The Selling of Joseph" condemns slavery and the slave trade in North America and presents arguments against all aspects of slavery. Sewall argues against the taking, buying and holding of slaves and labels stealing people an "atrocious" crime. He uses verses from the Bible to support his statements.
A judge, businessman and printer in Massachusetts, Sewall wrote "The Selling of Joseph" in 1700. He presented a liberal viewpoint, making him one of the first colonial abolitionists. At the time, Sewall was most known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials, for which he later apologized. "The Selling of Joseph" might have been inspired by a petition circulated throughout Boston at the time that was a plea to free a slave and his wife.
The Selling of Joseph clearly reveals Sewall’s mounting abhorrence of the slave trade. Citing passages from the Bible, he states his case; in the subsequent section of the tract, judge Sewall raises, and answers, hypothetical objections to his verdict condemning the practice of slavery.
Answering the objections, he inadvertently attests the prejudices of his era. Sewall was enlightened relative to his time, bold enough to condemn slavery, but the answers to his objections betray him as, regrettably, still a racist. One could argue that, just perhaps, Sewall, after first offering Biblical proof of the evils of slavery, proceeded to offer more practical, secular proofs of those evils, adopting something of the contemptible thought processes of the day solely for the sake of exposing their weakness and refuting them. Unfortunately, the supposition rings hollow, as soon as Sewall notes, “they can never embody with us, and grow up into orderly Families, to the