Sunday, September 19, 2004

Bay Colony Posturing

Despite the arm's length attitude of colonial Massachusetts government to clergy, the morality of the state that brought you the Blue Law could be harsh. Yet, apparently much of the law was bluster.

For example, in law, you could be put to death for blasphemy or idolatry in Connecticut, Massachusetts or and New Hampshire. Likewise, there was a death penalty on the books for adultery in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. "In practice, however, these statutes were rarely enforced," according to The Death Penalty: An American History, Stuart Banner, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2002, p. 5.

The Bay Colony Puritans did whip and publicly humiliate adulterers -- male and female equally. For all of that, only a single couple paid the full price for pleasure. "James Britton and Mary Latham, hanged in Massachusetts in 1643 for adultery, are the only two known to have been executed for the offense in any of the colonies," according to Banner.

For more on the colonial Massachusetts position on clergy and marriage, see the earlier post
Why There?

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