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Research paper topic: The Role Of The Puritan Church In The Salem Witch Trials - 1151 words
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.. e 19 people that were hung and the one man who was crushed to death were all guilty of the same crime, failure to admit to practicing witchcraft (Hall p.38). For the few people that did admit to practicing witchcraft there lives would be spared if they were to repent. The puritan religion believed that if you were to acknowledge your sins that God would save you. The first objective Parris had was to gain the support of the powerful and influential members of the town.
During the latter part of February he invited some worthy gentlemen of Salem and neighbor ministers to his house for a consultation, no doubt hopping to keep the local men of power and influence sympathetic toward him as well as to get some advice (Armstrong p. 27) If he had any intentions of keeping the town behind him he knew that he must first win over the influential families. After he gained the support of the men of the influential families the rest of the town did not hesitate to fallow their lead. During the early stages of the Salem Witch Trials [t]he key accusers constitute[d] an especially intriguing group, because young women were generally among the most voiceless and powerless residents of 17th-century America(Norton p. B4).
It was this that made these young girls an ideal pawn for the elaborate game of chess that the church was playing with the townspeople. Also the innocence of the girls received the sympathy and trust of the masses. half a dozen adolescent girls,accused Carrier of tormenting them and who fell into writhing fits as they stood before the magistrate. They shrieked that they had seen the Devil whispering into Carriers ear. You see you look upon them and they fall down, said the magistrate (Shapiro p. 64). Even in the courtroom the girls were used to illustrate and support the accusations and condemn the accused.
Mainly the judges and the magistrates determined the way that the Salem Witch trials were run. According to the article Possible causes of the Salem witch hunts , the magistrates who presided over the trials encouraged solidarity among the afflicted, which ultimately fueled the rapid expansion of the accusations from outlying areas (Par. 5).The judges that presided over the trials were appointed by Governor Phips and were for the most part were strongly affiliated with the church. (Linder Stoughton Par. 5).
By placing the magistrates in charge of the trials the legal accuracy by most standards were ignored. The liberal nature of the court of Oyer and Terminer was the main factor that determined the conviction of the accused, because there was no need for concrete physical evidence to condemn the accused. As the trials became more intence and heated the people of the town looked to the church for guidance. The Puritans were a highly religious group that was constantly trying to live the perfect life in the eyes of God. In their eyes if you were to consort with the Devil or were affiliated with anyone that has you yourself were to be condemned. The only way that these people saw that they would be able to keep in the good graces of God was to eliminate those amongst them who were not.
The only thing that these people know about their God or the Devil was what they were told by the church. The reasoning they were so dependent upon the church is that they needed something to baring them together and the fact that most of their ancestors left there home lands to go to America to get religious freedom. As the trials progressed not only did the number of people being accused increase, but also the type of people that were being accused changed. When the trials first started the outcasts of the society were the ones that were being accused. As time went on people saw the opportunity to eliminate people that they were having problems with or that people whose land they wanted for themselves.
By accusing someone of witchcraft there lives would be destroyed and they would most likely go broke, because they would have to be able to pay for their own jail bill. At one point when Sarah Good was accused her four year old daughter Dorcas Good was also jailed. There was no rush in the eyes of the court to get the trials done in an orderly or speedy fashion. Some of the people that were jailed died while they were in jail; these people included Sarah Osburn, Giles Cory, and at least four others (Witchcraft in Salem Par. 5).
May of the other people that were released were not left unaffected, but rather they were left with many mental effects. The longer that the church carried out the trials the longer they would have the undivided attention of the people of Salem Village. When people finaly became tired of the trials they were then able to step back and see what they had been oblivious to for such a long time. The learned persons of the colony were beginning to speak out against the spectral evidence that was being used as the new year rolled threw (Witchcraft in Salem Par. 5). With the spectral evidence being disallowed there were no more convictions and all of the prisoners that were left in jail were released.
The people then looking back on the trials replaced Parris as minister and placed the majority of the blame on William Stroughton. The parish and town being divided it was now up to the new minister Thomas Green to put everything back together (Linder Par. 23) There have been many new laws past that prevent this same situation from happening again in the future. The separation of church and state keeps the bias opinion of a single religion determining peoples fate. If the same situation were to arise today with the accusation of people being witches there would not be much attention given to it. This is because in present society there is more of a sense of independence rather than the idea that everyone was one large entity that was dependent upon each other.
Everything from the people that were accused of practicing witchcraft to the length of the trials was all a direct reflection of the church. The way that the trials were run was just a sign of how powerful and influential in the society at the time. If the church was not existent at the time Salem Village would not have been able to separate from Salem Town. The reason behind the ending of the trial was that the church was getting to carried away with the trials. If it wasnt for the churchs constant need to romaine in control of the town which they were instrumental in establishing the Salem Witch trials would have never been carried to the levels that it was.
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