Monday, July 22, 2013

1645 John Winthrop's Speech On Liberty

On Liberty by John Winthrop

John Winthrop 1587/8-1649

In 1645, while he was deputy-governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop and his fellow-magistrates had interfered in a local election of a militia officer. When the dispute flared into a war of words, the magistrates bound over some of the dissidents to the next court and summoned others to appear. In this controversy the magistrates were accused of having exceeded their powers, and Winthrop was impeached. After a controversy of almost three months Winthrop was fully acquitted and some of his opponents fined. It was after this test and vindication that Winthrop made this famous "little speech."

I suppose something may be expected from me, upon this charge that is befallen me which moves me to speak now to you; yet I intend not to intermeddle in the proceedings of the court or with any of the persons concerned therein. Only I bless God that I see an issue of this troublesome business. I also acknowledge the justice of the court, and, for mine own part, I am well satisfied, I was publicly charged, and I am publicly and legally acquitted, which is all I did expect or desire.

And though this be sufficient for my justification before men, yet not so before the God, who hath seen so much amiss in my dispensations (and even in this affair) as calls me to be humble. For to be publicly and criminally charged in this court is matter of humiliation (and I desire to make a right use of it), notwithstanding I be thus acquitted. If her father had spit in her face (saith the Lord concerning Miriam), should she not have been ashamed seven days? Shame had lien upon her, whatever the occasion had been.

I am unwilling to stay you from your urgent affairs, yet give me leave (upon this special occasion) to speak a little more to this assembly. It may be of some good use, to inform and rectify the judgments of some of the people, and may prevent such distempers as have arisen amongst us.

The great questions that have troubled the country are about the authority of the magistrates and the liberty of the people.

It is yourselves who have called us to this office, and, being called by you, we have our authority from God, in way of an ordinance, such as hath the image of God eminently stamped upon it, the contempt and violation whereof hath been vindicated with examples of divine vengeance. I entreat you to consider that, when you choose magistrates, you take them from among yourselves, men subject to like passions as you are. Therefore, when you see infirmities in us, you should reflect upon your own, and that would make you bear the more with us, and not be severe censurers of the failings of your magistrates, when you have continual experience of the like infirmities in yourselves and others. We account him a good servant who breaks not his covenant.

The covenant between you and us is the oath you have taken of us, which is to this purpose: that we shall govern you and judge your causes by the rules of God's laws and our own, according to our best skill. When you agree with a workman to build you a ship or house, etc., he undertakes as well for his skill as for his faithfulness, for it is his profession, and you pay him for both.

But when you call one to be a magistrate, he doth not profess nor undertake to have sufficient skill for that office, nor can you furnish him with gifts, etc., therefore you must run the hazard of his skill and ability. But if he fail in faithfulness, which by his oath he is bound unto, that he must answer for. If it fall out that the case be clear to common apprehension, and the rule clear also, if he transgress here, the error is not in the skill, but in the evil of the will: it must be required of him. But if the case be doubtful, or the rule doubtful, to men of such understanding and parts as your magistrates are, if your magistrates should err here, yourselves must bear it.

For the other point concerning liberty, I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty, natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal. The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man, as he stands in relation to man simply, hath liberty to do what he lists; it is a liberty to evil as well as to good.

This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil and in time to be worse than brute beasts: omnes sumus licentia deteriores. This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all of the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it.

The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions amongst men themselves. This liberty is the proper end and object of authority and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard (not only of your goods, but) of your lives, if need be. Whatsoever crosseth this is not authority but a distemper thereof.

This liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. The women's own choice makes such a man her husband; yet, being so chosen, he is her lord, and she is to be subject to him, yet in a way of liberty, not of bondage; and a true wife accounts her subjection her honor and freedom and would not think her condition safe and free but in her subjection to her husband's authority.

Such is the liberty of the church under the authority of Christ, her king and husband; his yoke is so easy and sweet to her as a bride's ornaments; and if through forwardness or wantonness, etc., she shake it off, at any time, she is at no rest in her spirit, until she take it up again; and whether her lord smiles upon her and embraceth her in his arms, or whether he frowns, or rebukes, or smites her, she apprehends the sweetness of his love in all, and is refreshed, supported, and instructed by every such dispensation of his authority over her. On the other side, ye know who they are that complain of this yoke and say, Let us break their bands, etc.; we will not have this man to rule over us.

Even so, brethren, it will be between you and your magistrates. If you want to stand for your natural corrupt liberties, and will do what is good in your own eyes, you will not endure the least weight of authority, but will murmur, and oppose, and be always striving to shake off that yoke; but if you will be satisfied to enjoy such civil and lawful liberties, such as Christ allows you, then will you quietly and cheerfully submit unto that authority which is set over you, in all the administrations of it, for your good. Wherein, if we fail at any time, we hope we shall be willing (by God's assistance) to hearken to good advice from any of you, or in any other way of God; so shall your liberties be preserved in upholding the honor and power of authority amongst you.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

1630 John Winthrop's City on a Hill Declaration

Excerpts from "A Model of Christian Charity" by John Winthrop 1630

It rests now to make some application of this discourse.…

1. For the persons. We are a company professing ourselves fellow members of Christ, in which respect only though we were absent from each other many miles, and had our employments as far distant, yet we ought to account ourselves knit together by this bond of love, and live in the exercise of it, if we would have comfort of our being in Christ.…

2nly for the work we have in hand. It [our task] is by a mutual consent, through a special overvaluing providence and a more than an ordinary approbation of the Churches of Christ, to seek out a place of cohabitation… under a due form of Government both civil and ecclesiastical. In such cases as this, the care of the public must oversway all private respects, by which, not only conscience, but mere civil policy, does bind us. For it is a true rule that particular Estates cannot subsist in the ruin of the public.

3ly The end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord; the comfort and increase of the body of Christ, whereof we are members; that ourselves and posterity may be the better preserved from the common corruptions of this evil world, to serve the Lord and work out our Salvation under the power and purity of his holy ordinances.

4thly for the means whereby this must be effected. They are twofold, a conformity with the work and end we aim at. These we see are extraordinary, therefore we must not content ourselves with usual ordinary means. Whatsoever we did, or ought to have done, when we lived in England, the same must we do, and more also, where we go. That which the most in their churches maintain as truth in profession only, we must bring into familiar and constant practice; as in this duty of love, we must love brotherly without dissimulation, we must love one another with a pure heart fervently. We must bear one another’s burdens. We must not look only on our own things, but also on the things of our brethren. Neither must we think that the Lord will bear with such failings at our hands as he does from those among whom we have lived.…When God gives a special commission he looks to have it strictly observed in every article…

Thus stands the cause between God and us. We are entered into Covenant with Him for this work. We have taken out a commission. The Lord has given us leave to draw our own articles.

