Salem Witch Trials

The Salem witch trials are a major event in the history of Massachusetts in 1962. The accusations, trials, and executions can be associated with the Salem economic condition, youths being so unoccupied, jealousy between individuals, and the congregational rivalry. These were a chain of trials in Suffolk, Middlesex, and Essex. Salem witch trials occurred starting from early February in 1692 to middle 1693. The hearings were in the county courts. In 1692, the major hearing was done in Salem town in a county court, Oyer and Terminer. In this event, about 150 people were accused of being witches but only 26 of them were convicted as being witches. The search of witches was not only in Salem but into other villages like Boston and Ipswich which added other three people into the list of witches. Nineteen of the witches were charged with witchcraft and were hanged while others died in jail, and one was stoned by the villagers. This happened because the justice system of Salem was compromised.

The story of witchcraft in Salem dates back to the year 1688 when the village got a new preacher by the name Samuel Parris. His family was composed of one daughter, niece, wife, and a slave. It is at this time that there were so many changes taking place in the Salem village, merchants had started their trading activities, Putnam’s and the Porters were fighting over leadership positions in the community, and people were working on strategies on making the village of Salem independent. Negotiations to make Salem village a center of sea trade were still going on.

During February 1962, the daughter of Reverend Parris became ill and the people of Salem were convinced that the Reverend’s daughter had been bewitched. This message was explained by a book “Memorable Providences” Everyone stated talking about witchcraft and the whole thing became elevated. Later, three more children developed the same disease and when a doctor was called to confirm, he said that the diseases had a supernatural origin. The number of children who were developing this strange disease continued to grow and as a result, it increased fears to the society. To many villagers, the bewitching of the girls became a true event and they were deeply convinced that the devil was at work. Tituba, a woman in the reverend’s neighborhood made a witch cake which made the village people to think of her as a witch. This made her and other two women:  Tituba, Sarah Good – a beggar, and Sarah Osborn-old woman who was not a church goer, to be arrested.

The Putnam’s where the one who were pressing so much on the mentioned women to be tried in the country courts. During the hearing of the case, there were so many people which caused the court proceedings to be transferred to the meeting house. In the court, everyone was against the three women, with the girls behaving in a way they had practiced. They used to fall down when they spotted any of the three women. This made the magistrates to be convinced that these women were witches. The questions to the magistrates showed that the magistrates were deeply convinced that the women where big time witches.

All the accusations could have been ignored due to lack of solid evidence, were it not for Tituba who claimed to have been approached a Boston man who recruited her to their system. The man was said to have been appeared as a dog. This was a clear indication that she was a witch. This made witchcraft to be a big concern to the people of Salem. With time, the list of witches grew, with even children being termed as witches. A good example is a daughter of Mrs. Good. As the list grew bigger, no any villagers wanted to be to question the witch trial process. All those people who came to defend the witches or tried to defend the witch hunt were hanged or stoned to death.

George Burroughs, a former minister in Salem was also accused of being the leader of the witches. There were a total of thirty people who accused him among them being Ann Putnam. She accused him of bewitching the Salem soldiers which caused them to be defeated in the frontier wars. In the middle 1692, the desire to terminate witchcraft by killing them was at its heights. They had killed many respectable people basing on vague foundations.

The group of elite started their campaigns to stop the witch hunting processes by educating people. The team was led by Reverend John Hale who was baffled by the fact that, Salem had many educated people but none was able to critically analyze the situation and come with a conclusion that the whole thing was not true. By the time the witch hunting process ended, over nineteen witches had been killed, and four died in Salem jail. About 0.5% of the people who were said to be witches in Salem had been killed and pressed with witchcraft charge. In addition, two dogs which were associated with witches were killed.

Critically analyzing the situation, this act was being carried out by one group who were against another group in this village.  Most of those who were accused to be witches came from the south while the accusers came from the north. Most of the accused were financially better compared to the accusers. It can be deduced that most of the accusers were after financial gains. Religion differences are another thing that seems to have caused the whole hysteria. Most of those who were accused as witches were from George Burroughs congregation and the accusers were from other congregations. Before the witchcraft hysteria, the divisions were still there. It can be seen that the congregational differences played a bigger role in determining who was a witch and who was not. Reverend George Burroughs, was termed as a witch as a way to kick him out of the village of Salem. All these events were caused by little girls. It was an easy situation to control but everyone blew things out of proportion. The witchcraft hysteria was just a way of determining who was to live, who was to die, and who was to be chased from Salem village.

Later, many magistrates publicly confessed that they were barely mistaken when passing their judgment. Other reforms that took pale in Salem were: Thomas Green replaced reverend Parris, and William Stoughton became the new governor of Massachusetts. Strategies to compensate the people who were accused and their families were also being laid.  The 1692 witch-hunting situation in Massachusetts has a lot to teach the world. Justice which can be defined as fairness to all without discrimination was not there in Salem and no wonder over nineteen people died, with others loosing their properties just because of mere accusations. The world must borrow from the 1692 witch-hunting situation in Salem and learn to make fair judgments. Social justice system must be streamlined to take care of all people. It would have been wise for the county courts to analyze the whole situation first before making any judgments about the so called witches. Magistrates should always be neutral on a given situation. The Salem judges supported the group of accusers and this was the greatest motivation factor.

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