of themselves, they ought to dye for their Wickedness, and their Blood will be [End Page 668] upon their own Heads."56 Even if "it cannot be proved" that their confession was false, Mather absolves legal authorities of the responsibility for determining whether their execution was deserved because the person was a witch or because they lied: "The Jury, the Judges, and the Land is clear."57

To illustrate the ways that affect—on the part of spectators and the accused—provides a release valve for concerns about wrongful deaths, Mather then goes on to give an example of a falsely accused witch in Scotland: "I have read a very sad and amazing and yet a true story to this purpose."58 The self-accused woman in his story gives the following speech before her execution, eliciting widespread weeping from the assembled crowd: "I declare I am as free from Witchcraft as any Child," she insists, but after she had been falsely "accused by a Malicious Woman, and imprisoned under the Name of a Witch, my Husband and Friends disowned me," spurring her descent into an intense despair resembling the "melancholy" with which Mather had introduced the Bodin citation. "Seeing no hope of ever being in Credit again," she continues, "through the Temptation of the Devil, I made that Confession to destroy my own Life, being weary of it, and chusing rather to Dye than to Live."59 Affects like melancholy render the body permeable to "the Temptation of the Devil," yet the woman deserves to die because of her own "chusing" and not the actions of the "Malicious Woman" or the "Husband and Friends" who abandoned her in the wake of the false accusation. Here Mather makes disciplined feeling about membership within a community an essential outcome of the trials.

The feelings Mather focuses on are specifically tied to becoming an economic, countable body. The story of the suicidal woman recalls the lurking anxieties over financial circulations that become entangled with questions of evidence. The accused witch describes how it was the irrevocable loss of her "Credit" that led her to succumb to the temptation to sin. She refers here only specifically to social connections, but she also wrote at a time when these systems of trust and credit increasingly bore financial pressures as well. Michelle Burnham explicitly relates the persistent problems of credit, books, and spectral evidence mentioned in the histories of the Salem trials to the contemporary transition to paper money.60 In Burnham's view, the panic manifested anxieties around new, more spectral forms of the circulation and connectedness of reproductive bodies. Mather's Scottish example is a woman who has failed to circulate in the human economy: though she is married, she does not mention having any children—is perhaps even as sexually innocent "as any Child" herself, as she alludes to at the beginning of her narrative—and so after being disowned by her husband, she also loses the potential of increasing the [End Page 669] population. She is isolated, doomed, impoverished; her body has been opened up to sin through her affective vulnerability; yet it is this very expression of melancholy that connects her in her final moments both to the spectators in the story and to Mather through displays of sympathy. "This her Lamentable Speech did astonish all the Spectators," Mather concludes, "few of whom could refrain from Tears."61 At this moment Mather moves from condemning a woman who felt too much to focusing on condoning or even encouraging the expression of feelings by the crowd. Mather had introduced this example as being specifically "very sad and amazing," instructing the reader ahead of time that he intends to elicit affects of wonder and sympathy. Joined in feeling with the crowd and remembered sympathetically by readers, the accused witch is nevertheless killed and removed from the population in a way that divorces the "sad" and "lamentable" from feelings of regret or remorse. The awed weeping itself, or its singular uniformity and intensity, seems to be the force that renders remorse, regret, or any other affect like indignation or doubt, impossible. "All the Spectators" felt astonishment, and although they are unnumbered, they become uniform like countable numbers through their shared feelings in response to witnessing their deliverance from this gendered, nonreproductive, economically untenable, wrong-feeling threat. This is not the activation of "sentimentalism" as a "broad regulatory technology" of biopower, linking populations together and drawing racial boundaries that Schuller detects in the nineteenth-century US. However, it reflects backward on a terror campaign in order to turn a memory of emotional tumult into the production of communally shared sympathy; and this sympathy is produced by the identification of a threat that must be purged. Without investing in a teleological notion of origins in this moment, comparing what happens in this archive with what we know about how biopolitics works later on can nevertheless enable us to discern transhistorical resonances in the simultaneous deployment of feeling and population concerns. The Bodin reference operates here partly to exculpate Mather of the need to go any further in the question of wrongfully extorted confessions than addressing the question of how to rightly feel accountable.

