Becomes Massachusetts judge

Samuel Sewall was born in Hampshire, England, on March 28, 1652, the son of Henry and Jane (Dummer) Sewall. When he was nine years old his parents moved to Newbury, Massachusetts, where he was educated at a private school. In

Samuel Sewall was the only judge from the Salem trials to offer an apology for his actions.

Reproduced by permission of Archive Photos, Inc.

Samuel Sewall was the only judge from the Salem trials to offer an apology for his actions.

Reproduced by permission of Archive Photos, Inc.

1671 he graduated from Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a bachelors degree and three years later earned a masters degree from the same institution. Sewall was then ordained a minister, but he left the church to go into business when he married Hannah Hull in 1675. Sewall's father-in-law, John Hull, was the master of the mint (a government agency that prints money) for the Massachusetts Bay Colony and therefore had extensive connections in the business community. At Hull's urging, Sewall moved to Boston in 1681 to take over management of the colony's printing press. By the early 1690s he was a prominent figure in Boston business and political circles. He was a banker, publisher, international trader, and member of the colonial court. Although Sewall had no formal legal training, he also served as a judge (at that time a law degree was not required).

Sewall began his long career as a public official in 1683, when he was appointed to the Massachusetts General Court. The following year he was elected to the Massachusetts Council (governing body). While visiting England on business in 1684, he became involved in unsuccessful efforts to maintain the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter in its present form. Massachusetts Bay was the only self-governing English colony in America. Finally Britain revoked (canceled) the charter because Massachusetts Bay officials were illegally operating a mint. They were also basing voting rights on religious affiliation instead of property ownership and discriminating against Anglicans (members of the Church of England; the majority of the Massachusetts colonists were Puritans).

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