The Salem Witch Trials
In Cotton Mather’s account of the trial of Martha Carrier, the witnesses use confessions of other witches incriminating the accused, physical evidence, anger resulting in mischief done to the person, and spectral evidence. Increase Mather would not have convicted Martha Carrier, he would have judged the presented evidence as unreliable because the majority of it was based heavily on witnesses’ testimonies, which Increase Mather did not consider as a valid source, as well as the anger and mischief between Martha Carrier and others, which could purely be coincidental.
Martha Carrier’s own children gave testimonies of her witchcraft. They had “fully confessed not only that they were witches themselves, but that this their mother had made them so.” In the Salem Witch trials, the accused witch was more likely to be convicted with the more details a witness presented. The children “related place, time, occasion; they gave an account of journeys, meetings and mischiefs by them performed, and were very credible in what they said.” Although Cotton Mather describes these accounts as “credible,” Increase would not have agreed because the hysteria of witnesses caused many false accusations, and these are the testimonies of children with imaginations. Although their confession was made with “great shows of repentance, and with much demonstration of the truth,” the children were likely imitating what they had seen occur repeatedly in the witch trials, catching on to the hysteria. The next witch confession was from Foster, who said that Carrier “persuaded her to be a witch.” She then went on to tell that the Devil carried them on a pole to a witch-meeting where they both fell. This testimony would not be approved as reliable by Increase because it is not very detailed, it’s vague. She does not explain how Carrier “persuaded” her, and there is no physical evidence of her supposed injury from this fall.
Evidence resulting from anger and mischief...
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