Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IX.: OF WITCHES. - An Essay on Crimes and Punishments
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CHAPTER IX.: OF WITCHES. - Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria, An Essay on Crimes and Punishments 
An Essay on Crimes and Punishments. By the Marquis Beccaria of Milan. With a Commentary by M. de Voltaire. A New Edition Corrected. (Albany: W.C. Little & Co., 1872).
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In the year 1748, in the bishopric of Wurtsburg, an old woman was convicted of witchcraft and burnt. This was an extraordinary phenomenon in the present century. But how incredible it seems, that a people, who boasted of their reformation, and of having trampled superstition under their feet, and who flattered themselves that they had brought their reason to perfection; is it not wonderful, I say, that such a people should have believed in witchcraft; should have burnt old women accused of this crime, and that above a hundred years after the pretended reformation of their reason?.
In the year 1652, a country woman, named Michelle Chaudron, of the little territory of Geneva, met the devil in her way from the city. The devil gave her a kiss, received her homage, and imprinted on her upper lip and on her right breast, the mark which he is wont to bestow upon his favourites. This seal of the devil is a little sign upon the skin, which renders it insensible, as we are assured by all the demonographical civilians of those times.
The devil ordered Michelle Chaudron to bewitch two young girls. She obeyed her master punctually. The parents of the two girls accused her of dealing with the devil. The girls, being confronted with the criminal, declared, that they felt a continual prickling in some parts of their bodies, and that they were possessed. Physicians were called, at least men that passed for physicians in those days. They visited the girls. They sought for the seal of the devil on the body of Michelle, which seal is called, in the verbal process, the Satanical mark. Into one of these marks they plunged a long needle, which was already no small torture. Blood issued from the wound, and Michelle testified by her cries that the part was not insensible. The judges not finding sufficient proof that Michelle Chaudron was a witch, ordered her to be tortured, which infallibly produced the proof they wanted. The poor wretch, overcome by torment, confessed at last every thing they desired.
The physicians sought again for the Satanical mark, and found it in a little black spot on one of her thighs. Into this they plunged their needle. The poor creature, exhausted and almost expiring with the pain of the torture, was insensible to the needle, and did not cry out. She was instantly condemned to be burnt; but the world beginning at this time to be a little more civilized, she was previously strangled.
At this period every tribunal in Europe resounded with such judgments, and fire and faggot were universally employed against witchcraft as well as heresy. The Turks were reproached with having amongst them neither sorcerers, witches, nor demoniacs; and the want of the latter was considered as an infallible proof of the falsity of their religion.
A zealous friend to the public welfare, to humanity, and to true religion, in one of his writings in favour of innocence, informs us, that there have been above a hundred thousand witches condemned to die by Christian tribunals. If, to these lawful massacres, we add the much superior number of heretics sacrificed, our part of the globe will appear one vast scaffold covered with executioners and victims, and surrounded by judges, guards, and spectators.