…If the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then has he ratified this covenant and sealed our Commission, and will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it; but if we shall neglect the observation of these articles which are the ends we have propounded, and, dissembling with our God, shall fall to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnal intentions, seeking great things for ourselves and our posterity, the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us; be revenged of such a perjured people and make us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.

Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. For this end, we must be knit together in this work as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of other’s necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make other’s conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body.… The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as his own people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of his wisdom, power, goodness and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with.

We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when he shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, "the Lord make it like that of New England." For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God.…

Saturday, July 20, 2013

1697 William Penn’s Plan of Union "for the good and benefitt of the whole"

In 1697, William Penn 1644-1718, founder of Pennsylvania, wrote one of the earliest plans for union of the colonies in North America.

William Penn 1644-1718

Plan of Union - A briefe and plaine scheam

How the English Colonies in the North parts of America Viz: Boston, Connecticut, Road Island, New York, New Jerseys, Pensilvania, Maryland, Virginia and Carolina may be made more usefull to the Crowne, and one anothers peace and safty with an universall concurrence. That the severall Collonies before mentioned, do meet once a year, and oftener if need be, dureing the Warr, and at least once in two yeares in times of Peace, by their Stated and Appointed Deputies, to Debate and Resolve if such Measures, as are most adviseable for their better understanding, and their Public Tranquility and Safety.

2.dly That in Order to [effect] it two persons, well Qualified, for Sence Sobriety and Substance, be appointed by each Province, as their Representatives or Deputies; which in the whole make the Congresse to Consist of Twenty persons.

3.dly That the Kings Commander, for that purpose specially appointed, shall have the Chaire, and Preside in the said Congresse.

4.thly That they shall meet as neer as Conveniently may be, to the most Centrall Colony for ease of the Deputies.

5.thly Since that may, in all Probability, be New Yorke, both because it is neer the Center of the Collonys, and for that it is a Fronteir, and in the Kings Nomination, the Governour of that Colony may therefore also be the Kings high Commander during the Session, after the manner of Scotland.

6.thly That their businesse shall be [to] hear and Adjust all matters of Complaint or difference Between Province and Province; as 1st where Persons quit their own province and go to another, that they may avoid their Just debts. Tho' able to Pay them. 2dly where Offenders fly Justice, or Justice cannot well be had upon such offenders in the Provinces that entertaine them. 3dly to prevent or cure Injuries in point of Commerce. 4thly To consider of wayes and meanes to support the Union and safety of these Provinces against the Publick Enemies; In which Congress the Quota's of Men and Charges will be much easier, and more equally sett, then it is Possible for any Establishment made here to do: for the Provinces knowing their own Condition and one anothers, can debate that matter with more freedome and satisfaction, and better adjust and ballance their affaires in all respects for their Common safety.

7.thly That in times of War the Kings high Commander shall be Genll or Cheife Commander of the severall Quota's upon service against the Common Enemy, as he shall be advised, for the good and benefitt of the whole.

Friday, July 19, 2013

1634 The Ark and the Dove Bring Men & Women to Settle Maryland

The Ark and the Dove Reach Maryland

On June 20, 1632, King Charles I of England granted Cecilius Calvert, Second Baron Baltimore, proprietorship and vice-regal powers for a new colony named Maryland. By mid-summer 1633, Baltimore had chartered a full-rigged ship, the Ark of London (a.k.a. Ark of Maryland) of about 350 tons to carry the first 130 to 150 settlers and supplies to the new colony. (Tons refers to tons burden, a measure of space available for cargo unless said to be weight). He also acquired a small vessel, the Dove "of the burthen of ffortie tons," to accompany the Ark as its pinnace (a tender and scout) and to carry some baggage and supplies.

Leaving England

In mid-October 1633 after fitting out at Blackwall, the Ark and the Dove dropped down the Thames to anchor off Gravesend where they were to take on stores and passengers. Soon after that, John Coke, the Secretary of State, sent an urgent dispatch to Admiral John Pennington: "The Ark of London, Richard Lowe, master, carrying men for Lord Baltimore to his new plantation sailed from Gravesend contrary to orders" and those aboard had "not taken the oath of allegiance to the Crown" as they were required to do by a warrant from Whitehall dated July 31. The Ark was intercepted and taken back under guard to Tilbury Hope across from Gravesend. The oath was administered by October 29 and the ships received permission to leave England on October 30, "Provided there be no other person or persons aboard the said shippe or pinnace but such as have or shall have taken the oath of allegiance as aforesaid." The ships then made their way to Cowes on the Isle of Wight where they awaited favorable weather. They received final instructions from Lord Baltimore on September 15.

On Saturday, November 22, 1633, the Ark and the Dove finally sailed for Maryland, heading west along the south coast of England with fair weather and following winds. On Monday morning the twenth-fourth, she passed the western capes of England. Then on evening of November 25, Father Andrew White, a passenger, wrote, "the wind violent, and tempestuous as the Draggon [a 600-ton English ship] was forced back to ffamouth [Falmouth] not able to keep the sea..Our master was a very sufficient seaman, and shipp as strong as could be made of oake and iron, 400 tonne kingbuilt; makinge fair weather in great storms. Now the master had his choise, whether he would return England as the Draggon did, or saile so close up to the winde, as if he should not hold it he must necessarily fall upon the Irish shore,.of these two, out of a certaine hardinesse and desire to trie the goodnesse of his shipp, in which he had never been at sea afore, he resolved to keep the sea, with great danger, wanting sea room."

The Dove was unable to keep at sea in this storm and ran northeast to the Scilly Isles, 30 miles north of the north coast of Cornwall. She was not to be seen again by the Ark until January at Barbados. Then on November 29 the Ark, now alone, encountered very violent weather, "before we could take in our maine Course [sail] wch we only carried, a furious.winde suddainely came, and split it from top to toae.and then the helme being bound up, and the ship left without saile or government floated at hull like a dish.[then] by little and little still more.we were with milder weather freed from all those horrours." With better weather the Ark turned southward and sailed past the coast of Spain to the Canary Islands where she turned west southwest for the West Indies.

