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{Chief Justice} Jonathan Sewell
(1766 - 1839)

The following account was copied from
Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography, V. 5, p. 473 – 474 (New York, 1894)
using the Textbridge Pro 9.0 OCR programme.


Jonathan SewellJONATHAN SEWELL, Canadian jurist, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1766; died in Quebec, Canada, November 12, 1839. He was the son of Jonathan Sewall, attorney-general of Massachusetts, who, about 1777, adopted the English form of the name. He was educated in the grammar - school at Bristol, England, and was sent to New Brunswick in 1785 to study law with Ward Chipman. After his admission to the bar he practiced for a year in St. John and then removed to Quebec, where he soon attained a high professional position. In 1793 he became solicitor - general in 1795 attorney - general and judge of the court of vice - admiralty, and from 1808 till 1838 chief justice of Lower Canada. The question of boundaries between the Dominion government and Ontario it as settled in accordance with a decision rendered by him in 1818. He held the office of president of the executive council from 1808 till 1829, and that of speaker of the legislative council from January 9, 1809, till his death. He went to England in 1814 to answer complaints that were made against the rules of practice that he enforced in his court, which charges were dismissed by the privy council. While there Judge Sewell was the original proposer of Canadian federation, publishing a “Plan for a General Federal Union of the British Provinces in North America” (London, 1813). The degree of LL. D. was conferred on him by Harvard in 1832. He was the author of an “Essay on the Judicial History of France so far as it relates to the Law of the Province of Lower Canada” (Quebec, 1824). His son, EDMUND WILLOUGHBY SEWELL, clergyman, born in Quebec, Canada, September 3, 1800, received a classical education in Quebec and in English schools, studied for clerical orders, and was ordained a priest of the Church of England on December 27, 1827. He was incumbent of the Church of the Holy Trinity at Quebec, and an assistant minister of the cathedral till 1868. Jonathan’s grandson, WILLIAM GRANT SEWELL, journalist, born in Quebec in 1829: died there, August 8, 1862, was educated for the bar, but preferred journalism, and in 1853 removed to New Vork city and became translator and law reporter for the “Herald.” He was afterward connected for six years with the New York “Times,” becoming one of its principal editors. Infirmity of health compelled him to pass three winters in the West Indies, and, while there, he studied the results of emancipation, which he reviewed dispassionately in “The Ordeal of Free Labor in the West Indies” (New York, 1861).


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