For this week in January, my seminar was imparted the task of reading short, satirical essays by Ben Franklin. Of them, the one that stood out to me the most was “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly.”

Whilst reading the text, I could not help but think of this scene…

If you don't know this movie; I can't help you there.

Oh, such a classic.

But really, the article commences that two people accused of witchcraft are being placed on trial. Humorously, according to Franklin, “It seems the Accused had been charged with making their Neighbours Sheep dance in an uncommon Manner, and with causing Hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to the great Terror and Amazement of the Kings good peaceable Subjects…that if the Accused were weighed in Scales against the Bible, the Bible would prove too heavy for them.” Heh. Good one. Thus, when the consultation was held, they placed the accused on the scale. And, low and behold, “to the great Surprize of the Spectators, Flesh and Bones came down plump, and outweighed that great good Book by abundance.”

So then, since the theocratic ruling class has to win (as always), they made an additional “experiment.” So, they threw the accused individuals bodies into the river. (Of course like Monty Python…coincidental?). Binding them, they were again astonished to find out that their bodies were able to float. Scientifically, a person’s lungs are never depleted of oxygen. Their bodies were going to naturally float. (Unless there is fluid in them, then your toast). However, this naive bunch of persecutors just follow along with what they are told. Being completely unsatisfied with their lack of “findings,” they only reschedule their torturing of innocent victims for another day.

As Benjamin Franklin has done so many times in previous writings, he is pointing out the hypocritical theocratic government. Operated by the clergy, this government has been especially known to not promote the sciences. By keeping the poor ignorant class ignorant, they would have to rely on them for everything…including their own common knowledge. Anyone who went against them, and looked to the sciences was going against the church and susceptible for persecution.

Firstly, when they are performing the weight experiment, the human body outweighs the “great good Book.” Newton’s basic principle of gravity. This is a concept individuals cannot escape–not even the church. With learning material becoming cheaper and more widespread, the masses were becoming less depended on the church for information. Franklin is pointing out how religion has kept the masses in the dark for so long; it is time for them to come out and reject religion and find out for themselves, “experiment.”

Secondly, Franklin symbolizes how science always triumphs. Of all the laws to break, you can’t break the laws of physics. It’s in the end when the accused do not drown just because their hands out bound it avidly points out that you can’t put science down. Even after that experiment, they think that making them do it naked later will make a difference. (Satiric bash on the common populace?…I think so!).

And lastly, is it ironic that they are performing experiment in the first place? The church, who is trying to steer the crowds away from the sciences, is actually trying to prove they are right by using a scientific method? Hey, it was what was popular at the time. Why not fight fire with fire, right?

This just all goes to show, just how dualistic the church and the Enlightenment were opposing forces that somehow provided a ying for their yang. But, I have all the rest of the semester to explain more of this topic.

Thanks for reading my muttered jumble!


~ by kellysawesomethoughts on January 27, 2011.

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