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Item Number: bk0052
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Samuel Sewall (1652–1730) was an English-born American jurist who presided over the 1692 witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Nineteen innocent men and women were hanged, and one man was pressed to death with large stones, the result of trumped-up charges of witchcraft. Some suspects were strangers to Sewall, but others were his friends. For several years, he struggled with a growing sense of shame and remorse and later assumed in public the blame for the executions. He spent much of the remainder of his life trying to restore himself in the eyes of God. Sewall wrote prodigiously and left behind extensive diaries, poems, essays, books, annotated almanacs, ledgers, and letters. His diary, covering the years from 1672 to 1729, was first published in the nineteenth century and is still in print. LaPlante also chronicles the man's later life—Sewall became the author of America's first antislavery tract and published an essay affirming the equality of the sexes. This book is a fascinating account of the man and of daily life in colonial America.