Judge Sewall's Apology

By Richard Francis.

The Salem witch trials in 1692, now a byword for terrible injustice, were seen then as a battle between God and Satan for the souls of the new Americans.

But one of the trial judges, Samuel Sewall, became so troubled by what he had helped to do that he made a remarkable public apology.

His extraordinary act of recantation five years later was a turning point in his own life, and also, believes writer Richard Francis, marked the moment when modern American values and attitudes came into being.

Read by Richard Mitchley.

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0120050919

By Richard Francis.

The Salem witch trials in 1692, now a byword for terrible injustice, were seen then as a battle between God and Satan for the souls of the new Americans.

But one of the trial judges, Samuel Sewall, became so troubled by what he had helped to do that he made a remarkable public apology.

His extraordinary act of recantation five years later was a turning point in his own life, and also, believes writer Richard Francis, marked the moment when modern American values and attitudes came into being.

Read by Richard Mitchley.The vision of a heaven on Earth is troubled by conflict with the native Americans and fear of the supernatural.

0220050920

Accusations of witchcraft have begun in Salem Village.

The panic spreads rapidly, as the afflicted girls start to name respectable members of the community.

0320050921

It seems as if Satan is setting up a rival colony, and a minister is accused of witchcraft.

Sewall is beginning to be troubled - a confession of guilt can save the accused, yet most protest their innocence and go to the gallows.

0420050922

The witchcraft trials are losing support, and come to an end.

Four years later, a public fast with prayers is held to atone for what was done.

But Sewall feels the need to go further.

05 LAST20050923

Sewall has become acutely sensitive to injustice, and continues to take a public stance.

He campaigns to ban slavery, and then a rather more idiosyncratic cause: against the wearing of wigs.