Puritan Boston

SAMUEL SEWALL, who was for thirty-six years a justice, and for ten of these the chief justice, of the highest court of the province of Massachusetts, came of a good and prosperous family in England, and was brought hither by his parents in 1661, being then in his tenth year. The family left their English home soon after the coronation of Charles II., being in sympathy with the Puritanism of our first colonists. The youth graduated at Harvard in 1671. Soon after this he began to write a journal, which he continued till just before his death, in 1730.

The manuscripts left by Judge Sewall have, for more than a hundred years of the century and a half since they were closed, been occasionally consulted by such historical students as were privileged to have access to them, or extracts have been furnished by the very careful and cautious guardians into whose hands they fell in family descent. They were purchased twelve years ago by the Massachusetts Historical Society of their last private owner, and are now appearing in print, edited by a committee of that society.

Sewall’s memory will in no way be clouded, nor will the respect and repute which he enjoyed in life be one whit reduced, for any one who shall read his guileless and self-revealing record. He appears upon every page sincere, highminded, candid; for his day, intelligent, generous, forgiving, often magnanimous, thoroughly devout after the pattern which he followed, warmly benevolent and sympathetic, and as applying to himself even a more rigid scrutiny of motives, principles, and daily conduct than he turned upon others. The most trivial details on his pages — and there are many such — have their use in reproducing for us the aspects, usages, and manners of an older time. But it so happens that our means of information in historical papers of various kinds about public men and events, the drift of affairs, and some of the undercurrents of life in Boston are most scanty and uncommunicative during our provincial period, and about these Sewall furnishes us much of value. When Sewall came upon the stage, in full manhood, the town of Boston, and substantially the colony of which it was the metropolis, represented a community of a peculiar, indeed a unique, character. The half century which had passed since its settlement had been a period sufficiently extended to make the homogeneous class of its inhabitants distinctly and strongly defined as a people, in their civil, religious, social, and domestic qualities. With scarce an exception they were thrifty, living comfortably and frugally, most of them having reserved means for the future. It was under the strongly-working influence of the principles, habits, and institutions which had then secured power and authority that Boston and its people acquired the character and repute that have ever since attached to them, — alike to their commendation by those who appreciate the better side, and for the satire and raillery of those who find matter of censure and contempt in the limitations and scruples of the old Puritan traditions. Rapidly enough, however, have all these local characteristics yielded to the relaxation of restraints and the coming in among the present population of the most heterogeneous elements.

To those who had been born here, or had been brought hither in early youth, the views, habits, and circumstances under which they had been trained had naturally come to be identified with the favored and superior conditions of life, carrying with them the authority of certified trial and good fruits. The first comers, stealing over the ocean with the charter for a mercantile company intended for administration in England, and setting up under it a local government here, had started with high and serious aims. The troubles of the mother country had left them long enough, unwatched, to their own schemes and devices to root them in strength, in selfconfidence, and prosperity. Labors on the soil and a lively commercial traffic, and a strict, but not niggard, economy had gathered the means which supported their own government, and which had, up to this time, enabled them to bear the expense of many substantial public improvements, and the drain upon them of Indian and French wars, without asking the aid of the mother country. They thought well of themselves. They were in fact as independent then as their descendants are now, and the degree of attachment which they might feel for the old home was the measure of the only kind of allegiance which they owed it. The control of their affairs in policy and authority had always been with the best and wisest among them. Evidence there is, for those who will search for it, that the rigid and sterner quality of the Puritan sway was by no means congenial to all, or willingly acquiesced in. A latent restlessness, discontent, alienation, and a feeble spirit of protest occasionally asserted themselves in antipathy and opposition. They were suppressed or overruled only by the high hand of the more austere in place and power.

Very marked are the tokens of class and rank and social distinctions in the old Puritan town and its neighborhood. The clergy and the high magistrates were the chief in consideration and dignity. Official position secured public deference, but eligibility to office in the main depended upon previous social or personal advantage. So natural and reasonable seemed the assumption that “the government should be of the better sort,” and so well rooted was the custom consequently established, that even after the war of the Revolution and the recognition of an avowed democracy among us it was taken for granted, till quite down to the last half century, that, though the people were free to assign places of honor and trust to whom they would, they were bound to assign them to the class of men who would have held them under an aristocracy through birth, privilege, or station. The title of Mr. or Master was carefully restricted to those who by birthright or good service were called gentlemen ; while Worshipful or Right Worshipful was reserved for the highest magistrate, and Esquire was an affix to be granted, not assumed. The term “ Goodman ” was a kindly, neighborly epithet, used for the recognition of worthy men in bumble life or callings. There is an entry in Sewall’s journal which is curiously suggestive on this point. The meeting was for the choice of a minister. “ October 3, 1707, had a Meeting of the [South] Church & Congregation; But very thin. Several came not, because Mr. Pemberton [the pastor, in previously calling the meeting] said,‘ Gentlemen of the Church & Congregation.’ They affirmed they were not Gentlemen, and therefore they were not warned to come.” Not gentlemen ! They were honest, wellto-do men, — mechanics, tradesmen, artisans ; among them was the father of Dr. Franklin, tallow-chandler and soapboiler ; and they hoped and believed that they were Christians. But they did not claim nor answer to the title of gentlemen. Some years hence, perhaps, a student of words may think it worth his while to inquire when the terms lady and gentleman came to be used inclusively of all of either sex, instead of, as once, distinctively of a portion of each. Doubtless these States will be credited with the extension of the terms, and Sewall may help as to the dates. Again, under date “March 6, 1711,” we read, “At the Meeting for the free School at Mr. Pemberton’s, Mr. Bridgham declining to sign [a petition] saying it was not fit for him to sign with persons so much above him; I said pleasantly, We are at Foot-ball now ; and then he presently signed.”

