Learning Unit #08 Lecture “Explaining the Salem Witch Hunt”
Part One:Historical Background: What Happens Back in England Affects America
What’s a ‘Pilgrim’? What’s a ‘Puritan’? Robert W. Weir, Embarkation of the PilgrimsTo distinguish Pilgrims from Puritans--who preceded the former in Englishhistory but, as a group, arrived later in North America--we should understandhow religious issues dominated English politics in the 1600s.
Elizabeth I died childless in1603, the last of the Tudormonarchs. She was aProtestant, but she let theChurch of England keep itsCatholic-style power structure.She was head of the Churchand appointed bishops andarchbishops as administrators.Anglican Church serviceswere required by law to followThe Book of CommonPrayer. Anglican clergymenstill dressed like Catholicpriests. Every English subjectwas automatically a memberand paid taxes to support thisstate-sponsored church.
A Puritan family, ca. 1560s.To some Protestants, the Church of England still looked and felt awhole lot like the Catholic Church, and this made them souncomfortable that in the 1560s they began agitating for itsreform or ‘purification.’ Puritanism appealed to some aristocrats,some lawyers, and some among the urban ‘middling sort,’ but itfound more numerous followers among small farmers, mastercraftsmen, and small merchants--people who were self-employed, economically independent, and industrious.
Three Branches of Dissent• Presbyterians did not object to a state church but wanted it ruled by local groups of elders (presbyters), not bishops; they practiced infant baptism.• Separatists, or Pilgrims believed the Church of England was too corrupt to be redeemed, and they must withdraw into independent congregations; pro-King, anti- Church; early Baptists, they did NOT practice infant baptism.• Puritans believed themselves to be true C. of England, which could still be reformed from within in a model Christian society; anti- King, pro-Church; they practiced infant baptism.
5-Points of Calvinism All these dissenters shared a belief in the ideas of John Calvin, which are summed up by the TULIP acrostic above. Belief in predestination is generally regarded as the most salient characteristic of Calvinism. “Perseverance of theSaints” carries the same meaning as the phrase “Once saved always saved”-- which some Protestant denominations still espouse.
Queen Elizabeth and her successors, the Stuarts, persecuted Puritans and all other such dissenting sects. The idea that subjects might follow different religions than their monarchs sounded like a recipe for disorder & revolution in the 1600s. King James I (of “Jamestown” & KJV Bible-fame) would not be as harsh with dissenters as his son, Charles I, butJames I, first Puritans had a problem withStuart King James anyway because heof England lived openly as a homosexual. James I reigned from 1603-1625.
When the Stuarts--relatives ofthe Tudors and previouslymonarchs of Scotland--wereinvited by Parliament toassume England’s throne, thedeal was this: the Stuarts wouldnot attempt to rule as absolutemonarchs but share power withParliament in a constitutionalarrangement. The Stuarts werealso required to abandon theirCatholic faith or at least concealit. Prior to 1688, however, theyremained Catholic sympathizerswho sometimes openly sought The House of Stuart’sto ‘Catholicize’ the C. of England Coat of Armsand other institutions.
Charles I was arguably the worst Charles I offender. He tried unsuccessfully reigned to rule as an absolute monarch from 1625 without Parliament. But he still -1649. needed to collect taxes to suppress religious dissent by force. When he tried to tax w/o consulting Parliament, he sparked the English Civil War, pitting the forces of Parliament, known as the ‘Roundheads,’ against the King’s supporters, known as the ‘Cavaliers.’ ThePuritan and Parliamentary causes were one & the same during this conflict, which saw the Roundheads prevail and Charles’head roll, literally, at his execution.
