In short, the presence of created a need for authority, and a need for a united front against the existence of a perceived threat to the Puritan way of life.Â A research paper on the Salem witch trials will explore the following:
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The Salem Witch Trials
The most common euphoria in both the traditional and modern society is that a new day often brings with itself new opportunities for a better life in hope. However, the month of January 1962 in the family of Reverend Parris witnessed the sad news of the illness of their daughters and niece (Gaskill 1069). The period marking 1962 to 1963, consequently brought a major revolution to the overall state of peace among the inhabitants of the Salem Village. The mention of the term revolution often bears a connotation that the society could be undergoing a transformation from of a regime of discomfort, to that of hope and prosperity. However, to the residents of the Salem village, a caliber of young female members registered bizarre behavior, which did not only leave the village tattered, but also opened a wave of legal proceedings in a bid to restore the deteriorating harmonious coexistence in the small village in Massachusetts. In order to acquire a deeper comprehension of the relationship between the social, political, and religious implications of the Salem Witch Trials, this paper analyzes the chronology of events in the legal proceedings, in tandem with their consequences.
The Religious Tension
The religious tensions played the greatest role in the process of accusing, convicting, and trying the Salem witch culprits, under the guidance of the Puritan laws. According to the historical perspectives, in tandem with the religious analysis of the Salem Trials, there are religious inputs that contributed to the initiation of the trials. One of these inputs includes the prevailing influence from the conservative Puritan lifestyle. The conservative nature of the Puritan laws did not allow for any form of distractive force, which may have acted in a manner likely to deviate the community from their harmonious and religious lifestyle (Maierhofer 356). In addition to the Puritan lifestyle, there was a strong belief that there were devils that existed in Salem. However, according to the members of the community, they had all the reasons to eradicate further dwelling of unwanted spirits among them. The process of eradication included initiating a legal process against the suspects. Furthermore, another religious aspect that led to the development and advancement of the Salem Trials was the conspiracy theory, which was coined by the Salem town ministers (Goodheart 435).
The Puritan Religious Beliefs and Lifestyle
Since its conceptualization, throughout the course of history, the church institution alongside the Christian beliefs took center stage of the Puritan lifestyle. The role of the church was an indispensable tool in the Salem society during the 17th century (Gaskill 1071). Despite the strict moral standards that the church laid during this period, the members were under strict obligation to follow each section of the code. Owing to the rigidity of the Puritan laws, the society did not give any room for any extreme cases, most of which were punished upon occurrence or mere suspicion. Furthermore, the believers and custodians of the Puritan laws also believed in the existence of God’s punishment for any form of deviation from the Puritan laws (Goodheart 435).
For instance, they believed that God was supreme, omniscient and all present, hence could see, and release His wrath upon all those who went against the laws. Consequently, the members of the Salem village always aspired to spare themselves from the anger of God by living in accordance with the puritan laws (Maierhofer 359). Their strong belief in the theory, that God hated sin, and punishes sinners prompted them to manifest a bitter reaction to the witch suspicion among the girls. According to the Puritans, any form of behavior that contravened the normal provisions of the law would be a grievous sin, which deserved a severe punishment (Reed 211). This is the primary reason in the religious view, upon whose understanding, the members of Salem village launched accusations and severe punishment against the perpetrators.
Taking a legal action, the arrest process kicked off with women who were accused of witchcraft, based on assumptions that they had strayed the Puritan lifestyle and laws that guided the whole community. In this case, the entire community had a strong perception that such women were social outcasts, whose fate was to lie in severe punishment (Vidmar 291). The exclusion and sanctions directed towards such women followed in the prevailing circumstances in which the Salem society had shown of a trend of neglecting and sanctioning their colleagues who did not keep the laws of the land. The other social deviants included a number of outcasts such as tradesmen who presented themselves as threats to the harmonious puritan lifestyle (Gaskill 1073).
For example, one of the leading culprits had a previous conviction of a case in which they proclaimed her behavior as not only immoral but also a threat to the sustainability of the puritan lifestyle. Alongside her witchcraft case, Sara Osborne had previously registered a scandal in which she had engaged in a premarital sexual intercourse (Maierhofer 357). This scandal compounded with the fact she had failed to be a regular churchgoer as stipulated by the Puritan laws. In addition to Sarah, Martha Corey had also faced similar accusations for having engaged in premarital sex, from which she got an illegitimate child (Goodheart 438).
