Samuel Sewall: The Selling of Joseph

In seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts, a mass hysteria led to over 160 people being accused of witchcraft and 19 executions. On April 11, 1692, Samuel Sewall, printer and magistrate, wrote in his diary: “Went to Salem, where in the Meeting House, the persons accused of Witchcraft were examined.”

Several years after the trials, only one judge gave a formal apology for his role: Samuel Sewall.

He went on in 1700 to also firmly denounce slavery, and published one of the first anti-slavery tracts published in New England, “The Selling of Joseph,” which quoted several biblical passages, including Exodus 12:16: “And seeing GOD hath said, He that Stealeth a Man and Selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to Death.”


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