by Bill Baxter, DTM.
Rebecca Town Nurse was born on February 21, 1621; in England, and eventually came to The American Colonies. She later married Francis Nurse, and settled near Salem, Massachusetts; around 1647. Francis and Rebecca Nurse had several children. Francis Nurse was a very prosperous farmer, along with his neighbors, John Proctor and Giles Corey.
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Rebecca Nurse was one of the most devoted servants of God and The Church in the Salem Community. Francis and Rebecca Nurse grew old together living near Salem. In their later years, The Nurses, Coreys, and Proctors often were embroiled in bitter land disputes with hard nosed landowners by the Names of Thomas and Edward Putnam.
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Then a dark cloud passed over Salem in the year 1692. Thomas Putnam's child supposedly took ill. The Child displayed fits and very strange behavior. The child's diagnosis was something very unique--the illness stemmed from witchcraft present in the community. This sent the town of Salem into a frenzy, and into one of the darkest times in Colonial History. Other kids in Salem started making mischief by behaving very strangely.
The so called afflicted children began pointing fingers at adults throughout Salem, and even made claims that the adults's spirits had paid them nocturnal visits while they were asleep in bed. The phony evidence displayed by the mischievous children resulted in over 100 arrests thoughout the Massachusetts Colony. They were all charged practicing witchcraft. Soon, the Salem Witchcraft Trials began, which resulted in several false convictions and hangings. Chief Justice William Stoughton presided over these trials.
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It is no coincidence that the Putnam Child and the other afflicted children pointed their fingers at The Proctors, The Coreys, and eventually, Rebecca Nurse herself--the very people the Putnams were having land disputes with. The authenticity of The 1692 Witchcraft Trials was severely questioned, when Rebecca Nurse was arrested for practicing witchcraft, and brought to trial.
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Many people throughout the colony knew what a devoted Servant of the Church Rebecca Nurse was. A petition was signed by several people on Rebecca Nurse's behalf. The jury came back with a verdict of Not Guilty. Someone in the coutroom whispered "But she is one of us." Immediately, Stoughton ordered the jury to go back and dliberate the case all over again, which pretty much subjected Rebecca Nurse to being tried twice for the same crime. The jury re-entered the courtroom, this time with a verdict of "Guilty."
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Sir William Phips, the Governor of the Massachusetts Colony, immediately granted Rebecca Nurse a reprieve, but the afflicted children started doing their harlequin hooligan act again, and the reprieve was over turned. Rebecca Nurse was excommunicated from the church, and then boarded onto a wagon which transported her along with a few others convicted of practicing witchcraft, out to Gallows Hill. As Rebecca Nurse stood on the gallows, she opened her eyes to God and Heaven and spoke The Lord's Prayer word for word, telling the whole world that she was innocent, and the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 was a Kangaroo Court Sham. A witch cannot pray The Lord's Prayer. Soon after praying The Lord's Prayer, the trap door opened, and Rebecca Nurse swung. By then, she was very old and frail, so it didn't take long. Rebecca Nurse was hung on July 19, 1692. Her family later retrieved her body, and gave her the decent burial that she deserved. As the news of this unjust incident spread, The Salem Witchcraft Trials soon came to an end, and Governor Phips pardoned the rest of the people who had been falsely charged with practicing witchcraft.
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In future years Rebecca Nurse's Family was reinstated in the church, and Rebecca herself received a full pardon. Almost 100 years later, shortly after our forefathers wrote The US Constitution, The Bill of Rights was added to The Constition in 1791. Within the Fifth Amendment of The Bill of Rights, the Double Jeopardy Clause was written. This clause specifially says that an individual cannot be tried a second time for the same crime. Once a jury comes back with a verdict of "Not Guilty" the judge will ask the jury "Is this your verdict?" The Foreman of the Jury will say "Yes," and then, it's over! There are no more deliberations, no more trials, no more evidence is to be entered, nothing! And that's the way it has been, since that clause was written in The Bill of Rights" 200 years ago. This clause certainly would have come in handy 300 years ago.
By Bill Baxter, DTM.