Before the Trials
“Belief in the supernatural–and specifically in the devil’s practice of giving certain humans (witches) the power to harm others in return for their loyalty–had emerged in Europe as early as the 14th century, and was widespread in colonial New England. In addition, the harsh realities of life in the rural Puritan community of Salem Village (present-day Danvers, Massachusetts) at the time included the after-effects of a British war with France in the American colonies in 1689, a recent smallpox epidemic, fears of attacks from neighboring Native American tribes and a longstanding rivalry with the more affluent community of Salem Town (present-day Salem).” (http://www.history.com/topics/salem-witch-trials)
A strong belief in the devil, factions among Salem Village fanatics and rivalry with nearby Salem Town, a recent smallpox epidemic and the threat of attack by warring tribes created a fertile ground for fear and suspicion.
“The Salem Witch trials would be fueled by residents’ suspicions of and resentment toward their neighbors, as well as their fear of outsiders.” (http://www.history.com/topics/salem-witch-trials)
The villagers were split into factions that fiercely debated whether to seek ecclesiastical and political independence from the town.
In 1689 the villagers won the right to establish their own church and chose the Reverend Samuel Parris, a former merchant, as their minister. His rigid ways and seemingly boundless demands for compensation increased the already present friction. Many villagers vowed to drive Parris out, and they stopped contributing to his salary in October 1691.
In addition to the difficulties of farming in a harsh climate with rough terrain, Salem fac...
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... the cases “legal weight.”
Captain Jonathan Walcott: Signed complaints filed.
Mary Walcott: Testified that she was afflicted by over 59 people.
Conclusion and Legacy
Trials continued with dwindling intensity until early 1693, and by that May Phips had pardoned and released all those in prison on witchcraft charges.
Spectral evidence was no longer used.
In January 1697, the Massachusetts General Court declared a day of fasting for the tragedy of the Salem witch trials; the court later deemed the trials unlawful, and the leading justice Samuel Sewall publicly apologized for his role in the process.
As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to the victims ' families.
Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society.
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