The Salem Journal: The Hysteria
Puritans Face Defeat
By Elbert D and Luke R
Although the Indian Wars may not seem like they affected the Salem Witch Trials at first, the Indian Wars, which began around 1622 and raged on and off into the eighteenth century had a large impact on the outcome of the Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, teenage girls were suddenly barking like dogs and dancing in the woods. The only possible explanation was that the girls had been bewitched, and the devil had come to Salem. No one really knows why the girls actually started behaving oddly, and many things might explain it. For example, there was a smallpox epidemic in Salem that year, and the winter that year was much worse than usual. The wars with the Indians were also taking place, only 70 miles away from Salem. The main thing on everyone's mind was violent death. Fear spread and created hysteria.
Indians were viewed as devil worshippers, and witches were viewed as servants of the Devil. The Puritans saw the Devil 70 miles away, and were fearful of him. There was the feeling that the devil was nearby, and that was part of the fright and suspicion. If the Devil convinced someone to join his ranks, they were now a witch and not to be trusted. Women were considered to be weaker than men, and less likely to resist the Devil if he happened to visit them. Any woman with a temper was in danger of accusation, and once accused, conviction was inescapable.
News of hostile Indians brought fear of a repeat of the Wampanoag chief Metacom's uprising, the King Phillips War. Although the Puritans were victorious in that war, nightmares of the war remained and people of Salem were seeing Indians in every dark alley and every corner. Every able-bodied man trained for the war. In their fearful, anxious state, everybody was seeing things that were not actually happening.
In the King Phillips War of 1675 and 1676, the women were not directly affected, but were victims nonetheless. The women and children died without fathers to get paid for work, and fearing that the famine would happen again with the upcoming war, the women were especially suspicious of others, even more so than the men. This caused some women to lose their temper randomly, which led some suspicion to their being a witch.
The Puritans believed in an invisible world, which they thought to be as real as the visible one. The Puritans were losing the war against the Indians, which was the war with the Devil in the visible world, and this made them even more willing to kill witches, which was the war in the invisible world. The Puritans felt the need to defeat evil driving them. Added to the fear and hysteria, this blinded most people in Salem Village of the truth and created the frenzy to find and kill witches.
Indians constantly raided the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and there were also many wars. One large war Massachusetts was fighting was a battle against Canada and their Indian allies called the Battle of Quebec. It cost even more lives to the English settlers than the Salem Witch Trials, and spread fear of more battles with the Canadians throughout Massachusetts. This was caused because France claimed the largest area of North America with the least amount of settlers. The English thought this was naive, and so decided to attack the French. However, the English suffered a horrible defeat and were forced to retreat. More men died on the return voyage than in the battle, and the French suffered only minor losses. This enormous defeat led to despair.
Another of the large wars was the King William's war. The King William's War is also known as the Nine Years' War or the War of the Grand Alliance, and began in 1688. The Battle of Quebec was part of the King William's War which started because of the tension between the English and the French. There were many other important battles, most of which were retaliation. The New Englanders retaliated to the French's initial attack by attacking Port Royal, one of the important battles. In the King William's war, there were many important battles, such as the Battle of Port Royal, the Battle of Quebec, and the Siege of Pemaquid. These were all losses for the New Englanders, and so many losses were weighing heavily on everybody's minds.
Indians raided from all directions. Raids from the north and west brought many refugees carrying sickness, need of additional resources, and even more fear. Many of these refugees bore marks of the raids such as scars, open cuts, and madness. After seeing these refugees in their sorry state, even more people believed the Devil was truly among them. People were seeing the Devil in every household and were fearful of the harm that may be caused.
One of the people accused was a man who had lots many battles to the Indians in a row. George Burroughs, head of the church was accused of bewitching his soldiers in a military disaster for the Americans. He was a man of very high status and rank, with no bad reputation at all. George Burroughs may have been the least likely witch of all, and yet he was accused with the wars with the Indians as a reason. There were other reasons too, one of which was his extraordinary weight lifting, and such feats of strength were considered impossible without assistance. Afterwards, he successfully recited the Lord's Prayer in front of a large crowd making him even less likely to be a witch and was executed anyways.
News of the Native victories to the north and west added fear that the Indians might defeat every city in Massachusetts, including Salem. Only 70 miles away, no one felt safe, everybody feared the Indians would slaughter the Puritans down to the last man. Anxiousness arose, and suspicion of spies built up.
Tituba, an Indian slave, was the most likely suspect of being a spy, and it is no coincidence she was the first accused. Even though she was not a Wabanaki or a Wampanoag, but actually from Barbados, she was still an Indian slave and so people thought of her as an Indian. Puritans put all Indians in the same box, and so Tituba was put in a box with them. Also, slaves were the lowest ranking people in the society. The lower a person was in society, the less trustworthy he or she was. Tituba, being both the lowest in society as well as Indian, was an easy target. Add to that the voodoo magic and tales she was telling the girls, and Tituba is an obvious choice.
The Salem Witch Trials were a terrible event that scared many people in Salem in 1692. At least twenty-four people and two dogs were killed. No one really knows what happened in the witch trials, but many things might explain them. There was the small pox epidemic, the harsh winter and their Puritan religion adding up to fear, hysteria, and madness. The Indian Wars were another factor that increased peoples' fears, and may have had the largest impact of all. The Salem Witch Trials was a very important moment in history, and all the people in the world would do well to learn about it and prevent any repeats. The King Phillips' War especially, even though it happened in the past, just thinking about it caused the Salem Witch Trials to be stronger. The Indian Wars were key to the development of the Salem Witch Trials, and nobody wants another witch hunt.