This is a portion of a quote from the Recantation of Margaret Jacobs, (Hutchinson 30-31) who was accused of witchcraft during the infamous Salem Witch Hunt of 1692 that took place in and around Salem, Massachusetts. Nearly seventeen years old at the time, Margaret Jacobs confessed she had participated in the practice of witchcraft along with former Puritan minister, George Burroughs, and her own grandfather, George Jacobs, Sr. Both men had already been accused of practicing witchcraft by other citizens of the Salem Village community and were eventually executed for their alleged crimes. Self-confession or placing suspicion on others of being involved in witchcraft seemed, at the time, to be the only means of self-defense for persons who were accused of being witches during this dark period in seventeenth century New England.
Prosecution of suspected witches in New England was not uncommon during the middle to late 1660’s and as the early 1690’s approached a panic ensued and accusations of witchcraft and sorcery among the townsfolk soared. “During the year 1692, over 150 men and women from roughly two dozen different towns and villages (near Salem Village) were formally charged with the crime of witchcraft” (Godbeer 28). On May 27, 1692, Governor William Phipps ordered the establishment of a Special Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) for Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex counties (Smithsonianmag.com) as an emergency court of law to help resolve the e...
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...major part in the Panic of 1692. To the Puritans, the Devil was certainly just as real and powerful as God was and “explaining illness or misfortune in terms of witchcraft would have made good sense to early New Englanders, given the way they viewed and experienced the world around them”(Godbeer 7).
By the time the Salem witch hunt ended in 1693, nineteen convicted witches were executed, at least four accused witches had died in prison, and one man had been pressed to death. About two hundred other persons were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges (law2.umck.edu). Over fifty persons indicted in 1692 confessed that they were witches (Godbeer 28) to avoid being executed. With most, confession and repentance was the only solution to avoid prison, physical torture, or death while others cooperated with authorities in naming other witches to avoid prosecution.
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