Once Parliament wins the English Civil War, England, Scotland, & Ireland experience a Puritan dictatorship under Parliament’s military leader, Oliver Cromwell. During this era (Cromwell’s Protectorate) Puritans gain a reputation for being against anyone having a good time. Gambling, dancing, theater- going, non-religious music, playing cards--all banned, more because of Puritan intolerance for frivolous activities than sin. Pilgrims (since 1620), Puritans (since 1632), and other Englishmen had been coming to New England for decades. But the great Oliver Cromwell ruled wave of migration dried up during the from Civil War years & Protectorate as the 1653-58. Puritan movement unsuccessfullytried to transform the British Isles into the model Christian society. Thebacklash against military rule following Cromwell’s death brought theStuarts back to the throne.
The Stuart Restoration After Cromwell’s death, Charles II—who had been exiled in France following his father’s execution—wasinvited by a new Parliament to take back the throne, with the understanding that he would conceal his Catholic sympathies & not try to be an absolutist king like his father. He did not always live up tothe agreement, but at least he was cautious about pursuing his true ambitions & expressing his beliefs. Charles II reigned from 1660-1685
Effects of Stuart Rule on M.B.C.In 1684, Charles II dissolved Gov. the original charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Andros which had allowed thePuritan leaders to govern as they saw fit. “The Dominion of New England” was now being run by an arrogant Englishman named Sir Edmond Andros. Andros was questioning whether long-established farmers really owned their land.Worse, he was insisting that any Christian could come into the community. That meant Quakers had to be tolerated!
James II When Charles II died without an heir in 1685, his brother James II became king. James II was openly Catholic and determined to push the country back in that direction. Parliament was equally determined to resist, & they deposed James II in a nearly bloodless coup called the “Glorious Revolution” (1688-89). At this time Gov. Andros was removed from his post, leaving New England withoutJames II secure protection from England.
The Glorious Revolution, 1688 Parliament next offered the throne to James II’s Protestant daughter, Mary, and her Dutch husband, William. Parliament took advantage of the situation toclaim more power. From then on, members speaking in Parliament had freedom of speech, and the newmonarchs had to agree to no more taxation without representation (sound familiar?) like Charles I had tried to get away with.
Timeline of English & Puritan History• Stuarts became English monarchs in 1603.• Reign of James I (1603-1625); Charles I (1625-1649).• 1630 -- Puritans formed Massachusetts Bay Co. and left England; by 1640 Mass. Bay Colony had 20,000 settlers.• English Civil War (1642-1651); immigration to New England dropped off; Puritans/Parliament won war.• Cromwell’s Protectorate (1653-1658); Puritans were in charge in England!• Restoration of Charles II (1660)• Charles II dies, 1685; James II (1685-88); Gov. Andros• 1688 – William and Mary; “Glorious Revolution”• 1691 – Reorganization of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay into one colony.• 1691-92 – Salem Witch Hunt
The point is that what happened back in England had a big impact on English settlers in America. For example, political fallout in the aftermath of the GloriousRevolution created a power vacuum/shake- up locally in Massachusetts that made possible the devastating Indian attacks of 1688 as well as the 1692 witch trials. Nowthat you have some idea about the historical background, it’s time to look at Pilgrims, Puritans, ‘Strangers,’ & Native Americans in the New World.
Part Two: Cooperation & Conflict-- Relations Between Native-Americans & English Settlers in the Northeast
The Plague of 1617 in the Northeast Unknown disease transmitted by passing European cod fishermen. Hardest hit were the coastal tribes of what will become Massachusetts. Within three years, an estimated 90-96% of these native inhabitants were wiped out. From 1620-1635, outbreaks of smallpox further devastated the Indian population. When Pilgrims arrived in 1620 they occupied lands of these deceased.
Plymouth Colony Although violent incidents occasionally occurred, the net result of the early-1600s epidemics was that the English settlers, for their first fifty years in The First Thanksgiving,* 1621 New England (unlike the Virginia Colony), would face no real threat from the Indians--not until King Philip’s (a.k.a. Metacom’s) War (1675).(*Not to be confused with the later Puritan Thanksgiving for victory in the 1637 Pequot War, from which our contemporary holiday was historicallyderived. Days of either feasting (Thanksgivings) or fasting occurred periodically in Pilgrim/Puritan society throughout the year.)
