The the inhabitants of the village. “In the

The infamous witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts occurring between the years of 1692 and 1693 had rapidly become an American tragedy and mass hallucination that took its toll on the inhabitants of the village. “In the end, the fifteen-month affair, across twenty-four different communities, resulted in 162 arrests, fifty-four confessions, twenty-eight convictions, twenty executions, and five deaths in jail due to poor conditions” (Ray 40). The Court of Oyer and Terminer, convened in 1692 specifically for the trials of these notorious cases. The mass hysteria in the Puritan village of Salem was inaugurated by the predominant aspect of religion in the community and escalated with the aid of unjust court proceedings along with social and political tensions that motivated neighbors to accuse neighbors of dealing with the devil.  The Puritan way of life was a restricting one based on the rules that were established by the Bible. The inhabitants of Salem village lived in a predominantly male society. Town meetings and any form of decision making in the Church were limited to male attendance and deliberation, the exclusion of women in such matters being characteristic of Puritanism. In the social scale, husbands held a higher status than their spouses and the children an even lower one. The boys of the community received more respect and freedom than the girls. ” … Puritan communities viewed women as the source of all problems on Earth. Puritan women enjoyed virtually no protection or rights under the law” (Stock sect. 1).  Any person of the female gender was supposed to be quiet and submissive to the male gender. This ideology was a prominent aspect of the trials because it advised that women were far more likely to be obedient to the devil than men. Moreover, women could not become religious leaders, further advocating for the belief of women succumbing to the Devil’s evil ways. During the 17th century, Americans in Massachusetts feared that the Devil aimed to destroy Christians and their towns. The Bible that was studied day and night suggested the existence of Satan and witches. The fear of Satan augmented in Salem due to it being an exceptionally pious village located in the wilderness of North America. Furthermore, the idea that God and the Devil played an active role in their lives promoted the potentiality of witchcraft.  The failure of crops and livestock, Native American attacks, sickness, and death of the women and children were all considered to be punishments enforced by God for the sins they committed. This article of faith caused people to denounce their neighbors as witches if the family was experiencing natural disasters. People accused individuals who displayed behavior not true to a Puritan of witchcraft in hopes of avoiding the punishments given by God themselves. The residents of Salem village lived under severe restrictions that forbade them from dancing, going to the theater, showing any form of a sexual act (even as small as a kiss), breaking an engagement to be married, disagreeing with the community leaders on any matter, and even singing hymns in Church. Any person caught performing these acts was entitled to punishment equivalent to the consequences they suffered when they performed a sin listed in the Bible. ” In Salem, as in other Puritan Communities, attending Church was mandated by law. Everyone, without exception, had to sit through a three-hour service on Sunday morning and a two-hour service on Sunday afternoon. The rest of the day was devoted to prayer, Bible reading, and other religious activities” (Nordo 22). Individuals that overlooked this law faced the harsh punishment that accompanied their actions. During this period in history, the sanctions for criminal activity comprised of death, public whipping, time in the stockade, or wearing a scarlet A around their necks. The scarlet A explicitly designed for the people who had committed adultery. In this town, the Bible was the law, and the law controlled everything from their social and business relations to the clothes they were allowed to wear. The fear of witches pitted neighbors against neighbors, every person was under suspicion as the years of 1692, and 1693 passed. Witchcraft accusations, in Salem, reached unprecedented proportions. Being a social outcast practically guaranteed that they would be targeted as a suspect and later convicted. The accusers did not always believe that the accused was guilty of witchcraft, but they continued to act against them for personal benefit. The property of an accused person was seized and auctioned off giving the members of the community a chance to buy the property. The desire for vengeance, long-held hatred, and pent-up frustration drove some accusations. Merely defending a witch or having associations with one could land a person in jail for the crime of witchcraft. Giles Corey had fallen victim to this method of accusation. He was charged with witchcraft after he went against the authorities to say that his wife, Martha Corey, was not a witch. Similar to Giles Corey, John Proctor firmly objected to the arrest of his wife and was accused of being a witch himself. Dorcas Good, the 4-year-old daughter of Sarah Good, was charged with witchcraft and was sent to jail with her mother. The initial accusers of the trials were a group of girls who displayed behaviors that indicated bewitchment. This group of girls involved 11-year-old Abigail Williams, 9-year-old Elizabeth (Betty) Parris,  12-year-old Ann Putnam, 16-year-old Mary Walcott, 17-year-old Elizabeth Hubbard, Susan Sheldon, Elizabeth Booth, Mercy Lewis, and Mary Warren. Although Betty Parris was the first girl to present behavior tied to bewitchment, Abigail Williams was the girl who lead the group. Throughout the trials, the girls used their convulsive screams against the defendants. If the charged person refused to confirm the charges themselves, the girls went on to throw tantrums and shout out in pain that was caused by the specter of the accused. The court took their convulsions as evidence against the defendant making the girls the decision makers as to who would be convicted. ” Meanwhile, the Girls’ fits became more frequent and dramatic. Interestingly, this happened only after people of outlying farms, as well as Salem Town, started congregating in the village, eager to witness the young women’s afflictions. It was as if the girls enjoyed being the center of attention and gave the crowds more of what they came to see” (Nordo 38). Young women were stripped of many rights and had a social ranking that was just above slaves. Being bewitched gave them a chance to be heard for the first times in their lives. It provided them with power and a sense of importance that they never felt before. Tituba was the first to fall prey to Betty Parris and Abigail Williams’ accusations. She was a woman brought to the country as a slave who had dark skin and a distinct accent. In addition to that, she came from a non-Christian community which was strange and unwholesome in customs according to the English standards. A combination of these factors meant that she had some