Salem witch trials
“”It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned.
|—Increase Mather, Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits Personating Men, Witchcrafts, infallible Proofs of Guilt in such as are accused with that Crime (1692)|
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In accordance with the tradition of Protestant countries of the time, most of those found guilty were hanged rather than burned at the stake. (One man who refused to confess or plead innocence, knowing that either way his land would be taken from his family, was pressed to death.)
In American political discourse, the Salem witch trials often serve as metaphor for the dangerously irrational political passions of the mob. They are of particular scholarly interest for research on gender, class, age and race. As the historical event unfolded, some girls in town denounced a West Indian servant; many believe that racism had a great deal to do with the whole affair. Moreover, more women were accused than men (although not nearly in the same numbers as in Europe), making for interesting observations on sexism within the US.
- Carol F. Karlsen. 1998. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-31759-6.