Pilgrims & ‘Strangers’ Arrived, 11/11/1620• Founded Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts.• Pilgrims, or Separatists, made up 35 of 102 aboard the Mayflower; the others they considered “Strangers” to their religious fellowship.• They set out for Virginia, so how did they end up in Massachusetts?• Hijacking theory: Perhaps there was a conspiracy among the Pilgrim fanatics to land somewhere the Anglican Church was not established, but straying off course could also have happened for other reasons (bad weather; human error).• Mayflower Compact – agreement granting political rights to all male colonists who would abide by the colony’s laws. The Pilgrims were in the minority & had to make the compact to unify all aboard behind the colonizing effort.
William Bradford’s Treaty w/ MassasoitThe Wampanoags were hit hard by the 1617 plague and sought the PlymouthColony as military allies against their more populous inland neighbors.
In exchange for their military help, the earlyPilgrims wereable to obtain food and theknowledge ofhow to grow it from the Indians.
SquantoHaving the nickname “Squanto,”in Algonkian, is like being named“Satan” in English. Squanto hadbeen kidnapped & taken to Europe& had made his way back toAmerica around the time thePilgrims arrived. All communicationbetween the local Indians &Pilgrims was translated by Squanto,putting him in a powerful position.Squanto plotted to replaceMassasoit as the Indians’ leader,but his scheme ended with hismysterious death, which likely wasan assassination ordered byMassasoit.
The “Pagan Pilgrim” Thomas Morton, the lord of Merrymount, a plantation a few miles from Plymouth ran afoul of Pilgrim authorities there when he freed his indentured servants, erected a Maypole, and promoted interracial sexual couplings between Merrymount’s “bachelors” and their local Indian “brides.” He was shipped back to England where he penned a witty critique of Plymouth settlers and gave high praise to the Indians in New English Canaan (1637).
Puritans & the Massachusetts Bay“We shall be Colonyas a cityupon a hill; Unlike the Virginiathe eyes ofall people Colony--populated largelyare upon by young, male indenturedus.” servants--the male-female sex ratio of Massachusetts was roughly equal because families tended to make the journey. The masters of these households included some of the foremost commoners in England whoJohn Winthrop was among the were Puritan true-believersleading lawyers in England at the as well as companytime he immigrated. directors.
Of course, not all who came were Puritans. Non- Puritans & even non- believers came also, but they lived under the rules ofThe Great Migration the Elect, and only church members could vote = theocracy.
Puritans in America• Believed they had a special covenant with God to establish a true Christian community that would be an example to the world.• Believed they were justified in taking Indian lands. According to John Cotton: “God makes a country, though not altogether void of inhabitants, yet void in the place where they reside. Where there is a vacant place, there is liberty for the sons of Adam or Noah to come and inhabit, though they neither buy it nor ask their leaves.”• The Puritans modeled themselves after the Old Testament Children of John Cotton, Israel, who had taken the land of Leading Puritan Minister Canaan from its original inhabitants.
Puritans & Indians• All white men in MB colony required to use firearms; no guns for Indians; no missionary activity for first 13 yrs; Indians held accountable to white law.• Believed Christians had a right to take the land of non-Christians.• Believed “civilized” people had a right to “settle” lands that others simply “roamed.”• Puritans said: “God directs Puritan policy and God wants the Puritans to have the land.”
The English boasted theywould not use violenceas the Spanish had tocoerce Indians. TheEnglish predicted theywould go to the NewWorld & peacefullycoexist with & eventuallyconvert the Indians. Hereis the Great Seal of theMassachusetts BayColony. The Indian says:“Come Over and Help Us.”Do you really think this wasthe desire of many Indians?
Because Puritans doubted that any of the Elect were among the Indian population, converting them was not a big John Eliot was priority. a Puritan missionary who translated Nevertheless, some Indians did convert & became acculturated to white ways of living. Called “Red Puritans,” they lived in “praying towns.”John Eliot was a missionary to the Indians and translated Scripture into the Algonquian language.