But while respect and deference were thus paid according to gradations of rank, and men and women “knew their own places,” there was practically in the community a common, all-inclusive, tender, human interest and sympathy. A feeling of good neighborhood, fostered by religious and social relations, secured to all the dwellers in the town, mechanics, artisans, traders, and laborers, a respectful recognition. The humblest person or family might, by name, “ put up a Bill,” to be read by the minister in public worship before his prayer, giving “ thanks for mercies received ” on the birth of an infant, or asking religious comfort in sickness, bereavement, on leaving home by sea or by land, and on recovery or return. The body was democratic, although the head was aristocratic. It is curious to note, as one may in Sewall’s journal, how faithfully and aptly, while recognizing distinctions between man and man, he makes his religious views not a leveling, but a harmonizing and reconciling medium. His punctiliousness is obvious, although not obtrusive.

At feasts and at funerals there was alike a recognition of ranks and orders. Sewall tells us how ministers, magistrates, and distinguished strangers were disposed at the dinner table, and how the viands and beverages of the feast were sorted to suit the company. The dead were then actually borne by the living, and not, as now, driven, still less trotted, to their resting-places. Sewall records his serving frequently as a bearer, and faithfully gives us, when not one himself, the names of others. These he always arranges in couples ; for there was meaning in that method, also. The bearers were carefully selected as the associates and intimates of the departed, — six for adults, two for a child. We read also of the order in which friends and relatives followed the bier, and who “ led ” one or another of the women in the procession. Scarves, gloves, and rings were presented on the occasion, with the same reference to social and personal considerations. On rare occasions we find mention of an escutcheon and a led-horse.

The population of the town during Sewall’s life-time of seventy-seven years ranged between nine and twelve thousand. The peninsula must then have furnished many attractive homes. The gentry occupied large, detached dwellings, — there were no blocks in those days, — with spacious gardens and pastures, with coach and cattle barns, trees and orchards, around them. The houses were substantially built, and furnished with solid and rich furniture. Calashes and coaches and public hacks were first introduced in Sewall’s time, and he soon provided himself with his own equipage, His wealth put him on a level with his most prospered neighbors. The having one’s “picture drawn” was rather a distinctive privilege of the higher class, when a “ limner ” presented himself. Mechanics, small traders, and even many large merchants lived over their own shops or warehouses. Every trade and handicraft had its indented apprentices. The bookstores were the ready meeting places of the scholarly classes, and the exchange, or market-place, under and near the town-house, was the scene of popular concourse for the daily news. It was intended that a rigid rule and espionage should be kept over all inns, ordinaries, and places of doubtful repute, the visitors in which were required to go home at the ringing of the nine o’clock evening bell. Magistrates and citizens of station took their turn in patrolling the streets at night, especially on the eve of celebrations and illuminations, to suppress disorders ; and the constables watched and were watched. Sewall writes of being challenged by an officer in the street when he attended a midwife at midnight on an occasion for her services at his house, and when he had told his errand the constable wished him “ Godspeed.” We have many entries like this : “ Nov. 5. I walk’d at night with Col. Townsend, Mr. Bromfield, Constable Williams & a man or two. Find ye Town quiet & in good order. Were jealous the 5th November might have occasioned disturbance.”

Among the alleviations of the prevailing austerity of manners were many old-fashioned amenities and courtesies, and a most generous fleshly and vinous hospitality. Even on occasions of the frequent religious meetings at private houses of groups of neighbors, and on fast-days, abstinence from food or drink was by no means practiced. But on all public days and on family festivals the cheer was lavish for guests and hosts. Here is an entry after the marriage of one of Sewall’s daughters : “ In ye even [ invited ye Gov. & Council to drink a glass of Wine with me. About twenty came.” The dignitaries are named.

“ Gave them a variety of good Drink, & at going away a large piece of Cake wrap'd in Paper. They very heartily wished me joy of my Daughter’s marriage.” The ingenuity with which Sewall evaded occasions of health-drinking on royal commemorative days, or church festivals, about which he had conscientious scruples, proves that his principles controlled his appetites.

The following entry in the journal, under date of January 16, 1701-2, presents to us a characteristic scene and occasion, showing an interior with a charming display of simple, hearty hospitalityIt must be premised by the statement that Mrs. Sewall had on the second day of the month given birth to her fourteenth child, and therefore had for years afforded large employment to the class of helpful women thirteen of whom are here named.

