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WITCHTRIALS IN SALEM Be sober be vigilant because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour 1 Peter 5 8 In the late 17th century the lion quietly walked among the inhabitants of Salem Massachusetts Zealously obedient to this admonishment from the apostle Peter the pious folk of New England searched their souls and those of their neighbours for even the slightest stain These Puritans believed it was their objective to stare down that lion until Judgment Day saw him vanquished In the spring and summer of 1692 that great lion roared and brought with it devastation that tore Salem apart Nineteen men and women all having been tried and convicted of witchcraft were carted to Gallows Hill a barren slope on the outskirts of Salem Village for hanging Hundreds of others were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges Dozens languished in jail for months without trials Then almost as soon as it had begun the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended This travesty of justice and the subsequent spiral of accusations trials and executions can only be accounted for by an unfortunate combination of personal jealousies teenage boredom congregational strife and worsening economic conditions By the late 17th century Salem existed if not legally then at least philosophically as two distinct geographical areas Salem Village and Salem Town The Salem that the Puritans were accustomed to was in the midst of change A mercantile elite was in the early stages of development and prominent people were becoming less willing to assume positions as town leaders Two clans the Putnams and the Porters were competing for control of the village and its pulpit and debate was raging over how independent Salem Village tied more to the interior agricultural regions should be from Salem Town a centre of sea trade Those who lived along Ipswich Road a major thoroughfare for commerce were closest to the
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