The witch trials of the late 1600's were full of controversy and uncertainty. The Puritan town of Salem was home to most of these trials, and became the center of much attention in 1692. More than a hundred innocent people were found guilty of practicing witchcraft during these times, and our American government forced over a dozen to pay with their lives. The main reasons why the witch trials occurred were conflicts dealing with politics, religion, family, economics, and fears of the citizens.
Before the town of Salem became so famous for its trials, its Puritan residents moved from their English homes to escape from religious persecution. There were two groups of people that made up the town: people who wanted to leave the town of Salem, and people who did not. Most of the families who wanted to stay lived closest to the town, and the families who wanted to leave lived further away. The families and people who wished to leave were typically farmers, and lived about eight miles from Salem Town. One of the largest families of farmers was the Putnams.
The Putnams were thought of highly in the village, because they owned the most farmland. Since they wanted to separate from the town, they decided to establish their own church in 1689. Rev. Parris was the preacher at the church, and his salary was paid by the local taxes. He had a nine-year-old daughter named Betty, and a twelve year old niece named Abigail Williams. Since they lived so far away from Salem Town, there wasn't much for them to do for recreational purposes. Abigail, Betty, and two other friends decided to form a circle where they would entertain each other with stories.
Rev. Parris' slave, Tituba, would sometimes participat...
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...th by crushing rocks. Even though the trials were over, there were still lots of people who couldn't pay for their release because they didn't have enough money. The law stated that prisoners had to pay for their food and board before they could be released. Even those who did get out of jail lost all of their land to the government.
Our American government made terrible mistakes back in the 1690's. All of the events that took place in Salem are examples of how our legal system reacted from fear and panic rather than from solid evidence. As the fear escalated, innocent individuals
were persecuted, abused, and finally killed because they stood up for what they
believed in, and refused to go against God and "lie". The Salem Witch Trials should be a sobering reminder to us of how fear can ultimately affect the concept and function of justice within the world.
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