What were the effects of the Salem Witch Trials?

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The Salem witch trials of colonial Massachusetts occurred between 1692 and 1693, mirroring a paranoid "witchcraft craze" that occurred in Europe from the 14th to 17th centuries. Following the trials and executions, a significant number of people involved, including the presiding judge Samuel Sewall, confessed their errors. The Massachusetts court...

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The Salem witch trials of colonial Massachusetts occurred between 1692 and 1693, mirroring a paranoid "witchcraft craze" that occurred in Europe from the 14th to 17th centuries. Following the trials and executions, a significant number of people involved, including the presiding judge Samuel Sewall, confessed their errors. The Massachusetts court deemed the trials unlawful in 1702. In 1711, the colony passed a bill that restored the rights and names of the accused, granting £600 restitution to the heirs of those who had been persecuted. The government of Massachusetts only formally apologized for the events of 1692 in 1957. There is now the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and Salem Witch Museum honoring the 20 victims of the trials.

Salem's witch trials were largely a product of religious fanaticism, misogyny, bigotry, local disputes, psychological stress, and mass hysteria. The method of trial conducted was 'guilty before proven innocent,' whereas today the U.S. courts treat each person as innocent until proven guilty. Puritanism played a significant role in the witch trials; in particular, women were believed to be inherently sinful, and it was believed that the Devil could appear and influence people. Many of the males and females had been accused of straying from the rigid Puritan lifestyle, their actions deemed punishable by Puritan law. In the century following the trials, political changes in the American colonies and the Enlightenment era lead Puritanism and superstition to be replaced by rationality and reasoning. However, accusations of witchcraft still persisted in places that held on to the old beliefs, as late as the 19th century.

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