Salem Witchcraft Trials (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Religious, emotionally hysterical, and perhaps politically motivated fervor leads to tragic persecution.
Summary of Event
Early in 1692, a circle of young girls began to meet in the home of Samuel Parris, the Puritan pastor of Salem Village. The minister’s nine-year-old daughter, Betty, and Betty’s eleven-year-old cousin, Abigail Williams, were fascinated by the voodoo-like tales and tricks of the family’s Barbados slave, Tituba, and soon they began to invite their friends to share in the entertainment. Before long, some of the girls in the circle began to behave strangely, complaining of physical maladies, reporting visions, lapsing into trances, and trembling and babbling without restraint.
Among the Puritans, inexplicable afflictions were customarily attributed to the work of the devil, so most of the inhabitants of Salem Village believed the young girls when they charged that Tituba and two village women of doubtful respectability were practicing witchcraft upon them. Two assistants of the Massachusetts General Court, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin, were called upon to conduct a legal examination of the accused women. Placing no store in lawyers, the Puritans were governed essentially by Old Testament law. When they found a statement in the Scriptures that witches must not be allowed to live, their duty became clear. The two magistrates conducted their examination more like...
(The entire section is 2094 words.)
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