“ My Wife Treats her Midwife & Women. Had a good Dinner, Boil’d Pork, Beef, Fowls : very good Rost Beef, Turkey-Pie, Tarts. Madam Usher carv’d. Mrs. Hannah Greenlef, Ellis, Cowell, Wheeler, Johnson, Hill, Hawkins, Mrs. Goose, Deming, Green, Smith, Hatch, Blin : Comfortable, moderat wether: & with a good fire in ye Stove warm’d the Room.”

We read occasionally of excursions down the harbor. The “castle” there served as a sort of neutral ground for the license indulged under the control of crown officers, when, with the coming of the new charter, the old Puritan stronghold became a royal fort. Colonel Romer was the officer in the construction of it, but still it was managed by the provincial council. Sewall records this visit of the functionaries: “Aug. 11, 1701. Go down to ye Castle to try to compose ye differences between ye Capt. & Col. Romer. I told ye young men that if any intemperat language proceeded from Col. Romer, ’t was not intended to countenance that, or encourage their imitation : but observe his direction in things wherein he was Skillful & ordered to govern the work ; or to that effect. Lest Should be thought ye Council had too much wink’d at his cursing & swearing, wh. was complain’d of.”

Sewall’s life-time covered the period of continuous warfare with the French and Indians, with all its miseries and atrocities. The province, with prowess and patriotism, maintained itself and its rights through all the dreary perils of that strife. The town stood in constant dread of two calamities, worse for them than an Indian alarm. These were the small-pox and fires, which were often disastrous in their visitations. Bating these, the community was an eminently prosperous one, and it would have been difficult to have then found on the earth one more favored.

Boston needed at the time all these attractions as a place of residence, because its advantages of deep water as a sea-port were offset by difficulties of communication with the adjoining country. The original pear-shaped peninsula was attached by a stem-like neck to the mainland. This neck being often flooded by the waters of the bays on either side, and being low and marshy, Boston became an island, and the access to it was attended by serious risks. In open weather, a ferry to Charlestown and another to Winnisimmet afforded additional ways of egress from the town ; but broad marshes with changing tide levels caused much annoyance. In front of the Dane Law Hall, at Cambridge, still stands an old mile-stone giving the distance to Boston as eight miles ; the route being over the neck to Roxbury, through Brookline, and by a short bridge over Charles River from what is now Brighton. Here are two incidents, described by Sewall, of the perils of the way: —

“Jan’y 11, 1704-5. The Governour [Joseph Dudley] & his Lady essaying to come from Charlestown to Boston in their Slay, 4 Horses, 2 Troopers riding before them, First ye Troopers fell into the water, & then ye Governour making a stand, his four Horses fell in, & the Two Horses behind were drown’d, the Slay pressing them down. They were pull’d up upon ve Ice, & there lay dead, a sad Spectacle. Many came from Charlestown with Boards, Planks, Ropes, &c., & saved ye other Horses. ’Tis a wonderfull Mercy that ye Governour, his Lady, Driver, Postillion, Troopers escaped all safe.”

“Jan’y 19. The Governour coming to Town [from his residence in Roxbury] the way being difficult by Banks of Snow, his Slay was turned upon one side against the Fence next Cambridge, and all in it thrown out, Governour’s Wigg thrown off, his head had some hurt; and my Son’s Elbow. The Horses went away with ye foundation, & left ye Superstructure of ye Slay & the Riders behind.”

This latter disaster, however, may be paralleled during any winter on the “ Brighton road.” The loss of “ ye Governour’s Wigg ” Sewall would not have grieved over, had it not been for the consequent hurt to his head. His son was the husband of Dudley’s daughter. It may be mentioned in this connection that one of the royal governors of Massachusetts came to his death from the perils of the way from Cambridge to Boston. Governor William Burnet, son of the famous Bishop of Salisbury, and who had for a godfather William of Orange, being overturned in his carriage when approaching the ferry, August 30, 1729, was immersed in the river, took a fever, and died a week afterwards.

