Friday, January 14, 2022

Crime and Punishment

The Stocks

I was reading a bit about Colonial law and punishment. 

Over on the history web site of Colonial Williamsburg, they tell of the fellow who was commissioned to make a new set of wooden stocks for the City of Boston.  The fellow who was commissioned for the job, however, dramatically over-charged for it (it seems that ripping off the Government is a very old game), and the local magistrates hit him with treble damages and they also... wait for it... put him in the stocks he had just built as punishment.


That was a good story, but the tale that raised an eyebrow and made it into water-cooler conversation at work was this little gem:

Sex was of particular concern. Outlawed were masturbation, fornication, adultery, sodomy, buggery, and every other sexual practice that inched off the line of straight sex as approved by the Bible. The term "sodomy" was applied to homosexual behavior; "buggery" to bestiality.

Punishment for such serious sexual crimes could be severe. Thomas Granger of Plymouth, a boy of seventeen or so, was indicted in 1642 for buggery "with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey." Granger was hanged; the animals, for their part in the affair, were executed according to the law, Leviticus 20.15, and "cast into a great and large pit that was digged for the purpose for them, and no use was made of any part of them."

After reading this to a friend, his response was classic: "A Turkey?!"

Yep, a cow, two goats, five sheep and two calves barely stopped the brain. It took a turkey to break the deal!

As for punishing animals for the crimes of their masters, think nothing of it. It still goes on, as anyone who has ever walked the cold-hard floors of a kill kennel can tell you.

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