Salem Witch Trials Essay Examples

Salem witch trials essays

The Salem Witch Trials was the largest and most lethal outbreak of witchcraft in American history. Salem Village was extremely claustrophobic, isolated, and filled with emotional instability, resentment, and gluttony. These affected girls fell ill after playing a fortune-telling game and later began to act strangely (Brooks). The symptoms of the affected girls included hiding under furniture, contorting in pain, and experiencing a fever (Brooks). The first two affected girls were Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams, they began to name the three women whom they believed were bewitching them. These individuals included Sarah Good, Sarah Osbourn, and Tituba who was a slave at the time. Tituba’s owner at the time was Samual Parris, the affected girl’s father and uncle. All three of these women were considered social outcasts and were easy targets for this suspected crime. However, many individuals believed that the young girls were accusing many of these individuals as an act of revenge, they simply didn’t like the people whom they accused. Fear and hysteria in Salem MA, created a culture that led to the mistreatment of women.

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Witchcraft Accusations in 1692-1693

The Salem witch trials, a cover up for other deeper issues or simply a religious matter? Before the trials began to take place, the puritans had left England due to religious persecution (Brooks, and →). These individuals also feared their religion was under attack again and worried they were losing control of their colony. The idea of a threat to their religion created a feeling of uneasiness and discontent, this idea brought in more intense thoughts of the Devil’s innerworkings. This thought process created a greater “fear of the devil” and led historians to believe that religious feuds and property disputes played a big part in the witch trials (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations from 1692-1693’). The Puritans strongly believed and felt that the Devil was as real as the all holy God whom himself, they loved and worshipped. 

Trouble with Correct Values and Morals

The puritans felt that if members of society were weak or considered the weakest at upholding the correct values and morals, specifically women and children, they would then be selected to carry out the Devil’s dirty work. Witches were considered to be followers of Satan or the Devil and felt as if the accused individuals traded their souls for his assistance. It was believed that they employed demons to accomplish deeds, the act of doing this changed the souls from human to animal form. Many individuals of this religion believed that this is where witches were to come into play or action and therefore were deemed punishable under Puritan Law. The puritans considered one topic or subject higher than the rest and it was to “purify the church of England” if this factor could not be done the puritans wished to create their own church, many sources will say that the result was a cult. Puritans believed that in order for sins to be forgiven one had to withhold a solemn vow or relationship with God. If one was not to maintain the practice of preaching then they were considered sinful. Predestination was the idea that God had chosen you and granted you a certain role. The idea or use of predestination gave the puritans the excuse or power to live “godly lives” and abuse power. 

Sarah Osborne, Sarah Good and Tituba’s Confessions 

During cross-examinations Sarah Osborne claimed innocence as did Sarah Good but Tituba confessed and stated that the devil appeared to her and bid her to serve him (Brooks, and →). Many individuals felt as Tituba taught the young girls how to use the fortune-telling cards, which caused them to experience the “fits.” As the trials reached an ending point a series of misfortunate events began to take place including droughts which resulted in crop failures, the outbreak of smallpox, and Native American attacks. Town folks began to think that this was the work of God, providing them with a form of punishment due to the innocent lives being lost (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). On December 17th, 1697 William Stoughton, who was in charge of the trials conducted or issued a proclamation in the hopes of establishing amends with God himself. On the date of January 15th 1697, a day of prayer and fasting took place to honor the lives that have been lost due to the trials, this date would become to be known as the Day of Official Humiliation (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’).

Reasoning behind the Salem Witch Trials

So, what was the reasoning behind the Salem Witch Trials? Was it the work of the Devil, influencing women and children to act on behalf of him or was it a serious illness caused by their environment? Were these trials an act of revenge among social outcasts or all individuals? Many forms of reasoning have been brought to the table of why this event happened, was it epilepsy, boredom, child abuse, mental illness, or even a disease brought on by eating rye infected with fungus? 

Innocent until proven guilty. A basic right granted to all United States citizens by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11, it states that you have the “right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial.” (‘Why Were The Salem Witch Trials So Significant? | Oupblog’). In May, as the number of cases grew, Governor William Phips set up a special court for the presented cases, this court would become known as the Court of Oyer and Terminer and would hear cases that are extraordinary and serious in nature. During these trials this right of innocence till proven guilty was not given, all suspects were considered guilty. Bridget Bishops was the first woman to be tried and later cleared from the suspected crimes many years into the future, Bishop stated that “I am innocent, I know nothing of it, I have done no witchcraft …. I am as innocent as the child unborn…” Bishop was then hanged on June 10, 1692 at Proctor’s Ledge (Brooks, and →). Later on, in the trials there was a man known as Giles Corey, who brought his trial to a screeching halt by refusing to enter a plea deal (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). 

