The Salem Journal: The Aftermath
The Apologies in Salem
By Grace T
In 1692, a witch-hunt occurred that tore apart the community of Salem, Massachusetts. A group of young girls accused their neighbors and the people the community trusted the most of being witches. Twenty-four people were killed, and others were scared their families would be accused. Only one of the girls ever apologized for accusing people of being witches. It was difficult for the community to bounce back and heal from what happened, but a few important apologies from key members of the community helped the people of Salem move beyond the witch trials.
Reverend John Hale was one of the main ministers in the Salem witch trial. He was the only eyewitness who saw the girls' afflictions, which were taken as signs of the Devil. Reverend Hale also testified against one accused witch. His wife was accused of being a witch, which slowed down the trials because the whole community knew she was trustworthy. Reverend John Hale's wife, who was not convicted of being a witch,, died in 1697. The same year she died, Reverend Hale wrote a book, "A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft,"" on how he thought the Salem witch trials were wrong and that he regretted taking part in the trials. The book was not published until 1702, after Hale died.
The girls who accused Salem community members of being witches were Sarah Bibber, Elizabeth Booth, Sarah Churchill, Elizabeth Hubbard, Mercy Lewis, Elizabeth Parris, Ann Putnam, Jemima Rea, Susanna Sheldon, Mary Warren, Mary Walcott, and Abigail Williams. In the courtroom they would have fits; historians now think that the girls were just making this up to get attention.
Most of the girls did not apologize but one girl did; her name was Ann Putnam. She had accused 62 people of being witches. Nine years after the trials were over, Reverend Green became the minister of Salem, replacing Samuel Parrish who was a leader in the witch trials. Reverend Green tried to convince Ann to apologize, but she did not want to for years. In 1706, thirteen years after the witch trials, Ann Putnam at age 27 issued a public apology and became the only one of the "afflicted" girls to say that accusing people of being witches was wrong. Ann said, "It was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear that I have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwitting, to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent blood."
Many people have suggested reasons why the other girls did not apologize. Some of the reasons are: The girls were very young (about thirteen) and were treated as children. Many of them got married, changed their names and moved away from Salem. The girls didn"t talk about what they did. The official historian of Salem said "Most of those young women have been lost to history."
One other important person who apologized for being part of the witch trials was Samuel Sewall, who was one of the judges. Some jurors in the trials also apologized for being 'sadly deluded and mistaken." Reverend Parris, even though he was at the center of the witch trials, blamed it all on other people.
The Massachusetts legislature also apologized. In 1711 the legislature returned the rights and good names of the witches to the official record. It also gave a small amount of money to the families of the women accused of being witches.
Even though most of the girls did not apologize, in the end, the church, the state legislature, and some important members of the community understood what errors were made and apologized for killing twenty-four innocent people. Historians still do not understand why the witch hunt happened, but now people can do more to make sure another one never happens again.