Even though Robert Calef wrote very much in opposition to more benign accounts of the Salem witch-hunting terror like that of Mather, he too cites Bodin as a way to envision a particular affective outcome of the trials. In his 1700 (circulated, but unpublished) response to Cotton Mather's history of the previous year, More Wonders of the Invisible World, Calef is intensely critical of the abuses of the preceding witch trials, yet similarly to Increase Mather, he refers to census advocate Bodin as a way to place the responsibility for what [End Page 670] occurred outside the community. Calef accuses the devil of "leading us to a trusting in blind guides, such as the corrupt practices of some other countries, or the bloody experiments of Bodin, and such other authors."62 Here Calef appears to be referring to the theme of ruthlessness present in Bodin's demonology, expressed in admonishments such as "One must not submit witches to mild torments," because, as Bodin claims, the guilty are impervious to them.63 The devil was indeed at work in the colony, Calef argues, but in convincing colonists to follow the ideas of outsiders like Bodin. The witch hunts were an example of the consequences of "trusting" in the wrong things. The affect Calef embraces here is one of betrayal caused by "blind guides" from "other countries," pointing the way forward as one of firmly establishing boundaries between insiders and outsiders in order to determine trustworthiness. Whereas Increase Mather turned to Bodin at a moment when he was advocating a regretless mourning as a way to move beyond the Salem killings, Calef invokes the same author to turn feelings of betrayal into an increased solidification of the community's boundaries.

Imposing boundaries between intermingling groups—knowing the difference between insiders and outsiders; between right-feeling and wrong-feeling individuals; or, in Van Engen's words, the "drawing together of like unto like"—is an essential step in the taking of a population count. Any census count requires some kind of endpoint to make it coherent—a border; a definition of citizenship; an idea of the human. Without a limit of community or geography or species, the count could potentially continue on to infinity. When the chroniclers of a colony extraordinarily invested in conflicts over vital statistics registration invoked one of the most influential, early population theorists, they infuse the reproduction-focused anxieties of the witch hunts with instructions on how to feel within a community in the aftermath. Talk about counts and population and censuses in New England had never been solely about economics or political control but always also involved making sure that these practices were accountable to God. Because of this, it makes sense that the particular population work of this last intense witch hunt would focus on not just being but feeling like a member of a clearly enumerable community, one whose limits could not possibly be "more clear," in Mather's words. It also makes sense that Massachusetts would continue to refuse to produce a census for another seventy-three years after 1692. As long as any counts were God's accounts, colonial leaders and chroniclers could transform lingering fears of satanic forces posing a danger to reproductive processes into a regime of affective control. The chroniclers needed to restore balance in the colonial communal [End Page 671] body, ensuring that no melancholy was "phrenetick melancholy" and that no sympathy was denied except when it properly needed to be. The Salem terror taught the settler colonists to mourn without remorse; to sympathize but still punish; and to bestow trust and betrayal. Before a count could serve the ends of economic data, it had to be worked out in spiritual terms of malevolence and providence, conditions from which affects could be carefully curated symptoms.

Molly Farrell

Molly Farrell is associate professor of English at Ohio State University. She explores the intersections of early American literature, the history of science, early modern affects, and feminism. Her first book, Counting Bodies: Population in Colonial American Writing, was published by Oxford University Press in 2016 (paperback, 2019). Her articles have appeared in American Literature and Early American Literature, and her research has been supported by the American Antiquarian Society, the Huntington Library, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is currently completing a book on forms of numeracy titled New World Calculation: The Making of Numbers in Colonial America.


I would like to thank Lorrayne Carroll for her thoughtful response to an early draft of this essay shared at the Society of Early Americanists conference in Tulsa; and Michele Lise Tarter and Nicole Dittmer for that productive panel on witches. Since then, this essay has benefited greatly from the careful and generous feedback of (as ever) Jesse Schotter, Jill Galvan, Sean O'Sullivan, Leslie Lockett, and Jacob Risinger. I am grateful to Michelle Burnham for reading the manuscript at a crucial stage; and I am deeply indebted to the patient and thorough work of my anonymous reviewer and the special issue editors Greta LaFleur and Kyla Schuller. Lastly, thanks to Delia Schotter for her on-time arrival.

