The Official Story
Chapter 3

Foster sues the Sewalls

The Rev. Mr. Isaac Foster did not turn the other cheek; instead he turned around and sued Henry Sewall and his cousin Thomas for slander. When called before Judge North, Henry Sewall did not deny calling Foster a liar, but attempted to offer evidence for his claim. See what Sewall wrote in his diary entry on the day of the trial: "Produced evidence to prove my assertion which I thought I did -- though Mr. North was pleased to think otherwise."

Did Martha attend the trial in the slander lawsuit?

Are there surviving court records of the case? Not that we know of. The hearing that took place at Judge North's house in January of 1787 might have been recorded -- but most records kept by justices of the peace like Judge North have disappeared.

We do know, however, (from Henry Sewall's diary, January 29, 1787) that Judge North found Sewall guilty of slander and fined him 15 shillings plus court costs.

Henry Sewall mounts an attack against Rev. Mr. Foster
But the matter did not end here...

Table of Contents

Henry Sewall's Diary
Sewall, Henry
1776 - 1842
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January 21 through January 31, 1787


  January, 1787.         Hallowel.
Sunday 21. Met at Esq. Pettingill's.
Monday 22.  
Tuesday 23. Selectmen met at Dr. Cony's to transact some town business.
Wedsday 24. Sued Wm. Fletcher, Jac. Huston, D. Emory. &c.
Thursday 25. Mr. Prudens & his wife called here.
Friday 26. Mr. Emerson from Georgetown called here on his way to Norridgewalk.
Saturday 27. At the complaint of Revd. I Foster, Mr. T. Sewall, and myself were both summoned to appear before Justice North, to answer to said complaint. The day was so far spent by the time the evidences were collected, that was found necessary to adjourn to monday morning.
Sunday 28. Met at Esq. Pettingill's.
Monday 29. The trial came on. I was charged with reporting that Mr. Foster was a liar and that I could prove it -- which facts I did not pretend to deny. Provided evidence to prove my assertion -- which I thought I did though Mr. North was pleased to think otherwise. His judgement was that I be fined fifteen shillings & pay costs of tria -- from which I appealed. Mr. T. Sewall was fined 12/ & costs. He did not appeal.