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Punished in Colonial America

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  • Matthew Williams, of Wethersfield (c.1612 - bef.1680)
    Matthew Williams , b c.1612 - d bef 1680, came from Wales to Wethersfield, Connecticut about 1630, according to the History of Essex and Union Counties. He was a brickmaker by trade and a yeoman, pro...
  • Susanna "Susan" Williams (c.1626 - aft.1680)
    Susanna "Susan" Cole Birth abt 1626, Probably England Death after 1680, Branford, Essex, New Jersey Province Marriage aft 16 Mar 1645 1Matthew Williams b abt 1620, Probably England Death ...
  • Capt. John Tuder, Sr. (c.1649 - 1708)
    biography From HISTORICAL SOCIETY of the NEW YORK COURTS John Tuder (also spelled Tudor) John Tuder was born in England around 1649 and appears to have emigrated to Barbados around 1670, moved to...
  • Elizabeth Tudor (1654 - bef.1697)
    Elizabeth Holland was born on 17 February 1654 at Boston, Massachusetts.1,2 and died before 1697, probably in New York City. family She was the daughter of Christopher Holland and Anne. She marri...
  • Richard Bishop, of Plymouth Colony (c.1613 - c.1671)
    Richard Bishop Birth: c1612 - Unknown Death: 1671 - Piscataway, Middlesex, New Jersey Parents: Unknown [according to Anderson;s Great Migration Project his origins are unknown; No relationship...

I've been running across ancestors who were publicly "punished" in Colonial America, have you? Here's a project to remember what they endured.

In Colonial America the court structure was quite different from Great Britain. The colonial system was a hierarchy of overlapping courts and common law was the law of the land. The common law was greatly influenced by moral law because it was based on moral law which was derived from the Bible.

Crime in Colonial America was similar to the criminal acts prevalent in our society today. There were murders, thefts and disturbance of peace. However, certain crimes were taken very seriously in Colonial America which are not considered so in our society today. For instance, hog theft, slander and public drunkenness ...

In most colonies it was against the law to swear, not to attend church services, to display unacceptable behavior between members of the opposite gender, and to behave inappropriately on Sabbath. Blasphemy was dealt with severely and treason was considered a serious crime as the King wanted to keep tight control over the colonies.

The people of a particular town appointed law officials and carried out criminal punishment. Although the colonists considered themselves to be morally upright and religious, Colonial America had crimes and some of the common punishments that were meted out were as follows:

Ducking Stool -- This was a chair onto which criminals were tied and then ducked into water as punishment for their crimes.

Whipping Post -- The criminals were tied and then whipped in front of the entire town.

Stocks -- This referred to a wooden frame with foot holes into which the ankles were locked while the criminal was sitting down.

Pillory -- This was also a wooden frame which had holes for the head and hands. The criminals were made to stand while his head and hands were inserted into the framework. It was quite common to through rocks and rotten fruits at the criminal making the already uncomfortable punishment even worse.

It was seen that people belonging to higher social strata were punished less severely than a person belonging to a lower strata even if the crime was the same. This also held true for women, who were whipped or publicly shamed for a crime while a man would get away with a fine for the same crime. Slaves were convicted at courts and were handed out physical punishment.