What happened next

While Mather had supported the witch-hunts and resulting trials, by 1693 he had had a drastic change of heart. Mather was not alone in reversing his position. Many other leaders, such as minister Samuel Willard—an early advocate of the trials who, ironically, was accused of witchcraft himself—realized the accusations were ridiculous. Using his political influence and position as head of the Ministerial Association, Mather waited to speak out until the Salem trials had been suspended at the end of the summer. He called the judges and governor together, knowing that they would listen to him. He had not officially expressed his views since writing Remarkable Providences, in which he had supported the judges' decisions. Seeing that random accusations were sending people to jail—and many to their deaths—with little or no "evidence" against them, Mather called for a halt to the executions. He presented his new work, entitled Cases of Conscience, on October 3, 1693. In it he called into question the decisions and the lack of Christian charity (goodwill)

exercised by the juries in the Salem trials, noting that without overwhelming proof the courts should not have handed down death sentences. Mather called the trials a mistake and urged others to see the error of their ways. Cases of Conscience was instrumental in bringing the executions to an end. Within five months, all accused "witches" were set free and the executions were stopped.

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