The fundamental change consequent upon the abrogation of the colony charter began its work just as Sewall was mature in years and most stiff in the convictions and ways of his characteristic Puritanism. What that type of Puritanism was may be learned more satisfactorily from the manifestation and expression of its most significant elements and traits as made by him than from the ablest essay that has ever been written upon the now unattractive theme. It was not at that time Puritanism in its first selfassertion or on its defense, but Puritanism as ratified, as triumphant, as for a brief period established in full working order on its own well-won field, with its immunities and prerogatives assured by a bold front and a firm sway. Precious memories, stern trials, cherished sanctities, habits, usages, and institutions of its own gave to Puritanism in this town and neighborhood an authority which identified it with the divine order of things, and insured to it permanency and extension if only those reared under it were but faithful in their genera tion. Some of Sewall’s contemporaries, from homes and an education like his own, had in their manhood visited England— a few of them the European continent, Occasionally we note in the less grave and rigid of these wanderers, on their return here, tokens of their having relaxed their New England austerity under more genial and indulgent foreign influences. Contact with freelivers, courtiers, and churchmen induced some in feeling, and even avowedly, to prefer and conform to what they had been taught to regard as ensnaring and demoralizing. Probably subjection to such influences accounts in a measure for the pliancy of Governor Joseph Dudley, the son of the old age of Governor Thomas Dudley, himself the sternest and most rigid of the original Stock. The son had lived many years abroad, had been deputy-governor of the Isle of Wight, a member of Parliament, a courtier and trimmer ; he was generally mistrusted here, and intensely hated by the Mathers and their party. Sewall himself, though their children had intermarried, has many entries in his journal about his miffs with this crown officer, his suspicions of him, his doubts about his motives, and disapprobation of his acts. But Dudley had many more liberal judges among good men here. If he acquired his pliancy by foreign residence, certainly a visit of a year in England by Sewall did not wean him in any measure from his first love ; for while abroad he mostly confined his relations and his intercourse to the dissenters. Increase Mather, the man of foremost influence in the colony, returned from several years of wide social converse with public men and affairs more skilled in human nature, but no less a Puritan. The abrogation of the charter set in action several agencies, all contributing to effect a change in the order of things, rapid in its work, radical and sharply grievous to those of the old stock and training. By that now annulled instrument, the colonists had been to all intents and purposes a self-governing and independent people ; choosing their own governors and other magistrates and judges from among themselves, and making and ratifying their own laws. Increase Mather and his associate agents, sent over after the English Revolution in the vain hope of reinstating the charter, had got in its place the best one which their faithful zeal could secure, though they received small thanks at home for what they had accomplished. By the new charter, our chief officers were to be commissioned by the crown; our legislation was subject to the royal veto; the Puritan commonwealth was paralyzed and prostrated; the preponderating sway of the clergy was broken; the exclusive prerogative of church members in the franchise was taken from them; and the people most fondly rooted in the old order were disheartened. Among these there was no one to whom the change brought a deeper sorrow and dismay, with darker dreads and more melancholy apprehensions for the future than to Sewall. The effort by which he rallied his spirit under it, and the conscientious fidelity with which, in yielding to it, he tried to make the best of it, while discharging the high trusts which fell to him, will win to him the respect of those who read the sad or the resigned and bracing reflections and resolves on his sincere pages. At heart, in principle, preference, usage, and every detail of conduct in private and public, he was unswervingly loyal to the old ways. During his later years the very last of the original comers here, and most of the first-born from them on this soil, passed away. With tender pathos he records of these on their departure, with gentle touches for those whom he accounted the best, “ He was a lover of New-England,” “Was a very pious woman, & a true lover of ye first ways of N. England.”

With the assumption by the crown of the direct control and government of Massachusetts came in, of consequence, many incidental influences, all of which tended directly to introduce new and uncongenial elements into the public and the private life of the community. Every change and interference caused a shock or a wound. The officials of the crown paid slight deference to those whom they came to supersede, or to the usages, formalities, and conventionalities which were not to their taste. The attachès and subordinates of these officials, who soon were numerous, the “ more ungodly sort” of them especially, asserted their own immunity from the austere standard of the place, and often vented their ridicule or contempt. The vessels of war and the transports sent into our harbor to coöperate with the English forces and our own provincials in the long-protracted rivalry with the French for dominion here had many rough officers, sailors, and soldiers, requiring a large increase in the number of “ ordinaries ” and places of resort for dubious purposes, which were numerous enough before. Many of these foreign visitors felt themselves free of the old Puritan jurisdiction, as their loyalty was due on the other side of the ocean. They indulged in " Scandalous & riotous carousings” by night, and did not heed “ ye nine o’clk. bell ” which summoned them to go to their homes, nor the Puritan rule which began the quiet and awe of the Sabbath with the setting sun of Saturday. The occasions for commemorating royal births, accessions, and marriages, by illuminations, bonfires, and health drinking, were sad ones to those of the colonial breeding. But the deepest and sharpest heart-pang caused to Sewall by the changed order of things under the new regimen, one presenting itself all through his journal onward, was that which came from the contemptuous slight cast upon the ecclesiastical order and institutions of the colony. With the first coming hither of those agents of mischief, Randolph and Andros, under Charles II. and his brother, the repudiated Church of England demanded recognition with all the prestige and prerogative of its supremacy in the mother country. It seemed as if those crown emissaries wantonly sought to irritate by teasing the most sensitive spot in the hearts of those to whom the old order was the dearest. Against the earnest remonstrance and protest of the proprietors, one of the three meeting-houses of the town was taken possession of for the uses of the English church. Sewall indignantly refused the earnest request that he would sell some of his land, once owned and occupied by the sainted John Cotton, for a church edifice. No! he said. Mr. Cotton, a faithful minister of the church, hounded out of it for nonconformity, had come to the wilderness to get rid of everything belonging to it, and his land should not be desecrated for any such purpose. The baffled churchmen were compelled to appropriate, by right of eminent domain, and without a deed or purchase, a corner of Boston’s earliest burial-place, where King’s Chapel now stands. The disaffected and the uncovenanted in the community were glad to attach themselves, more or less, to the easier communion. Even an occasional backslider from the Puritan fold would excuse his breach of covenant, with his escape from “ watch and ward,” by professing Episcopacy.

