We have met the Enemy and He is Us
Pogo (Walt Kelley)

     In Salem Massachusetts In the 1690s accusations of witchcraft and confessions of practicing witchcraft led to the hanging of many of the accused.   Many of the people confessed because, although they were innocent, it had become evident that by confessing and accusing others, and making a statement of repentance they would safeguard themselves from further harm.  (Rosenthal, B. Salem Story).   Many trials led to the death sentence.  As the trials progressed, and growing numbers of person confessed to being witches, Cotton Mather the minister of Boston's Old North church,  became firmly convinced that "an Army of Devils is horribly broke in upon the place which is our center."   On August 4, 1692, Mather delivered a sermon warning that the Last Judgment was near at hand, and portraying himself, Chief Justice Stroughton, and Governor Phips as leading the final charge against the Devil's legions. On August 19, Mather was in Salem to witness the execution of ex-minister George Burroughs for witchcraft. When, on Gallows Hill, Burroughs was able to recite the Lord's Prayer perfectly (something that witches were thought incapable of doing) and some in the crowd called for the execution to be stopped, Mather intervened, reminding those gathered that Burroughs had been duly convicted by a jury.

     As the number of the accused grew, the leaders of Salem began to doubt whether so many could be in league with the devil.  The judges may have feared that they themselves might be accused some day.  Cotton Mather, began preaching that the witch frenzy was itself the devil's work.

    What happened at Salem was creation of paranoia.  This was evil.  After much damage had been done Cotton Mather realized that.  The devil is not a creature with horns and a tail, it is not witches casting spells, it is delusion and paranoia and it is found in the hearts and minds of a great many people of all walks of life. 

 

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