Torturing of Giles Corey

Corey was put on trial due to his wife’s cross-examination. Any individual who did not voluntarily enter a plea deal was or could be tortured in the attempt to force the agreement and/ or statement out of them. This “legal” method was known as “peine forte et dure” or hard and forceful punishment. This method consisted of placing the prisoner or the accused on the ground, naked as the day they were born with a heavy board on top of them. After this step was done heavy stones were added to the weight every time a plea was refused (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). On September 19th Corey was pronounced dead at the scene (‘Salem Witch Trials’). Soon after this unfortunate event took place the locals began to worry that incidents were killing or harming innocent individuals and tried to convince the local lawmen to dismiss the trials (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). 

Ann Putnam’s and Official Apologies 

On July 23rd a man by the name of John Proctor composed a letter addressed to the clergy in Boston, this letter told the horrific tails of torture that was inflicted on the accused (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). Proctor felt as these accused as well as himself have and will not receive a fair trial and wished to have the trials moved to Boston. By the end of September, the use of supernatural and/or spiritual evidence was declared unacceptable and irrelevant, this small but mighty factor marked the end of the Salem witch trials due to the evidence being easily faked. In the year of 1706, one of the afflicted girls Ann Putnam, Jr., issued a public apology for her role in the Salem Witch Trials, particularly in the case against her neighbor Rebecca Nurse (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). Nurse was a well-respected individual who helped spark the question of if trials were the right course of action. In 1711, the colony of Salem, M passed a bill restoring some of the names of the convicted witches (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). 

In 1957, the state of Massachusetts officially apologized for the Salem Witch Trials (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). It was this same year that the state of Massachusetts cleared the name of some of the remaining victims that were not listed in the 1711 law. The creation of the 1711 bill, restoring the names of the victims of the trials opened a window to possibilities (‘Salem Witch Trials Facts – Witchcraft Accusations From 1692-1693’). These possibilities include the people having a voice, a say of their environment and surroundings. For instance, our nation has a history of great tragedies but we continue to educate ourselves on history in the hopes of prevention, the result of these trials is yes, the death of many individuals but these deaths were ultimately for the greater good due to it resulting in the verdict of spiritual evidence and dreams being deemed unacceptable. 

What We Can Learn from This Tragedy

As you continue to review history you will notice that all events good or bad, better or aid our nation. Such as the history of women and children being easy targets for hardships like abuse and mistreatment lead to the creation of the 19th amendment which states that equal protection and rights are granted to any gender and race of a United State citizen.

Mistreatment is the act of treating an individual unfairly or badly such as the culture Salem MA created against women. The course of events during the Salem witch trials included the factor of religion, many reasonings to the explanation of the fits, and finally the creation of hope, leading to new laws and justice. Cruel and unusual punishment was a huge factor that led to the disband of the use of spiritual evidence such as dreams and helped influence the creation of the equal protection act, amendment 19th. The heaviest influencer of the trials was false blame of the witchcraft haze trend and the clash of regions. Toxicologists in modern times have educated themselves with a more accurate reasoning of the fits the young girls experienced and that was due to the consumption of a fungus called ergot. Ergot is found in the hallucinate drug LSD. In modern times this event would have not taken place due to the inhumane acts that individuals had to endure or experience such as the separation of families and physical forms of torture. 

Social and Legal Changes 

Our society today has grown to be more sensitive than around 100 years ago, every day new rights are being either created or demanded. All members of society today would be considered sinners or sinful if the same thought process was followed in the 1600s into today’s society. All children in present times were produced breaking at least one of the ten commandments, one shall honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. These sinful acts would have led to the deaths of many individuals. In today’s culture no individual would have bought the idea of these accused victims being witches; today you can never really trust anything anyone says. For example, many individuals or people have claimed to be the returning messiah or son of God, but no one truly ever believes them wholeheartedly. Overall Salem experienced the most lethal and harmful outbreak of witch trials in American history. Every known part of these trials would be deemed unacceptable by today’s standards, these trials were cruel and unnecessary.     

FAQ about Salem Witch Trials

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