On January 3, 1634, the Ark entered the fortified English port of Bridgetown, Barbados, after a fast passage of forty-three days from Cowes that covered 3,500 to 4,000 nautical miles. By mid-January she was ready to leave when the Dove unexpectedly arrived in company with the Dragon. The Ark and Dove departed northward on January 24, stopping at St. Christophers (now St. Kitts) for ten days and at Point Comfort at the mouth of the James River for eight or nine days. Then they sailed up the Chesapeake Bay to the Potomac River where they reached their first landing place in Maryland on March 24, 1634. By March 27, Governor Leonard Calvert and his advisors had selected a site for their town. They named it St Mary's.

Thanks to William W. Lowe

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Women in America Timeline 1670-1700

Timeline Of Events Directly Affecting Women

Copies of complete documents may be found by clicking on highlighted descriptions.

c. 1674 Elizabeth Clarke Freake (Mrs. John Freake) and Baby Mary, about 1671 and 1674


A Declaration of the True Intent and Meaning of us the Lords Proprietors, and Explanation of There Concessions Made to the Adventurers and Planters of New Caesarea or New Jersey; December 6

George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), & missionary William Edmundson visit Albemarle converting many colonists to Quakerism. Quakers are the first religious body to obtain a foothold in Carolina.


Dutch military forces retake New York from the British; but in 1674, The Treaty of Westminster ends hostilities between the English & Dutch returning the Dutch colonies in America to the English.

The British Navigation Act of 1673 sets up the office of customs commissioner in the colonies to collect duties on goods that pass between colonies.


New Jersey was divided into 2 separate colonies, East & West New Jersey in 1674, only to be reunited in 1702.

Grant of the Province of Maine; June 29

His Royal Highness's Grant to the Lords Proprietors, Sir George Carteret; July 29

New York declares that blacks who convert to Christianity after their enslavement will not be freed.

In Albany, Maria Van Cortlandt Van Rennselaer (1645-1688/9) manages her 24 mile square estate after the death of her husband in 1674. She does not remarry and clears title to the property when the English reclaim New York. (See more about Maria on this blog.)


Nathaniel Bacon leads southside Virginians against the Indians and in violation of Governor Berkeley's wishes. He openly rebels against Berkley and burns Jamestown to the ground before dying of dysentery on October 26. Slaves and indentured servants participate.King Philip's War begins when Metacomet (King Philip) leads an attack against Swansea in retaliation for the Plymouth colony's execution of three Wampanoag tribe members. The bloody war rages up & down the Connecticut River valley in Massachusetts & in the Plymouth & Rhode Island colonies, eventually killing 600 English colonials & 3,000 Native Americans, including women & children on both sides. Metacomet is shot on 12 August 1676. In New Hampshire & Maine, the Saco Indians continue to raid settlements for another year and a half. Sir Edmond Andros finally makes peace in Maine on 12 April 1678.The Royal Africa Company is given a monopoly in the English slave trade bringing male & female slaves to the British American colonies.

When Bacon is marching back to Jamestown & things are looking bleak, his men are still supporting him. When one of the men, a Scotsman named Drummond, was warned that this was rebellion, he replied recklessly, "I am in over shoes, I will be in over boots."

His wife was even more bold. "This is dangerous work," said some one, "and England will have something to say to it." Then Sarah Drummond picked up a twig, and snapping it in two, threw it down again. "I fear the power of England no more than that broken straw," she cried.

The Charter or Fundamental Laws, of West New Jersey, Agreed Upon

Quintipartite Deed of Revision, Between E. and W Jersey: July 1


Sarah Symmes Fiske (1627-1692) writes her only known literary work A CONFESSION OF FAITH: OR, A SUMMARY OF DIVINITY. DRAWN UP BY A YOUNG GENTLE-WOMAN, IN THE TWENTY-FIFTH YEAR OF HER AGE, which would not be published until 1704. The work is a spiritual biography emphasizing Puritan theology and argument. (See this blog for more on Sarah Symmes Fiske.)


Anne Bradstreet’s SEVERAL POEMS COMPILED WITH GREAT VARIETY OF WIT AND LEARNING…BY A GENTLEWOMAN OF NEW ENGLAND is published posthumously and includes revisions of her earlier work and a dozen new works found among her papers after her death and includes "On the Burning of Her Home," a short spiritual autobiography in prose; "Religious Experience;" and "Contemplation," regarded by many as her greatest poetic achievement. (See this blog for more on Anne Bradstreet.)

1679 Mrs. Richard Patteshall (Martha Woody) and Child. Attributed to: Thomas Smith, American, c 1650–1691


The State of Virginia forbids blacks and slaves from bearing arms, prohibits blacks from congregating in large numbers, and mandates harsh punishment for slaves who assault Christians or attempt escape.

Duke of York's Second Grant to William Penn, Gawn Lawry, Nicholas Lucas, John Eldridge, Edmund Warner, and Edward Byllynge, for the Soil and Government of West New Jersey; August 6

Commission of John Cutt of New Hampshire; September 18


Concessions to the Province of Pennsylvania - July 11Charter for the Province of Pennsylvania; February 28

Province of West New-Jersey, in America; November 25

William Penn (1644–1718), a wealthy Quaker, receives a large land grant west of the Delaware River, Pennsylvania. Penn received the colony as payment in lieu of debt that the Crown owed his father, naval hero Sir William Penn. Establishment of the colony also solved the problem of the growing Society of Friends or "Quaker" movement in England, which was causing much embarrassment to the Church of England. While still in England, Penn outlined certain rights to its citizens. The three counties of the Delaware Colony, captured from the Dutch, were deeded to William Penn in 1682, but regained a separate existence in 1704.

Sarah Whipple Goodhue (1641-1681) writes "VALEDICTORY AND MONITORY-WRITING." Goodhue's letter to provide spiritual guidance to her family would be read for inspiration through the 19th century. The Ipswich, Massachusetts, native had written the work anticipating that she might die in childbirth. It offers advice to her husband & children and remains interesting for the light it sheds on colonial family life. (See this blog for the entire text of Sarah Goodhue's letter to her family.)

Maria, a slave is burned at the stake for trying, with 2 men, to burn down her master's house in Massachusetts. The court condemns her most severely, claiming she lacks "the feare of God before her eyes."

Mary White Rowlandson (c. 1635-c. 1678) writes THE SOVEREIGNTY & THE GOODNESS OF GOD... BEING A NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTIVITY AND RESTAURATION OF MRS. MARY ROWLANDSON. One of the most famous and popular examples of colonial American prose chronicles Rowlandson's spiritual & physical travails after her 11 week captivity among Indians in 1676. It is the first widely popular book written by a woman. (See this blog for more on Mary Rowlandson plus the entire text of her book.)

Virginia declares all imported African American servants to be slaves for life.

