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The Salem Witch Trails itself was a very corrupted but significant event in history. These trials took place in a settlement called Salem, which was a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at that time. In January of 1692, a group of young girls mysteriously became ill and started acting out in abnormal ways. This group of girls was later known as the “afflicted girls”. The group known as the ‘afflicted girls” consisted of Mary Wallace Scott, Ann Putnam Jr., Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams And Elizabeth Parris. In February of 1692, The Salem Witch Trials first accusation occurred when Elizabeth Parris, who was among the afflicted girl, accused Sarah Good, Tituba and Sarah Osborne of performing witch craft. After these accusations, the three women accused were arrested and taken in for examination.
When the examination occurred, a confession was made from Tituba that she along with Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne had communicated with Satan and that they had agreed to let him bind them as witches. This confession created chaos and caused the hunt for witches to become larger and more common. More than 200 people were later accused of being a witch. Of the 200 accused, 19 of them were hanged. Those accused whom survived were either pardoned, escaped jail or were found non-guilty (Brooks, Rebecca B). Fear of the devil and his witch binding was an example of scapegoating which caused the start of the Salem Witch Trials. The fear of the devil was very strong throughout Salem, Massachusetts. When Tituba confessed that she had spoken to the devil, this confession created complete hysteria and was the main reason the Salem Witch Trials occurred. Tituba’s confession was not the only thing that caused hysteria leading up to the start of the Salem Witch Trials. When King Charles II revoked the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s royal chapter this created extreme stress as well. This royal chapter was revoked due to the violation of the charters rules by the colonist. Shortly after the death of Charles II, He was replaced by James II who merged the Massachusetts Bay Colony into the Dominion of New England. The Dominion of New England was a royal appointed government with many strict laws. The Dominion of New England was later overthrown in 1689 after the Glorious Revolution occurred. In 1691, Instead of renewing the Dominion of New England, Mary and William of Orange brought about a newer, stronger, anti-religious charter.
This new charter combined Massachusetts Bay Colony with multiple other colonies. Despite this charter being new, it still mimicked many of the Dominion of New England’s laws. Smaller factors that also caused stress to the colonist were rivalries between families among the colony, the small pox epidemic and the fear of attacks from Native American tribes. These factors created a stiffened environment and made it easily believed that the devil was responsible for all that occurred throughout Salem, Massachusetts. Due to the belief that Satan was present in Salem, when accusations that women were witches arose, it was easily believed. After Tituba’s confession and the factors mentioned highly impacted the hysteria of Salem, the amount of people accused of witch craft grew significantly in a short time period. Rebecca Nurse, Dorothy Good, Rachel Clinton and Martha Corey were the newest accused after Tituba, Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good. During the Salem Witch Trials, the afflicted girls were the main accusers. It was believed that in the act of revenge that the parents of the afflicted girl would influence them to accuse people they were not fond of. By April the number of people accused grew 2 times larger. As the number of people accused grew, Governor William Phips set up a special type of court in English law to hear cases that were unique or serious. This court consisted of eight judges and was known as the Court of Oyer and Terminer.
The talk of people being accused as witches grew, which spread around to the neighboring colonies and people were brought to Salem over from those neighboring towns and later were put on trial. Those accused were brought on trial and were questioned by a judge. Those accused then had to decide if they wanted to plead not guilty or guilty. In the center of Washington Street, these trials were held in the Salem Courthouse. Kept in a dungeon were those who had been accused of being a witch or performing witchcraft. It was believed that if those accused were kept in a regular jail sail, that their spirit could still escape and do harm onto their victims. Bridget Bishop was once accused of witchcraft, but she later was cleared of the crime. Bridget Bishop was then accused of witchcraft by the five afflicted girls which later led to her being sentenced to death after her trial. On June 10, 1692 at Procter Ledge, Bridget Bishop was hanged and became the first victim of the Salem Witch Trials. The hanging of five more people occurred after the death of Bridget Bishop.
One of the Five victims that was hanged was Rebecca Nurse. Rebecca Nurse was a highly respected woman which was a significant part of the Salem Witch Trials because women accused were usually considered antisocial or unpopular. She was considered not guilty during her trial until one of the afflicted girls threw a bazar fit and acted erratically which caused her to be found guilty. When Giles Corey was tortured and killed in public, this was another significant event in the Salem Witch Trials. On September 16, 1692, Corey had a large board and heavy rocks placed onto him, crushing him; he was tortured this way until he died three days later (Brooks, Rebecca B.). The trials and executions of the Salem Witch Trials were very cruel and harsh. The begging of the end of the Salem Witch Trails occurred in September 1962. The last hanging of the Salem Witch Trials occurred on September 22, 1692 which consisted of eight people. Followed by this hanging, the Court of Oyer and Terminer was dismissed on October 29, 1692. After the Court of Oyer and Terminer was dismissed the Salem Witch Trials came to an end. When the Salem Witch Trials occurred, not many chores, farming or business was done. The neglect of these mentioned led to multiple issues all throughout the colony.
These issues included droughts, low amounts of food and many diseases. Ashamed of what occurred during the trials, the colony began to believe that they were being punished by God for the murders of those who were innocent. A day of fasting and prayer occurred on January 15, 1697 in hopes to make amends with God. An apology occurred in 1957 when the state of Massachusetts apologized for the events that had occurred. The final apology occurred on October 31, 2001 clearing the remaining names of those victims that were unnamed (Brooks, Rebecca B.).
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