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Samuel Sewall (congressman)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Samuel Sewall
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 10th district
In office
December 7, 1796 – January 10, 1800
Preceded byBenjamin Goodhue
Succeeded byNathan Read
Personal details
Born(1757-12-11)December 11, 1757
Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay, British America
DiedJune 8, 1814(1814-06-08) (aged 56)
Wiscasset, Massachusetts, U.S. (now Maine)
Political partyFederalist
Alma materHarvard College

Samuel Sewall (December 11, 1757 – June 8, 1814) was an American lawyer and congressman. He was born in Boston in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

After attending Dummer Charity School (now The Governor's Academy), Sewall graduated from Harvard College (A.B. 1776, A.M. 1779, honorary LL.D. 1808) and set up practice as a lawyer in Marblehead. He served as a member of the state legislature in 1783, and from 1788-96.

He represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1796 to 1800, and from 1800 to 1814 served as a judge of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, becoming Chief Justice in 1814. He died at Wiscasset in Massachusetts' District of Maine while holding a court there.[1] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1801.[2]

American novelist Louisa May Alcott was Sewall's great niece. His younger sister, Dorothy, was Alcott's great-grandmother.[3] In 1781, he married Abigail Devereux; they had a family of at least six sons and two daughters. Sewall's great-grandfather Samuel Sewall was a judge at the Salem witch trials in colonial Massachusetts, and subsequently Chief Justice of Massachusetts.[1]

Sewall was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society on June 1, 1814.[4] Sewall died 7 days later on June 8, apparently before he could formally respond, so his disposition regarding membership is unknown.

In 1814 Fort Sewall in Marblehead, Massachusetts was renamed for him.[5]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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The 19 witches who were executed, and the others who are accused, all went before the Superior Court of Massachusetts, and that was five judges who traveled around Massachusetts hearing cases. They had come up from Boston to hear the cases of the witches in 1692, 1693. And, of the judges, one was William Hawthorne, whose descendant Nathaniel Hawthorne writes eloquently about Salem and New England in the 17th century, and is very much haunted by the legacy of the witch trials. Samuel Sewall is also a judge on this court, and in 1697 Sewall does something extraordinary. He stands up in the Old South Meeting House in Boston, his Congregation, and he stands as someone reads an apology that Sewell has written, apologizing for his role in the witchcraft episode. Sewell sees that the 19 were wrongly accused of witchcraft, that the court relied on insufficient evidence, spectral evidence, to send people to their deaths and that the entire frenzy had driven, torn the colony apart. These accusations in the town of Salem that had spiraled, in fact had drawn in accusations in Boston in 1692 and 93; the jails were full of people accused of witchcraft, awaiting trial for witchcraft. And Sewell, five years later, sees the utter folly of all of this; an extraordinary thing for a judge to recognize his mistake. Cotton Mather does not apologize for his role in this, even know Increase Mather and the other clergy in Massachusetts had seen that spectral evidence was not sufficient, and in fact spectral evidence really was not evidence at all. So Samuel Sewall reminds us of our own failings and of our own inability in the midst of something to recognize that we're making a tremendous mistake. So history should remember Samuel Sewall, for the courage he showed in the remorse he shows, he recognized the sins he had committed, and he wants us to remember that he recanted.


  1. ^ a b Graves, Eben W. (2007). The Descendants of Henry Sewall (1576-1656) of Manchester and Coventry, England, and Newbury and Rowley, Massachusetts (1st ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Newbury Street Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-88082-198-8.
  2. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter S" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  3. ^ Powell, Kimberly. "Ancestry of Louisa May Alcott". Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  4. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  5. ^ Roberts, Robert B. (1988). Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States. New York: Macmillan. p. 410. ISBN 0-02-926880-X.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Benjamin Goodhue
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 10th congressional district

December 7, 1796 – January 10, 1800
Succeeded by
Nathan Read
Legal offices
Preceded by
Nathan Cushing
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Succeeded by
Daniel Dewey
Preceded by
Theophilus Parsons
Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Succeeded by
Isaac Parker
This page was last edited on 30 January 2021, at 14:52
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