The Salem Witch Trials

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What were the effects of the Salem Witch Trials on American society?

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Even though now the ordeal of the Salem Witch Trials seems sensational, back in that time the trials had a negligible effect on society. It was somewhat of an isolated incident albeit an important one. For the most part, people lived in such abject isolation that an effect on the masses was not achieved.

Many people were skeptic about the girl's accusations. They exhibited odd behavior but who are we to say that perhaps they were suffering from any neurological illness that mimics that behavior.

Nevertheless, the incident and historical saga of the Salem Witch Trials had minimal effect on the society back in that day. Geographic isolation took its toll.

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From a theoretical or intellectual historian's point of view, Salem shows the danger of homogeneous social setting committed to a singular notion of the good.  The impact of Salem might have been negligent in terms of pure history.  Yet, in tracing the development of American consciousness and how one understands what it means to be "American," Salem plays a significant function.  The notion of a social and political climate dominated by fear and silence, as opposed to vocal advocacy and the spirit of dissent can only lead to bad things.  America, consciously or not, used the moment of Salem to define itself as standing against these values.  When America has reverted back to Salem form, "bad things" have not been far off the pace, and a corrective measure has taken place afterwards to ensure that a spirit of free discourse, heterogeneity, and individual dissent remains as part of the blueprint of American identity.

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I agree that the Salem Witch Trials did not have a large effect on American society. The Salem Witch Trials ended almost as soon as they begun. People attribute many causes to the reason why the Salem Witch Trials eve started. These reasons range all the way from economic hardship to teenage boredom.

As far as having an impact on American society today I would say that it has taught us a bit about intolerance and the views that people had during that time period (1692). Puritan views were very eccentric and they had to attribute disasters and hardships to something.

As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to the victims' families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society. The parallels between the Salem witch trials and more modern examples of "witch hunting" like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's, are remarkable.

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In my opinion, the witch trials did not have any serious effect on American society as a whole.  This is largely because there was no way for any information about the witch trials to spread throughout American society.  The various towns and colonies back then were so isolated from one another that things like that would not have had much of an impact outside of their immediate area.

Another reson I do not think they had much impact was that people would not have thought that they were strange.  People in lots of places believed in witches and such so it's not like they would have looked at the trials and been surprised.

Even the eNotes entry on the impact of the witch trials does not give any impact outside of the fact that the town of Salem stopped treating witchcraft as a crime after that.

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What were the effects of the Salem Witch Trials?

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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