Woodcut showing attack on Pequot village.The English failed in their idealistic goal to treat the Indians better than theSpanish had, notably against the Pequots in 1637. The English motive for their destruction was control of the fur trade in Connecticut.
The Pequot War, 1637• Pequots and Narragansetts were two strongest tribes in area.• Pequots made plea for unity to Narragansetts but were rebuffed.• Puritan aims were to drive Dutch traders from southern New England and obtain Pequot lands.• Puritans & their Narragansett allies exterminated most of Pequot tribe and enslaved any survivors.• English could be just as brutal as Spanish.• Our national Thanksgiving holiday has its roots as a New England regional holiday commemorating the Puritans’ victory over the Pequots.
Metacomet’s War (a.k.a. King Philip’s War) In 1675, when Metacomet-- a.k.a. King Philip--launched a pan-Indian war against encroaching English settlements, over five decades of generally peaceable Anglo-Indian relations came to an end. During this conflict, the English lost any ability to distinguish between their ‘good’ Red Puritan allies and the ‘bad’ Indians who followed Metacomet. In the aftermath, both “praying Indians” and troublesome Indians were indiscriminately rounded up by the English and sold into Caribbean slavery. One-third of Native Americans and one-tenthof New England colonists died in Metacomet’s War.
• MBC population reached 60,000 by 1675. Metacomet’s War• Fur trade was winding down in Massachusetts.• First pan-Indian attack against whites.• Organized by Metacomet (a Wampanoag) but other tribes quickly became involved.• Disease, food shortages, neutrality and/or betrayals by some powerful tribes brought Metacomet’s War to an end.• Of 90 Puritan towns, 52 were attacked and 12 destroyed.
Indians Blamed for Salem Witch Hunt!In Cotton Mather’s account ofthe Salem Witch Hunt--written after the fact--he deflects blame & responsibility from his own actions by determining that Native American sorcery was the root cause. He, like many Puritans, believed the Native Americans were devil- worshiping sorcerers. These sorcerers had cast a spell on Salem so the colonists would attack one another instead of the Native Americans, or so he claimed. Cotton Mather
Part Three:Massachusetts Bay Colony,Life in a Puritan-Controlled Theocracy
Puritan LifeFor Puritans, life in this world is seen as atest where individuals are in the midst of acosmic battle between God and Satan, andthe stakes are eternal bliss or damnation. Iffates are predestined, how does one knowwhether she/he is “saved”? Althoughindividual Puritans could not know, in stricttheological terms, whether they were "saved“and among the Elect who would go toheaven, Puritans tended to feel that earthlysuccess was a sign of election. Wealth andstatus were sought not only for themselves,but as welcome reassurances of spiritualhealth and promises of eternal life.The manifestation of this belief is one of the first major characteristics that setsAnglo-Americans apart. Furthermore, Puritans did not draw lines of distinctionbetween the secular and religious spheres: All of life was an expression of thedivine will.
Portrait of John Freake, A patriarchy in whichwealthy Bostonmerchant and men were theattorney (1674) undisputed masters of their households would be the best description of family life in colonial Massachusetts. Feminist historians interpret the Salem Witch hysteria as a power play by otherwise powerless young women who exploited the community’s fears & family rivalries.
There was no Elizabeth and MaryMarried women in concept of a childhood Freake (1674)colonial Massachusetts stage of development back then. Children were seenhad to know a wide range as miniature, defectiveof skilled crafts, from adults whose wills must be broken.brewing beer (safer todrink than water) tomaking cheese. Mosthouseholds hadservants, who were oftenadolescent childrenof friends and relativessent away to be trainedand disciplined by thoseless emotionally attachedto them. Indenturedservitude was alsocommon. Young womendid not have manyoptions and lacked anyreal power in this society.
Contrary to the popular notion that the Puritans never had any fun:They allowed unmarried couples to sleep together clothed (“bundling”); had highunwed pregnancy rates (but no stigma as long as weddings followed); andbelieved a woman must have an orgasm in order to conceive a child! Somesexually dissatisfied women were able to divorce their husbands for that reason!
