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Salem/European Witch Trials Compared To The Mccarthy Hearings

1749 words - 7 pages

The evidence of witchcraft and related works has been around for many centuries. Gradually, though, a mixture a religious, economical, and political reasons instigated different periods of fear and uncertainty among society. Witchcraft was thought of as a connection to the devil that made the victim do evil and strange deeds. (Sutter par. 1) In the sixteenth, seventeenth, and twentieth century, the hysteria over certain causes resulted in prosecution in the Salem Witch Trials, European Witchcraft Craze, and the McCarthy hearings. These three events all used uncertain and unjustly accusations to attack the accused.

The Salem witch trials in Massachusetts Colony lasted from 1692 to early ...view middle of the document...

4) The accused were mostly women, and to make them confess, different methods of torture were used. The confessions and trials of the accused witches were nonsense. Often, torture would continue until the victim had no choice but to confess of being a witch, and most of the confessions were forced. Trials and hangings continued and by the early autumn of 1692, doubts were developing as to how so many respectable people could be guilty. The educated elite of the colony began efforts to end the witch-hunting hysteria that had enveloped Salem. Increase Mather then published a work entitled Cases of Conscience, which argues that it were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person should be condemned. This urged the court to exclude spectral evidence. With spectral evidence not permitted, the remaining trials ended in acquittals and all the convicted and accused witches were let out of jail in May of 1693. By the time the whole witchcraft incident ended, nineteen convicted witches were hanged, at least four accused witches had died in prison, and one man, Giles Corey, had been pressed to death under rocks. About one to two hundred other people were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges. The witchcraft accusations in Salem had taken the lives of at least twenty-four people.

In Europe, death by accusations of witchcraft had started as early as the thirteenth century. By the middle of the thirteenth century, the Church became deeply concerned about the spread of heresies. (Wilkins 25) The Church therefore decided to set up courts known as the Courts of the Inquisition to try cases of heresy. Witches were among those tried and put to death. This persecution may have seemed harsh, but it was with the coming of the Reformation that the witch-hunts really began. To the Protestants, witches represented the devil himself. For one thing, it was that the Protestants believed everything in the Bible meant exactly what it said. In one of the books in the Old Testament (Exodus 22:18) it says, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. This was taken to mean that witches existed and should be put to death. There was no group of Protestants who did not hate and fear witches (Wilkins 26) So, as the Reformation spread across Europe, the persecution of witches gathered strength. (Wilkins 26) However, it was during the late fifteenth century that the witchcraft hysteria began. Inflation, war, plague, and religious uncertainties had played a part in causing the social tension to start the craze. Three years after the British Civil War began, the Parliament appointed a Witch-finder General. He and other appointed witch-finders were to take suspicious-looking people to a witch trial. The most common kind of trial was when they stick a long pin into the accused witchs leg. If she did not cry out, the magistrate would declare that she was a witch because witches, supposedly, could not feel pain. Unfortunately, though, ...

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