Virginia, 1682: A law establishing the racial distinction between servants and slaves was enacted.
Mary Avery may have been the colonies' first woman publisher. She published The Rule of the New-Creature (a children's book) at Boston in 1682.

Duke of York's Confirmation to the 24 Proprietors; March 14

Penn's Charter of Libertie; April 25

Frame of Government of Pennsylvania; May 5


A group of German Mennonites & Quakers founded the settlement of Germantown. They were led by Francis Daniel Pastorius who soon wrote a promotional piece to encourage more Germans to emigrate to Pennsylvania.

Quakers establish the first school in Pennsylvania. They are among the first to teach both girls & boys to read and write. Training in classical languages, history, & literature is available at a public school in Philadelphia beginning in 1689.

Mennonite and other German families begin to settle in Penn's colony.

William Penn & Native Americans negotiate a peace treaty at Shackamaxon under the Treaty Elm

Frame of Government of Pennsylvania: February 2

The Fundamental Constitutions for the Province of East New Jersey in America

The King's Letter Recognizing the Proprietors' Right to the Soil and Government ; November 23


Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is revoked ending the requirement of church membership for voting.

New York makes it illegal for slaves to sell goods.


The Duke of York ascends the British throne as King James II. He creates The Dominion of New England with the consolidation of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, East Jersey, & West Jersey into a single larger colony in 1685. The experiment ended with the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, and the nine colonies re-established their separate identities in 1689.

Protestants in France lose their guarantee of religious freedom as King Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes, spurring many families to leave for America.


New England Royal Governor Sir Edmund Andros begins issuing a series of unpopular orders aimed at the consolidation of colonies into one large settlement. He dissolves the assemblies of New York & Connecticut; limits the number of town meetings in New England to one per year; places the militia under his direct control & forces Puritans & Anglicans to worship together.


Governor Andros, orders Boston's Old South Meeting House to be converted into an Anglican Church. In August, the Massachusetts towns of Ipswich & Topsfield resist assessments imposed by Andros in protest of taxation without representation.


Catholic King James II of England flees to France after being deposed by influential English leaders.

Resolutions of The Germantown Mennonites; February 18

Commission of Sir Edmund Andros for the Dominion of New England; April 7

Quakers in Pennsylvania issue a formal resolution against slavery of men & women in America.


Governor Andros is jailed by rebellious colonists in Boston. In July, the English government orders Andros to be returned to England to stand trial. Cotton Mather supports the rebellion.

The New England colonies reestablish their previous systems of government.

William III of Orange (the Netherlands) is crowned king of England with wife Mary, daughter of James II. They reign together until 1694, when Mary dies; William rules alone until 1702.


The French and Indian War begins with King William's War. Schenectady, N. Y. and other areas are burned by French and Native Americans; Massachusetts colonists capture Port Royal, Nova Scotia; and Canadian forces destroy Casco, Maine
. Unknown Woman New York, 1690–1700 Attributed to Gerret Duyckinck from New York, (New Amsterdam) 1660–1710)


The Province of Massachusetts Bay was organized October 7, 1691 by William & Mary. The charter was enacted May 14, 1692 and included Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, the Province of Maine & what is now Nova Scotia. The New Hampshire gained its independence

South Carolina passes the first comprehensive slave codes

Virginia passes the first anti-miscegenation law, forbidding marriages between whites and blacks or whites and Native Americans. And Virginia prohibits the manumission of slaves within its borders. Manumitted slaves are forced to leave the colony.  A 1691 Virginia law declared that any white man or woman who married a "Negro, mulatto, or Indian" would be banished from the colony forever.

In New York, the newly appointed Governor of New England, Henry Sloughter, arrives from England & institutes royally sanctioned representative government.

The Charter of Massachusetts Bay; October 7


The Salem witch trials accuse 150 of which 20 are condemned to die including 14 women; most of the accused & the accusers are women.


William & Mary College, named for the British rulers, is chartered in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Thomas Smith, attributed, Maria Catherina Smith, about 1690-93


Rice cultivation is introduced into Carolina. Slave importation increases dramatically.


First known Jew settles in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dinah Nuthead inherits her husband's printing press in St. Mary's City, Maryland. She moves it to Annapolis when the government relocates there, and continues to run the printing business.


The Royal African Trade Company loses its slave trade monopoly, spurring colonists in New England to engage in trading male & female slaves for profit.

Frame of Government of Pennsylvania

The English pass the Navigation Act of 1696 requiring colonial trade to be done exclusively via English built ships. The Act also expands the powers of colonial custom commissioners, including rights of forcible entry, and requires the posting of bonds on certain goods.


Massachusetts general court expresses official repentance for the witchcraft trials; Samuel Sewall confesses guilt from his Boston church pew.

King William's War ends as the French & English sign the Treaty of Ryswick.

1690-1700 Rebecca Bonum Eskridge. Unknown Artist.


Cockacoeske, Queen of the Pamunkey Indians, signs a peace treaty with Virginia.

Peace treaty at Casco Bay, Maine, brings hostilities between the Abenaki Indians & the Massachusetts colony to an end.

English Parliament passes the Wool Act, protecting its own wool industry by limiting wool production in Ireland & forbidding the export of wool by Americans.

Yale Law School, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy. New Haven, CT.


HISTORY MATTERS. American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning (Graduate Center, CUNY) and the Center for History and New Media (George Mason University). Internet.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Women in America Timeline 1651-1670

Timeline Of Events Directly Affecting Women

Copies of complete documents may be found by clicking on highlighted descriptions.

Immigrants moving south from Virginia settle the coast of present-day North Carolina. A governor is appointed in 1664, but the first town is established by the arrival of the French Huguenots in 1704.
Slave Francis Payne of Northampton County, Virginia, paid for his freedom about 1650 by purchasing three white servants for his master's use. Francis Payne was married to a white woman named Amy by September 1656, when he gave her a mare by deed of jointure.


First Indian Reservation is created near Richmond, Virginia.


Rhode Island enacts the first law restricting slavery in the colonies and declares slavery illegal for more than 10 years.

Massachusettes requires all black and Indian male servants to receive military training


Boat with twenty-three Jews, mostly refugees from Recife, Brazil, arrives in New Amsterdam (New York), marking the beginning of Jewish communal settlement in North America.

A Virginia court allows African Americans to hold slaves.


Jews in New Netherlands are granted rights to trade, travel, and stand guard.

Elizabeth Key, daughter of a slave, sues for her freedom and wins in Virginia. (See blog for further information.)


Members of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly referred to as Quakers, arrive in Boston from England. While springing from the same religious turmoil that gave rise to the Separatist movement, the Quakers lack respect for hierarchy and believe in man’s ability to achieve his own salvation. Tenets so contrary to orthodox Puritanism quickly turn most New Englanders against them.

Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans whip, imprison, & banish the first Quakers to arrive in the colony. Legislation in 1658 bars the Quakers from holding their services, called "meetings."

On 22 September 1656 in Maryland, an all-woman jury, the first in the colonies, acquits Judith Catchpole on charges of murdering her unborn child.

The small number of Quakers in Plymouth Colony congregate primarily in Sandwich on Cape Cod and in Scituate. Laws are passed forbidding any to transport Quakers into the colony, to give them “entertainment” (housing) or to attend a Quaker meeting. Punishments include fines, whipping, imprisonment or banishment. A number of people are brought before the courts on these charges.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony passes a law fining any person b
ringing a Quaker into the colony £100. A Quaker returning to the colony, after being expelled, will have their ears cropped and their tongues bored with hot iron.

Jews in New Netherlands are granted rights to own property and to establish a Jewish cemetery.


Virginia passes a fugitive slave law strong


At Oliver Cromwell's death, the English Commonwealth soon dissolves. The late monarch's heir is brought out of exile to rule as Charles II in 1660. The decades following the reestablishment of the monarchy are marked by a surge of artistic, literary, and dramatic output.

Three Quakers each lose an ear after returning to Massachusetts. The Boston authorities pass a new law with the penalty for expelled Quakers returning to the colony being death.

Long Island passes a similar anti-Quaker law.


Quakers William Robinson & Marmaduke Stephenson are hanged for refusing to leave Massachusetts. Mary Barrett Dyer, a follower of Anne Hutchinson & later a Quaker, is scheduled to hang with them but is reprieved at the last minute.


Mary Barrett Dyer is executed on Boston Common for her Quaker proselytizing & for defying an expulsion order by returning to Boston. She is one of four Quakers hanged between 1659 and 1661.  See this blog for Mary Dyer's letters from jail to her husband.

The English Crown approves a Navigation Act requiring the exclusive use of English ships for trade in the English Colonies & limits exports of tobacco and sugar & other commodities to England or its colonies.

An Act for Supressing the Quakers is passed in Virginia.

Charles II, King of England, orders the Council of Foreign Plantations to devise strategies for converting slaves and servants to Christianity.


The first native Africans were brought to Virginia in 1619. They were hired, with rights of contract, for work on large plantations of tobacco, rice, & indigo. By the 1660s, plantation owners change the laws & revoke contracts, so that African men, women, & children cannot earn their freedom.

After her husband's death in 1660, Margaret Hardenbrook de Vries (later Philipse) takes over his business as a merchant buying furs and shipping them to Holland in return for Dutch products, which she sells in New Amsterdam. Although she remarries, she continues to run the business until she dies in 1690.   See blog for life of Margarieta Hardenbrook De Vries Philipse.


Massachusetts continues to punish Quakers by hanging those who refuse to leave the colony. After a royal edict requires Massachusetts authorities to release imprisoned Quakers & return them to England, the authorities allow them to leave for other colonies. Corporal punishment for Quakers & other dissenters is suspended in the Massachusetts Bay colony by order of Parliament.


Virginia General Assembly declares children of enslaved women to be slaves.

Massachusetts reverses a ruling dating back to 1652, which allowed blacks to train in arms. New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire pass similar laws restricting the bearing of arms.


The Carolinas. King Charles II of England grants a charter for the Carolina colonies to 8 loyal supporters. The Province of Carolina was divided into North Carolina & South Carolina in 1712. (Both colonies became royal colonies in 1729.)

A Declaration and Proposals of the Lord Proprietor of Carolina, Aug. 25-Sept. 4

Navigation Act of 1663 requires that most imports to the colonies must be transported via England on English ships.

In Gloucester County, Virginia, the first documented slave rebellion in the colonies takes place.

Maryland legalizes slavery.


The British take control of New Amsterdam & New Netherlands, introduce English constitutional forms. The Dutch settlers were able to retain their properties & worship as they please. The Colonial Dutch style of art & life remains pervasive in New York throughout the 18th century.

The Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea, or New Jersey, to and With All and Every the Adventurers and All Such as Shall Settle or Plant There; February 10

Grant of the Province of Maine; March 12

The Duke of York's Release to John Ford Berkeley, and Sir George Carteret; June 24

Anne Bradstreet’s MEDITATIONS DIVINE AND MORALL is a collection of her prose devotional writings written for her son Simon, which draw on her daily experiences. Probably written between 1655-1665, but found after her death in 1672.

Maryland is the first colony to take legal action against marriages between white women and black men.  Maryland, 1664: The first colonial "anti-amalgamation" law is enacted (amalgamation referred to "race-mixing"). Other colonies soon followed Maryland's example.

The State of Maryland mandates lifelong servitude for all black slaves. New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, and Virginia all pass similar laws


Legislation in several states tightens the bonds of slavery. English law provides that slaves may be freed if they convert to Christianity and establish legal residence, but Maryland, New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, and Virginia pass laws allowing conversion & residence without freeing any slaves.

Concessions and Agreements of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of Carolina

Charter of Carolina; June 30

Great Plague of London begins.


Maryland passes a fugitive slave law.


Virginia declares that Christian baptism will not alter a man or a woman's status as a slave.

Virginia, 1667: Christian baptisms would no longer affect the bondage of blacks or Indians, preventing enslaved workers from improving their legal status by changing their religion.
New Jersey passes a fugitive slave law.


The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina : March 1


The State of Virginia prohibits free blacks and Indians from keeping Christian (i.e. white) servants.

Yale Law School, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy. New Haven, CT.


HISTORY MATTERS. American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning (Graduate Center, CUNY) and the Center for History and New Media (George Mason University). Internet.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Women in America Timeline 1621-1650

Timeline Of Events Directly Affecting Women

Copies of complete documents may be found by clicking on highlighted descriptions.


One of the first treaties between colonists & Native Americans is signed as the Plymouth Pilgrims enact a peace pact with the Wampanoag Tribe, with the aid of Squanto, an English speaking Native American.

First Thanksgiving celebrated at Plymouth.

Charter of the Dutch West India Company; June 3

Ordinances for Virginia; July 24-August 3


Maine was settled in 1622. Massachusetts Bay colony encroached into Maine during the English Civil War; but, with the Restoration, Maine regained autonomy in 1664.

 A Grant of the Province of Maine to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason, esq., August 10

A sudden attack by Powhatan Indians on the English colony at Jamestown results in the death of nearly 400 settlers including women & children.


