Were the Salem Witch Trials the worst event to take place in colonial America? 
The Shakespearean reference characterizing the Salem witch trials as the "worst" historical event, certainly might be reasonably argued by some. In a sense, the trials of 1692 were the most outrageous travesty of justice to befall the Puritan community. It involved hundreds of falsely accused individuals and over twenty related deaths by execution, torture and unjust imprisonment.

Were there other events which exceed the Salem trials in their overall social impact and negative effect? Unquestionably, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

The New England Puritan community was devastated on a far greater scale by the tragic and deadly King Philip's War conflict which raged during 1675-1676. During this disasterous event, thousands of native people and colonial settlers were displaced, entire native villages and frontier towns were destroyed and abandoned, and hundreds lost their lives.

As with the trials of 1692, the Puritan ministers reasoned that this event was an outpouring of divine wrath upon a community which had turned its back upon its mission to establish a "city upon a hill" and had broken its covenant with God.

In actuality it represented the last organized effort by an alliance of New England tribes of native people to drive the English colonists back from the frontier and stem the westward expansion of settlers. Besides the ruthless slaughter, the King Philip's War was noted for the inhumane and unjust treatment of prisoners of war. Many colonists were taken to French Canada and sold, while many natives, including the "praying Indians" of Natick and elsewhere,were forcibly confined in detention centers located on islands in Boston Harbor.

To the Puritans, the greatest difference between the threat of the King Philip's War and the Salem witchcraft outbreak was the perceived enemy. In the former crisis, the "enemy" was visible and could be confronted directly and killed by conventional means, while in the latter, the enemy was insidious, invisible and of a spiritual nature. For this reason the Salem trials may have left a more devastating effect upon the collective subconscious of the Puritan community than the threat of King Philip (Metacomet) and his hundreds of warriors.
Brigette Hofmann 
Sunday, February 22, 2009, 03:15 AM
Shakespeare was pushing up daisies back in 1616, so how on earth could there be a "Shakespearean reference characterizing the Salem witch trials as the "worst" historical event..." regarding the Salem Witch Trials, which began nearly a century later, in 1692?

Oy vey...

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