No Son Unsung


Sharing the second volume with Increase Mather are Joseph Dudley, who was educated for the ministry but turned to civil affairs and before he died had been chief justice of Massachusetts, lieutenant governor for the Isle of Wight, member of Parliament, and royal governor of Massachusetts Bay and adjoining colonies; Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first full-blooded Indian to be graduated from Harvard; and Daniel Mason, a ship’s surgeon who was captured by a corsair and died in captivity in Algiers. Here also are John Foster, the first printer in Boston, and Japhet Hobart, who, according to a contemporary diarist, “went home to England & travelled in foreign Parts, renounced his Religion and became a Romanist, & died a Cardinal or some such great Dignitary in the Church of Rome.” And here is Nathaniel Higginson of the class of 1670, who went first to England, then on to India, where he established himself as a merchant at Fort St. George (Madras), “and after serving in the Council as Secretary, succeeded as Governor … Elihu Yale, the founder of Yale College.”

Also in the class of 1670 was George Burroughs, the only Harvard graduate ever to be executed for witchcraft and, if Sibley’s interpretation is correct, the original innocent bystander. Not long after his graduation, Burroughs was preaching in Maine when he received an invitation to become the minister of Salem Village in Massachusetts. He accepted, but his ministry was not a happy one. Many of his parishioners were still angry with his predecessor and vented their anger on Burroughs. Moreover, he found himself in financial difficulties, principally because he was unable to collect arrearages on his salary. Within four years he had returned to Maine and settled there contentedly, probably hoping never to hear of Salem again. But the witchcraft frenzy was boiling furiously, and when it was at its height a few influential citizens remembered they still had a grudge against Burroughs. A warrant was sworn out for his arrest, and he was brought back to Salem for an examination of the charges against him. After a hearing on the preliminary evidence, Burroughs was indicted on four counts of witchcraft, one of which was for “extraordinary Lifting,” and featured testimony that although “he was a Puny man, yet he had often done things beyond the strength of a Gyant … only putting the Forefinger into the Muzzle of an heavy Fowling piece of about six or seven foot Barrel, [he] did lift up the Gun, and hold it out at Arms length.” It could not have comforted Burroughs that one of his judges, Samuel Sewall, was a Harvard man, as was also the foreman of the grand jury that brought in the indictments against him. Burroughs was convicted and from the gallows made a speech so sensible and so eloquent that the crowd was almost persuaded to free him. But before they could act, that other old Harvardian, Cotton Mather, convinced them that they were only doing their duty, and the execution took place on schedule. Apparently, the old school tie could take the form of a noose in the seventeenth century.

A man as precocious as Cotton Mather, Paul Dudley of the class of 1690, entered Harvard at the age of ten and went on to become chief justice of Massachusetts. According to Shipton he resembled Mather in other ways, combining religious bigotry with intellectual curiosity. “From London he ordered such books as Don Quixote . He was interested in everything in the world about him, from earthquakes to the marvelously dressed ‘Greek Nobleman’ who entertained in Boston for a time.” When Paul Dudley died he left to Harvard an endowment of £133 6 s. 8 d. for a series of lectures, every fourth one of which was “to be for the purpose of detecting and convicting and exposing the Idolatry of the Romish church,” and Shipton remarks dryly, “For many years past it has not been deemed expedient by the college authorities to honor the donor’s wishes in this respect but the Dudleian lectures are still delivered.”

A classmate of Judge Dudley’s was an obscure minister whose name (naturally) was John Jones. The Reverend Mr. Jones’s only claim to fame came after he died by drowning when the horse he was riding fell through the ice of New Haven Harbor on a bitter January day. He was found still seated on his standing horse, man and mount frozen solid at the bottom of the bay.

Volume IV of the Sketches includes also such colorful ministers as “Handkerchief” Moody, a brilliant and popular man, who in later life developed a psychosis which caused him to wear a handkerchief to obscure his features and to preach with his back to the congregation; Hugh Adams, who wrote voluminous and labored verse screeds against the practice of wearing powdered wigs; and Dudley Bradstreet, who was dismissed as minister to the people of Groton for his amorous advances to the ladies of the parish.