The women involvement in previous cases of immorality provided a fertile ground upon which their accusations and convictions developed (Vidmar 291). From their religious beliefs, the members of the Salem community believed that such women were agents of the devil, and they had an obligation to eradicate them. Since the women had failed to manifest their commitment in upholding the true goodness of God in the community, they were the best targets for the devil to recruit through witchcraft. Their positions as weak agents of the Puritan lifestyle, alongside the series of confessions made by possessed young girls in the Salem community formed a credible reason to hanging the women, other than reliance on tangible evidence in the normal legal proceedings (Reed 216).
According to the Puritan’s understanding of the relationship between human beings and the supernatural world, there was also a strong belief in the presence and works of the devil, which worked against the good will of God for the people in the region (Maierhofer 362). It was also incumbent upon their God to offer unconditional protection for them. In this case, they associated any incoming trouble to the devil, as well as members of the community who worked as agents, including the witches. Furthermore, there was another belief from the religious ministers, who proposed the antichrist forces had limited time, approximately 20 years to torture humankind, and win more men as their converts (Gaskill 1076). Time was, therefore, ripe for the devil to win more agents to help carry out such a mission, including the accused women. They, therefore, had to devise a mechanism of eliminating such agents of the devil, hence setting pace for the trials, and hanging of the women in Salem Trial.
The final religious ground upon which the Salem Trial occurred was the assertion that there was a conspiracy by the religious ministers of the community to bring a witch scare, which would intimidate the people to return to church. The ministers may have converged efforts to push for the occurrence of the witch scare, with the aim of enhancing their influence over the people. They would use such opportunity to show the community that they had the ability to save them from the forces of the devil, thus increasing their trust in them and God who appointed them to work for the salvation of all (Maierhofer 368). Similarly, the ministers may have also stage-managed the witchcraft event, which they would use as a mechanism to check against antisocial behaviors within the community. Setting the trials and passing of harsh punishment for the women would later act as an example to the rest of the community members, by cautioning against unusual behavior.
The Political Tension from the Salem Witch Trials
Historical reports have painted a picture of a colorful political past during the pre-Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts. However, 1692 saw it to the division of the region into two distinct political and geographical regions. This led to the creation of the Salem Village and Salem Town. It remained unclear to people, the main difference between the town and village portions of the region, except for the relatively lower economic level and social class for the residents of the Salem Village, assumed to be part of the town in Massachusetts (Maierhofer 359).
Alongside their character, which the region viewed as unworthy, the main occupants of the village portion of Salem majorly constituted of poor farmers. These poor farmers mainly earned a living by carrying out basic or subsistence farming activities along the rocky region of their sloping terrain. This was contrary to the situation on the opposite town, which manifested prosperity from the series of trading activities with the London merchants (Reed 231).
Historical analysis has shown that the despite the coexistence between the two regions that portrayed unity, Salem Village had made several attempts to obtain autonomy from the town. However, owing to the pivotal role played by the Salem Village to ensure the existence of the town, their efforts to withdraw from the town’s political control and influence over them often failed (Goodheart 439). For instance, as a farming community, they acted as the sole suppliers of food products in form of agricultural produce to the town dwellers. While the farming community concentrated on their food generating activities, the town dwellers acted as the price determinants for the various agricultural produce from Salem Village, as well as conducted tax collection from the poor farmers (Gaskill 1083).
Despite the long distance between the two entities, which required approximately three hours to walk, the residents of the Salem Village still had to share the church services from the town. This is because they lacked an independent church and a minister within the village, who would administer to them. The establishment of an independent church and a minister to Salem Village only occurred years later during 1674 (Goodheart 441).
While the establishment of an independent church depicted a sense of hope and unity for the residents of the Salem Village, there were still internal divisions caused by the diversity in economic status among them. For instance, the villagers who lived close to the economic hub of the town embraced the economic activities of their town counterparts (Maierhofer 371). They began to practice carpentry, blacksmithing, inn keeping which made them join the merchant class. Owing to their new social and economic status, the village merchants took part and supported the ongoing economic changes against their village counterparts who did not experience similar economic changes.
