Salem Witch Trials
Length: 1747 words (5 double-spaced pages)
Salem did have two distinct parts: Salem Town and Salem Village. Salem was actually part of Salem Town but was set apart by its economy, class, and character. Residents of Salem Village were mostly poor farmers who made their living cultivating crops. But Salem Town was a wealthy town where the center of trade took place. Most of those living in Salem Town were wealthy merchants. For many years, Salem Village tried to gain independence from Salem Town.
Salem Village did not have its own church and minister until 1674. But there was also a division within Salem Village. Those who lived near Ipswich Road, close to the trade of Salem Town, became merchants. They prospered and supported the economic changes taking place. But many of the farmers who lived far from this richness believed the worldliness and wealth of Salem Town threatened their Puritan values. Tensions became worse when Salem Village selected Reverend Samuel Parris as their new minister. Parris was a stern Puritan who denounced the worldly ways and economic prosperity of Salem Town as the influence of the Devil. It is likely that the jealousies and fighting between these two towns played a major role in the witch trials. Most of the villager's accused of witchcraft lived near Ipswich Road, and the accusers lived in the distant farms of Salem Village. It is not surprising that Reverend Parris was a forceful supporter of the witch trials, and his passionate moral speeches helped reduce the panics of many people. When the accusations started, the first three witches to get accused of witchcraft were Tituba, Sarah Osborne, and Sarah Good. All three women were prime candidates for the accusations of witchcraft. Sarah Osborne was an elderly lady who had not gone to church in over a year, and poor church attendance was a Puritan sin. Sarah Good was a homeless woman who begged door to door. If people failed to give her alms, she would utter unknown words and leave. Residents would often attribute her visits to death of livestock. They believed the mumbled words she spoke under her breath were curses against them for not showing her charity. Once the three women were investigated, they were put in prison and accused of witchcraft. After they were charged, there were many more accusations and investigations. There was a small pox outbreak recently after the three women were put in jail. This created an anxiety among the early Puritans that God was punishing them and because of this fear they wanted to make sure that every last witch be discovered and punished in order to end their anger and fear. By the end of May 1692, around 200 people were jailed under the charges of witchcraft. The hangings of six convicted witches did little in lessening the spread of witchcraft in Massachusetts during the summer months of 1692. More people began displaying signs of affliction. As a result, accusations and arrests for witchcraft continued to grow in number, resulting in 118 people accused.
It comes to show by personal stories and facts that witches were persecuted for their actions amongst other people. The parents of young girls claimed that the witches afflicted their child or children and that the witches crafted spells on their children. People were convinced that the smallpox epidemic had something to do with witchcraft as well. Because so many people were accused, that means that every witch affected somebody in some way, which proves my point that the witches had a huge impact on the economy. The persecutors didn't persecute them for religious reasons, they persecuted them because they were performing witchcraft and that was illegal, but it was taking a toll on the economy. People were having fears of witches, some were having hallucinations, and they blamed this all on the witches. The persecutors of Salem wanted these "witches" to be put in jail because they felt that they had a bad affect on society and they didn't want their village to have fears or hallucinations. Many things went on after the trials of witches and many people blamed it on the witches and God's way of punishing them. I believe that the persecutors weren't really persecuting the witches for not believing in the same God, since most of them were Puritans. It doesn't make sense for the town to persecute the witches mainly for their religion, they did it because they felt that the witches actually were performing witchcraft on people in the community. So the persecutors had every belief that these women and some men were "witches." But after the first persecution, everything bad that happened in the town of Salem, people could have brought it to the jury and told them that this person performed witchcraft. Since so many people were accused of witchcraft, it is almost unreal to believe. If someone's child had a hallucination or was acting funny, they immediately wanted to blame someone for it, and they thought of a person they didn't like or was not an average person, and they accused them of witchcraft. So many people were being accused, that if you went to the jury's and accused someone of witchcraft they almost always put them in jail. Also, when the town arrested these "witches", most of these people's families had to move out of their houses and many became ill and poor because they did not have enough money to keep themselves alive. Since most families sold their land or were ordered to give it up, the town was collecting more and more land, which means that they benefited from it because they made money off of the unused land. Many people do believe that the richer people in Salem tried to get the poorer people of Salem in jail so they could tend their land. It was said that they did this all because of Ipswich Road since many people became merchants near that road. So the people in the richer part of Salem didn't want the poor to become rich and most of the accusers of the trials were rich people from Salem who lived far away from the poor.
Church was the basis of 17th century life in New England and most people in Massachusetts were Puritans. But in the strict Puritan system, it was against the law not to attend church. The Puritan lifestyle was reserved and strict: People were expected to work hard and hold back their emotions and opinions. Since Puritans were expected to live by a firm moral code, they believed that all sins should be punished. They also believed God would punish sinful behavior. Puritans also believed the Devil was as real as God. Everyone was faced with the struggle between the powers of good and evil, but Satan would select the weakest individuals, women, children, and the insane, to carry out his work. Those who followed Satan were considered witches. In keeping with the Puritan code of agreement, the first women to be accused of witchcraft in Salem were seen as different and as social outcasts. So some say, that because witchcraft was so wrong in the Puritan code, people wanted to persecute them immediately. Since most of the people in Salem were Puritans and followed their rules very strictly, when they heard of someone being a witch or involved in witchcraft, it offended them to the greatest extent. People wanted these witches to be brought to jail immediately since they were committing a huge crime. Although I believe that the religion of the witches had something to do with their persecution, I still believe it had more to do with economics.
Everyone has different opinions about why the witches were accused and persecuted, but after researching this topic I stand by my opinion that: the Salem Witch Trials were more an economic persecution than religious; using religion as a guise to gain property. The facts are there; there were two different social groups, and since the rich had more money they wanted to get rid of the poor so they could have the land all to themselves. Soon when hundreds of people were being accused, you can believe that the rich people of Salem were simply accusing people just so they could take their land and get the poor people out of Salem. I believe religion may have played a minor roll in the persecution, since most of the accused witches were Protestant, and witchcraft was a huge error in Protestanism. Witches were said to have affected many people in Salem and the people who accused them or believed that they had affected their lives, simply never wanted to see them again. I think that there may have been people in Salem who preformed "witchcraft" but because so many people were accused of being witches, it is almost unreal to believe. It seems almost unrealistic that all of the people accused preformed witchcraft, and that they were simply accused for no reason. No matter which way you look at the Salem Witch Trials, hundreds of people were accused of "witchcraft" and most of those witches died, became ill, or got out of jail and had no family or no home. It was a very sad and depressing time for Salem, but I guess you can say that the rich people of Salem got the land that they wanted and used Ipswich Road to their advantage.