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Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall [Paperback]

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Item Number 422459  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   352
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 5.25" Height: 8"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2008
Publisher   Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN  0060859601  
EAN  9780060859602  

Availability  150 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 24, 2016 08:31.
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Item Description...
Traces the story of the judge responsible for executing twenty Salem witch trial victims, documenting how he came to regret his role in their deaths, his authorship of America's first anti-slavery tract, and his efforts to further Native American relations and sexual equality. Reprint. 10,000 first printing.

Publishers Description

In 1692 Puritan Samuel Sewall sent twenty people to their deaths on trumped-up witchcraft charges. The nefarious witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts represent a low point of American history, made famous in works by Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne (himself a descendant of one of the judges), and Arthur Miller. The trials might have doomed Sewall to infamy except for a courageous act of contrition now commemorated in a mural that hangs beneath the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House picturing Sewall's public repentance. He was the only Salem witch judge to make amends.

But, remarkably, the judge's story didn't end there. Once he realized his error, Sewall turned his attention to other pressing social issues. Struck by the injustice of the New England slave trade, a commerce in which his own relatives and neighbors were engaged, he authored "The Selling of Joseph," America's first antislavery tract. While his peers viewed Native Americans as savages, Sewall advocated for their essential rights and encouraged their education, even paying for several Indian youths to attend Harvard College. Finally, at a time when women were universally considered inferior to men, Sewall published an essay affirming the fundamental equality of the sexes. The text of that essay, composed at the deathbed of his daughter Hannah, is republished here for the first time.

In Salem Witch Judge, acclaimed biographer Eve LaPlante, Sewall's great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter, draws on family lore, her ancestor's personal diaries, and archival documents to open a window onto life in colonial America, painting a portrait of a man traditionally vilified, but who was in fact an innovator and forefather who came to represent the best of the American spirit.

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More About Eve Laplante

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Eve LaPlante, a sixth great-granddaughter of Samuel Sewall, is the author of two previous critically acclaimed books: American Jezebel, a biography of her ancestor Anne Hutchinson, and Seized, a narrative portrait of temporal lobe epilepsy. LaPlante has degrees from Princeton and Harvard and has written for The Atlantic, the New York Times, Ladies' Home Journal, and Boston magazine. She lives with her family in New England on land once owned by Judge Sewall.

Eve LaPlante currently resides in the state of Massachusetts.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Interesting story of an impressive man  Aug 24, 2009
Samuel Sewall ought to be better known. In an era when politicians and public figures find it impossible to apologize even when they are caught in the act, Samuel Sewall offered a public apology when none was expected. He also advocated for the education of Native Americans (sponsoring one young man to Harvard College) and paid to publish his own tract arguing that yes, women do go to Heaven (when it was thought "there is no need of them there"). His advice to his 17-year-daughter about choosing a suitor was touching and would be considered thoughtful and respectful even today.

Eve LaPlante is a diligent historian and a very good writer. I do think, however, that her book could have benefited from some rigorous editing. The story contains too much detail, much of which is simply not necessary to the central story, and adds to the factual overload. The saga of the Sewall's 14 children (only about half of whom survived to adulthood) could almost be a book in itself, but it is told out of chronological order, so I ended up confused about how many children they had, who died, and when. (A chronology at the end of the book cleared this up.) It seemed at times that the author had done so much painstaking research that she was loathe to let even single trivial fact go unpublished, but reading that a minor character was the first cousin of someone's brother's widow's daughter did not enrich the story and did not have anything to do with Samuel Sewall. I also don't need to know the cargo list of an investment ship, etc. A good editor could have cut the excess and put all the elements in clear order, so the reader could just enjoy the story without getting bogged down in pages and pages of extraneous minutiae.

I am eager to read "Judge Sewall's Apology," by Richard Francis, to see if the story is better (and more simply) told in that book. Still, if you have a lot of time to read, and you are interested in many details about politics, life, and religion in Puritan America, I recommend this book.
Beyond Biography  Jan 16, 2009
Ms. LaPlante's fine story of her ancestor, Samuel Sewall, goes beyond a mere biography of a Puritan judge and patriarch. Meticulously researched we have a portrait of an early New England judge, and we come to know his family, his close and conversational relationshuip with God, his commitment to prayer in daily life and the real pictures of life hereafter which guided much of his day-to-day living. There are many dates, births, deaths, and travels in this history but the subject, Judge Sewall, comes through as a pious man, thoughtful, and appreciative of nature, modest and dedicated to the Massachusetts Colony. Samuel Sewall was the one Salem witchcraft judge who saw the manifest injustices which had committed (in God's name!)and had the courage to publically admit grievous eror. An heroic life, well chronicled.
New England History  Dec 2, 2008
I read this book as part of a book club where we meet to discuss what we've read. Being from New England, I was familiar with a lot of our local history during the 17th-18th century. However, this book really opened up my eyes and gave me a different perspective on how people lived in those days, what they thought, how they were educated, and what they believed in. Samuel Sewall's part in the Salem Witch Trials was very interesting and the belief of the elders in the testimony of teenagers will make you cringe. The author was very detailed in her research (she is a direct descendent of Samuel Sewall). Life was tough back then. Read this book and you'll understand just how much so.
great biography  Nov 4, 2008
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 a great biography of Judge Sewell, 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
Rounded Realistic Portrait of Former "Villain"  May 27, 2008
The author, a direct descendant of Samuel Sewall, provides a much-needed full assessment of the life of her notorious ancestor. The most important fact in this book is provided in the frontispiece illustration--a portrait of Sewell's apology before his congregation for his role in the witch trials and executions, known by few, if any, readers outside Massachusetts' students of history. Sewell was the only judge to apologize for his role in this horrific episode in American history.
More fascinating, though, are the other extraordinary acts of repentance enacted by the judge over his long life. And his writings are nothing less than astounding--including examinations of experiences of various groups and even a piece on women - making him an equalitarian of the first order centuries ahead of his time. At the least, official historical accounts of what happened at Salem need to include information about Sewall's apology and repentance.

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