Title: Major Events of the Period - St. John`s School AP US History

The Salem Witch Trials took place in Salem, Massachusetts
from March to September 1693, was one of the most
notorious episodes in early American history.
 Based on the accusations of two young girls, Elizabeth
Parris and Abigail Williams.
 Under Puritan law, those who were accused of consorting
with the devil were considered felons, having committed a
crime against their government. The punishment was
These were not the first witch trials in
• But it returned in 1692 & mass hysteria gripped New
• Historians have attributed it to the tension that existed
within the colonies (loss of Puritan values) & outside
pressures (with Native Americans & Britain)
From 1692 to 1693, more than 130
“witches” were jailed or executed in
• A group of teenage girls accused people in their
colony of consorting with the Devil.
• There are a variety of factors that may have
contributed to it.
• Here are a few causes that are offered by
Cause 1: Puritans feared that their
religion – which they believed was the
only religion – was on its way out
• Many second- and thirdgeneration Puritans lacked the
fervor of the original Pilgrim
and Congregationalist settlers.
• Normally, a Puritan had to
experience the gist of God’s
grace in order to be baptized
by the church.
• These “visible saints” could
vote and & hold public office
With so many, particularly men, losing
interest in the church, the Puritan clergy
decided to baptize all children whose
parents were baptized.
• However, since they did not
experience God’s grace were not
allowed to vote
• This was referred to as the
Halfway Covenant.
• Called “Halfway” because they
were baptized but could not vote
Cause 2: Attacks by Native
• Some of the accusers in the
Salem Witch Trials:
– Were domestic servants who were
orphaned in Indian attacks in Maine
– Had lost grandparents from King
Philip’s War and King William’s War
• New Englanders feared a
repetition of the devastation of
King Philip’s War.
– For 8 months, witchcraft
accusations took place in the areas
most threatened by the Indian
attacks in southern Maine and New
• These young women (the most powerless people in
a region apparently powerless to affect its fate)
offered their fellow New Englanders a
compelling explanation for the town’s troubles
• The girls also accused prominent men from the
Maine frontier who had traded with or failed to
defeat the Indians
Cause 3: New England endured the
autocratic control of the Dominion of
New England.
• Puritan New England was believed to
be a hotbed of smuggling.
• When James II became king in 1685,
he sought to bring order to what he
saw as a chaotic state in the American
• Administrators began to chip away at
the privileges granted in colonial
charters and to reclaim proprietorships
for the Crown.
•Forced by King James II
•NE Colonies, NJ & NY
•Restrict Colonial trade
•Defend Colonies
•Stop Colonial smuggling
Sir Edmund Andros
•Gain control over Colonies
•Eliminated town meetings,
the press and schools
•Taxed without the consent of
the governed
The charters of all the colonies from
New Jersey to Maine were revoked.
• Sir Edmund Andros
became the
• He had no term
limits; dissolved the
assemblies; only
needed consent of
an appointed council
to make laws and
levy taxes
The Dominion of New England came to
an end when the Glorious Revolution
in England overthrew King James II in
• He was replaced with Mary (his
daughter) & William (her Dutch
husband from the county of
• In 1691, Mass. became a royal
colony under the new monarchs
• Suffrage was soon extended to all
Protestants (previously only
Puritans could vote)
• This weakened Puritan primacy,
making them uneasy.
The hysteria ended when teenage girls accused
some of the colony’s most prominent citizens, thus
turning town leaders against them.
• However, by then, 14 women & 5 men were hung
– 1 man pressed to death by stones
– 54 confessed to being witches
– More than 140 people were jailed for many months
What did it reveal?
 The strictness of Puritan society
The insecurity of the Puritan
leaders in keeping control of their
 The superstitious mindset of
Puritan New England
 The colony’s magistrates were
willing to believe the girls’
accusations, because if the Devil
had caused New England’s
current troubles, they bore no
responsibility for the terrible losses
on the frontier.