Causes of the Salem Witch Trials: Political, Religious and Social

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Between the months of June to September of 1692, the infamous witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts resulted in the hanging of 19 men and women; the deaths of five others, including two children, while imprisoned in jail; the pressing to death of an 80-year old man, and the stoning of two dogs for collaborating with the Devil. Hundreds of others faced accusations and dozens more were jailed for months during the progress of the trials. For over three hundred years these events have not only captured the general publics' imagination, but that of the academic community. Beginning with Charles Upham, in 1867, historians have attempted to explain the mass hysteria that swept through Salem in 1692. These accounts vary both in their…show more content…
First, the Puritan religion was under direct attack from other religious groups including the Quakers and the Baptists. The Quakers, a religious sect newly founded in England, began coming to Massachusetts in 1656. Laws were enacted to prohibit their coming, but they came in defiance of the laws. Between 1659 and 1661 four people were hanged according to these new laws. Though the Puritans tried to defend themselves by the plea that they were defending the public peace, they were roundly condemned in England. By the mid-1670's, Quakers were protected by the English law and could conduct non-religious business in New England. Moreover, in 1654 the congregation of Cambridge Church was shocked by a statement from Henry Dunster, the highly respected president of Harvard College. While a baptismal service was in progress, he arose to dispute the practice of infant baptism as un-Biblical and proceeded to take each point from the pastor's sermon and to answer it with Baptist views. He was silenced, stripped of his Harvard presidency and publicly rebuked. Those perceived as religious dissidents would be accused of witchcraft during the Salem trials. Arguably, the colony had previously been beset by religious dissidents, dealing with each episode without incurring a public outcry of a witchcraft conspiracy; however, this time there were other more alarming developments taking place within the colony. A long

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