Apologies

mural of 1697: The Dawn of Tolerance in Massachusetts: Public Repentance of Judge Samuel Sewall for his Action in the Witchcraft Trials

Samuel Sewall (1652–1730) is the man with the bowed head in this picture. He has much to feel remorseful about. Amongst eight other judges, he’s sentenced nineteen innocent people to death for being witches in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. When January 14, was established as a day of fasting and prayer for the sins of the witchcraft trials in 1697 Sewall took the chance to issue a formal apology. As Rev. Samuel Willard passed by his pew, he handed him a letter, rising as Willard read:

Samuel Sewall, sensible of the reiterated strokes of God upon himself and family; and being sensible, that as to the Guilt contracted upon the opening of the late Commission of Oyer and Terminer at Salem (to which the order of this Day relates) he is, upon many accounts, more concerned than any that he knows of, Desires to take the Blame and shame of it, Asking pardon of men, And especially desiring prayers that God, who has an Unlimited Authority, would pardon that sin and all other his sins; personal and Relative: And according to his infinite Benignity and Sovereignty, Not Visit the sin of him, or of any other, upon himself or any of his, nor upon the Land: But that he would powerfully defend him against all Temptations to Sin, for the future; and vouchsafe him the efficacious, saving conduct of his Word and Spirit.

He was the only judge to make such an apology. Anne Putnam, one of the girls whose accusations set the whole madness off issued an apology some time later.  The first paragraph of her apology tells us that it really wasn’t her fault – the devil made her do it – or tricked her into it. The second paragraph seems a little more contrite:

I desire to be humbled before God for that sad and humbling providence that befell my father’s family in the year about ninety-two; that I, then being in my childhood, should, by such a providence of God, be made an instrument for the accusing of serveral people for grievous crimes, whereby their lives was taken away from them, whom, now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons; and that it was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear I have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent blood; though, what was said or done by me against any person, I can truly and uprightly say, before God and man, I did it not out of any anger, malice, or ill will to any person, for I had no such thing against one of them; but what I did was ignorantly, being deluded by Satan.

And particularly, as I was a chief instrument of accusing Goodwife Nurse and her two sisters, I desire to lie in the dust, and to be humble for it, in that I was a cause, with others, of so sad a calamity to them and their families; for which cause I desire to lie in the dust, and earnestly beg forgiveness of God, and from all those unto whom I have given just cause of sorrow and offense, whose relations were taken away or accused.

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Louie H. Houghton
9 years ago

A tragic case for the separation of church and state. Here in America the public at large is faced with the same dilemma in our presidential election. Verifiable facts are being set aside and our politicians stand on shaky records. Histrionics are the norm and I fear more apologies such as these are forthcoming.

paul walter
paul walter
9 years ago

Cross and
the Crucible.
Must google it up to find out what brought about the eventual contrition.

Steve at the Pub
9 years ago

Uppermost in my recollections of learning about the Salem witchcratery (apart from the bit about two dogs being hanged for putting the “evil eye” upon people) is the bit where when she first exhibited hysteria, or “influence by witch” (or whatever) and playing up to the subsequent public reaction, one of the girls was given a good spanking (by a male relative or someone like that) thus temporarily curing/exorcising her.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago

Teenage girls can be a worry if they are not spanked enough.

Remember what happened in New Zealand – murder even!

“The Parker-Hulme murders haunted New Zealand in the 1950s. Two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, were convicted of the murder of Pauline’s mother.”

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/the-hidden-life-of-anne-perry/4182226

But spanking for girls and a good kick up the arse for boy,s and all will be well with the world like it was back in the good ol days.

paul walter
paul walter
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

Begs the question, doesn’t it Julie Thomas.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago
Reply to  paul walter

Ooops silly me, but I have nfi what question is going begging Paul :)

whyisitso
whyisitso
9 years ago

At least these apologies were from people in respect of their own actions, no matter how qualified their words were.

In the twenty-first century a habit has developed of people apologising for and on behalf of deceased people, or in a small proportion of cases for very elderly people, who have rarely been consulted to see if they are repentent for their past actions. Recent examples are the apology by the Rudd government in respect of the “stolen generations”, and Barry O’Farrell in respect of the taking of babies from single mothers.

The recipients of these “apologies” are often tearful in gratitude for these sentiments, and of course the apology-givers are filled with a warm inner glow of moral superiority for their words. A win-win situation all round I suppose.

