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The Salem Witch Trials Essay

2769 words - 11 pages

The Salem witchcraft trials resulted from a climate of repression, religious intolerance, and social hierarchy combined with fanaticism and the oppression of women. The Puritan leaders used the trials as a way to control the community and to prevent change in the strict social hierarchy. The trials ensured that the teachings of the church would be followed anyone not following the church was simply accused of being a witch and punished accordingly. Witchcraft was considered a crime, and punishment was severe. The first recorded incidents of Witchcraft originated in the mind of a young girls who would supposedly use crystal balls to try and predict their future. These young girls turned to practices outside the church in order to break the monotony of their lives. Thus, they were open to listening to the slaves, like Tituba. Tituba was a slave whom practised a form of fortune telling based on voodoo. However, fortune telling was in direct conflict with puritan ideology, which forbid the act because only god can predict the future. Therefor, anyone caught looking into the future was a sinner. 'God who reveals all things in his own good time does not permit his providence to be tempted. Only the devil will stoop to such devices, therefor to attempt by magical means to see into the future is to traffic with the devil.'Witchcraft was a rebellion against good, and therefor a sin in the bible and punished as a capital crime. Trials were held in order to uphold the social hierarchy, but the trials soon began to be aided and effected by disputes among the villagers. In Salem no one was immune to the increasing social tensions and hostility, not even the church. At separate times, two ministers, reverends James Bayler and George Burroughs chose to leave the parish rather than be subjected to snooping and the extremely acrimonious climate. The tension over land was growing fast. In 1632, the general court granted governor Endicott three hundred acres of land. With subsequent land grants to others, the boundaries and borders which told the people who owned what land was in dispute. Another land problem was caused by overcrowding in the New England communities. Salem was a seaport community that had been settled early and most of the land within its borders belonged to the first generation settlers. In the 1650's, boundary disputes between Salem residents and those of surrounding towns increased. As a result of a shortage of land, most second and third generation Salem children lived as adults on subdivided land or moved on. The sons and daughters who stayed in Salem to farm found themselves with a lower income than their parents. 'The resulting tensions were Heightened by the concentration of land ownership in the hands of a relative few.' The outcome was a climate of extreme animosity that lead to strife, and it was this tension that lead the puritans to use the trials to acquire land from their neighbours.The trials were a means to maintain the strict...

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