Judge Sewall's Apology: The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of an American Conscience

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9780007163625: Judge Sewall's Apology: The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of an American Conscience

The Salem witch hunt of 1692 has entered our vocabulary as the very essence of injustice. Biographer and novelist Richard Francis looks at the familiar drama with fresh eyes, grasping the true significance of this cataclysm through the personal story of Samuel Sewall, New England Puritan, Salem trial judge, antislavery agitator, defender of Native American rights, utopian theorist, campaigner against periwigs, family man, gallant wooer.

Sewall's life encompassed the tensions that faced the second-generation colonists, caught between the staunch conservatism of the Puritans and the possibilities their new world offered. Everywhere there was conflict, schism, and violence; the new Americans were pitted against the Native Americans, whose pagan ways terrified them, and a hostile mother country intent on imposing her control over the colony. Out of the struggle to maintain unity emerged the forces that drove the Salem tragedy. For the first time, Francis reveals the nature and scale of the threat the authorities believed they were facing.

Five guilt-wracked years after pronouncing judgment at the trials, Sewall walked into his church in Boston and recanted the guilty verdicts, praying for forgiveness. This extraordinary act not only proved a turning point for Sewall, it marked the moment when modern American values and attitudes came into being -- the shift from an almost medieval and allegorical view of good and evil to a respect for the mysteries of the human heart.

Drawing on Sewall's copious diaries, Francis enables us to see the early colonists not as grim ideologues but as flesh and blood idealists, striving for a new society while coming to terms with the desires and imperfections of ordinary life. Through this unsung hero of conscience, we gain access to the first lost frontier of the New World.

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The Salem witch hunt has entered our vocabulary as the very essence of injustice. Judge Samuel Sewall presided at these trials, passing harsh judgment on the condemned. But five years later, he publicly recanted his guilty verdicts and begged for forgiveness. This extraordinary act was a turning point not only for Sewall but also for America's nascent values and mores.

In Judge Sewall's Apology, Richard Francis draws on the judge's own diaries, which enables us to see the early colonists not as grim ideologues, but as flesh-and-blood idealists, striving for a new society while coming to terms with the desires and imperfections of ordinary life. Through this unsung hero of the American conscience -- a Puritan, an antislavery agitator, a defender of Native American rights, and a Utopian theorist -- we are granted a fresh perspective on a familiar drama.

About the Author:

Richard Francis is a biographer, historian of American culture, and novelist. He was an American Studies Research Fellow at Harvard, and taught American literature at the universities of Missouri and Manchester. He is nowProfessor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University in England.

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Francis, Richard
Published by Fourth Estate, New York (2005)
ISBN 10: 0007163622 ISBN 13: 9780007163625
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Book Description Fourth Estate, New York, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: new. First edition. 412 pages. With illustrations. Samuel Sewall was one of nine judges appointed to hear the Salem witch trials of 1692, and alone among them publicly apologized for his role in the incident five years later. A historian of American culture, Francis finds in that apology, and in Sewall's life in general, a demonstration of the end of the Puritan view of the world as a simple struggle between Good and Evil. He draws on Sewall's extensive and detailed diaries as well as on other primary sources. Size: Octavo (standard book size). Item Type: Hardback. Quantity Available: 1. Shipped Weight: Under 750 grams. Category: North American History & Topography; Biographies, Memoirs & Autobiographies; Early Modern History (1600-1800); Occultism; Modern; Social and Cultural History. Pictures of this item not already displayed here available upon request. Inventory No: 000452. Bookseller Inventory # 000452

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Francis, Richard
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Book Description U.S.A.: Harper, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 6902 Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng Language: eng. Bookseller Inventory # 1790K

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