Puritan Intolerance Back in England, Puritans had beenpersecuted for their religious beliefs. In the Massachusetts Bay theocracy (where religious leaders were also political leaders) Puritans became the persecutors of others (especially Quakers, some of whom were hanged) as well as those among their ownnumber who disagreed with the colony’s leadership.
Puritans & Quakers• All good Puritans knew that Quakers trembled & shook in their meetings & claimed to be in touch with an ‘inner light.’• To Puritans, this sounded suspiciously like possession.• From the time of Gov. Andros’ administration onward, Puritans felt they were being told to allow people who might be directly in touch with the Devil into their towns & villages!
Roger Williams said that it was wrong to knowingly takeIndian lands without giving just compensation, so he was banished & formed his own colony, Rhode Island.
Anne Hutchinson claimed thatsalvation did not depend on any church, minister, or worship service. She was judged an Arminian heretic, banished from Massachusetts & later killed by Indians in New York. John Winthrop said of her, “That Jezebel got what she Anne Hutchinson deserved.” Actual T-shirt
New England’s colonialeconomy was diverse,with more than onestrength to benefit theBritish Empire. Farming,fishing, lumbering--allwere mainstays. NewEngland was also thecenter of the slave trade inthe mainland colonies.Slavery existed throughoutthe colonies. In the South,fewer people owned moreslaves per capita. In theNorth, more people ownedfewer slaves per capita.Slaves in the North weremore likely skilled labor. Slave Ship
The Puritan Decline Within little more than a generation of their coming toAmerica, Puritan clergymen had already begun lamenting thefact that the children of the Elect--to their surprise--had not all turned out godly; the importance of religion in daily life had declined; people were too interested in money, trade, commerce; and patterns of settlement had become dispersed and de-centralized. Hard-line Calvinism was on the wane. But, at the time of the American Revolution, most all non-Anglican Christians here still believed in some form of predestination--and, moreover, that the apocalypticevent triggering both the destruction of the world and the start of Christ’s 1000-year reign (the Millennium) was not far off.
Tracing the Puritan Decline in New England’s Gravestones New England gravestones dating from the Colonial Era through the mid-1800s exhibit three dominant funerary motifs that changed over time, each one giving way to the next. Death’s Head The first was the "deaths head," which (along with the epitaph "Here lies the body of ....") was commonly used on graves from the early 1600s to around 1700. The "deaths head" represents the fragile mortality of humans and the The second was the "winged awesome power of death. cherub" or "soul effigy," which(along with the epitaph "In memory of ....") was dominant in the 1700s but fell out of favor in the early 1800s. The "winged cherub"suggests immortality and the hope of heaven, where the soul will spend eternity. Soul Effigy
Puritan Decline/Gravestones Urn and Willow The "winged cherub" eventually was replaced by the "urn-and-willow" design, which became the most popular of the 19th century(1800s). The urn contains "the remains of the deceased from whichthe soul arises to heaven, and the willow symbolizes the mourning for the earthly life and joy of the new celestial life.”
Witchcraft in Salem?Among social scientists, actual demonic possessionbrought on bywitchcraft has never been a satisfactory explanation for what happened in Salem in 1692.
Witchcraft was assumed to be widespread and a fundamentalfact of life in the 1600s. Virtually everyone believed in it becausewitches appeared in the Bible. Many knew the signs provingallegiance to the devil. Witch hunts broke out across Europe with alarming regularity and had claimed the lives of tens of thousands of women & men by the time the witch craze hit Salem in the last decade of the century. The Engraving from cover of book about witchcraft, 1591 SalemWitch Hunt was the largest and last in the English colonies butdoes not compare to European witch hunts in numbers ofvictims.
