Gail (gailmarie) wrote,

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Finished History Paper. Yay!

"The witch hunt may have come to an end in the autumn of 1692, but intolerance and injustices still plague our modern world."

It's not that long, and not overly boring either. You know you want to read it....come on. Admit it! You do!

The Salem Witch Panic of 1692

In 1692, twenty people were sentenced and put to death within 15 weeks. Their crime was supposed witchcraft, which could be proved through admission, unusual power, anger followed by mischief or testimony by a victim. This hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials was caused by people with religious or personal beliefs who could be benefited by accusing a witch, or feared those who were possible witches.

Massachusetts at this time, was mostly a population of Puritans. Puritans were fundamentalists, and took every word of the Bible to be the word of God, and lived by the words indefinitely. They believed and that hard work would prove them to be the chosen, who would rise to Heaven. They also believed that there was a Devil and that the Devil could enter mortal bodies and turn them to witches. Witches were capable of making trouble and causing problems. Witches could cause afflicted persons to become ill and delirious, crying out in churches, having hysterical fits and mumbling incoherent thoughts. Those convicted of being a witch would be sentenced to death because of the Bible claiming that "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." As such, the 19 people tried and found guilty, were put to death by hanging that summer in Salem.

To be convicted of witchcraft though, one must first be accused. The accusers had many different motives. Some were apparently jealous, and others seemingly greedy. Some accusers may have been interested in gaining land. If their neighbor happened to be accused, convicted, and sentenced, their land would be available. The accuser may also have had a bad year of crops while their neighbor prospered. They could blame the neighbor of cursing their land, and being a witch. Also, a large majority of accusers were single, while most of the accused were married, especially married women. It could be concluded that the accusers were jealous of themselves being unwed, and thus accused the married men and women to get a revenge of sorts. Many of those who accused others would be revered in the town, and would receive a higher status. It could also be concluded that those looking for fame in Salem, may have accused just about anyone. Around 130 people were formally accused of witchcraft because of these selfish acts, no matter if there was actual proof of being a witch.

Not all accusers may have been looking to gain, however. Some, it can be assumed, were afraid of having witches around, and would accuse those who were different from them. It is said that Sarah Good, one of the first to be accused and hanged, was a beggar and social misfit. Bridget Bishop, a sixty year old woman, also among the first accused, and the very first to be hanged in Salem, was reluctant to pay bills, often critical of her neighbors, and owned a house of ill repute. Though not all the accused where such likely targets, many of them were singled out for their status in the community.

The 20 people killed in the summer of 1692 (19 of them convicted witches) were part of an early act of intolerance. Several "witches" were put to death because of their obvious differences from the mainstream community. Others may have been convicted following an accusation which would benefit, either economically or by status, the accuser. These injustices, supported by law and religion, were caused by fear, jealously, and difference. The witch hunt may have come to an end in the autumn of 1692, but intolerance and injustices still plague our modern world.

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