Legal History

Descendants of Salem Witch Trials Judge Say Sewall's Legacy In Other Arenas Held Some Positives


Two descendants of a Massachusetts judge who is known for the role he played in the Salem witch trials of 1692 say he had good qualities which they hope will be remembered in addition to his responsibility, as presiding judge, for a historic injustice.

Speaking Tuesday at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, author Eve LaPlante and Boston chef Jeremy Sewall talked about how Judge Samuel Sewall went on to accept responsibility for wrongdoing in the hangings of 19 individuals accused of witchcraft and became known as an early supporter of the abolition of slavery, WBUR reports.

“He did this terrible thing, hanging innocent people and voting to hang them. But then he repented in public, which was a Puritan thing to do. Nobody else did it at the time; none of the other judges did it,” LaPlante said.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law’s Famous Trials website details what happened in the Salem witch trials, and provides a biography of Sewall.

Law professor Douglas Linder, who helped develop the Famous Trials website, also discusses the historic trials in a lengthy Jurist post.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Jezebel on a Broomstick & Salem Witch Judge”

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