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The McCarthy Hearings and their relation to the Salem Witch Trials
By Chris Sowers, Amber Campbell, Jeff Hurst, and Cassidy Key

Background Information
The McCarthy hearings were trials in which Senator Joe McCarthy accused government employees of being Communists. He exaggerated and exploited the evidence and ruined many reputations. Blacklists were created and many employers refused to hire the suspected or accused. (If they did then they would be accused.) Due to the exaggerated evidence and the seriousness of the charges, the hearings struck fear in many Americans. Although at first popular, the public began to wonder how far it would go. After McCarthy accused the U.S. Army of housing Communists, his committee began to go down hill. The army strongly defended themselves as they sought to end McCarthy's "witch-hunts." In November of 1954 the Watkins committee censured McCarthy under two counts. The Senate voted to "condemn" him on December 22, 1954. This censure ended McCarthyism but could never undo all of the damage that it had caused.

Parallels between the Salem witch trials
The McCarthy Hearings were referred to as "witch-hunts" because of their similarity to the Salem witch trials. They both struck fear in the people due to the "guilty until you confess" attitude which ruled the courts. In Salem the only way to escape death was to confess and repent; in the McCarthy hearings if you were accused, whether guilty or not, you would always be viewed as a Communist. McCarthy also relates to Abigail in The Crucible, because they both made false accusations against innocent people. McCarthy accused people of being communists, whereas Abigail accused people of being witches. Philosopher George Santayana best states McCarthy's fatal error - "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Salem Witch Trials

The McCarthy Hearings


accused of being witches

resulted in the execution of 20 people

forever damaged reputations

began by young girls

speculated cause: land disputes

some farmers raised chickens

"witches" were scapegoats for all the problems

accuser was highly respected

untrue accusations


accused of being communists

resulted in no direct deaths

also damaged reputations

began by McCarthy

speculated cause: to promote campaign

McCarthy had 12,000 chickens by age 16

"communists" were scapegoats for society's problems

McCarthy was also highly respected

untrue accusations