Painting of Judge Samuel Sewall
Oil Portrait of Judge Samuel Sewall by John Smibert. Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum.

The Selling of Joseph

Samuel Sewall (1652–1730), a judge in the Salem witch trials, later publicly repented his role in those heinous proceedings. In 1700, he wrote The Selling of Joseph, the earliest antislavery document published in Massachusetts.


“For as much as Liberty is in real value next unto Life: None ought to part with it themselves, or deprive others of it, but upon the most mature consideration.… It is certain that all Men, as they are the sons of Adam, are Coheirs; and have equal rights unto Liberty, and all other outward comforts of Life.”

—Judge Samuel Sewall, The Selling of Joseph

The Selling of Joseph. Courtesy Massachusetts Historical Society
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