Salem Town and Salem Village

In early 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, was in a period of transition. The community was recovering from fifteen brutal years of regional conflict and disaster that had produced deep local tensions. During this time New Englanders had experienced severe epidemics, warfare with Native Americans, and high mortality (death) rates. They also suffered a major constitutional setback: in 1684 England revoked the charters (government deeds) of the New England colonies, taking away the colonies' form of self rule. Four years later a British official, Sir Edmund Andros (1637-1714), was appointed as governor. This act effectively nullified (made void; ended) all former land titles, taking away legal claims to some properties and plunging the region into chaos. Angry colonists rebelled and overthrew Andros's government. The Massachusetts charter was restored in 1691, uniting the Massachusetts Bay Colony with Plymouth and Maine. Yet the political struggle had put great stress on the Puritans. Not only had they fought among themselves over land rights, they were also convinced that God was unhappy with them and would perhaps bring other punishments upon them. During the Salem trials in 1693, Boston m*m m minister Cotton Mather (see biography and primary sources entries) described the situation:

I believe there never was a poor plantation more pursued . . . than our New England. First, the Indian Powwows . . . then seducing spirits . . . after this a continual blast upon some of our principal grains . . . . Herewithal, wasting sickness. . . . Next, so many adversaries of our own language . . . desolating fires also . . . and losses by sea. . . . Besides all which, the devils are come upon us with such wrath as is justly . . . the astonishment of the world. (From John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan, p. 313.)

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