According to this class of villagers who opposed the ongoing economic changes, their main argument was that such changes posed a great threat to their Puritan laws, from which they have derived their harmonious living over the previous years. Consequently, there were increased tensions between the two regions, as well as within the Salem Village. Furthermore, the height of these tensions occurred with the appointment of the Reverend Parris as the minister for Salem Village (Reed 219).
According to Rev Parris while taking up his new role as the minister of Salem Village, pointed fingers at the economic prosperity in the Salem Town as the works of the devil. Such positions by the minister caused further divisions within Salem Village, resulting into hostilities that provided a fertile ground upon which the Salem Witch Trials thrived. For example, majority of the women accused of taking part in witchcraft activities hailed from the Ipswich Road neighborhoods, a place where much of economic prosperity had taken root (Reed 221). Reverend Parris, alongside the accusers who hailed from the distant farms become hard supporters for the trials.
The Social Tension in the Salem Witch Trials
According to the analysis by historians such as Paul Boyer, alongside Nissenbaum, the 1692 hysteria in Salem Village was a product of both social and economic tensions that existed in the region. According to Maierhofer (366), these economic and social tensions occurred during the emergence of commercial capitalism especially in Salem Town and the neighborhoods from Salem Village. In the social front, there was a major tension between the newly appointed and the old ministers of the church, which was later joined by the members of the congregations concerning their stand with ongoing economic reforms and their impacts on the religious lifestyle. In addition to the congregational differences, further tension resulted from the loss of family lands among the residents of the Salem Village, owing to the ongoing economic activities from the town (Vidmar 291).
The period marking 1620 to 1725, many gender tensions epitomized the New England (Goodheart 444). There was a popular belief that the devil used women as agents of service, with some religious views adding that, the female gender was weaker, hence more targeted by the devil to accomplish missions. For instance, in order to acquire a deeper understanding of the works of the devil among the people during this period, one would want to determine the sex of the person through which the devil manifested itself. In cases where such people were female such as the case of the Salem Witch Trials, it would a strong premise from which one would a draw a conclusion of certainty concerning the existence of the devil. Reports have indicated that approximately 78 percent of the total culprits accused of witchcraft between 1620 and 1725 were females. For the remaining 22 percent of men accused, most of them appeared to have been victims of circumstances (Maierhofer 370). For instance, they were people who found themselves in the company of the female culprits as husbands, sons, or general friends who at the time of the female arrests, were in company of them.
The euphoria that women were to bear the greatest responsibility for witchcraft-related crimes did not only spread across the region, but also deep-rooted itself in the judicial systems. For instance, various local authorities including magistrates, alongside other juries, who acted as the custodian of law in the colonies often ruled against women and convicted most suspects without fair trial (Vidmar 291). The stereotypic system of conducting such cases, in which 94 percent of suspects convicted to receive harsh punishments were female, pulled a long chain of social conflicts. Taking a comparative note, the punishment administered for the females convicted of satanic cases was more severe, as compared to their male counterparts (Maierhofer 373). For instance, there were reports in which John Bradstreet of 1652 made an open confession for associating with Satan, the presiding judge at the Essex court ordered him to receive a whip or pay a fine for lying to the court.
The Salem Witch Trials, just like any other legal proceedings were not without conflicts from the three main players in the life of humankind. The trials, from their beginning throughout their occurrence and conclusion, draw a number of tensions from the religious, political, and social spheres, which made it an epitome of such tensions in the colonial America. Based on the above discussion, the religious tensions played a significant role in the process of accusing, convicting, and trying the Salem witch culprits, under the guidance of the Puritan laws. The residents of Salem Village were conservative observers of the Puritan laws; with their lives strongly build on Christian foundations. They therefore gave no room for any other idols, including the satanic works of witchcraft through weak members as agents. Furthermore, the political divisions between Salem Village and Salem Town, in tandem with the leadership rivalry between the church ministers formed the socio-economic and religious tensions that became a precursor to the Salem Witch Trials.
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Explain what allowed the Salem Witch Trials to occur/causes. MLA format Citations from: The trial of Martha Carrier The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Gen. ed. Nina Baum. Shorter 8th ed. New York,213.153. Print. What Awaits you: On-time delivery guarantee Masters and PhD-level writers Automatic plagiarism check 100% Privacy and Confidentiality High Quality custom-written papers