The events that transpired in Salem, Massachusetts occurred between the years of 1688 and 1693 constituted the most significant witchcraft outbreak in the history of the New England colonies. The entire event was quickly labeled as “colossal mistake” by the government after they had passed.(Ray, 2010) With this in mind the question remains; how did it get started and how did it get out of hand so quickly?
Salem is a town in Massachusetts that has unfortunately earned its reputation from these trials. It was founded in 1626 when settlers led by Roger Conant settled in Naumkeag after a failed attempt in 1623 to create a fishing settlement at Cape Ann. (Salem, a brief history, n.d.) Its name was Christianized to Salem in 1629. The land within the boundaries of Salem was not fertile however which led the residents to expansion in order to obtain more fertile lands to produce crops. Some of the basic themes of the village of Salem were, therefore the Puritan church which was allowed to function independently, the need to expand to produce crops and political tensions with the crown and commonwealth in regards to their charter. Factors like these led to political tension that are attributed to creating the events that would eventually culminate into the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
In 1688 Rev. Samuel Parris preached for the first time in the village and became the officially hired as the village minister the following year. Samuel was the minister during the Witch Trials of which he was a driving force. The religious hysteria began with and was led by this man.
In January 1692 the daughter and the niece of Rev. Samuel Parris.(Salem's Most Visited Museum, n.d.) When they failed to improve in a reasonable amount of time they were seem by the doctor, William Griggs, who was able to provide a diagnosis for both of these girls. His opinion was that both of the girls were the victims of bewitchment. When this factor is taken into account combined with a belief in the Devil and the previous misfortune that had befallen on the town, you have a recipe for hysteria. A town will begin to look for answers and this case they decided they would find the guilty party at any cost.
The residents of the village of Salem have what they believe is definitive and irrefutable proof that someone is bewitching these children and perhaps even the town itself. For them the question is not if it is happening but who is doing it. This was on the tail end of the Witchcraft craze that was sweeping through Europe where thousands of women accused of witchcraft were put to death because they were believed to be agents of the Devil causing harm to others through supernatural means. The craze started in the 1300’s and ended in the late 1600’s.(Blumberg, 2007) Even though overseas this was winding down, local events caused it to flourish.
In 1689, William and Mary, the rulers of England, began a war with France that was fought on the soil of the colonies. The battles...