Samuel Sewall

Samuel Sewall (syōō´əl), 1652–1730, American colonial jurist, b. England. He was taken as a child to Newbury, Mass., and was graduated from Harvard in 1671. He became a minister but gave up the cloth to assume management of a printing press in Boston and entered upon a public career. He was elected (1683) to the general court and was a member of the council. As one of the judges who tried the Salem witchcraft cases in 1692, he shared responsibility for the condemnation of 19 persons. However, he became convinced of the error of these convictions and in 1697 in Old South Church, Boston, publicly accepted the "blame and shame" for them; thereafter he annually spent a day of repentance in fasting and prayer. Sewall served (1692–1728) as judge of the superior court of the colony, being chief justice during the last 10 years. His diary (3 vol., 1878–82; repr. 1973) is very revealing of the man and of the period.

See biographies by O. E. Winslow (1964), T. B. Strandness (1967), and E. LaPlante (2007); N. H. Chamberlain, Samuel Sewall and the World He Lived In (1897, repr. 1967).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Samuel Sewall: Selected full-text books and articles

Samuel Sewall's Diary By Samuel Sewall; Mark Van Doren Macy-Masius, 1927
Puritanism in America, 1620-1750 By Everett Emerson Twayne Publishers, 1977
Librarian’s tip: "Samuel Sewall's Diary" begins on p. 128
Saints & Revolutionaries: Essays on Early American History By David D. Hall; John M. Murrin; Thad W. Tate Norton, 1984
Librarian’s tip: "The Mental World of Samuel Sewall" begins on p. 75
The Practice of Piety: Puritan Devotional Disciplines in Seventeenth-Century New England By Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe University of North Carolina Press, 1982
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Samuel Sewall begins on p. 9
Making an Inter-American Mind By Harry Bernstein University of Florida Press, 1961
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Samuel Sewall begins on p. 6
Founders of American Economic Thought and Policy By Virgle Glenn Wilhite Bookman Associates, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Samuel Sewall begins on p. 163
The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry By Perry Miller Doubleday, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Samuel Sewall begins on p. 213 and on p. 240
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