Samuel Sewall

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Sewall’s Relationship with Family
Samuel Sewall lived a very Puritan life in early colonial Boston. As a man who cared deeply for his religion and his family, Sewall dearly loved his family and viewed their good and poor health as God’s reward or punishment. He did not, however, simply attend to his family to satisfy what he believed was God’s will. Rising rapidly to a position of prominence in society, Sewall was blessed with money and a close relationship with his wife and children. He aided them individually through illnesses, moral dilemmas, and he guided them through the mourning process after any deaths in the family, though he himself suffered most. Samuel Sewall’s relationship with his family was one of close ties and a strong religious orientation; they prayed and read together from the Bible daily which in turn allowed them to grow closer.
Sewall loved his wife Hannah very dearly, and over the years the two of them produced fourteen children, only nine of which lived beyond a year. Of these remaining nine, six had died within sixteen years between 1690 and 1716, and Sewall suffered greatly but did his best to atone for the sins he believed had caused these disasters. He also made efforts to follow up what he saw as signs from God for him to act. In one entry, Sewall described a dream he had in which his wife Hannah died. In the dream he finds that “the death occurred in part because of my neglect and want of love” (Sewall 77). Upon waking up in the morning, Sewall embraces his wife and interprets the dream as God’s request that he pay more attention to his wife. She was Sewall’s foundation in life; he loved her dearly and would do whatever it took to keep her happy.
The hardest blow for Sewall came when Hannah died in 1717. “Lord help me to learn; and be a Sun and Shield to me, now so much of my Comfort and Defense are taken away” (Sewall 4). Sewall lived according to Puritan belief in that he viewed the deaths of family as punishment for his faults. “The Lord pardon all my sin, and wandering and neglect, and sanctify to me this singular affliction” (Sewall 148). Sewall suggests in his diary that the rapid succession of deaths of his children around the late 1690’s and early 1700’s was punishment for his participation in the Salem witch trials.

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