Friday, October 30, 2015

Famed attorney Clarence G. Darrow (1857-1938) compared Witchcraft to Capital Punishment

Clarence G. Darrow (1857-1938), eminent lawyer & scholar, is quoted in the Harrisburg "Patriot," Feb. 21, 1929:

"Belief in witchcraft cannot, in itself, be thought a crime. If it is there would be but few of us really innocent. Not so many years ago our best people & devout Christians not only believed in witches but guaranteed their celestial happiness by murdering them.

"We placidly admit that there are sections of our country where people are isolated by their own customs & thought, or by geography, & live quaintly a century & a half behind our little more enlightened communities. But we forget that a mere century & a half takes us almost back to Cotton Mather & the stake. Then witches were hanged for the glory of God & for the peace of mind of those who thought they had been or might be bewitched. There are today groups of people who have advanced but little in mentality beyond the ignorant frenzy that glorified in hangings.

1925 Photo of Clarence G. Darrow (1857-1938)

"Even today a literal interpretation of the Bible would force us to believe in witchcraft & sorcery. And those simple folk of which that Curry boy is a product hold strictly to the Word just as they find it. To them the Witch of Endor is very real. The devil is real. Spells are real. In their world, furnished by traditions, myths & Old World lore, handed down unchanged from one generation to another, there are evil spirits as certain as a flying railroad train bearing down on a motorist stalled on the tracks...

"Our belief in capital punishment as a deterrent is just another form of witchcraft. Apart from the mass desire for revenge, there is a subconscious desire to rid ourselves of what we believe to be an evil person. We look in vain for any proof that executions have had any effect on crime. When England punished by death everything from bread & sheep stealing to wholesale killing, crime was far more general than it is today. Education & the training of youth in trades & profession has diminished crime, never the death penalty.

"Isn't there every reason to believe that the crime of murder is a symptom. In the York case it was clearly a symptom of a prevailing ignorance, a condition which should never be allowed to exist in the State of Pennsylvania."