“Because of the destroying angel standing over the Town, a day of prayer is needed that we may prepare to meet our God.'' – Cotton Mather, 1721
April 22nd, 1721: Boston is one of the biggest cities in colonial America with a population of 12,000 Puritans. The Puritans, constituting all of the population, were severe and took their convictions very seriously, and unless you wished to be hanged, whipped, or exiled, your best option was to conform and keep any differing beliefs to yourself. Of course there were some heretics who didn’t follow this: in 1651Boston, Obadiah Holmes was imprisoned and publicly whipped for being a Baptist, Anne Hutchison and John Wheelwright were banned from Boston for expressing dissident beliefs, and Mary Dyer was hanged for being a Quaker and still repeatedly entering Boston to express discontent with the Anti-Quaker law.
To the people of Boston, this treatment to the different was normal; religion was a huge part of their daily life, a reason for living, an idea that seeped into different facets of behavior: hard work, rigid morals, and education, all of which helped them to build a stable society upon which to expand and to try to please the Lord; and anyone who threatened that deserved to be punished. The people of Boston liked to believe that they had a special connection with God unlike anyone else, and prided themselves on it. God was the ultimate answer in times of struggle as well as times of prosperity; to the people of Boston, God mattered more than anything else.
During this time, Boston was still taking shape. It had more intellectuals than most other colonies; there were philosophers, inventors, eleven doctors, and one doctor with an actual, certified degree. These people were working hard to improve Boston, coming up with new remedies, inventions, and ideas that helped expand people’s way of thinking (while of course staying within Puritan guidelines).
On this particular day in April, the HMS Seahorse, a British Naval vessel returning from the Caribbean, waited in the Boston Harbor. The ship was inspected, given the go-ahead to dock in Boston, and the sailors entered town, passing the printing presses, houses, and various shops. As the men invariably looked for somewhere to rest or eat and drink, one sailor amongst them began to scratch at the sores sprouting within his mouth.
December 13, 1706: Boston is very cold this time of year, and a Minister sits in his study as the snow falls outside, recounting the day’s events in his journal, writing of how the members of his congregation purchased him “a very likely Slave; a young Man who is a Negro of a promising aspect of temper” most likely to...