Did the US burn a man for witchcraft in 1779?

Since we seem to be on a death-penalty kick here at the SDMB this month :

Occasionally on the SDMB or elsewhere someone will ask how many witches were burned at the stake during the Salem witch-trials. The answer is “none” (they were all hanged, and one man was pressed to death for failing to enter a plea). Usually the person answering adds the statement that the US or its earlier colonies never burned anyone for witch-craft.

Which I always thought was true, but then I found this blurb through a wikipedia page. From the journal of the Governor of Illinois County during the Revolutionary War*:

I can’t find anything else on this incident, while I can find a lot of places saying witch-burning was a purely European phenomenon (though the Colonies did burn revolting slaves to death). So I’m curious if anyone has any other confirmation/info on the fate of poor Manuel the slave.

*(not really looking for a semantic argument about whether the Government of Illinois County during the Revolution counts as the US. For the purposes of this question, assume it does).

It is in History of Crawford and Clark Counties, Illinois as well:

http://www.mocavo.com/History-of-Crawford-and-Clark-Counties-Illinois/440152/42

Also this:
Lynching of Jesse Washington

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynching_of_Jesse_Washington

Can someone tell me what an honorable fine is (just in case I’m doing it too)?

Thanks. That seems to confirm it really happened. Interesting the incident isn’t better known, as 1779 seems pretty late for execution for witchcraft. And its the latest case of execution by burning alive in N. America that I can find.

Not a judicial penalty and not due to witch-craft, so not really what I’m looking for. (That said, there seemed to have been a decent number of lynching-via-burnings in the post civil-war US. I’m surprised the topic doesn’t get more attention, given how sensational and gruesome the incidents were, and how many of them seem to be well documented (and in the case of Washington, photographed).)

I found a discussion of both the incident and the phrase in this book. The author opines that the phrase was an awkward translation of a French phrase for doing religious penance (one wonders what they would’ve sentenced the poor guy to if he hadn’t done penance!).

Other fun-fact: John Todd, he who ordered the burning, was grand-uncle to Mary Todd, of later marrying Lincoln fame.

Interesting choice of words there. Decent, I mean.

Voodoo is not witchcraft. Different origins, different religious roots, different emphasis on supernatural energy/contacts.

Too much to go into the differences, but the wiki of both do a good job at stating what each is:


Hmm…I use decent in that way frequently, that is, meaning “a non-trivial percentage of the total”. Not meant in the sense of “appropriate, acceptable” obviously.

But looking at the dictionary, my definition isn’t listed. Is that use unique to me, or is it more widespread?

I use it that way too, but it’s slang, not a real definition, I think. As in “a decent number of students passed the midterm.” But it did seem incongruous to see decent and lynchings in the same sentence!

Yeah, I wasn’t criticizing Simplicio – I am familiar with that use of the phrase, which I would define as “a reasonable [number]” – it just seemed odd, in an ironic sort of way. Please add your choice of smiley to my post.

While the practicitioners of both rituals would think them wildly different, I don’t think the colonists really cared about the finer details, and would have burned both anyway. And it was their opinion that mattered in 1779, for better or worse (definitely worse).

I use it that way as well, but I can’t find that definition in the dictionary either. Perhaps the language change hasn’t caught up to the dictionary makers.

:confused: Surely there was no Illinois in 1779. Wasn’t that area all Indian territory back then.

You can have a decent number of indecent things, just like a good number of bad things. I would tend to use something like an indecent number of lynchings instead. But how is it grammatically? Decent is decribing the number, not the numbered things.

I don’t think you could make that assumption as it was 2 laws primarily used to control 2 different groups. Christianity was used to suppress women and justify slavery. Anti Witchcraft laws (a more female centric religion then the Abrahamic religions) was used often to put women ‘in their place’ to keep them quite, anti voodoo would be used to oppress slaves and disconnect them from their origins.

A translation of amende honorable.

Virginia considered it “Illinois County,” which included all of modern-day Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, as well as part of Minnesota. The county seat was Kaskaskia. Virginia’s claim overlapped with what other states said was theirs, and ultimately it ceded the land to the federal government in 1784.

Going by the dictionary definition, a “decent number of things” implies a moral approval of the number of things, not just saying that they make up a sizable proportion. So a literal reading of my original statement would imply that I approved of the number of people burned alive by lynch mobs.

Going by this thread, it seems common use has moved to what I intended my meaning to be.

Its pretty easy to see how the meaning would shift that way. Almost the same thing has happened with the word “reasonable”. A “reasonable number of Nazi’s” has come to mean a non-trivial amount of Nazi’s, and doesn’t imply that the speaker thinks Nazi’s are reasonable or that any number of Nazi’s is desirable.

To expand: at the time in question the Colonists had captured the territory from the British (with 200 guys, I’m always amused by how small the numbers involved were in some of the more out of the way Revolutionary War battles). The aforementioned Col Todd was made Governor.

As the British had recently taken it from the French, most of the settlements were French, and there still seems to have been a French legal system in place, which is probably where the anti-voodoo ruling came from.

Were there any other burnings for witchcraft in America? Witches had been burned in numerous cases in Europe, but the witches executed in Salem in 1692 were executed by hanging, except for Giles Corey, who was pressed to death because he would plead neither guilty nor innocent. Other witchcraft cases in New England that I’ve come across were similarly handled. I confess that I haven’t looked into witchcraft trials outside New England, though.

I don’t think so (see my OP). There were other judicial executions by burning, and there were other executions for witch-craft, but I think this case is the only case of the two together, which is why I asked about it.

At least by the Colonies/US or the British. Not sure if there were cases amongst the other European powers in N. American. The Spanish don’t seem likely candidates (the Spanish liked burning people to death, but they never got into the witchtrials thing, presumably burning crypto-Jews/Muslims scratched the same itch).

Maybe the French though? The book I linked to above posits that the Illinois witch-burning was due to the influence of French law in the area. So maybe they were burning slaves for Voodoo in Quebec or New Orleans as well?