Then with the church came church days, and “ papistical ” observances, — Christmas, Ascension Bay, Good Friday, Shrove Tuesday, and other profanities, a woful burden to the soul of the good judge. With grim satisfaction he enters in his journal, under December 25th, for successive years, all the tokens he could note of the little regard paid for it in an as yet ungenial clime : " Shops open, wood carts, teams with marketing come into ye town as usual.” Deeply was he scandalized when, as he notes, the church bell was tolled and its funeral rites were performed over “ a notoriously Atheistic & debauched person.” He had been aggrieved on attending the funeral of a friend where he thought the burial service had been unfitly obtruded. So he writes a few days after, “ Remembring what I had met with at her Sister’s Burial at Dorchester last Satterday, I slipt from ye company up to my Daughter’s, & so went home & avoided ye funeral. The office for Burial is a Lying, very bad office ; makes no difference between ye precious & the vile. Jer. xv. 19. They ought to return to us, & not we go to them by sinfull Compliances.” Again, we read, “ Lord’s Day, April 23, 1704. There is great Firing at the Town, Ships, Castle upon account of its being the Coronationday, wh. gives offence to many: See the Lord’s day so profan’d. Down Sabbath, Up St. George.” There is an entry in the journal which to readers of our day may be quite unintelligible, but which, when accompanied by the comment that it requires, will furnish the true key to and the fullest exposition of the style of Sewall’s Puritanism, and the root and ground of his stiff faith. It seems that, very naturally, the services of the church in King’s Chapel offered a tempting attraction to some of the youth reared in the hard and naked home and meeting-house religion of their parents, and that they would occasionally steal in upon holy-days, where they might hear an organ, something more like music, and responsive worship, and see the minister alternately in a black and white robe, with the evergreen decorations. Under date of December 25, 1697, Sewall writes: " Snowy day. Shops are open, and Carts & sleds come to Town with Wood & Faggots as formerly, save what abatement may be allowed on account of the wether. This morning [in family worship], we read in course the 14, 15 & 16th Psalms. From the 4th verse of the 16th Ps. I took occasion to deliort mine from Christmas-keeping, & charged them to forbear.” His little son Joseph, the future pastor of the South Church, tells him at night “ that though most of the boys went to the Church yet he went not.” Now if the reader turns to the Psalm referred to, to see its injunction against “ Christmas - keeping,” he will read these words : " Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god : their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips.” A blind text, seemingly, for the use for which it is quoted ! No. In Sewall’s full-hearted loyalty to his Puritanism it was most apt and forceful. The Bible was for him the all-sufficient, the sole authority in religion, because wholly divine. " The church,” so called, with its ecclesiastical inventions, devices, and impositions, he regarded as wholly human, an external, rival, antagonistic system in teaching and authority, and as representing " another god ” than the God of the Bible, another kind of worship, and another set of " offerings ” than those which the Book required and allowed. He would have nothing to do with this rival, hostile system, the device of men, an idolatrous will-worship ! Sewall and his Puritan contemporaries regarded the Bible and revered its contents with an enthralled and unquestioning confidence, which would not have been one whit intensified if they had taken the book, just as they received it, from out of a cloud in which it had been passed down to them from the Divine Hand. They found in it all they wished for. They simply read it, obeying it in the letter even more devoutly than they caught or were guided by its spirit. It is noticeable as the marked characteristic of this entire concentration of trust and reverence upon the Book that those Puritans never made the slightest discrimination in its contents. It was all alike. A sentence from any part of it, like a slice or a crumb from a loaf of bread, even from the crust, conveyed the full quality of consistency and nutriment that was in the whole of it. One may read, if he chooses, a ton of printed or manuscript Puritan theology, and he will not find the faintest suggestion of even a possible error in, or a reasonable amendment of, the English translation of the Bible ; still less will he detect any consciousness of the discrepancies, the anachronisms, the perplexities raised by chronological, historical, or scientific questions, which make the staple of modern biblical criticism. A Scripture reference or example was always in order and always decisive. Puritanism, in fidelity to its first principles, — the repudiating the church system, made up of human traditions and inventions, and committing itself wholly to the Bible, — did not care to make selections or to allow exceptions for what was beautiful or edifying in the church system. It would be fatal to make any terms with it, or to indulge its trespassing at any point. The compromise which the English church had made with " popery ” gave it, to the Puritan, only a second-hand shabbiness and disrepute. Puritan scruples rejected the appropriation of Friday as the day for fasts and executions, and substituted Thursday. So we read in the journal that Thursday, October 22, 1702, having been designated for a public fast, “ the Governour moved that it might be Friday, saying, ‘ Let us be Englishmen ! ’ I spake against making any distinction in ye Days of the Week : Desired ye same Day of ye Week might be for Fasts & Thanksgivings. " Here is Sewall’s method of dealing with the proof sheets of an almanac: “ Aug. 18, 1708. Yesterday the Govr comitted Mr. Holyoke’s Almanack to me ; & looking it over this morning, I blotted against Feb. 14th Valentine : March 25th Annunciation of the B. Virgin ; April 24th Easter ; Sept. 20th Michaelmas ; Dec. 25th Christmas ; & no more. K.C. mart [King Charles, Martyr] was lined out, before I saw it; I touched it not.” Sewall was especially sensitive about the favoritism displayed in the attaching of this title of Saint. He had written a vigorous letter to the famous Tutor Flint against it. He records, August 26, 1708, that the tutor, on the way from the Thursday lecture, stopped him in the street, and tried to talk upon the subject. Sewall prevailed on Flint to dine with him, “and after that I and he discoursed alone. He argued that saying Saint Luke was an indifferent thing; and twas comonly used; and therefore he might use it. Mr. Brattle [minister of Cambridge] used it. I argued that ’twas not Scriptural; that twas absurd and partial to Saint Matthew, &c. and not to say Saint Moses, Saint Samuel, &c. And if we said Saint we must goe thorough, &keep the Holy days apointed for them, & turn’d to the Order in the Common Prayer Book.” The good judge might discuss this exciting theme calmly with the college officer. But when a fledgeling of the ministry, happening in the pulpit of the South Church a few months after, touched the sore point, this is the record : “ Dec. 5. 1708. Mr. Nathaniel Gookin preached in the forenoon: I think every time he mentioned James, twas with prefixing Saint, about 4 or 5 times that I took notice of. I suppose he did it to confront me, & to assert his own Liberty. Probably, he had seen the Letter I writt to Mr. Flint. Spake also of Reverence in God’s Worship ; he may partly intend being covered in Sermon-Time : It had better becom’d a person of some Age and Authority to have intermeddled in things of such a nature. Qnædam Confidentia non est virtus, at audacia.”The being “ covered ” with a hat during a long sermon in a cold meeting-house was very desirable for such as did not wear “ periwiggs,” which were Sewall’s abhorrence. He mentions that the frozen bread in the sacramental platters “rattled sadly.” The judge for many years set the psalm tune and started the pitch in the South Church, occasionally making blunders. He grieved when his voice failed him for this office of piety.

