In March 1694, the trial of those accused of witchcraft began in with the execution of John Proctor and two others. The Salem witch trials were an influential part of American history. The trials produced a series of unsurpassed legal documents in the period, and managed to highlight the issues of civil liberties and religious tolerance in the colonies. The government was able to protect the rights of those who did not wish to worship as an established church. The witchcraft believe was finally killed by the power of the Enlightenment thinking of the 18th century, which the trials served.
During this period, the number of people accused of witchcraft grew to 700, and by November was 1,000. The definition of witchcraft was looser and less strict than it is today. Matthew Hale, the chief justice that presided over the court, defined witchcraft as any act that seemed to violate the will of God or that God could punish, and any religious reason that seemed like a loophole. This made the trials less controversial, but it also meant that even those who were not involved were still incriminated. The trial of Rebecca Nurse became an example of this. When accused, she confessed to being an agitator for the Quakers. Along with this, she showed no remorse for her actions when she was arrested by a law enforcement officer.
The death of Thomas Putnam, Jr. led to numerous calls for peace at an early date. These calls were made by 16 suspected witches and 23 others who called for help in stopping the trials. In response, the court planned to try and cast out more people before deciding on whether to call off the proceedings or not.
The court would begin to meet monthly in each county, with four justices presiding. Two worshipers, Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey, were present when this occurred. At this point, the court decided that only those who preached were far enough from the covenant to be cast out. A number of people were convicted and executed on the spot. d2c66b5586