Case Of The Salem Witch Trials
The greatest and most detrimental outburst of witchcraft in all of American history took place in Salem, Massachusetts. Today, the United States Court systems abide to the idea that one is innocent until proven guilty. On the contrary, the exact opposite was said to be true in the Salem Witch Trials.
There were more than two hundred people accused, their reputations destroyed and lives ruined. Furthermore, twenty-seven of those two hundred were executed in an unfair trial. In addition to women being accused, many children and even men were not safe. The Witch Trials impacted Salem politically through the corruption of government and mass hysteria, religiously through the change of church and state and belief of the devil, and socially through the divide of the town into two groups.
The Salem Witch Trials lasted from February 1692 to May 1693- a short amount of time but enough to cause immense damage. A lot was changing in colonial America at the time. Salem was divided into a prosperous town and farming village, causing fighting over resources, politics, and religion in the town. All before the trials even began the villagers split into sides over whether to declare independence from the town. But in 1689 the pro-separations won the right to establish their own church. The citizens picked Reverend Samuel Parris as their puritan minister. He was an extremely strict man who was the father and uncle of two of the girls accusing town members which increased the conflict. Then the first colonists were charged with witchcraft, Sarah Goode and Sarah Osborne both outcasts in the town accused by teenage girls who were trying to cover up a bunch of lies. Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Ann Putman, and Elizabeth Parris all ranging from age 11 to 21 were danced in the woods because Abigail said so and they were scared of her and also enjoyed the attention but Abigail Williams their leader was trying to conjure spirits to try to kill Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail used to work for her and while there she had an affair with Elizabeth’s husband John Proctor and fell in love with him. She wanted Elizabeth gone she can be with John but John wants nothing to do with her, and regrets his mistake. Abigail was very manipulative and would do anything to get what she wants even if that means ruining the lives of two hundred people. Then from two it turned to two hundred accused and the whole town being divided and broken apart by mass hysteria and belief that the devil was present in people’s souls around them. Eventually after realising the mistakes made the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and apologized to the families whose love members were convicted. It also lead to the removal of Reverend Parris and court.
Politically the trials and the town’s government was corrupt and unfair because they were conducted by men who were not trained lawyers, and who judged suspects who had no legal representation. In the trials there was an obvious lack of proof, but what worked in the girls favor was the irrational fear held by the general public which increased when Tituba, one of the women that was accused lied and stated that she was in fact, working for the devil. A bunch of accused people did admit to working with the devil even when they were not because of the courts implementings. The government didn’t give them a chance if you were accused you either confessed and your reputation was destroyed and put into jail or you didn’t and were executed, it was a lose lose situation. Also people who were accused had to with durin dangerous witch tests like the swimming test where they would tie them up throw them in the water and if he/she floated they were a witch, but drowning was a possibility. Or sometimes they would dunk the accused witch in water until they finally confessed. Now the constitution of the United States of America, states that everyone is equal. Equal opportunities, and equal justice even if they think your a witch, but over 250 witchcraft trials took place without that reasoning. Also back then power was everything and power hungry individuals would do anything to get the edge leading to more accusations. An example is when the Putmans would excuse farmers in order to gain their land. This effected every person in Salem not just the poor, but the people of the highest class too, no one was safe from the madness.
Without this government would things have escalated as they did? People were scared and under the fear of being accused next which then lead to the economic growth of the town to decrease, because people wouldn’t buy from certain stores or be associated with certain people if accused or on different side as them. An example is a farmer was accused, people rather starve then buy their crops from that farmer, so they would go out of business or sell their land. In Salem during the trials, if accused there was no saving you. An example of this is because of John Hathorne, during the trials he turned into a prosecutor rather than an impartial judge, he didn’t give you a chance and he lead to the hysteria. After the trials the divide of church and state followed. After the girls were caught dancing in the woods, two girls of the same family started experiencing seizures, fits, and expressing unusual behavior, so without medical background it was easy to put the blame on the devil because religion was such a big part of everyone’s lives in the puritan church. The government in Salem realised they needed to separate the Puritan church to the government before another outbreak occurred. But without the Salem Witch trials would we have evolved to the separation of church and state, or would are government still evolve around religion?
