Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall

Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall

by Eve LaPlante
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Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1692, magistrate Samuel Sewall sat on the Massachusetts Court along with other zealous judges hosting the trials of hundreds accused of witchcraft by their neighbors. He convicted over thirty people of the crime and oversaw the execution of twenty by hanging and one by large stones pressing down on him. Some of the executed were friends of the presiding judge. Five years later, removed from the frenzy and reflecting what he and others wrought, Samuel repented taking responsibly for the ¿shame and blame¿ and grief he caused. No other judge showed even the slightest remorse.

Eve LaPlante provides aof Judge Swell, who like her previous nonfiction (see AMERICAN JEZEBEL: THE UNCOMMON LIFE OF ANNE HUTCHINSON, THE WOMAN WHO DEFIED THE PURITANS) is apparently an ancestor of the author. Combining diaries by Judge Sewell with anecdotes by her Aunt Charlotte, Ms. LaPlante provides a deep gripping description of a deeply religious Puritan who realized looking back at the atrocities that fundamental extremism led to unnecessary deaths; basically governmental theocracy sanctioned murder. A doting father and husband, he spent the rest of his life following his public confession atoning for what he felt were sins he committed as he wrote papers demanding equality, justice and freedom for everyone even Indians, women, and slaves. This is a timely well written look at the one SALEM WITCH JUDGE who regretted his role in the Salem witch-hunt.

Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
A most read, History of Early New England History, Witch Trail and life in Boston.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author of American Jezebel, a biography of the life of Puritan heretic Anne Hutchinson, has now meticulously chronicled the controversy surrounding Judge Samuel Sewall's involvement in the Salem Witch Trials. In Salem, Massachusetts during the year 1692, controversy erupted as scores of innocent townspeople, mostly women, were jailed based on witchcraft accusations from several adolescents of prominent families. Noting the power these children held over their victims, the hysterics spread to other townspeople, longing for respite from their dictated existences. Salem Witch Judge uses Samuel Sewall's journals and letters to create a portrait of who the man was, what his motivations could have been, and the influence he wielded over rulings that continue to affect the American public today. Eve LaPlante pieces together the portrait of a Harvard intellectual plagued by constant self-doubt and regret. Indeed, Sewall was the only judge involved in the cruel mass hysteria that expressed remorse for his actions afterward. LaPlante writes in-depth of the daily threats to survival, the uncertainty posed by the religious 'freedom' sought in the New World, and the dynamics of various war actions and political movements that affected the lives of Americans. Surrounded by such constant turmoil and lacking scientific evidence of common afflictions, inevitably the people of Massachusetts turned to supernatural explanations. Haunted by the loss of six of his children to inexplicable illness, Sewall doubted his own piety and assumed God's displeasure with something he or his wife did was the cause of his own misery and suffering. Compounded with military disasters both locally and abroad, the sense of desperation among the people of Salem created a suitable environment for chaos to thrive. Narrated by the author, a descendant of Sewall, Salem Witch Judge does well to present an alternative perspective of the historical fury motivating the executions of twenty innocents. Sewall himself began to exhibit regret and uncertainty, even in the midst of the accusations, which was in stark contrast to the actions of other judiciary members. In fact, the court that condemned the accused witches was experimental the court of Oyer and Terminer was disbanded in October of 1692 by Governor William Phips shortly after his wife became one of the accused, despite his support of their actions previously. Mysteriously, the journals of Oyer and Terminer disappeared. Though the focus of the book is on the individual, Samuel Sewall, LaPlante does an excellent job of showcasing the lifestyle of some of America's earliest settlers, including various Psalms and prayers utilized by the Puritans. It is from this perspective that the reader is able to more fully understand the series of events that caused such an incomprehensible upheaval within a community. A more thorough account could scarcely be found within the pages of a history textbook.
John-Gregory More than 1 year ago
A book of enormous power and fresh air. To see the power of salvation is wonderfully seen in  Sewall's turn back to God after the horror he caused is amazing and shows that God recreates a person full of beauty and new life is elegantly presented. Wether you read this book for the enjoyment of a story or as a testimony of the power of God's salvation you can't lose reading this book.