1. James H. Cassedy claims, "This continuing concern attests to the high standing that vital registration had among the Puritans" (Demography in Early America: Beginnings of the Statistical Mind, 1600–1800 [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969], 32).

2. Befitting an essay in a special issue on the "origins of biopolitics," much of the terminology used in my analysis is anachronistic, since these concepts were necessarily contested in flux. For Michel Foucault, "population" denotes an "absolutely new political personage" in relation to a shifting "system of power" (Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978, ed. Michael Senellart, trans. Graham Burchell [New York: Picador, 2007], 66–67). He dates this newness to the eighteenth century and names this system biopower. As he notes, before this time "the problem of population" was raised "in an essentially negative way" (67). English-language dictionaries bear out a history of negativity, given that they list the only definitions of population as "a wasting" up until the end of the seventeenth century (see Molly Farrell, Counting Bodies: Population in Colonial American Writing [New York: Oxford University Press, 2016], 5–6). When I refer to "population" throughout this essay, I do not indicate the presence of a Foucauldian biopolitical political personage. Rather, I refer to something more akin to the emerging positive definition circulating in the seventeenth century—but not in wide use—of a gathering of potentially countable people.

3. Seventeenth-century English speakers would more likely think of "generation" or "propagation" than "reproduction," a neologism that appeared in the late eighteenth century as a way to discuss human, plant, and animal processes using the same word—something that would be anathema to the colonial Puritans. I use it in this essay to mean both the biological creation of children and the socially reproductive work of raising them.

4. Some affect theorists insist on a clear distinction between affect and feeling or emotion, such as Brian Massumi and Marta Figlerowicz; others, including Sianne Ngai and Sara Ahmed, see the two terms as in relation to each other, either by "intensity or degree" or "stickiness," respectively. See Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002); Figlerowicz, Spaces of Feeling: Affect and Awareness in Modernist Literature (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2017); Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 27; and Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), 230n1. All of this is further complicated by the projection of psychoanalytic conceptions of affect back onto the seventeenth century, in which "the passions" were inextricable from humoral theories that conceptualized the body and its sensations in terms of regulation and balance. Gail Kern Paster describes affects for the early moderns as inextricable with passions, humors, and "the perturbations of the soul" that resemble feelings: "For the early moderns, … affective life was constituted by the humors coursing through the bloodstream and saturating the flesh" (Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004], 22). Throughout this essay, I describe affects among the colonial New England settlers as detectable feelings such as melancholy, sympathy, or unease that emerge from the flow of humors and contain the potential to throw a body or—notably in the case of witch-hunting terrors—a communal body out of balance.

5. See Gunnar Heinsohn and Otto Steiger, "Birth Control: The Political-Economic Rationale behind Jean Bodin's Démonomanie," History of Political Economy 31.3 (1999): 423–48.

6. Jean Bodin, On the Demon-Mania of Witches, trans. Randy A. Scott, abr. Jonathan L. Pearl (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 1995), 138.

7. John M. Murrin, "Coming to Terms with the Salem Witch Trials," in The Enduring Fascination with Salem Witchcraft (Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 2003), 338.

8. Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 19, 58.

9. Lisa Lowe, The Intimacies of Four Continents (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), 5, 7.

10. Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, "Salem Possessed in Retrospect," The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 65.3 (2008): 522.

11. Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), 209–10.

12. For a discussion on the notion of sexuality in eighteenth-century North America—just after the period I discuss here—see Greta LaFleur, The Natural History of Sexuality in Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018).

13. Jane Kamensky, Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 171.

14. Carol F. Karlsen, Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England (New York: Norton, 1987).

15. John Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 162.

16. "It cannot be a pure coincidence," Federici argues, "that at the very moment when population was declining, and an ideology was forming that stressed the centrality of labor in economic life, severe penalties were introduced in the legal codes of Europe to punish women guilty of reproductive crimes" (Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation [Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2014], 184).