If we should measure the quality and capacity of the good judge’s genius by the number and variety of the offices held by him, we should assign to him great versatility. Not only was he an acceptable preacher, at least at private meetings, an accomplished printer, a writer of English and Latin verses, a thrifty merchant, a councilor and judge, but he was also chosen by a company vote as the commander of the artillery company now flourishing in pristine vigor as “ The Ancient and Honorable.” He was inclined to “ disable himself,” as not qualified for this martial distinction ; but his objections were overruled, and he did his full duty on training-days. As he could pitch a psalm tune, he could probably keep step, and as he had a fine presence, he could grace the parade, while he prayed with and exhorted the company. He certainly was generous in the exercise of the privilege, always accorded to New England military notables, of “ treating ” officers and men. If he failed in anything, it was in skill for hitting the mark in target practice. The following extract will present him in his own words, as in command, though admitting that the company kept out of the rain: —

“May 4. 1702. Artillery Company Trains. In the Afternoon went into Comon; Major Hobby, Will Dumier, Ned Hutchinson, Oliver Williams and another, Listed. Major Hobby was introduced by Col. Hutchinson, He and I vouch’d for him. Mr. Elisha Cooke junr mov’d to be dismiss’d, which when he had paid his Arrears, was granted by Vote with a Hiss. Went to Pollards to avoid the Rain. March’d out and shot at a Mark. Before they began, I told the Company that I had call’d them to shoot in October, and had not my self hit the Butt; I was willing to bring my self under a small Fine, such as a single Justice might set; and it should be to him who made the best Shott. Mr. Gerrish and Ensign John Noyes were the competitors, At Pollards, by a Brass Rule, Ens. Noyes’s Shot was found to be two inches and a half nearer the centre, than Mr. John Gerrishes; His was on the right side of the Neck; Ensign Noyes’s on the Bowels a little on the Left and but very little more than G. on the Right of the middle-Line. When I had heard what could be heard on both sides, I Judg’d for Ensign Noyes, and gave him a Silver cup I had provided engraven

May. 4. 1702.

Euphratem Siccare potes.

Telling him, it was in Token of the value I had for that virtue in others, which I my self could not attain to. March’d into Comon and concluded with Pray’r. Pray’d in the morn on the Townhouse, Praying for the Churches by Name. After Diner, We Sung four staves of the 68th PS, viz. first Part and the 9 and 10th verses of the 2d with regard to the plentifull Rain on the 1 and 2 May and now, after great Drought; Mr. Dering mov’d we might sing. Some objected against our singing so much ; I answer’d, Twas but Four Deep. Were Treated at Major Savages.”

