Nancy Men apace English, Mr. Ferr are February 10, 2003 The Salem Witch Trials as a Parallel to the McCarthy Investigation on Communism and the Watergate Scandal Since the United States began as a nation almost 200 years ago, it had had its share of scandals, exposures and misconceptions. The Salem witch trials of 1692 bear a striking resemblance to other scandals of more recent history. Looking at this event of colonial Massachusetts, strong parallels can be drawn to the McCarthy investigation on Communism during the Cold War as well as Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal of the 1970's. These three separate events all spawned from rational fears of people and escalated into unreasonable scandals that will forever be remembered as turbulent periods in US history. On January 20, 1692, Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams of Salem, Massachusetts began to display strange behavior.
The actions of these girls, ages 9 and 11, soon spread to several other girls in the town of Salem. The blasphemous screaming, trance-like states and seizures altogether baffled the doctor of the girls. Unable to find any earthly cause by the middle of February, the doctor blamed Satan for the illness of the girls. Half a month later, on March 1, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne and Tituba, a slave, were accused of witchcraft ("The Salem Witch Trials 1692").
After the condemnation of these three women, a pandemonium broke out in the small town of Salem and over the next few months, the residents became obsessed with finding and persecuting supposed witches. John Hawthorne and Jonathan Corwin, magistrates of Salem, lead the accusations and investigations of many of the "witches." These two men ruthlessly indicted more than 30 people as witches. Although numerous of the accused were in some way disrupting the social order of Salem or economically challenged, many were full members of the church and citizens of some social importance of the town ("The Salem Witch Trials 1692"). While being examined by Hawthorne and Corwin, Tituba confessed to being a witch and corresponding with the Devil. Her testimony also convicted Sarah Goode and Sarah Osborne of witchcraft although before the magistrates these two women maintained innocence ("Famous American Trials").
Through June of 1692 both men and women were accused of witchcraft were tried by Hawthorne and Corwin. On June 10, the first official execution of the trials took place when Bridget Bishop was hanged on Gallows Hill in Salem ("The Salem Witch Trials 1692"). Bishop never confessed to being a witch; in her investigation on April 19 she was recorded as saying, "I am no witch. I am innocent. I know nothing of it" ("Famous American Trials"). On September 22, 1692 Martha Corey, Margaret Scott, Mary East, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmot t Redd, Samuel Ward well, and Mary Parker were all hanged Salem ("The Salem Witch Trials 1692").
These 8 people were the last executed during the Salem witch trials. Altogether 19 people were hanged on Gallows Hill and as many as 13 more died in prison (Famous American Trials). Others had reputations permanently tarnished by being accused of witchcraft. The investigation into Communism in the State Department started by Senator Joseph McCarthy is often called a "witch hunt." McCarthy became obsessed with finding Communists working in US government agencies during the 1950's. In August of 1949, the Soviets had tested their first atomic bomb, and during the 1950's, the Cold War between the United States and the USSR was well under way ("The East-West Divide").
With the threat of nuclear war the American public was vulnerable due to fear and in his investigation Senator McCarthy "touched a nerve of the American public" ("Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy "). Joseph McCarthy was elected to the United States Senate in 1946 for the state of Wisconsin where he grew up ("Senator Joe McCarthy Anti-Communist"). McCarthy based his campaign on anti-tax, rent and credit control, not anti-Communism. At a dinner party with several other senators in Washington D. C. on January 7, 1950 McCarthy's objectives changed.
He declared, "That's it, the government is full of Communists. We can hammer them away" (Friedman). On February 9, 1950, McCarthy made his first speech against Communism at the Republican Women's Club in Wheeling Virginia. Joe McCarthy claimed to have 205 names of alleged "Reds" working within US governmental agencies. There was no official documentation of this speech, and although McCarthy later claimed that he had said he had 87 names, there is now sufficient evidence to prove that he did, in fact, allege 205 (Friedman). On the floor of the senate McCarthy spent nearly 6 hours on February 20 explaining in detail supposed cases of Communism spreading throughout the State Department (Friedman).