17. Federici, 87.

18. Kyla Schuller, The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018), 5.

19. See Abram Van Engen, Sympathetic Puritans: Calvinist Fellow Feeling in Early New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

20. I have argued elsewhere that despite the perils of reproducing exceptionalism involved in making connections between seventeenth-century New England and US culture, "we need to find a way to work diachronically without drawing a straight line" ("Disgusting Affects from the Antinomian Controversy to the Antiabortion Movement," American Literature 90.4 [2018]: 789).

21. John Milton, "Paradise Regained," in Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1957), bk. 4, ll. 409–12.

22. Robert René Kuczynski, "The Registration Laws in the Colonies of Massachusetts Bay and New Plymouth," Publications of the American Statistical Association 7.51 (1900): 9.

23. See Robert Gutman, "Birth and Death Registration in Massachusetts. I. The Colonial Background, 1639–1800," Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 36.1 (1958): 70–71.

24. Gutman, 63.

25. Gutman, 73.

26. Jean Bodin, The Sixe Bookes of a Common-weale, trans. Richard Knolles (London: G. Bishop, 1606), 639, Early English Books Online,

27. 2 Sam. 24:2 (AV).

28. W. S. Rossiter, A Century of Population Growth from the First Census of the United States to the Twelfth, 1790–1900 (Washington, DC: Govt. Printing Office, 1909), 3.

29. Rossiter, 3.

30. Rivett argues for the complementarity of accusations of witchcraft and movements toward an empirical mindset: "Rather than a symbol of a fading occult worldview, the devil in Salem represented a phase of an emerging Enlightenment modernity" (The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011], 226).

31. See Increase Mather, A Brief History of the WARR with the Indians (Boston: Printed and sold by John Foster over against the Sign of the Dove, 1676), Early American Imprints, ser. 1, no. 220, docs., 27.

32. See Ezra Stiles, A Discourse on the Christian Union (Boston: Edes and Gill, 1761), 120–21.

33. Gutman, "Birth and Death Registration in Massachusetts," 61.

34. Gutman, 61, 63.

35. See Michael Garibaldi Hall, Edward Randolph and the American Colonies, 1676–1703 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960), 118, 122.

36. See Hall, 83.

37. Rossiter, "Century of Population Growth," 4.

38. Cassedy, Demography in Early America, 37.

39. Bermuda had its large-scale (especially relative to its size) spate of witch trials and executions between 1651 and 1655. See Elaine Forman Crane, Witches, Wife Beaters, and Whores: Common Law and Common Folk in Early America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011), 46.

40. Murrin, "Coming to Terms with the Salem Witch Trials," 345.

41. Murrin, 338.

42. David D. Hall, Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England: A Documentary History, 1638–1692 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), 267.

43. "Physical Examinations No. 1 & No. 2 of Bridget Bishop, Rebecca Nurse, Elizabeth Procter, Alice Parker, Susannah Martin, & Sarah Good," in Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, ed. Bernard Rosenthal et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 362.

44. "Physical Examinations," 363 (editors' notes).

45. Hall, Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England, 284.

46. Hall, 297.

47. Hall, 298.

48. See Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse, "The Problem of Population and the Form of the American Novel," American Literary History 20.4 (2008): 667–85.

49. The copy from Mather's library is held at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.

50. Increase Mather, Cases of Conscience concerning evil spirits personating men, witchcrafts, infallible proofs of guilt in such as are accused with that crime. All considered according to the Scriptures, history, experience, and the judgment of many learned men (Boston: Benjamin Harris, 1693), Early American Imprints, ser. 1, no. 658,, 59.

51. Mather, 59.

52. Mather, 60.

53. Bodin, Demon-Mania, 195.

54. Mather, Cases of Conscience, 60.

55. Van Engen, Sympathetic Puritans, 201.

56. Van Engen, 60.

57. Mather, Cases of Conscience, 60.

58. Mather, 60.

59. Quoted in Mather, 61–62.

60. See Michelle Burnham, Folded Selves: Colonial New England Writing in a World System (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2007), 147–77.

61. Mather, Cases of Conscience, 62.

62. Robert Calef, More Wonders of the Invisible World (Salem, 1797), Early American Imprints, ser. 1, no. 30149,, from the Epistle to the Reader.

63. Bodin, Demon-Mania, 200.

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