There is something noteworthy in the circumstances under which Sewall came to hold the highest place in the judiciary of Massachusetts. In its earliest avowals and legislation the colony had given very frank expression to its dislike of professional lawyers and barristers. If it were possible, the colony would have gladly dispensed with their presence and agency here. The first of the profession who came found trouble, and returned to England in disgust, of course publishing a caustic tract about his experiences. In perfect consistency with this prejudice or aversion, when the people or the court of the colony found it necessary to invest any of the magistrates with judicial functions, they seem to have been utterly indifferent to the fact whether their judges or councilors had had any legal or professional education. Neither one of the judges composing the special court of oyer and terminer, constituted in 1692, for the trial of the cases of witchcraft at Salem, had had any legal training, nor did they follow legal methods in their proceedings. Sewall, who was one of these judges, makes no mention whatever in his journal of any study or preparation pursued by him for such an office. Coming to this country in 1661, with his parents, at the age of nine years, and graduating from Harvard in 1671, his first chosen profession was that of the ministry, the prize of ambition here at the time, and as such at first chosen by Lieutenant-Governor and Chief-Justice William Stoughton, by Gurdon Saltonstall, governor of Connecticut, and other leading men. Sewall made subsequent essays as a printer and a merchant. In 1676 he obtained great wealth by marrying the daughter of the mint master, John Hull, of whom the silly story has obtained traditional currency that he gave the bride, as her dowry, her weight in his pine-tree shillings. Undoubtedly, Sewall’s affluence furnished him high patronage, and put him in place on the charter council in 1692. But no hint being given by him as to legal study, we are left entirely to conjecture in tracing the stages or methods by which he became so far qualified for the office of a judge of the highest court in the province as to satisfy others and himself of his competency to fill it. He must have been largely influenced by the unsophisticated simplicity of the conviction that law, justice, and equity were convertible and synonymous terms, and that full qualification to deal with and dispense them came as the endowment of nature to a man of honest heart and intelligent mind. Certainly, neither he nor his associates seem ever to have felt a single misgiving as to their official competency. Sewall mentions, under date of June 4, 1712, the choice by the council of the excellent and able Mr. Thomas Brattle to fill a vacancy in the superior court; but he adds, “ Mr. B. denys serving ; had not rid 20 miles in 20 years.” But he does not set down, what we read on the records of the council, that Mr. Brattle excused himself, not only because “ of his bodily infirmities,” but also because of " his unacquaintedness with ye law.”

In connection with Sewall’s official responsibility in the tragic proceedings against the reputed witches at Salem, following as he did the course of wiser and more famous judges than himself all over Christendom, mention should always be made of his noble attitude and his meek humility when, on the solemn fast day appointed by the province four years after the distressing scenes, and when the spell of the delusion was in a measure broken, he stood in his place in the meeting-house as his pastor read his touching confession and his devout supplication for forgiveness. The chiefjustice, the stern and rigid Stoughton, would not do as much as this, for he said he “ had acted under the light which God had given him.” It is not by any means, however, to be inferred that Sewall ever ceased to believe in the reality of witchcraft, or the possibility of its guilt being incurred by man or woman. His misgiving came from a mistrust of the sufficiency of the kind of evidence, “ the spectral evidence,” on which the victims had been convicted.

Many engaging traits appear in the character of the man. His natural gravity and a regard for the dignity of his position might well account for the lack of humor and the absence of anything like levity in his public appearance ; but he seems also to have been deficient in mirthfulness and any appreciation of fun. Occasionally he would relax his austerity, and utter what he calls a pleasancy.” He was capable of making a sprightly retort in reply to bantering, and any personal affront was met by him with great dignity towards his equals, and with magisterial rebuke towards any one below him. He candidly records many sharp encounters, especially with the Mathers and his own ministers, and though he fully conformed to the custom of his time and place in deference to the office of the clergy, even when arrogance and assumption were manifested in their behavior, he more than once reminded them of certain virtues which became their calling. Rigid, though not stern, family discipline was with him the first condition of domestic life, and faithfully did he enforce it in every detail of duty. His children were in subjection, and he was a master, though a kind one, of his servants, some of whom, as in the families around him, were negroes or Indians held as property ; while he protested and wrote against the holding of human beings in actual bondage as slaves, with no rights of their own. He insisted upon the legalizing of the marriages, the religious education, and all considerate treatment of these subject races.

We have a fair intimation of the abounding creature comforts of the time and place, the products of farm and garden, the sea and tropical commerce, which the well-to-do had in their cellars and closets. Pure wines and spirits, ale and cider, were at hand without stint. Sewall seems to have kept in his house various little luxuries which he carried with him to the sick and the necessitous. Figs, oranges, “ marmalet,”“ chockalat,” Banbury buns, etc., are named among the distributed gifts, easily carried in the capacious pockets of those days. These comfits were often accompanied with the distribution of those sermons and religious tractates, so dismal and juiceless to us, but for which there was then a stimulated appetite, and which were the chief out-goes of the press. Sewall maintained a most generous hospitality, and his guest-chambers were generally well tenanted. He himself was fond of visiting, and his frequent journeyings on his judicial circuits made him a guest at many friendly homes, rendering it pleasant for him to return the obligations thus incurred. The risks encountered and the precautions necessary in traveling at the time gave a zest to excursions not realized in these days. There was an additional glow of comfort in reaching a cheerful home, with its welcome, after a ride on horseback in the cold storm over blind ways, and often unbridged streams. There was more repose then in rural life, though accompanied with what would be to us stagnation. The visit of a friend from a lively sea-port always brought something which was news, however old, and there was opportunity for calm converse and slow digestion which we have lost. The electric wires which flash intelligence for us over sea and land pass through us as well as through space, and use our nerves as batteries. The excitement furnished to us by the daily report of certified events of startling interest the world over was found by our progenitors in tedious waiting for the verification or disproof of dismal rumors. A reader who may have given his attention to the recent discussions about the use and efficacy of prayer for the sick, and other special petitions, will find on every page of Sewall’s journal the tokens of the place which such devout exercises filled in the Puritanism of his days. In each well-regulated household, every member of it being held to the duty of repeated daily devotions in private, the family united at morning and evening, and before and after each meal, in solemn services. Prayers opened and closed the sessions of general and special courts and councils, the daily school exercises, the parade on the trainingfield. It was, however, in the sickchamber that recourse was especially had to the helping service of prayer. We marvel over the crowding around of ministers and friends on occasions when, in our view of the proprieties of the scene, or the desirableness of keeping a sufferer calm and still, there ought to have been the hush of quietness and privacy. On every emergency in his household Sewall would haste to call in his own and other ministers, and on his way would engage his friends and neighbors “ to go to prayer ” for him. His friend, Major Walley, was confined to his chair by some trouble in one of his feet. So we read, “Dec. 31, 1711. Major Walley has Prayer at his house respecting his Foot; began between 2 and 3. p. m. Mr. Pemberton first, Mr. Bridge, Mr. Column, Mr. Wadsworth, Dr. C. Mather. Mr. W. insisted pretty much, that several in the room might dy before the Major: all of them might. Dr. C. Mather very near ye Conclusion of his Prayer, said, Probably some remarkable person in the room might dye before Major Walley.” It is pleasant to be told that the patient “ was easy all the time of the exercise ; had not cne Twinging pain.”

