Salem, Massachusetts, was known to be a Puritan community in the 1690s and famous for having a strict moral code. In the Salem village were difficulties with farming due to the harsh climate with rough terrain, but the villagers had more things to deal with. Salem faced intense economic and political unrest. Intense Salem witch trials research paper topics have developed over the years from this incident. Students have also used Salem witch trial essays for their essay assignments.
The issue that first brought the village to unwanted limelight was when Tituba, an Indian slave girl, was accused of witchcraft by a group of girls. Under pressure from court officials, the girl confessed, and that ignited a deliberate hunt for witches. That act led to having 19 people hanged with a man pressed to death. More than 150 persons were left in prison awaiting trial.
Initial events of Salem witch hunt
Over two decades, New England was restless and greatly suffered from social stresses. King Philip’s War, which was a conflict with the Indians in 1675, led to more deaths relative to the size of the population than any other war in American history.
Ten years later, in 1685, the government revoked the Massachusetts charter, and a new governor, Sir Edmund Andros, planned to unite the New England, New York, and New Jersey into a single dominion of New England.
He was also interested in abolishing elected colonial assemblies, restrict town meetings, and impose direct control over militia appointments. He allowed the first public Christmas celebration in Massachusetts. In 1689, William IIIwas crowned as King of England, replacing James II. That then led to Andros having his government overthrown.
Despite that, Massachusetts was still mandated to remove religious qualification for voting and extend religious acceptance to other sects that was once unacceptable. Such sect is the Quakers. By the turn of the seventeenth century, the number of black slaves in New England has increased dramatically.
The reason for the high rate of black slaves, especially the Indian women and children was the 1637 Pequot war. Many Indian men were taken to West Indies but the women and children were taken to New England as household slaves. Among the slaves brought to New England was Tituba.
Before being brought to Massachusetts in 1680, Tituba had served as a slave in Barbados. Her master Samuel Parris who was a minister. But before then, he had been a credit agent for sugar planters.
The Salem witch hunt of 1692
In Salem village in February 1692, the family of Reverend Samuel Parris had a calamity befell them. The nine-year-olddaughter of the reverend, Betty Parris and her cousin aged Abigail Williams, aged 11, began to have fits that weredescribed by John Hale as “beyond the power of epileptic fits or natural disease to effect.“
The girls did many unnatural things; they screamed at intervals, threw things around the room, altered strange sounds, and crawled under desks and tables. Their complaints were being pinched and pricked with pins. The doctors and physicians of the time were unable to find the cause of the problem nor any cure for the disease.
Then, authorities started accusing and arresting people with the offense of afflicting these girls. The first three people that were arrested were Tituba, Sarah Osborne, and Sarah Good. They were charged with the offense in the Salem witchcraft. Many historians are of the opinion that there were different reasons why these people were targeted. In the village Salem, the residents were known to have a vicious rivalry between Putnam and the Porter families, which often leads to head debates and fighting.
For instance, Tituba was likely a primary target because of her ethnic difference from most of the villagers. She was an enslaved South American Indian woman from the West Indies accused of attracting girls with stories of enchantment.
Sarah Good was said to be accused because of her interest indestitution. At the trials, officials accused her of rejecting the idea of discipline and self-control, which the Puritans encourages. She was said to torment and scorn children rather than lead them to salvation.
Sarah Osborne was not a regular member of the church, and that breed hatred for her. She remarried an indentured servant,and the Puritans believed that she had her self-interest in mind. The villagers also do not agree with her decision to control her son‘s inheritance from her previous marriage.
The women were left to defend themselves under unpalatable situations. They were charged with witchcraft, brought before the local magistrate, interrogated for several days, and later sent to jail.
By March 1962, others like Martha Corey, Dorothy Good (aged 4), and Rebecca Nurse were arrested for the same offense. Martha Corey, for instance, was suspected because she was skeptical about the credibility of the girls‘accusations. When she, alongside Rebecca Nurse wasarrested, there was civil unrest.
The community believed if people of such outstanding behavior can be arrested, then anybody could be witches. They also believed that church membership then is no longer a covering from arrest. Dorothy Good was the daughter of Sarah Good, and she was interrogated when she was four years of age.
The immorality of the Salem witch trials is dubious, and even though Minister Cotton Mather warned of this, his advice was left unheeded. Later in early 1697, a day of fasting was declared by the Massachusetts General Court. And the leading justice Samuel Sewall apologized for his role in the witch trial process. But like many other issues around unjust trials, the situation lingered.