Unless we're talking about Abigail Williams, Betty Parris or Ann Putnam, Jr., and their cohorts. Then children should be Bitch-slapped. And not heard.
I've been studying the Salem Witch Trials. This is one of the more tragic periods in our nation's history, and should serve as a warning of what can go wrong when a nation is ruled by Theocracy.
It's difficult to pinpoint a single cause of the witch hysteria. This was a time when only members of the Puritan church were allowed to make and enforce laws. And Massachusetts Bay Colony was in crisis because their Charter was declared null with the dismissal of the former Governor. Prominent Church member and Harvard President Increase Mather was in England pleading with the King to send a new governor and reinstate their theocratic Charter. This was a time when women and children had no credibility, yet the ramblings of undisciplined children directly led to the deaths of 20 people and the imprisonment of hundreds. Why? What do these things have to do with each other?
I've made some assumptions based on what I've read. First, I assume that these little girls, the daughter and ward of Rev. Samuel Parris and his wife, were caught doing something they shouldn't have been doing. And to take the heat off, they had these “fits” and swore it was witches. Sure. The Devil made them do it.
Fits such as the ones the girls were pretending to have must have truly been shocking to the adults in the household. Not knowing what to make of it, the good reverend called for back-up by consulting with other prominent church elders. I think this is where the problems really started. The children were blaming “witchcraft” and the adults saw opportunity. Soon, more and more young girls were having “fits” and accusing their neighbors of witchcraft.
Soon the girls held celebrity-like status. But townsfolk had to be very careful not to anger one of them. Regardless of their piety, good people were sent to prison and/or the gallows because these little monsters SWORE they were being tormented by them. Think of it: prominent, well-respected and in some cases well-educated men were tossing people in jail based on evidence they could not see for themselves. “Spectral Evidence” as it was called was all that was needed to get a conviction. How could they be so easily duped?
And here's the rub: once you were in prison, accused of witchcraft, your property became forfeit. What a perfect way to settle property-line disputes more expediently than through the courts: accuse your neighbor of witchcraft. Better yet, have your child writhe around on the floor and swear that your neighbor is tormenting them. The neighbor gets hauled out in the middle of the night and you get to increase your land holding. A perfect scheme indeed.
Word of the crisis spread to other towns. The people of Andover were convinced there was a plague upon them. Thinking the girls were truly able to spot devils among them, the people of Andover sent for the girls. The girls were at a loss. They saw specters everywhere, but being from out of town, they weren't up on the local gossip and had no idea who to accuse. So they accused pretty much everyone. The arrest warrants went out in such high numbers that before long the sheriff simply refused to write out anymore. Most of his town was accused of witchcraft.
This first attempt to take their show on the road only bolstered the girls' feeling of power. They must have enjoyed it, but their popularity back home in Salem was waning. People were beginning to question the crisis. How was it possible that the devil had been in their midst all this time and nobody knew it until these young children started flopping like fish and pointing fingers. Some started to become suspicious about that finger pointing. But they dare not speak out against the girls lest they be accused themselves. Though their status as celebrities was waning, the girls still held some power.
The girls still didn't fully understand that they were mere pawns. It wasn't until they tried to take their show on the road a second time that they started to see the truth. On the road to Ipswich the girls came across an old woman and immediately fell to the ground and began their fits and swore this old woman was tormenting them. They were largely ignored. Those who didn't ignore them admonished them for being troublemakers. The girls got up, dusted off their clothes and retreated.
To make a long story even longer, the new governor called for consultations from ministers and lawmakers in Connecticut and New York and it was determined that “Spectral Evidence” could not, in good conscience, be considered sufficient proof of guilt. These men were not all members of the Puritan church. Such was the new way of things, as the new Charter brought an end to theocratic rule in the New World and brought the end of the witch hunts.
So by now, you're asking why I care about this and why you should care. I care about this because I am a practicing Witch. My religion is grossly misunderstood by fundamentalist Christians who would like to see me and my kind swing from the nearest tree even now, in the 21st
You should care about this because I see the same sort of “witch hunt” happening in our country. Politicians vowing to “investigate the LGBT agenda” or signing a “marriage pledge” that marriage should only legally exist between one man and one woman, are out to take away the rights of those who are different from them. People, wake up. When politicians are OK with taking away the rights of entire communities of AMERICAN CITIZENS there is a problem!
Thus ends my one and only political rant. The moral of the story is “Those who do not understand their history are doomed to repeat it.”