Legal History

Jezebel on a Broomstick & Salem Witch Judge

When Eve LaPlante, a Boston area writer, starts thinking about a possible book topic, she doesn’t have to go far from home.

In the last several years she has written two books about family forbears, American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans and Salem Witch Judge, which tells the story of another relative who helped try—and convict—several so-called witches in 1692, recounts the Boston Globe.

Like Hutchinson, a suspected witch who was found guilty of heresy and banished, Judge Samuel Sewall of Boston was swept up in the hysteria of the times. And, unlike Hutchinson, who was a victim rather than a persecutor, he later felt considerable guilt over his role in sentencing three defendants to hang.

“To the people in colonial Massachusetts, fearful of the great wilderness, the French, and the devil, the suspicion that disliked neighbors were witches in disguise, out to destroy the community, was perfectly reasonable,” the newspaper recounts—and even educated, respected members of the community, like Sewell, were predisposed to believe the false accusations made throughout 1692 despite dubious evidence. “The reign of terror went on for months, and the jails were filled with the accused and convicted.”

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