New Hampshire grew from a series of land grants dating from 1623 to 1680. For much of its history the colony was controlled by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The settlement at Exeter was founded in 1638 by John Wheelwright, a disciple of Anne Hutchinson, who was banned from the Massachusetts Bay Colony by her fellow Puritans. By 1691, it became the royal Province of New Hampshire. One disputed New Hampshire grant territory (New Hampshire claimed it, a judge awarded it to New York) later became the state of Vermont.


New York. The island of Manhattan is purchased from local Indians by the Dutch; the colony is named New Netherlands & its capital New Amsterdam. The first group of 34 families of Dutch settlers disperse up the Hudson River, to the Delaware River area in New Jersey, to Governor's Island, Manhattan Island, & Long Island.

Warrant for William Ussling to Establish a General Company for Trade to Asia, Africa, America and Magellanica; December 21

The Virginia Company charter is revoked in London & Virginia is declared a Royal colony.


Charles I comes to the throne in England.


Dutch colonist Peter Minuit buys Manhattan island from Native Americans for 60 guilders (about $24) & names the island New Amsterdam.

Notification of the Purchase of Manhattan by the Dutch; November 5


Slavery is introduced into Manhattan by the Dutch.

Thomas Morton & colonists at Merrymount dance around a maypole and celebrate May Day, upsetting the Plymouth Pilgrims. In June, Capt. Miles Standish eradicates the settlement & sends Morton back to England.


Massachusetts. John Winthrop (1588–1649) assumes leadership of the English settlers in present-day Salem; this marks the beginning of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop chooses Boston as his seat of government.

Charter of the Colony of New Plymouth Granted to William Bradford and His Associates; January 13

Grant of Land North of the Saco River to Thomas Lewis and Richard Bonighton by the Council for New England; February 12

The Charter of Massachusetts Bay; March 4

Sir Robert Heath's Patent 5 Charles 1st; October, 30

Grant of Hampshire to Capt. John Mason, November 7

Grant of Laconia to Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason by the Council for New England; November 17

England's King Charles I dissolves parliament & attempts to rule as absolute monarch, spurring many to leave for the American colonies.


Population: 3,000 colonists in Virginia; 300 at Plymouth. Between 1630-1640, another 16,000 colonists will arrive.

1630 – 1643

English Puritan families immigrate to the Massachusetts Bay Colony


Maryland. Lord Baltimore of England receives a charter from King Charles I for land north of the Potomac River. Lord Baltimore is Catholic & draws up a charter allowing the establishment of churches of all religions. Although Maryland was an early pioneer of religious toleration in the British colonies, religious strife between denominations was common in the early years.

Charter of Maryland; June 20


Williamsburg, first known as Middle Plantation, is founded in Virginia

The first town government in the colonies is organized in Dorchester, Massachusetts.


Royal Commission for Regulating Plantations; April 28

Boston Latin School, for boys, is established as the first public school in America.

Confirmation of the Grant from the Council for New England to Captain John Mason

Grant of the Province of New Hampshire to John Wollaston, Esq., April 18

Grant of the Province of New Hampshire to Mr. Mason, By the Name of Masonia; April 22

Grant of the Province of New Hampshire to Mr. Mason, By the Name of New Hampshire; April 22

Declaration for Resignation of the Charter by the Council for New England; April 25

The Act of Surrender of the Great Charter of New England to His Majesty; June 7

Grant of the Province of New Hampshire From Mr. Wollaston to Mr. Mason, June 11

Grant of His Interest in New Hampshire by Sir Ferdinando Gorges to Captain John Mason; September 17


North America's first university, for men, is founded at Cambridge in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and soon receives a large bequest from John Harvard

Massachusettes First American built slave carrier, Desire, is launched in Massachusettes

Rhode Island. Providence Plantation was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, a Baptist minister fleeing from religious persecution in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was joined there by Anne Hutchinson after her banishment. In 1663, a Royal Charter was granted by Charles II of England for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The charter guaranteed religious freedom for all -- even Jews.  See this blog for Anne Hutchinson's trial record.

A small Jewish population existed in Rhode Island, the only one in the original 13 British colonies of North America in which they were able to practice their religion freely.

Connecticut. The River Colony was organized on March 3, 1636 as a haven for Puritan noblemen. After early struggles with the Dutch, the English gained control by the late 1630s. Two other English colonies merged into the Connecticut Colony: Saybrook Colony in 1644; New Haven Colony in 1662.

20 January. Boston clergyman John Wheelwright preaches a sermon supporting the ideas of Anne Hutchinson and her followers and is thereby sentenced to banishment on 12 November. Anne Hutchinson is sentenced to banishment at the same time.

To prevent the re-election of Governor Vane, who is sympathetic to Anne Hutchinson and her ideas, John Winthrop moves the voting to Newtown & thus is himself elected Governor of the colony.

December. Under the leadership of Peter Minuit, a group of Swedish colonists establishes a settlement called New Sweden on the Delaware River.


Proclamation Against the Disorderly Transporting His Majesty's subjects to the Plantations Within the Parts of America; April 30

Commission to Sir Ferdinando Gorges as Governor of New England by Charles; July 23

New Haven was settled in late 1637. New Haven was absorbed by Connecticut Colony with the issuance of the Connecticut Charter in 1662.


Anne Hutchinson is expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for “traducing the ministers” & for advocating personal revelation of the role of the Puritan clergy. Her family and other religious dissenters found Rhode Island.
See this blog for Anne Hutchinson's Trial record.


In 1638 the New Sweden Company created the first permanent settlement of Delaware & created an outpost named after the queen of Sweden, Fort Christina. The end of the Swedish rule came in 1655. In 1664, after James, Duke of York, captured New Amsterdam. They renamed New Amstel New Castle. This effectively ended Dutch claims to any land in colonial North America. Delaware was governed from New York by a Deputy of the Duke of York from 1664 to 1682. After William Penn was granted the province of Pennsylvania in 1681, he received the lands of Delaware from the Duke of York.

The first colonial printing press is set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, owned by a woman, Mrs. Jose Glover. Mrs. Glover took financial charge of the first press in Cambridge upon her husband's death on the sea journey to America. Her's was the only press in the colonies. She established the business and, until her marriage to Henry Dunster, President of Harvard College in 1641, served as owner/publisher, with Stephen Daye as "the overseer or manager." Mrs. Glover Dunster died in1643


Virginia, 1639: The first law to exclude "Negroes" from normal protections by the government was enacted.
Richard Fairbanks, given responsibility for delivering mail in Massachusetts, is allowed to charge a penny per letter

Fundamental Orders; January 14

Grant of the Province of Maine; April 3

Fundamental Agreement, or Original Constitution of the Colony of New Haven, June 4

Agreement of the Settlers at Exeter in New Hampshire, August 4


Civil war breaks out in England as the culmination of the rivalry between Charles I & Parliament. The Battle of Naseby (1645) ends in triumph for the Parliamentary army led by Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658). Charles I was executed in 1649. England, Scotland, & Ireland are collectively declared a commonwealth, with Cromwell acting as Lord Protector. During the period of strict Puritan rule, the arts are suppressed, theaters are closed, & cultural patronage declines as the elites retire to their safer country seats.