I note however that a number of recipients or their descendants refuse to accept these apologies, saying they’re not sincere, or that the wrong word has been used (eg “we apologise” instead of “we’re sorry” or vice versa). Other recipients are keen to see the door opening for financial consideration for their own past hurts, or even for the hurt of their deceased ancestors.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago

Paul I am really and truly ‘slow’ about some things that are obvious to most people. I just realised that I should understand what “begging the question’ means but I don’t. I will google it but I’m thinking that perhaps the question was ‘what do we do about girls’?

I have no idea, my daughter is 30 and still a worry, but I’m so sure that the human brain is capable of producing almost any attitude/belief/behaviour – in the context of a culture that provides enough support for it, that I don’t think we need to understand ‘why it is so’ to know what to do. It is a good thing to know why it is so though.

I think that there are men with female brains and women with male brains – asperger girls are supposed to be females with male brains but with female hormones. But this is a work in progress with much debate on the evidence.

My father was a ‘ratbag’ and there was no sexism in our house; my brother did everything the girls had to do and because of his input I was the first girl to do Geometrical Drawing and Perspective in high school – which really sucked because the boys did not want me there – and now my daughter is one of those rare female ‘developers’; she used to be a programmer but they are called developers now I think.

It’s never worked to have rules for all boys or all girls and there will always be outliers who cause trouble when they are bored?

How’s that for an off topic and off the wall comment? Awesome for a Monday morning.

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

Julie
Somebody asked the Buddha -‘can women enter nirvana?’, the Buddha did not answer. One of the Buddhas brightest disciples eventually explained that, because any sentient being can achieve enlightenment ,the question ‘can women enter nirvana?’
begged the question ‘can the Buddha (or anybody else) permit or refuse women from entering nirvana?’.
Hope this helps.

Julie Thomas
Julie Thomas
9 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

Hi John
Yes the commentary I have read about women and buddhism, indicates that it was ‘culture’ that prevented nuns from being monks, not the failure of women to measure up.

But I recently read somewhere that the western contempt for passions and emotions, which were equated with femaleness, began with the Greeks. The author(s)? cites Timoeus, or The Timoeus, in which it is said that “a man who masters his emotions lives a life of reason and justice and will be reborn with eternal happiness, but a man who is mastered by his passions will be reborn as a woman”.

Perhaps women are just men who failed to regulate their passions?

But I’m also confused because I did not know that the Greeks believed in reincarnation? Surely not?

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

Julie
was just trying to explain “begs a question” as in questions that by their framing restrict the way you look at the subject of the question.

I am no expert on this stuff :-)…but re the Greeks and “western contempt for passions and emotions”- the Greeks were often earthy and passionate types , cool passionate clarity is not cold.

The Greeks were also part of the indo-european spread. The strange mixture made by the two great metaphors of time : time as an arrow -a one way trip and time as a endless wheel of birth, growth, death , return to the earth and then rebirth, were as mysterious for them as they are for me.
Ever seen Piero’s The Resurrection?
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c2/Resurrection.JPG/539px-Resurrection.JPG>

Huxley thought it the best picture in the world.

It combines mathematical calculation with passionate clarity … I just wanted to stand and stare and stare and stare.

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

Sorry link for the picture is

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

bugger Picture is here

paul walter
paul walter
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

The Timaeus is one of Plato’s discourses featuring Socrates, very famous, dealing with questions of the universe, time space and process, reality and appearance, ontology, epistemology, natural process value and meaning, justice and creation: can some thing come of nothing, can god be part of the universe and remained detached from a lived life, (unmoved mover) and many other questions as to “what it’s all about”
This is going back nearly two and half thousand years, they had to think it up for themselves, its is a template or foundation for most of philosophy, metaphysics and theology that has come since.
It’s been so long since I scanned it that I can’t remember the comment about women, but it fits with Plato’s Socrates: a crafty old leg-puller.
The Dialogues are worth a google, Julie, maybe start with something broad explanatory like Wiki.
An enjoyable first dialogue would be “Symposium”, which is a dinner party where the characters discuss the nature of love.

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
9 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomas

Julie
sorry links are not working well

Try this link

paul walter
paul walter
9 years ago

Julie Thomas I account it as no less than a blessing, this bright and sunny Adelaide morning of the anniversary of your’s truly’s birth.
Thinking how the descriptor “developer has two diametrically opposed meanings, almost.
One is to do with graft and real estate sharks, the other plies to someone brightish who tinkers around with the abstracts of computer operation.

Elise
Elise
9 years ago

We must have come a long way from witch-burning days…

Julia Gillard survived loud public claims of being a witch.

Barack Obama survived claims of being the antichrist.

Did enough of us finally grow some brains, and the capacity for reasoned analysis?

paul walter
paul walter
9 years ago

Elise,you can hope, but I doubt it.