Monday, October 22, 2012

A fever in salem

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Sudden Halt

The Salem witch trials were something amazing, something horrifying that has never happened in America since. Salem Village was established in the 160’s about five miles away from Salem town. The village became independent of Salem town, and in 168 the village put up its own church. Samuel Parris was the first minister. It was in his house during 16 that the first fits of Betty Parris, his daughter, and Abigail Williams, his niece, began. It was in January of 16, that Betty and Abigail started their fits, babbling, and accusations of witchcraft. With the girls continuing to have these fits, they led to accusations of many people. The people of Salem had no choice but to believe the girls, because the girls were relatives of the minister, and because the people were so afraid of Satan. The village of Salem believed these young girls for almost ten months, from January to the end of October. By October, of 16, the accusations had stopped; the people who were accused and in jail were being let out on bail, on the basis that there wasn’t enough or any substantial evidence to convict them. As one proceeds to the end of Frances Hill’s book, A Delusion of Satan, several key points are brought to the reader’s attention to prove why this witch trial came to a sudden halt, after only a couple months of accusations. Through a series of events, people in Salem came to doubt the girls’ accusations; thus, ending the trials.

The girls might have thought they were winning people over during the hearings; however, when a young man decided to speak up during one of the trials, he told everyone about a knife he had broken earlier in the day. One of the girls had cried out during Sarah Good’s trial that she was stabbed in the breast with a knife. The girl then showed the people part of the blade. That was when a young man, “came forward to say that the day before, when the afflicted girl was nearby, he happened to break his knife and threw the upper part away. He showed the court a knife handle with a section of blade still attached. The two pieces fit; they were two parts of one knife” (Hill 166). Although the pieces of the knife had fit together, the court saw nothing of it and told the girl to stop lying and to continue on. Even though the court didn’t think this was an important factor at the time, it was a start. The villagers could see the girls were starting to lie, and this resulted in a few starting to doubt the stories of the girls.

One of the most memorable deaths during the Salem witch trials was that of George Burroughs. Burroughs was a former minister in Salem and Salisbury. Burroughs was brought to trial on August fifth; the reason he was brought to trial in the first place was because of his unusual strength; the girls also claimed they had seen his last two wives, and the wives said Burroughs murdered them, and so he was accused of being a wizard. On August nineteenth, Burroughs was taken to Gallows Hill to be hanged. This is when everything started to turn against the accusations of him being involved with witches or Satan. As Burroughs was about to be hung, the strangest thing happened in the eyes of Puritans; he started to say his own prayer. Then, “Burroughs recited the Lord’s Prayer without a single mistake” (Hill 17). As he was reciting the prayer perfectly, the villagers had to have been thinking is it possible that Burroughs was innocent of all charges? Witches and people associated with Satan weren’t supposed to be able to recite the Lord’s Prayer perfectly like he did. When Burroughs recited it, “the crowd heard the words as they had never heard them before. They may have wondered about the all too apparent lack of forgiveness of the God they believed in and the men who represented Him” (Hill 17). Then heads started to turn; some people in the crowd even shed tears, because his prayer was so well worded, and uttered with such composedness. When the girls saw the crowd starting to cry they rushed right over to him and told the crowd, they saw a black man talking to Burroughs, and Cotton Mather helped out by saying Burroughs was not even a properly ordained minister. Even with Cotton and the girls trying to convince the villagers Burroughs was evil, the villagers still started to wonder, how could a witch/wizard come up with such beautiful words, and make them sound so good.

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With the villagers starting to have doubts from the knife incident and Burroughs’ reciting of the lord’s prayer, Increase Mathers convinced the rest of the villagers when he wrote about the trials, and what should happen at them to prove who is and is not a witch. Increase Mather, father of Cotton, wrote an essay called, Cases of Conscience. Increase wrote that,” It were better that ten suspected witches should escape, than that one innocent person should be condemned” (Hill 16). Increase also says that, “I hope the thinking part of mankind will be satisfied, that there was more than that which is called spectre evidence for the conviction of the persons condemned” (Hill 16). The girls insisted on spectral evidence, but with Increase saying it shouldn’t be allowed, the girls lost their major way to accuse people. With Increase’s essay being read by many in the court, opinions began to sway, and the accusations were coming to a sudden halt, with the help of Sir William Phipps. Phipps, one of Increase’s dearest friends and governor, put an end to the imprisonment of witchcraft soon after his good friend’s essay on October 1th. Phipps stopped the imprisonment of witchcraft by dissolving the Court of Oyer and Terminer, which was a court set up to deal with social disorder cases. The trials then ended at that point.



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