Class Conflict in Salem• Bad economy in Salem Village (poor farmers), while Salem Town (wealthy merchants, seaport) prospered.• But Salem Villagers who lived next to busy roads also prospered from the commerce of Salem Town, creating a Salem Village between wealthier tradesmen, merchants & their poorer farming neighbors, who believed worldliness & affluence threatened their Puritan values. Most accused witches lived near roads, while their accusers lived on farms.
Tensions became worse when Salem Village selected Reverend Samuel Parris as their new minister. Parris was a stern Puritan who denounced the worldly ways & economic prosperity of Salem Town as the influence of the Devil. His rhetoric further separated the two factions within Salem Village. It is not surprising that Reverend Parris was a vigorous supporter of the witch trials. In fact, the alleged ‘bewitchments’ began with his West Indian slave, Tituba; his daughters and niece; & his impassioned sermons inflamed the hysteria.The Reverend Samuel Parris
You are an accuser! Who do you decide to accuse? Why?What are your reasons? What do you hope to gain?You are accused! What do you do? Confess? Plead not guilty?Refuse to comment? Flee? Those who confessed lived!
Magistrates based their judgments and evaluations on various kinds ofintangible evidence, including supernatural attributes (such as "witch marks")& reactions of the afflicted girls. Spectral evidence, based on the assumptionthat the Devil could assume a person’s "specter," was relied upon despite itscontroversial nature. As many psychologists have noted regarding witch hunts in general, a kind of mass hysteria grips theExamination of a Witch community.
The majority among the accused were women over 40 but it is important to realize that men were also accused and executed.The Trial of George Jacobs
Ergot as Explanation?• In 1670 a French physician, Dr. Thuillier put forth the concept that the condition known as “St. Anthony’s Fire”--which had symptoms in common with alleged bewitchments--was not an infectious disease, but one that was due to the consumption of rye infected with ergot.• In 1976 psychologist Linda Caporael proposed that those who displayed symptoms of bewitchment in Salem (and surrounding areas) in 1692 were actually suffering from ergotism, but we cannot say for certain.
Ergot and Ergotism– A disease of cereals, especially rye and occasionally other grasses caused by the fungus Claviceps purpurea. • When ingested by humans or animals in sufficient quantity, ergot (nature’s LSD) produces a disease called “ergotism” which has in serious cases two variants: – 1. convulsive--characterized by nervous dysfunction, such as writhing, tremors, and hallucinations, which in the past were frequently reported as “convulsions” or “fits. ” – 2. gangrenous--victims of gangrenous ergotism may lose fingers, toes, and limbs to dry gangrene, caused by an alkaloid chemical produced by the ergot fungus.
Witchcraft and ergotism– Symptoms of bewitchment in Massachusetts • The victims did not have true convulsions because they did not lose consciousness (victims of convulsive ergotism writhe and have spasms but do not lose consciousness.) • 24/30 victims of bewitchment in 1692 suffered from “fits” and the sensations of being pinched, pricked or bitten, all of which are common symptoms of ergotism. • Temporary blindness, deafness, and speechlessness, burning sensations, visions, and the sensation flying through the air (out of body).
Witchcraft and ergotism • Three girls said they felt as if they were being torn to pieces & all their bones were being pulled out of joint. • Some victims reported feeling sick to the stomach or weak, sensing a burning in the fingers, swelling and pain in half of the right hand & part of the face, & being lame.
Witchcraft Trials End• The trials lasted a relatively short time in 1692• 19 people executed; 1 tortured to death.• Dramatic impact on nation’s development & dramatic legacy even today• Modern witch hunts?? – McCarthyism, 2nd Red Scare (1950s) – Alleged Child Abuse by ‘Satanic’ Cults in 1980s – Arrest of and Anger Toward Arab-Americans after 9/11• Why did the hunt for witches end? – After 20 people had been executed in the Salem witch hunt, Thomas Brattle wrote a letter criticizing the witchcraft trials. This letter had great impact on Governor Phips, whose wife was accused. Phips ordered that reliance on spectral and intangible evidence no longer be allowed in trials & dissolved the Court investigating witchcraft accusations.