The Role Of The Puritan Church In The Salem Witch Trials The Role of the Puritan Church in the Salem Witch Trials The Salem Witch Trials were a time of confusion, where half a dozen girl accusers threw the town of Salem on its head. The end result was 19 hung and one crushed to death for failure to admit or deny witchcraft and 150 more were imprisoned throughout the course of the trial (Hall p38). The Puritans came to the New World for their religious freedom to fallow their ideals for a new way of life, the perfect way of life. They were issued charter–to live on the land–. The King Phillips war labeled as [t]he bloodiest war in Americas history whichtook place in New England in 1675 (Tougias par.1) had a dramatic effect on the Puritan society.
Their charter was revoked and reinstated at least twice throughout the course of the war. This stress of having their land revoked and reinstated without a doubt placed pressure on the society as a whole to develop and become self-sustaining entity free from England. After the war people would look to the church even more than they had in the past for guidance. This set the seen for the problems to come. The churches relentless attempt to maintain the society that they had established was the cause of the Salem witch trials.
Even before Salem Village was established there was a separation between its future inhabitants. The people on the western part of Salem Village were farming families that wanted to separate from the Town (Sutter Par.2). On the east side of the Salem Village were the people who had made a living on the rich harbor and were strongly apposed to leaving the security of the larger Salem Town (Par. 2). By 1672 the inhabitants of Salem Village had separated from Salem Town, built a meetinghouse, and hired their own minister (Witchcraft in Salem Village Par.1). By 1689 the villagers in a seemingly unusual spirit of cooperation pushed hard for a completely independent church, while at the same time hiring their fourth successive minister, Samuel Parris(Trask p.
xi). The residents of Salem were after all, Puritans, which means they viewed their community not just as a group of individuals, but as a single entity united under God (Possible Causes Par.3). The social tension caused by the differing opinions on the separation of the village from Salem Town strongly contradicted their religious ideals that they were all supposed to be as one. The farming people in Salem Village thought that the thriving economy of the harbor in Salem Town made it far to individualistic (Sutter Par.3). Samuel Parris has a long and eventful history that shaped his views and actions while he was preaching in Salem Village.
At the age of 20 Parris inharated his fathers sugar plantation in Barbados while he was attending Harvard (Linder Parris Par1). The wealth that Parris had accumulated while in Barbados was sufficient enough to support him and his new family when he moved to Boston (Par.2). Unhappy with his life as a merchant Parris decided that it was time for a change in his vocation. In 1691 he began to substitute for absent ministers and speaking at informal church gatherings (Par.3). After the birth of his third child with his wife Elizabeth Eldridge, Parris began to have formal negotiations to become the preacher for Salem Village (Par.3). The marriage of Parris and Eldridge linked him to multiple distinguished families in Boston, including the Sewalls (Par.
2). His true self could best be seen threw the way that he preached in his congregation. It is as though the most important issue in the New Testament were the Son of Gods fragile ego. In reality, of course, the fragile ego was Parriss. He was more obsessed wit his standing in other peoples eyes (Armstrong p.12) William Stoughton was born into a family that had a great deal of land in the Massachusetts Bay area (Linder Stoughton Par.
1). Even from an early age Stoughton showed a great deal of interest in the ministry (Par.1). From 1674 to 1676 and 1680 to 1686 he served as the Deputy President of the colonys temporary government (Par 2). Between his two terms Stoughton acted as an agent for Massachusetts at the court of Charles II in England (Par. 2).
Shortly after the witchcraft outbreak in Salem, Governor Phips appointed him chief justice of the newly formed court of Oyer and Terminer (Par. 4). Puritanism was especially favorable by its temper and its tenets, to prosecution for witchcraft (Lyman p. 331). The church was extremely instrumental in the manifestation of the witch trials.
Ministers were looked to for guidance by the judges, who were generally without legal training, on matters pertaining to witchcraft(Linder Par. 13). This lack of legal training allowed for the trials to be continued for as long or as short as the ministers wanted them to. Evidence that would be excluded from modern courtroomshearsay, gossip, stories, unsupported assertions, surmiseswas also generally admitted (Linder Par. 13).
The church and the court had the people to a point where they would do anything to avoid getting on the wrong side of the powers including accusing their own friends. The superstition of the people had lead them to believe that their God had abandoned them (Why 1692 Par. 1). According to the article Possible causes of the Salem witch hunts the residence of Salem saw themselves as a single entity under God(Par. 8).
The first people that were accused of witchcraft were all likely targets not only for the church, but also for the community as well due to their outlandish nature. Sarah Good, a beggar and social misfit, Tituba, Parriss slave he had brought with him from Barbados, and Sarah Osborn, a quarrelsome woman who had not attended church in more than a year (Linder Par. 10). The accusations brought against these women were not to be refuted by anyone except for themselves that is except for Tituba who openly admitted to practicing witchcraft and seeing the other women sign the Devils book (Breslaw). Goodwife Sarah Cloyse stormed out of the church on the Lords Day in the middle of the sacrament (Lincoln p. 161).
Soon after this Goodwife Cloyse was accused herself of witchcraft. By taking advantage of the people in town that had either been standouts or had done something to draw attention to them, the church and court were able to gain the support of the community. What was to come of the accused once they were jailed was dependent on their willingness to conform and support the ways of the common folk. Th …