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The Long-term Effects of Salem Witch Trials Seen in America

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During the mid 1500’s to the mid 1700’s Colonial Europe including the towns Ipswich and Andover felt thee negative effects of the Renaissance and Reform movements. Many in Europe were unready for such big religious and cultural changes. Along with these changes came the rising popularity of theology. The practice of Witchcraft became an idea and crisis that had an effect on a large part of Europe. Though through our books and knowledge the Renaissance was supposed to be a great time for Europe. But with the great came bad. During the European Witch-Craze tens of thousands of men, women, and children were accused of illegally performing Witchcraft. Thousands were executed and also put several thousands more in jail. Salem, Massachusetts had a similar crisis at the end of the 17th Century but on a much smaller scale.

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Roger Conant founded the village of salem in 1626. Originally names Naumkeag but almost immediately referred to as the hebrew word for peace, Salem. The settlers were joined by a group from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, led by John Endecott in 1628. From the start the village of salem was primarily filled with Puritans and Christians. The church played a leading role in the small community. The Puritans believed that all off behavior or anyone that wasn’t so to say “Living by the book” was devilish and sinning. The villagers often took notice to others affairs. The early settlers Often had fear of the local Native Americans starting a war with them. On top of this in 1689 war sparked with the French in the Americans colonies and England many displaced people from this event moved toward colonial Massachusetts these people caused shortages in supplied and food in these areas angering settled families.

After training for ministry in Boston, Reverend Samuel Parris became Minister of Salem in 1689. Along with him moved his wife Elizibeth and children Thomas, Betty and Susannah. He was Quickly known for his greed and ineffective ways of dealing with the constant conflict in Salem. Nearly three years after the start of his practice in Salem his daughter Betty and Niece Abigail fell ill and started experiencing epileptic episodes that were unseen at the time PArris took the children age 9 and 11 to a local physician, Dr. William Griggs. Dr. William Griggs claimed to never had seen anything like it and claimed it was the work of the devil. At the time Parris had no idea that the two children were going to spark over a year of mayhem in Salem.

February 29, 1692 the girls accused Sarah Osborne, Sarah good and reverend Parris’ slave, Tituba of performing witchcraft and the women were arrested. The women are then questioned on March 1st. Both Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne claim their innocence. The parris’ slave Tituba admits guilt of the crime and claims she had been practicing witchcraft and claims that there are several more like her in Salem.. The arrest of Martha Corey Raised fear and increased questioning amongst the community. Many people felt that if an active and loyal church member like Martha could be able of such a disgraceful crime then anyone could. In May of 1692 a new Governor William Phips arrived in Salem and demanded for the making of a specialty court to hear the cases. The first convicted witch in Salem was Bridget Bishop. Many claim that her trial was biased because she wasn’t well liked in the community. She had been jailed before for stealing and was known for selling alcohol and regularly not attending church. She was found guilty and publicly hanged on June 10, 1692.

By the end of September 1692 most of the hysteria came to a stop. Governor Phips ordered to have the rest of the trials cancelled when his wife was questioned on involvement in witchcraft. On November 25, 1692 an new court is put in place that wasn’t completely made up of church members. The new court wasn’t able to use spectres as evidence against the defendants. On January 3rd of the following year the trials started and because of spectres not being usable as evidence all cases were not guilty and Governor Phips pardoned those found guilty by the previous court that were still alive. Though all remaining cases were found not guilty the families unable to pay their jail fees remained in jailed and many families received reparations. Over 200 men women and children were accused of witchcraft during 1692 and by the end of September 1692 14 women and 5 men were hanged for performing witchcraft and one was crushed to death by heavy stones.

Today in America we see effects from the Salem Witch trials still. During the trial the accused suffered unfair treatment now in America everybody despite your race, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation is entitled to a free trial and a public defender. The second change from the trials that affect us today is the use of spectrals as liable evidence in court. Third, trials and hearings aren’t biased like they were at this time for example the first court to see the witch trials was made up of mostly church members of the community that already had a strong dislike for the people defending themselves. fourth, today most of us celebrate Pagan holidays like Halloween every year despite our beliefs. Finally, today people across America are able to worship and practice religion how we feel and other religions and types of worship like witchcraft are more widely accepted or just less thought of as evil. I believe we’re able to confidently say that something such as these trials wouldn’t happen the way that they did or been controlled the way that they were in today’s society.

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