William Sampson was one of many non-Catholics who were disturbed by the level of discrimination and violence against members of the Catholic faith. As a lawyer, he defended United Irishmen for anti-British actions before being arrested himself. Anticipating an insurrection, the British government preemptively arrested the leaders of the United Irishmen in March 1798 and William Sampson was intermittently imprisoned or exiled in Europe for several years before being allowed to emigrate to America. When he arrived in New York City on 4 July 1806, he set up a business publishing detailed accounts of the court proceedings in cases with popular appeal. His most lasting impact on American judicial law was when he won a judgment accepting the confidentiality of the confessional. He published his Memoirs in 1807, and a work on the Catholic Question in America in 1813.
The opening lines of Salmon’s Memoirs read:
“At length, I take up my pen… to give you the history of my extraordinary persecution. From it you may form a judgment of that system of government which drove the unhappy people of Ireland to revolt. But, to judge rightly, you should also be aware, that of many thousand such cases, mine is one of– the most mild.”