I guess this is just not my day for taking the high road, eh? I seem to have made a complete recovery from dignity, and in record time! Ah well, best to plunge ahead before this is totally out of date.
Well, it’s already kinda sorta over by several centuries, but it doesn’t seem to have hit the blogosphere yet in any major way, so I’m claiming it. What we have here is an article about the kinds of sexual crimes the Pilgrims had in their laws, and the kind and number and, in several cases, names, of the people who transgressed those laws, along with some fun assorted tales of what happened to them after that.
It is instructive to note that a good 50% or more of these crimes take place regularly in the bathrooms and on the dance floor at Celebrities, but that’s neither here nor there. We shall not even mention the Pumpjack, because that’s more appropriate for a discussion of the punishment than the crime. Yes, don’t kid yourself; ain’t nothing the Pilgrim Fathers of America liked to see as much as a Pilgrim Mother or Pilgrim Young’un of America trussed up like a gimp and bent over in a set of stocks.
It cannot be said (as it is of those whose sole knowledge of this period is that one Demi Moore movie) that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrators, but they didn’t believe in letting them feel left out, either, as you can see from this excerpt of the full MSNBC article.
Leviticus provided their guidance and that Old Testament book is not exactly nuanced. Sodomy? Death. Bestiality? Death. Man has sex with his daughter-in-law? Death. Adultery? Death. You get the picture.
The laws of Plymouth Colony echo Leviticus. You could be sentenced to death for sodomy, rape, buggery and, for a time, adultery. (Sodomy and buggery might be synonymous to us, but buggery apparently referred more to bestiality.)
Some Christian preachers today quote Leviticus 20, approvingly arguing that both the Old and New Testament are the infallible word of God.
And on his farm he had a sheep…
In practice, though, even the Pilgrims did not typically enforce death for sex. In fact, only one person was put to death for a sex crime in the colony, poor Thomas Graunger, a teenage farm boy who, perhaps flush with the surge of hormones, turned to those he knew best. His story could make you look at the Thanksgiving turkey in a whole new way.
Governor William Bradford recounted the tale:
“He was this year detected of buggery, and indicted for the same, with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey … He was first discovered by one that accidentally saw his lewd practice towards the mare. (I forbear particulars.) Being upon it examined and committed, in the end he not only confessed the fact with that beast at that time, but sundry times before and at several times with all the rest of the forenamed in his indictment.”
As punishment, he was forced to watch all the animals killed. At first, the court had a problem figuring out which sheep Thomas favored — sheep looking pretty much alike — but Thomas helpfully pointed out his sex partners. After being killed, they were buried in a pit, and then Thomas himself was hanged. If you wonder what the animals did to deserve it, Leviticus was cited by the court: “If a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death; and ye shall slay the beast.”
Though Thomas was the only person executed for a sex crime, punishments were still brutal. Even for lesser crimes, like fornication, you could receive whippings, brandings, wearing a Hawthorne-esque scarlet letter, time in the stocks, fines and banishment. Yet if court records are any indication, there was no shortage of colonists willing to tempt fate.
Read the rest here…