Tuesday afternoon, I attended the talk “Cotton Mather’s Spanish Lessons” by Kirstin Silva Gruesz at Pomona. Unfortunately, I found myself dozing right off the bat until suddenly I jumped awake upon hearing the name “Samuel Sewall” in the speech. Samuel Sewall is the ancestor of mine who was a judge in the Salem Witch Trials that I mentioned in class. He also was in our reading on John Calvin (page 4). I had no idea this man was such a figure in history; I always thought of him as the judge not famous enough to make it into “The Crucible” except one line where his name is mentioned by another judge. However, it seems like he had a larger presence in American history than I thought.
According to the speaker, he believed Mexico City to be the “seat of Satan” but that the Mexicans were the lost tribe of Jerusalem, meaning that Mexico City had the potential to become the New Jerusalem. I also read on this website that he wrote the first anti-slavery piece in the colonies, providing religious reasons and examples against slavery in a time when this was virtually unheard of.
|See the resemblance?|
All of this is to say that you never know where a relative might pop up in your daily life. Learning family history is not only interesting but also important. In some twisted and distant way, this man shaped me. He also shaped American history through his actions in Salem. He may not be as much of a figure as Thomas Jefferson, but he had an impact nonetheless. Until now I always thought he was the type of person worthy of being “disremembered.” Now knowing his views on slavery, I feel better about him as a family member. Sure, it is not honorable to have condemned innocent people to death for witchcraft, but it just goes to show that a person cannot be judged based on one wrong decision.