Robert Keayne should be remembered fondly. He was a pioneer, a tailor, a chronicler of sermons, a Selectman in seventeenth-century Boston, a member and Speaker of the Massachusetts General Court, and a philanthropist. In his will, he left a donation that helped establish Boston’s first town house.
In 1639, however, he had been called before the court and fined for charging too much for his goods. At the time, he confessed his sins and professed his contrition. But before he died in 1656, he composed a 50-odd page last will and testament as an extended rationalization and justification of his earlier behavior. He was right, and he’d go to his grave publicly professing his innocence.
We might remember Keayne as a philanthropist and one of the rocks upon which Massachusetts Bay Colony and the United States was built. Instead, we remember him more as a whiner, a self-proclaimed victim, and a person who would not accept that he offended the people who lived around him. His fate was sealed when the historian Bernard Bailyn published Keayne’s will as The Apologia of Robert Keayne.
How do you want to be remembered?