In no entry in his journal does the good judge present himself more winningly to our respect and sympathy than in his account of the funeral of his revered mother. He goes to Newbury to attend it on January 15, 1701. His father had died in the May previous, aged eighty-six. Here is the scene: —

“ Twas a very pleasant Comfortable day. . . . Went, abt 4. p. m. Nathan1 Bricket taking in hand to fill the Grave, I said, Forbear a little, and suffer me to say That amidst our bereaving sorrows We have the Comfort of beholding this Saint put into the rightfull possession of that Happiness of Living desir’d and dying Lamented. She liv’d comendably Four and Fifty years with her dear husband, and my dear Father: And she could not well brook the being divided from him at her death; which is the cause of our taking leave of her in this place. She was a true and constant Lover of Gods Word, Worship, and Saints : And she always, with a patient cheerfullness, submitted to the divine Decree of providing Bread for her self and others in the sweat of her Brows. And now her infinitely Gracious and Bountiful Master has promoted her to the Honor of higher Employments, fully and absolutely discharged from all maner of Toil, and Sweat. My honoured and beloved Friends and Neighbours! My dear Mother never thought much of doing the most frequent and homely offices of Love for me ; and lavish’d away many Thousands of Words upon me, before I could return one word in Answer: And therefore I ask and hope that none will be offended that I have now ventured to speak one word in her behalf ; when shee her self is become speechless. Made a Motion with my hand for the filling of the Grave. Note, I could hardly speak for passion and Tears. Mr. Tappan pray’d with us in the evening.”

In the two original portraits which are extant of Judge Sewall, his substantial and dignified presence well befits his high office. His firm but benignant features are crowned with long, gray hair, covered with a black skullcap. He tells us that he had recourse to this as his locks were thinned by age, and he suffered from draughts of air, especially in the meeting-house. But there was a protest as well as a protection in that skull-cap. One of the falsehoods and shams which he abominated was the periwig, then so generally worn by clergymen, dignitaries, and men of fashion. It grieved him to see a friend of his, of any age. however bald he might be, have recourse to this device. But when one of them cut off a good head of hair, most of all a young man, to don a periwig, the offense to him was most grave. Generally he resented it with much force of speech. Here is his dealing with a son of his pastor, in 1701, three years after his graduation at Harvard, where he was librarian and tutor:

“Tuesday, June, 10th Having last night heard that Josiah Willard had cut off his hair (a very full head of hair) and put on a Wigg, I went to him this morning. Told his Mother what I came about, and she call’d him. I enquired of him what Extremity had forced him to put off his own hair, and put on a Wigg ? He answered, none at all. But said that his Hair was streight, and that it parted behinde. Seem’d to argue that men might as well shave their hair off their head, as off their face. I answered men were men before they had hair on their faces (half of mankind have never any). God seems to have ordain’d our Hair as a Test, to see whether we can bring our minds to be content to be at his finding; or whether we would be our own Carvers, Lords, and come no more at Him. If disliked our Skin, or Nails; ’tis no Thanks to us, that for all that, we cut them not off: Pain and danger restrain us. Your calling is to teach men self Denial. Twill be displeasing and burdensom to good men : And they that care not what men think of them care not what God thinks of them. Father, Bror Simon, Mr. Pemberton, Mr. Wigglesworth, Oakes, Noyes (Oliver), Brattle of Cambridge their example. Allow me to be so far a Censor Morum for this end of the Town. Pray’d him to read the Tenth Chapter of the Third book of Calvins Institutions. I read it this morning in course, not of choice. Told him that it was condemn’d by a Meeting of Ministers at Northampton in Mr. Stoddards house, when the said Josiah was there. Told him of the solemnity of the Covenant which he and I had lately entered into, which put me upon discoursing to him. He seem’d to say would leave off his Wigg when his hair was grown. I spake to his Father of it a day or two after: He thank’d me that had discoursed his Son, and told me that when his hair was grown to cover his ears, he promis’d to leave off his Wigg. If he had known of it, would have forbidden him. His Mother heard him talk of it; but was afraid positively to forbid him ; lest he should do it, and so be more faulty.”

George E. Ellis.