Over the next four years, Senator McCarthy became obsessed with finding supposed Reds in the United States government. Playing off the fear of the Russians one poll in the Washington post suggested that 50% of Americans were actually behind McCarthy in his search (Friedman). His support began to dwindle in 1954, however. In January of that year McCarthy appeared in a televised hearing and blatantly attacked President Dwight Eisenhower and Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens ("Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy "). On December 2, 1954, the senate voted 67-22 to condemn him for abuse of his senatorial powers (Friedman).
With this voted ended the Red scare that McCarthy had almost single handedly created. On August 8, 1974, Richard Nixon became the only US president ever to resign from office. His resignation was result of his connection to the Watergate Scandal, which had erupted in 1972. At 2: 30 am on June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D. C. When the scandal of the Watergate burglars was reported the Nixon administration denied any link to the crime; by August, however, evidence was beginning to emerge contrary to this.
Ironically, even with the emerging scandal, Nixon was reelected in November of 1972 in one of the largest landslides in US history, taking over 60% of the votes ("Watergate. info"). The support of the American public was not enough to stop the investigation into Nixon's association with the Watergate break-in, however. In fact, in April 1973 Richard Nixon's top White House staffers, H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlich man and Attorney General Richard Klein dienst resigned as a result of the scandal.
One month later, on May 18, nationally televised hearings on the Watergate investigation began. Whitehouse consul John Dean revealed in his testimony that he had conferred with Nixon at least 35 times about the cover-up of Watergate. One of the most incriminating blows to the President was when Andrew Butterfield, former Whitehouse secretary, reported that Nixon had been taping every conversation occurring the Oval Office since 1971 ("Watergate. info"). Nixon initially refused to hand over any tapes as evidence in the trial, citing his executive privileges. On July 24, 1974, however the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Nixon had to turn over the tapes of 64 Whitehouse conversations; it was one of these conversations that was the "smoking gun" that linked Nixon to Watergate.
The exchange was with H. R. Haldeman, dated June 23, 1973 ("Watergate. info"). The two spoke of a $25, 000 check traced by the FBI that had been donated to Nixon's campaign and ended up in the bank account of one of the men arrested at Watergate. Three days after the Supreme Court ruling on the case the senate began to pass the first three articles of impeachment.
Before he could be impeached however Nixon resigned and Gerald R. Ford assumed presidency ("Watergate. info"). The Salem Witch Trials erupted as a result of the sickness of two little girls Salem ("The Salem Witch Trials 1692"); McCarthy's investigation on Communism as a result of McCarthy alone and the events of the Watergate scandal may never have been made public if it were not for the security guard at the Watergate hotel, Frank Wills (Watergate. info).
Each of these historic events might have been prevented or left generally unknown if it were not for the actions of a very few people who set the events into motion. These proceedings also generated and grew off people's fear. Senator McCarthy fed off the fear that the Russians would attack the US; Richard Nixon was trying to gain reelection and keep the country stable after the turmoil of Vietnam in the 1960's and the residents of Salem originally wanted only to see their children healthy and well. The Salem Witch Trials, the McCarthy investigation and the Watergate scandal are all parts of American past that, had one or two people changed their actions, may not have been written into history books at all.
These events also may have been bypassed if the circumstances were different and the people surrounding the incidents did not have so much fear. Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy (1954). Online. 31 January, 2003. East-West divide, The. Online.
31 January, 2003. Famous American Trials. Online. 31 January, 2003. Friedman, Jesse. Online.
The Fight For America: Senator Joseph McCarthy. 31 January, 2003. Salem Witch Trials 1692, The. Online. 31 January, 2003. Senator Joe McCarthy: Anti-Communist.
Online. 31 January, 2003. Watergate. info. Online. 31 January, 2003.