New Netherlands forbids residents from harboring or feeding runaway slaves.

When Ann Hibbens of Boston insisted that she had the right to complain about the work of male carpenters she hired, the church elders attacked her for thinking she can manage these affairs better than her husband, "which is a plain breach of the rule of Christ." She is excommunicated, and 16 years later, she is hanged for witchcraft.

William Bradford, &c. Surrender of the Patent of Plymouth Colony to the Freeman; March 2

Plantation Agreement at Providence; August 27 - September 6,


Massachusettes legalizes slavery

Government of Rhode Island-March 16-19

The Combinations of the Inhabitants Upon the Piscataqua River for Government, October 22


Anne Hutchinson & family murdered by Native Americans near Eastchester, Long Island (N. Y.)

Patent for Providence Plantations - March 14

The Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England; May 19

Government of New Haven Colony; October 27 - November 6

New England Confederation of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven adopts a fugitive slave law.

With her friends, Lady Deborah Moody (c 1585-c 1659) leaves the orthodoxy of the Massachusetted colony to set up a community based on religious tolerance in Gravesend, Long Island. After receiving a patent from the Dutch in 1645, she participates in the town council meetings, helping to draw up the plans for the town & select magistrates.

In his 1643 writings about the Narragansett indians, Rhode Island founder Roger Williams describes the women's work: taking down, carrying, & setting up the mats or house coverings, when the people move from summer to winter homes. They also "plant, weede, & hill, & gather & barne all the corne."


In Massachusetts, the general court approves a law that makes religious heresy punishable by death.

In New Haven, Anne Eaton, the governor's wife, attacks the church on the issue of baptism of infants. She and 3 of her female supporters are put on trial. Supporter Mrs. Leech points to the "untruths" in church doctrine.

Robert Child and others protest the intolerance of Massachusetts Puritans toward those of other faiths; in response, Governor John Winthrop & others justify their policies & banish Child.

1647 - 1648

First woman barrister in the colonies, Margaret Brent (1601-1671) of Maryland, seeks & is denied the right to vote in the assembly. The unmarried Brent, one of the largest landowners in Maryland, asks the Maryland Assembly for two votes, one for herself & another as Leonard Calvert's administrator & Lord Baltimore's attorney. Her request is denied.


In England, George Fox founds Society of Friends (Quakers)


Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector of England.


Anne Bradstreet’s (c. 1612-1672) The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America is published, without her knowledge, in London by her brother-in-law. The collection includes rhymed discourses & chronicles

Yale Law School, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy. New Haven, CT.


HISTORY MATTERS. American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning (Graduate Center, CUNY) and the Center for History and New Media (George Mason University). Internet.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Women in America Timeline 1607-1620

Timeline Of Events Directly Affecting Women

Copies of complete documents may be found by clicking on highlighted descriptions.


The First Charter of Virginia; April 10 Here


Virginia. The British establish their first American colony at Jamestown named for King James I, who ascended to the throne only four years earlier. Virginia was named for the virgin Queen Elizabeth, who never married. England was financially pressed following years of war with Spain. To raise funds to explore the New World, to bring back gold and other riches, and to seek the Northwest Passage to the Middle East and India, James I grants a proprietary charter for the Chesapeake region to two competing branches of the Virginia Company, which were supported by private investors--the Plymouth Company and the London Company. Of the original 105 settlers, only 32 survived the first year.


First English women arrive at Jamestown contributing to Jamestown's ultimate survival. Lord Bacon, a member of His Majesty's Council for Virginia, stated about 1620 that "When a plantation grows to strength, then it is time to plant with women as well as with men; that the plantation may spread into generations, and not be ever pieced from without."

Anne Burras came to Jamestown in 1608 married John Laydon three months after her arrival becoming the first Jamestown wedding. Anne and John raised four daughters in the new Virginia wilderness.

John Smith (1580-1631) claims (some 24 years later & 7 years after her death) that Pocahontas saves him from execution by Algonquian 
Chief Powhatan who was her faher.


The Dutch East India Company sends Henry Hudson on a seven month voyage to explore the area around present-day New York City and the river north to Albany, which bears his name. The Dutch claimed the land.

Temperance Flowerdew, arrived at Jamestown with 400 ill-fated settlers in the fall of 1609. The following winter, dubbed the "Starving Time," saw over 80 percent of Jamestown succumb to sickness, disease and starvation. Temperance survived but soon returned to England. By 1619, Temperance returned to Jamestown with her new husband, Governor George Yeardley. After his death in 1627, she married Governor Francis West and remained in Virginia until her death in 1628.

The Second Charter of Virginia; May 23


Tobacco cultivation is introduced in Virginia and within a decade becomes the colony's chief source of revenue.


Authorized version of King James Bible published

The Third Charter of Virginia; March 12 Here


Pocahontas is taken hostage by Jamestown colonists in the first Anglo-Powhatan war.
A Dutch trading post is set up on lower Manhattan island.


Pocahontas is baptized a Christian and marries John Rolfe, one of the Jamestown colonists.

General Charter for Those who Discover Any New Passages, Havens, Countries, or Places; March 27 Here

Grant of Exclusive Trade to New Netherland by the States-General of the United Netherlands; October 11 Here


Pocahontas and John Rolfe departed for England, where she met King James I. Pocahontas and Rolfe were awarded funds to return to the colony to establish a college to Christianize the Powhatan Indians, but on beginning the trip home she died unexpectedly, in March 1617, at Gravesend, England, where she is buried.

John Smith writes A Description of New England.


Virginia settlers were first granted their own personal property, the acreage dependent on the time and situation of their arrival. This was the beginning of private property for Virginia men. The men, however, asked that land also be allotted for their wives who were just as deserving "...because that in a newe plantation it is not knowen whether man or woman be the most necessary." The Virginia Company of London hoped to anchor their discontented bachelors to the soil of Virginia by using women as a stabilizing factor. They ordered that "...a fit hundredth might be sent of women, maids young and uncorrupt, to make wives to the inhabitants and by that means to make the men there more settled and less movable...." Ninety arrived in 1620 and the company records reported in May of 1622 that, "57 young maids have been sent to make wives for the planters, divers of which were well married before the coming away of the ships."