association with black magic and evil beings making her an inevitable suspect. The second accusation was against Sarah Good. Good had a bent back, wrinkled face, gray hair, and a raspy voice giving her the appearance of a witch. She also became known as the town beggar after numerous financial disasters. Multiple “social black marks” (Nordo 43), her gender, and her appearance together made her the perfect candidate for the accusations. Sarah Osburne was the third person to be accused of performing witchcraft. Along with being a woman, she was living in poverty and had married her indentured servant, John Osburne. She was wrinkled and bedridden, which prevented her from going to Church. Her absence in Church was considered to be a sure sign that she was a witch. The first victim of the trials was Bridget Bishop. ” The court found Bridget Bishop quilty, tried on June 2nd; she was hanged eight days later at Gallows Hill in Salem, the first victim of the witch trials” (SOCumberbatch 30:05 to 30:15). Previously being accused of witchcraft became the most significant accusation against her.At first, the allegations targeted the social outcasts and lower-class people, but soon the accusers began to call the well-respected and loved people of the village witches. Illustrated and discarded by the Salem Witch Trials was the human tendency to victimize those without power and protection. Rebecca Nurse’s case was one of the focal points in this tragedy because of her prominence in the populace. Once the news of her arrest reached the villagers, members of the community had petitioned for her release. Her verdict was innocent until Judge Stoughton asked for a reconsidered judgment. Her ruling was changed to guilty a week later because of the convulsive screams of the afflicted girls. She was executed on July 19th causing the people of Salem to question the authenticity of the trials. The Court of Oyer and Terminer violated the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Once the person was sent to trials, they were assumed to be guilty and had to proven innocent. The burden of truth laid on the defendants rather than the prosecution. The statute used in Salem village was a combination of biblical passages and colonial law. ” The Puritans had a low opinion of lawyers and did not permit the professional practice of law in the hands of the laymen, most of them second-generation colonists who had an incomplete grasp of current principles of English Jurisdiction” (Starkey in Nordo 44). Their position on lawyers proved to be disadvantageous to the accused women. They were deprived of legal rights and representation. The authorities that controlled the interrogations and trials lacked knowledge regarding the fundamental English ideas of a person being innocent until they were proven guilty. The improper court proceedings generated an environment in which nearly all the people that are charged with witchcraft would be convicted. No legal representation and little understanding of English jurisdiction made it almost impossible for people to be proven innocent. The evidence used in court was related to religion like most of the process during this event. If someone was unable to recite the Lord’s prayer without error, he or she were proven to be an agent of the devil. During this time, the fear of the Devil made the process of manipulating evidence, and people’s thoughts simplified. For instance, George Burroughs, former pastor, recited them flawlessly, but the afflicted went on to say that they witnessed the devil whispering the words into his ears. The townspeople believed the claims made by the girls because they were thought of like people who would help save the town. People who confessed would not be hanged as it was up to God to forgive them because they were showing an effort to leave the devil and once again be holy. “55 of the approximately 200 accused took this way out” (SOCumberbatch 31:00 to 31:22). If a confession was given and they had charged someone else then that person would also be arrested. Spectral evidence was accepted and the reason behind most convictions. Spectral evidence could be claims of being harmed by a specter or seeing the specter of the accused harming someone other than themselves. Another form of spectral evidence was if someone rolled their eyes or tilted their head and all the girls performed the same actions, the judges and jury presumed that the person charged was controlling the girls relating them to the Devil. Furthermore, the court used physical evidence. One test was to look for a devil’s mark (birthmark) and if it was found they performed the pin. In the pin test, the spot would be pricked and if no pain was felt or blood was not drawn they were said to be witches, but if it did happen then they would be released. Another test performed was the touch test, which was when the claimed witch, would have to touch a person who was having a fit if the fit stopped then they were guilty. It was counted as proof because once they touched the specter would have jumped back into their body, no longer being able to harm the person. Ironically, the water test was not used in the trial because it was considered unscientific. Torture was permitted because learning the information that was withheld helped to convict the person of performing witchcraft, which was a crime against God. Giles Corey was the only person subjected to the torture method Peine forte et dure.  “He refused to enter a plea at court, believing that the charges were too ridiculous to merit a response …” (Stocks Sect. 2). The methods used by the court were unfair for any person who was involved in the trails. The court trials were unjust in a sense that placed countless lives in danger of imprisonment or execution adding to the mass hysteria. The Salem Witch Trials have left a bold mark on America’s history. The delusion that masked the truth unveiled the perils of widespread suspicion, inaccurate court proceeding, and social hierocracy. For Puritans, the Bible was the law, and they were willing to kill any person who of witchcraft because it was a crime against God, therefore it was a crime against the government. The Court of Oyer and Terminer essentially ensured that anyone suspected would be convicted. The trials conducted there proved to be improper because the legal figures had little understanding of English jurisdiction. “American legal procedures from 1693 onward demanded a change in the process by which suspected capital offenders might be charged and brought to trial. Spectral evidence is no longer valid; an attorney must provide substantial and unyielding evidence. The accused have the right to a defense counsel, and the court justices cannot act as both the judge and the interrogator. Also, the burden of proof now fell upon the prosecution rather than the defense. Religious beliefs were the central driving force of the trials that have become a controversial episode in history that historians are still studying. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live …” (Exodus 22:18) became the unspoken anthem in the village, from 1692 to 1693.

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