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Curious Punishments of Bygone Days   By: (1851-1911)

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Curious Punishments of Bygone Days

[Illustration: The Drunkards Cloak.]

Curious Punishments of Bygone Days,

by Alice Morse Earle.

The Illustrations BY FRANK HAZENPLUG

Loompanics Unlimited Port Townsend, Washington

Originally published 1896

Reprinted by Loompanics Unlimited

ISBN 0 915179 53 9 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 86 082642

The Contents

I THE BILBOES 1

II THE DUCKING STOOL 11

III THE STOCKS 29

IV THE PILLORY 44

V PUNISHMENTS OF AUTHORS AND BOOKS 57

VI THE WHIPPING POST 70

VII THE SCARLET LETTER 86

VIII BRANKS AND GAGS 96

IX PUBLIC PENANCE 106

X MILITARY PUNISHMENTS 119

XI BRANDING AND MAIMING 138

FOREWORD.

In ransacking old court records, newspapers, diaries and letters for the historic foundation of the books which I have written on colonial history, I have found and noted much of interest that has not been used or referred to in any of those books. An accumulation of notes on old time laws, punishments and penalties has evoked this volume. The subject is not a pleasant one, though it often has a humorous element; but a punishment that is obsolete gains an interest and dignity from antiquity and its history becomes endurable because it has a past only and no future. That men were pilloried and women ducked by our law abiding forbears rouses a thrill of hot indignation which dies down into a dull ember of curiosity when we reflect that they will never be pilloried or ducked again.

An old time writer dedicated his book to "All curious and ingenious gentlemen and gentlewomen who can gain from acts of the past a delight in the present days of virtue, wisdom and the humanities." It does not detract from the good intent and complacency of these old words that the writer lived in the days when the pillory, stocks and whipping post stood brutally rampant in every English village.

Now, we also boast that, as Pope says:

"Taught by time our hearts have learned to glow For others' good, and melt for others' woe."

And I too dedicate this book to all curious and ingenious gentlemen and gentlewomen of our own days of virtue, wisdom and the humanities; and I trust any chance reader a century hence if such reader there be may in turn be not too harsh in judgment on an age that had to form powerful societies and associations to prevent cruelty not to hardened and vicious criminals but to faithful animals and innocent children.

[Illustration: Laying by the heels in the Bilboes.]

Curious Punishments of Bygone Days

I

THE BILBOES

There is no doubt that our far away grandfathers, whether of English, French, Dutch, Scotch or Irish blood, were much more afraid of ridicule than they were even of sinning, and far more than we are of extreme derision or mockery to day. This fear and sensitiveness they showed in many ways. They were vastly touchy and resentful about being called opprobrious or bantering names; often running petulantly to the court about it and seeking redress by prosecution of the offender. And they were forever bringing suits in petty slander and libel cases. Colonial court rooms "bubbled over with scandal and gossip and spite." A creature as obsolete as his name, a "makebayt," was ever present in the community, ever whispering slander, ever exciting contention, and often also haled to court for punishment; while his opposite, a make peace, was everywhere sadly needed. Far seeing magistrates declared against the make bait, as even guilty of stirring up barratry, or as Judge Sewall, the old Boston Puritan termed it, at least "gravaminous."

Equally with personal libel did all good citizens and all good Christians fiercely resent of word, not only of derision or satire, but even of dispassionate disapproval of either government or church... Continue reading book >>




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