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Jonathan Sewell was a lawyer, musician, office holder, politician, author, and judge. He was born ca. 1766 in Cambridge, Massachusetts into a prominent Loyalist family but spent his later childhood in London and Bristol. After briefly attending Brasenose College, Oxford, he moved to New Brunswick in 1785 to study law with Solicitor General Ward Chipman.
In 1789 Sewell moved to Quebec, where he rose quickly in the legal and political ranks. In 1790 he was appointed temporary Attorney General of the province of Quebec and in 1795 he received the permanent appointments of Attorney General and Advocate General. He was named judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court in June 1796, and in 1808 was appointed Chief Justice of Lower Canada, becoming the most powerful official in the colony after the governor.
Sewell married Henrietta (Harriet) Smith in 1797, with whom he had sixteen children. He and his family were at the centre of social life at Quebec: he was a member of the Barons’ Club, an active shareholder in the Union Company of Quebec, and sat on the board of the Royal Institution. Sewell was also the patron of a literary society, promoted the theatre, and founded and played in a quartet.
Sewell passed away in 1839, one year after resigning as Chief Justice.