Jonathan Sewell

Sewell (b Sewall), Jonathan. Lawyer, violinist, baptized Cambridge, Mass, 6 Jun 1766, d Quebec City 11 Nov 1839; honorary LLD (Harvard) 1832.

Sewell, Jonathan

Sewell (b Sewall), Jonathan. Lawyer, violinist, baptized Cambridge, Mass, 6 Jun 1766, d Quebec City 11 Nov 1839; honorary LLD (Harvard) 1832. The son of a United Empire Loyalist, Sewell was educated in Bristol, England (where the family adopted the English spelling of its name), before moving to New Brunswick in 1785. Called to the bar in Lower Canada in 1789 he enjoyed a distinguished career in law, rising from solicitor-general in 1793 to chief justice of Lower Canada 1808-38 and also becoming a member in 1796 and speaker in 1804 of the legislature. An amateur actor and poet and a violinist of some proficiency, he was chosen to lead a small orchestra organized by the Duke of Kent, who was in residence in Quebec 1791-4 as commander of British forces. However, chamber music was his abiding passion, and he led ensembles made up of amateur musicians, some from the legal profession. One such quartet comprised Sewell, the notaries Archibald Campbell (violin) and Édouard Glackemeyer (flute), and the shipbuilder J. Harvicker (cello). These ensembles established a tradition perpetuated by the Quintette Club, the Septett Club, and the Septuor Haydn. Copies of works of Haydn and Mozart with Sewell's signature survive, indicating that they probably were performed in Canada as early as three years after they were written. This music is now held in the library of the Séminaire de Québec. A portrait of Sewell hangs in the Canadian Senate.


Further Reading

  • Notman, W. Portraits of British Americans vol 2, (Montreal 1867)

    DCB, vol 7