The Salem Journal: The Aftermath
Life After Death
By Sam M and Sam F
On September 22 of 1693, the last of the so-called "witches" were released from prison in Salem Massachusetts. The Salem Witch Trails have officially ended. During the past year, one to two hundred people in the Salem area have been imprisoned. Twenty-four died and fifty-five falsely admitted to witchcraft. The trials did not end at the release of the witches. The aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials plays a big part in life even today. It shows us how much is yet to be learned, and ways in which we can prevent future happenings similar to these.
The aftermath of the witch trials created closure in the community of Salem. However it is surprising that only one of the six accusing girls apologized. Each girl lived a relatively normal life after the incidents. Betty Parris (one of the chief accusers) was not persecuted nor had any action taken against her. She went on to live a regular life, she married and had four children. Something similar happened with Elizabeth Hubbard and many of the other accusers. This brings up questions about the truth in the girls fits and accusations. They either could not recognize what they had done was wrong, or chose to ignore their past.
One of the girls, however, did apologize. Her name was Ann Putnam Jr. She accused sixty-two people of witchcraft and was the only accuser to publicly apologize. She issued a public apology in 1706. She stated that she was extremely sorry, and felt as though she was truly taken by the devil. She said, "I desire to be humbled before God for that sad and humbling providence that befell my father's family in the year about ninety-two; that I, then being in my childhood, should, by such a providence of God, be made an instrument for the accusing of several people for grievous crimes, whereby their lives was taken away from them, whom, now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons; and that it was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time." Ann Putnam Jr. talked about the true sorrow that she felt and how she knew how grave and mistaken her actions were. She did not take all of the blame for her accusations though. She also said that the devil had taken her, and she had no choice but to do what she was told. None of the other accusers issued an apology, which is strange because they played just as large a part in the accusations as Ann Putnam Jr.
Each of the guilty acted in extremely different ways after the trials ended, For example, Judge Samuel Sewall. Sewall was born in Hampshire England, and moved to Massachusetts to go to Harvard University.It was there that he was appointed to the court of Oyer and Terminer. He was one of the judges during the trials, he felt that he had made many bad decisions. After the trials died down he stood up in the south church during service and admitted to "Blame, and Shame." Twelve jurors also stood up and said that their actions were 'sadly deluded and mistaken."
Samuel Parris (the Reverend) took some blame for his actions, but first shifted most of it to someone else. Parris had not been an especially fair minister and was refused his salary many times because of bad behavior. This became a huge problem, because Samuel Parris was the father of Betty Parris (one of the first accusing girls) as soon as she started having fits, he needed to find someone to blame. He blamed his servant Tituba. After the trials he was slow to apologize, and did not apologize until 1694 saying "I may have been mistaken." But it was already too late. He was kicked out of the village in 1696, and was replaced by Thomas Green as the new Reverend, who spent the rest of his life trying to repair the reputation of the church.
Another important event in the healing of Salem was when Governor Phips was taken out of office. Governor Phips believed strongly in witchcraft, but most suspect that he was aware of people being falsely accused of witchcraft. He created and ran the court of Oyer and Terminer. He was a big reason that spectral evidence was allowed as evidence in the trials. Phipps became a controversial figure, not only for allowing spectral evidence during the trials, but also because after the trails ended, he tried to shift the blame to his Lieutenant Governor, William Stoughton.
William Stoughton was born on September 30, 1631 in England. His parents (Israel and Elizabeth Stoughton) owned a large quantity of land in the Massachusetts Bay colony. Stoughton had always been interested in law. He graduated with a degree in theology, from Harvard University at age 19. Then he moved back to England and got a Masters Degree from Oxford in April 1652. Following this he entered a political life. William Phips appointed him Lieutenant Governor and Chief Justice of Massachusetts, even though he had no history in law. Phips appointed him head judge of the court Oyer and Terminer, and he served there until the court was shut down. He made many questionable decisions but overall was a relatively fair judge. After Phips left the colonies, he served as Governor of Salem until his death on July 7, 1701.
Governor Phips was a controversial governor even before the Salem Witch Trials. With the Salem Witch Trials, his inability to lead just became more apparent. Phips tried to protect his job by pardoning the rest of the accused witches and dissolving the court of Oyer and Terminer. On February 21, 1693 he sent a letter to the King of England chastising his Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton. He did this in order to defend himself from the Salem Witch Trials, but this was not enough. Eventually, in 1694, King William of England made Phips sail back to England. Phips died from a horrible fever in England in February 1695. Over the course of the next couple of years, William Stoughton became governor of Massachusetts, replacing Phips. He signed a law paying the heir of each accused witch a sum of "600. Later the General Court declared the trials unlawful. After the year 1752 Salem Village was renamed Danvers, and Salem Town became Salem, MA. Salem renamed itself to Danvers to leave its past of death and hatred behind.
In 1957, the last witches" names were cleared. The town of Salem realized the mistakes that they had made and in 1992 a memorial was made to honor the deaths of people accused of witchcraft. Honoring the victims of the witch trials was an important milestone for the people of Salem. It was Salem's way of stating that the times of persecution are over.
The trials happened in what is now Danvers, Massachusetts. But the aftermath took place all over the world. "Witch hunts", whether hunting actual witches or not, became a serious threat. An infamous witch hunt happened during the cold war all over America. People were searching for communists, and accusing others of being communists, without any clear evidence. If more people had studied events like the Salem Witch Trials and The Great Witch Hunts, we could have other "witch hunts" in the future.
The Salem Witch Trials were an important part of American history, but even more important is what is learned from them. It is important to take away all that can be learned from the trials so that we can prevent repeats in the future. The trials can be studied and the ways in which the madness happened and try to truly understand what happened. The witch trials were an example of hysteria people can experience when faced with fear. They also showed very well the time it takes for a community to fully heal, after a tragedy. The salem Witch Trials were a sad time, but a lot can be learned form them.