Madness In Colonial America Essay

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Economically, during this time, many of the colonist’s occupations were farmers living off their land. Also during this time there was the social injustice of slavery, but only the wealthier farmers were able to purchase slaves to man their land. According to Stern and Axinn (2012), “There was no persistent unemployment problem; no mass of employables had been pushed off the land; no industries existed to pull workers into towns; no pool of workers waited hiring” (p. 18). Although these did not exist in the economy of colonial America, poor laws rested on other grounds to provide relief for those who were incapable of self-support such as the ill, the disabled, the elderly, orphans, and widows with young children (Stern and Axinn, 2012, p. 18). In Colonial America, mental illness was looked at very differently compared to how it is looked at during the present…show more content…
While the legal term for madness was non compos (a shortened version of non compos mentis), the term “distracted” or “distraction” appears in most public records as well as in most private correspondence and diaries. The resident of Massachusetts Bay colony viewed madness as a manifestation of a supernatural drama, with God; or, more generally, an example of the mysterious working of His Providence (Jimenez, 1986, p. 29). Witchcraft was also considered as a cause of “distraction”. While doing research about mental illness in Colonial America, one can find multiple historical encounters of normal individuals suddenly acting in a non-rational way, some of which are so severe that family members believe the person was not their selves. According to Jimenez (1986), “…colonists made a clear distinction between madness and witchcraft, and searched for “preternatural” signs that would indicate that the behavior was either that of an innocent victim of bewitchment or such as to incriminate a witch” (p.

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