Thursday, November 18, 2004

Too Much Time

Bay State colonists seemed to have had an overly detailed prurient interest in marriage laws. The polygamy and adultry section follows after the single-sentence law on today's books. (The exceptions cited in 207:4 are if you married in good faith when your divorce was not really final or your "dead" spouse alive, you could clean up your mess and stay married.)

Chapter 207: Section 4 Polygamy
Section 4. A marriage contracted while either party thereto has a former wife or husband living, except as provided in section six and in chapter two hundred and eight, shall be void.



The Charters and General Laws of The Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay.


1694 AN ACT AGAINST ADULTERY AND POLYGAMY.WHEREAS the violation of the marriage covenant is highly provoking to God, and destructive to families, Sect. 1. Be it therefore enacted by the governor, council and representatives, in general court assembled, and by authority of the same, that if any man be found in bed with another man's wife, the man and woman so offending, being thereof convicted, shall be severely whipt, not exceeding thirty stripes, unless it appear upon trial, that one party was surprised and did not consent, which shall abate the punishment as to such party. And if any man shall commit adultery, the man and the women shall be convicted of such crime before their majesties' justice of assize and general goal delivery shall be set upon the gallows by the space of an hour, with a rope about their neck, and the other end cast over the gallows, and in the way from thence to the common goal shall be severely whipt, not exceeding forty stripes each, also every person or persons so offending shall for ever after wear a capital A of two inches long, and proportionable bigness, cut out in cloth of a contrary colour to their cloaths, and sewed upon their upper garments, on the outside of their arms, or on their back, in open view; and if any persons or persons, having been convicted and sentence for such offence, shall at any time be found without their letter so worn, during their abode in this province, they shall by warrant from a justice of the peace be forthwith apprehended and ordered to be publickly whipt, not exceeding fifteen stripes, and so from time to time, toties quoties.

Sect. 2. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that if any person or persons within this their majesties' province, being married, or which hereafter shall marry, do at any time after the first of July in the present year, one thousand six hundred ninety-four, presume to marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, or shall continue to live so married, that then every such offence shall be felony, and the person and persons so offending shall suffer death, as in cases of felony; and the party and parties so offending shall receive such and the like proceeding, trial and execution, in such county where such person or persons shall be apprehended, as if the offence had been committed in such county where such person or persons shall be taken or apprehended. Provided always, that this act, or any thing therein contained, shall not extend to any persons or persons, whose husband or wife shall be continually remaining beyond the seas, by the space of seven years together, or whose husband or wife shall absent him or herself, the one from the other, by the space of seven years together in any part within their majesties' dominions, or elsewhere, the one of them not knowing the other to be living within that time. Provided also, that this act, or any thing therein contained, shall not extend to any person or persons, that are or shall be at the time of such marriage divorced by any sentence had, of hereafter to be had, as the law of the province in that case has provided, or to any person or persons where the former marriage has been, or hereafter shall be, by such sentence had, declared to be void and of no effect, nor to any person or persons, for or by any reason of any former marriage had or made, or hereafter to be had or made within the age of consent, that is to say, the man fourteen years of age, the woman twelve.

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