Religion was not a component of life to the Puritans, life revolved around their religion. A big belief was that God would protect his servants unconditionally and would keep them out of harmr’s way. So, when difficulties in the community began to arise, the blame was easily placed on the Devil and the witches that were carrying out his work for him. But they also believed the Devil only had a short time left in which to turn people against God, and due to the various difficulties in the community, the community believed that the time had come and the Devil had already begun to recruit people in the community to carry out his work. The town all so believed strongly in the wrath of God and did everything they could to prevent themselves from receiving it, that?› why there way of life was so strict and why the witch scare was taken so seriously and the accused were punished so harshly. The Puritans believed that the Devil was as real as God and that those members of society who were the weakest at upholding Puritan values and morals, specifically women and children, would be selected to carry out his work. Witches were believed to do just this, and therefore were deemed punishable under Puritan Law. The Salem trials turned people from the church after the trials because they did not know what to believe after and to start thinking on their own, these executions opened their eyes to what was right in front of them, the corruption of religion and how overbeiliving something can make people go crazy.
Religion is much different than it was back then. Christian beliefs are moral, and do not praise the works of the Devil. Religion is still a big part in a lot of people’s life but as we evolved it is not priority like it was in 1953. Though the Puritans were heavy believers in God, they would almost chastise anyone who did not cooperate in the works of God. The witches were prosecuted on trial for their religious practices by which the Puritans did not agree with. For example after being arrested, a man by the name of Giles Corey refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, so they executed him by crushing him with stones for two days of pain. This changed religious views today because people are able to practice their own religious faith. They intended to build a society based on their religious beliefs not on ones like Judge danforth the person who overviewed the trials and who agreed with the imprisoned and hanging of innocent people.
Right before the witch trials took place, a smallpox outbreak spread through the town of Salem causing even more stress than about to come. Another thing that happened before the trials was one of the first social divides, it was pro-separations vs anti-separations groups in the town. History has repeated itself because then it was loyalists vs patriots and now Democrats vs Republicans. The residents of Salem were divided into two main groups, one ran by the Porters who were the head of the anti-separation group and the Putnams the head of the pro-separation group. This means there was a group that wanted to separate from Salem town and form Salem Village, and those who desired to stay together as the same community. The residents that wanted to separate consisted mainly of farming families, whereas those that wished to stay together were typically tied to Salem Townr’s thriving and rich harbors. The group in favor of separation based their argument on the fact that Salem Townr’s thriving economy made it too individualistic.The impact this social divide had on the town may have been the reason the trials were caused. Everyone was stressed out, kids were board and people hated their neighbors and wanted them to pay. When the girls accused someone it didn’t have to get out of hand but with the town was broken apart for example the Putmans were jealous of Rebecca nurse because of her eight healthy kids and Mrs. Putman had 4 miscarriages so when she was accused the Putmans started to think maybe she was conjuring spirits to help her have kids and then agreed with the accusations and added to them. Rebecca Nurse was executed because she rather die an innocent woman than confess to being a witch to save her life, which more than fifteen of the accused did including John proctor. The trials changed people’s opinion and relationships with their friends, neighbors and even family. Making them make decision they wouldn’t even imagine.
Governor Phips who ran the courts of Oyer and Terminer believed strongly in witchcraft, but many people suspect that he was aware of people being falsely accused. When the girls were found dancing naked in the woods around a fire drinking chicken blood and when someone saw and reported them, they said the devil’s servants had possessed them. He believed them without doubt or evidence. He was a huge reason that spectral evidence was allowed as evidence in the trials, because he didn’t do his job properly. An example is when he imprisoned Dorcas Good who was only four years old, he also put in jail an eight year old girl named Sarah Carrier. Phipps became a controversial figure, not only for allowing spectral evidence during the trials, but also because after the trials ended, he tried to shift the blame to his Lieutenant Governor, William. After the trials the girls were not even charged. Abigail ran away but not after breaking into reverend parris house and stealing all his money and only one of the other girls wrote an apology to the victims love ones. This continued to cause anger to the people of salem for many generations after the event, but it shaped there community as well and impacted the lives of everyone in it, some for better some for worse, but they all came out survivors of the Salem Witch trials.
The Salem Witch trials continues to fascinate historians and we continue to ask why, in a society that should have known better, did this happen? Its impact socially, religiously and politically will continue to impact us as it did every part of the town of Salem in 1953. Are government and the mass hysteria caused, religiously the impact it had on the separation of church and state and socially the divide of the town into two groups and how it impacts may have lead to the executions of twenty innocent people will never be forgotten. The Salem Witch trials had so much negative but now its a learning tool for our society and we learn from their mistakes so we don’t repeat them.
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