Salem Witch Trials

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Historical Overview and Brief Analysis

Amidst millenniums of debate, argument, and conflict concerning racial prejudges and those issues which surround their implementation, there has consistently existed a certain historical prejudice regarding various stereotypical ideas for those things which people can not understand or explain logically. While more contemporary examples of such circumstances include concepts such as McCarthyism, it is generally accepted that the most classic example of all such social tragedies based on fear and ignorance is that of the colonial era's Salem Witch Trials.

While Mc Carthyism was illustrated as a widespread fear of communism that led the United States to pursue unnecessary investigations, imprisonments, and often unprovoked acts against those who were often only remotely accused of being a "dreaded communist", the Salem witch trials led to well over a dozen executions of local women accused of practicing witchcraft and directly associating themselves with "evil magic". Although the two historical periods were parallel in their nature and content, it can be argued the much earlier witch trials were the more severely inhumane and irrational as they rendered a constant trend of senseless deaths with little or no justice ever prevailing.

The Salem witch trials were held during the year 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Beginning in May of that year, the proceedings led to the hanging deaths of nineteen suspected witches and the imprisonment of many others over the five months that would follow. The courtroom episodes of those being tried for witchery were complete, and utter travesties of justice. Women were actually

considered guilty as accused until proven innocent. In addition to the known hangings, other cruel forms of punishment such as the burning of "witches" on a

stake and the slow torturous human crushings by brick are evidenced to have existed as Salem's "justice" for their alleged witches. (Brown., Pages 37-41;43).

That which is said to have initiated the trials and related hysteria has become an historical irony in our time and is the subject of many contemporary jokes and theatrical performances. Caused by the accusations of a few young girls against women in the Salem community; a special court was convened; and trials grew quickly into socially stereotypical prejudices regarding any women seen acting out of or performing "witchery". Within time the social chaos did not even exclude Salem's more prestigious women as the local governors wife was even implicated in accusations of witchcraft. The dramatic irony is re-exemplified through an examination of the young ladies who intentionally lied to a religious authority and created the "spark" to cause the fire. Based entirely on their beliefs and accusations, the fear and ignorance of an entire town led to hundreds of imprisonments and nearly two scores of senseless deaths. (Brown; Pp. 67-74).

When community leaders did finally begin to cast doubt on evidence; special court was dissolved and those imprisoned were pardoned. Eventually indemnities were paid to the families of those killed yet of the three judges who presided over the trials, only Samuel Sewall admitted error in a public statement

The Salem witch trials were clearly America's most notorious episode of witchcraft. The actual practice of "witch persecution", is not however one created in North America at all. The belief in witchcraft was carried to colonial America from Europe, where in the two centuries before 1650 thousands had been executed as witches. The Salem incident, as I wrote, began when two young girls in the household of the Reverend Samuel Parris began to behave oddly. The girls had participated in meetings at which incantations had been cast and attempts made to foretell the future. They were examined by a doctor, ministers, and magistrates, who all concluded that they...
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