The first session of the first legislative assembly in America occurs as the Virginia House of Burgesses convenes in Jamestown. It consists of 22 burgesses, all men, representing 11 plantations.

Twenty Africans, 17 men & 3 women, are brought by a Dutch ship to Jamestown for sale as indentured servants, marking the beginning of slavery in Colonial America.

Petition for a Charter of New England by the Northern Company of Adventurers; March 3 Here


Massachusetts. A group of 101 Puritan Separatists frustrated in their attempts to achieve reform within the Church of England sail on board the Mayflower to America and establish Plymouth Colony on Cape Cod in New England. When 41 men from the group set up the the Mayflower Compact establishing a form of local government in which the colonists agree to abide by majority rule and to cooperate for the general good of the colony, later colonies us it as a model as they set up governments. Plymouth was absorbed by Massachusetts Bay Colony with the issuance of the Massachusetts Bay charter of 1691.

Charter of New England; November 3 Here

Mayflower Compact; November 11 Here

The first public library in the colonies is organized in Virginia with books donated by landowners

Yale Law School, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy. New Haven, CT.


HISTORY MATTERS. American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning (Graduate Center, CUNY) and the Center for History and New Media (George Mason University). Internet.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

1636-1670 - Laws on Sexual Misconduct in the Plymouth Colony

Laws on Sexual Misconduct

November 15, 1636

Capitall offences lyable to death. Sodomy, rapes, buggery. Adultery to be punished. (Offences criminall, Altered.) [Adultery crossed out] ffornicacion & other uncleane carriages to be punished at the discretion of the Majestrates according to the nature thereof. Ffornicacion before contract or marriage.

That none be allowed to marry that are under the covert of parents but by their consent & approbacion. But in case consent cannot be had then it shall be with the consent of the Governor, or some assistant to whom the persons are knowne whose care it shall be to see the marriag be fitt before it be allowed by him. & after approbacion be three severall times published before the solemnising of it. Or els in places where there is no such meetings that contracts or agreements of marriage may be so published, that then it shalbe lawfull to publish them by a writing thereof made & set vpon the usuall publike place for the space of fifteene days. Provided that the writing be vnder some majestrates hand or by his order.

December 4, 1638 

Wheras diuers persons vnfitt for marriage both in regard of their yeong yeares as also in regard of their weake estate, some praciseing the enveagleing of mens daughters & maids vnder gardians (contrary to their parents & gardians likeing) & of mayde sevants without leaue & likeing of their masters It is therefore enacted by the Court That if any shall make any motion of marriage to any mans daughter or mayde servant not having first obtayned leaue & consent of the parents or master so to doe shalbe punished either by fine or corporall punishment or both, at the discretion of the bench & according to the nature of the offence. It is also enacted that if a motion of marriage be duly made to the master & through any sinister end or couetous desire hee will not consent therevnto Then the cause to be made knowne vnto the Majestrates & they to set downe such order therein as vpon examinacion of the case shall appeare to be most equall on both parts.

June 4, 1645 

It is enacted et cetera That euery person or persons which shall comitt Carnall Copulacion before or eithout lawfull contract shalbe punished wither with corporall punishment by whipping or els pay tenn pounds a peece fine & be ymprisoned during the pleasure of the Court so it be not aboue three dayes, but if they be or wilbe marryed one to another, then but tenn pounds both & ymprisonment as aforesaid. And by A lawfull contract the Court vnderstands the mutuall consent of two parties with the consent of parents or guardians (if there be any to be had) & a solemme promise of marriage in due tyme to eich other before two competent witnesses. And if any person or persons shall committ carnall copulacion after contract & before marriage shall both pay fiue pounds & be both ymprisoned during the pleasure of the Court so it be not aboue three dayes, or else in case they cannot or will not pay the fyne then to suffer corporall punishment by whipping.

Wheras some abuses haue formerly broken out amongst us by disguiseing weareing visors & strang apparell to laciuious ends & purposes It is therefore enacted That if any person or persons shall hereafter use any such disquisements visors strang apparell or the like to such lacivious & euell ends & intens, & be thereof convict by due course of law shall pay fifty shillings for the first offence or els be publikely whipt & for the second tyme fiue pounds or be publikly whipt & be bound to the behauior if the Bench shall see cause.

June 9, 1653

That euery person of the age of descretion which is accounted sixteen yeares whoe shall witingly & willingly make or publish any Lye which may bee pernitius to the publicke weale or tending to the dammage or hurt of any particulare person or with entent to deceiue & abuse the people with falce newes or reports & the same duely proued before any one Maiedtrate whoe hath heerby power graunted to heare & determine all offences against this Law; shalbee fined for euery such default ten shillings; And if the partie bee vnable to pay then to bee sett in the stockes soe longe as the said Maiestrate shall appoint in som open place not exceeding the space of two houres.

September 29, 1658

It is enacted by the court & the authoritie therof that whosoeuer shall comitt Adultery shalbee seuerly punished by Whiping two seuerall times; namely once whiles the Court is in being att shich they are convicted of the fact & the 2cond time as the Court shall order & likewise to weare two Capitall letters namely A D cut out in cloth & sowed on theire vpermost Garments on theire arme or backe; & if att any time they shalbee taken without the said letters whiles they are in the Gouernment soe worn to bee forth with taken & publickly whipt.

July 2, 1667

It is enacted by the Court that such as comitt fornication or comon drunkards that noe fine be receiued from them for their fact vntill they haue bin convicted therof before the Court vnlesse some vnavoidable Impediment shall hinder theire appeerance theratt.

June 1670

It is enacted by the Court that whosoeuer haueing comitted vncleanes in another Collonie & shall come hither & haue not satisfyed the law where the fact was comitted they shalbe sent backe or heer punished according to the Nature of the crime as if the acte had bine heer done.


Bradford, William.  Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. Ed. by Samuel Eliot Morison. New York: Knopf (1952).

Dayton, Cornelia Hughes.  Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, [and] Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press (1995).

Demos, John.  A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony. London: Oxford University Press (1970).

Fischer, David Hackett.  Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. London: Oxford University Press (1989).

PCR.  Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England. Ed. by Nathaniel Shurtleff and David Pulsifer. New York: AMS Press. 12 v. in 6.

Stratton, Eugene Aubrey.  Plymouth Colony: Its History [and] People, 1620-1691. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing (1986).

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher.  Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750. New York: Vintage Books (1980).