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Exonerate those falsely hanged as witches



Published: Wed, May 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If men and women were accused of witchcraft today, they would probably find their stories on the front page of the national tabloids. But 300 years ago in Salem, Mass., when the supposed evils of witchcraft were taken seriously, 20 individuals were hanged or crushed to death and 200 were jailed. The descendants of those executed -- victims of mass hysteria and puritan politics -- are now asking the Massachusetts to exonerate their forbears. Better late than never.

Original witch hunt: These days, impressionable teen-age girls are swooning over the Back Street Boys. In 1692, they were falling into fits in the presence of those they named as witches. In fact, the term "witch hunt" was the most appropriate to define the similarly unfounded charges Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc., hurled at those he accused of being Communists.

But 300 years ago or 50 years ago or today, witch hunts have no place in a United States founded on justice and the rule of law.

Some might say that three centuries after the fact is too late to go about undoing this wrong. We disagree.

In 1957, the Massachusetts legislature approved a resolution exonerating some of the accused witches, including & quot;one Ann Pudeator and certain other persons. & quot;

Descendants of some of those & quot;certain other persons & quot; want the names of Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Margaret Scott, Wilmot Redd and Susannah Martin added to the resolution. Such a gesture would demonstrate that today's lawmakers have far better sense than the town fathers of 17th century Salem -- or Witch CIty -- as the city refers to itself today.

Leave the witch legends for the tourists, but let the truth prevail.




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