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Salem Witch Trials

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The Salem witch trials were an ugly period of time in Massachusetts history. Dozens of innocent men, women and children were put on trial for a crime that didn’t exist. In 1692 several young women exhibited alarming symptoms including nightmares and seizures. Elders suspected witchcraft and a woman was convicted of witchcraft. This quickly snowballed downhill and dozens more were convicted, almost all of who named names to get out of a death sentence. Once the error was realized, Salem courts renounced their ways, and the fear of another situation like this influenced a huge wash of remorse over the community, followed by a scientific age in colonial Massachusetts, as well as fueled the backlash from the communist witch hunts in the 1950s.

Immediately following the Salem witch trials the Salem courts expressed huge remorse for the death and prosecution of suspected witches. The courts quickly realized their huge mistake in convicting so many people based on nothing but testimony, and informed the public as well. As a result, the public had something of a reality check. In 1697 the court ordered a day of fasting in contrition for the victims, and members of the court publicly apologized for their roles in the convictions. In 1711, victims and families of victims were reimbursed financially for their hardships. The people and courts of Massachusetts were very upset with the trials and tried to make them right almost immediately.

Another effect of the trials was a shift from religious focus to intellectual. After the trials people began to see how flimsy their explanations for witchcraft truly were. They realized that there were a plethora of explanations for the events that were occurring. The enlightenment had been occurring in Europe for some time, but this new development turned people in Massachusetts away from religious reasoning. An age of logic began in Massachusetts and people wanted scientific explanations for things that were chalked up as witchcraft. Rationalism led to a new mindset for colonists, and that brought a new age for early Americans, particularly in terms of revolution. Rationalism and questioning authority was a theme that led to the American Revolution, and if it wasn’t for these values, the colonies wouldn’t



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