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Full text of "March Meeting, 1883. Deaths of Dr. Chadbourne and Mr. Thayer; Death of Mr. Thayer; Early Portrait-Painters in Boston; The Murder of Captain Codman; Provincial Seals in Massachusetts"

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106 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOEICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 



MARCH MEETING, 1883. 

The regular meeting was held in the Society's rooms, 
on Thursday afternoon, March 8,, the President, the Hon. 
Robert C. Wintheop, in the chair. 

The record of the last meeting was read and approved. 

The Librarian read a list of the donors to the Library dur- 
ing the last month. The Cabinet-keeper stated the gifts to 
the Cabinet. 

The Corresponding Secretary reported that Captain G. V. 
Fox, of Washington, D. C, had accepted his election as a 
Corresponding Member. 

The President, in announcing the deaths of two Resident 
Members of the Society, Dr. Chadbourne and Mr. Thayer, 
spoke as follows : — 

We can hardly claim, Gentlemen, any primary or principal 
part in the loss which has been sustained by our Common- 
wealth and country, since our last meeting, in the death of 
the Hon. Paul A. Chadbourne. Elected one of our Resident 
Members as recently as June, 1880, his name has been on our 
roll for less than three years; and I believe that we have only 
once enjoyed the satisfaction of welcoming him personally at 
our meetings. 

But we are not the less sensible, on that account, how 
important a life has been prematurely closed, and how varied 
and valuable have been his services to his fellow-men. With 
no early advantages of family, fortune, or education, he had 
earned a reputation for ability, energy, and learning, which 
cannot soon be forgotten. 

To have been selected as the successor of the accomplished 
and venerable Mark Hopkins, as President of Williams Col- 
lege, would alone have been a distinction of no common char- 
acter. But his service in that sphere, for nearly ten years, 
was only one of his many kindred services in the cause of edu- 
cation, science, and religion. His name is associated also with 
Madison University in Wisconsin, with Bowdoin College in 
his native State of Maine, and with the Massachusetts Agri- 
cultural College at Amherst, of which he was the President 
at his death. The honorary degrees both of Doctor of Laws 
and of Doctor of Divinity had been conferred upon him by 



1883.] DEATHS OF DB. CHADBOURNE AND MB. THAYEB. 107 

these or other institutions, while a service of two or three 
years in our State Senate had entitled him to the secular pre- 
fix by which he is designated on our roll. 

He died in New York, after a short illness, on the 23d of 
February last, in the fifty-ninth year of his age, leaving a deep 
sense of an unfinished career, from which much valuable fruit 
might still have been confidently expected. 

But death has come nearer home to us. Gentlemen, in the 
departure of our Associate Member, Mr. Nathaniel Thayer, 
who died yesterday morning, at his residence in this city, in 
the seventy-fifth year of his age. 

The son of one of the most distinguished Congregational 
clergymen of Massachusetts, and the younger brother and 
heir of one of the most eminent and successful bankers of our 
city, Mr. Thayer had long ago established his own individual 
title to be counted among the great financiers and benefactors 
of Boston. 

For many years a member of the corporation of Harvard 
University, he was the founder of one of its most spacious 
and costly halls, which will bear down his name, with those 
of his father and brother, to a grateful posterity, and which 
is only one of his numerous benefactions to that institution. 

A close and constant friend of the late beloved Louis 
Agassiz, he nobly volunteered to assume the whole expense 
of his most interesting and important scientific expedition to 
Brazil. 

More recently, in connection with our late valued associate, 
Dr. Chandler Robbins, he was one of the foremost founders 
and supporters of that Children's Hospital which has at 
length obtained a permanent home, and of which he was the 
President when he died. 

But these constitute but a small part of his contributions 
to the public welfare and to personal want ; and I should be 
in danger of doing injustice to his memory by any attempt, 
on this occasion, to recall and enumerate the varied objects of 
his bounty. The details of such a career must be left for the 
formal memoir, for which it is our custom to provide. 

Meantime his personal life and character have been known 
to us all, and we can all bear witness to the virtues and excel- 
lences which we have witnessed. Shut off for many months 
from the occupations of business and from the intercourse of 
friends by serious and exhausting illness, he bore his infirmi- 
ties and sufferings with a brave and patient spirit, and awaited 
that change which he and all around him had long antici- 



108 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

pated, but which came at last so suddenly, with a Christian's 
hope and faith in a blessed hereafter. 

I am instructed by the Council to submit the following 
Resolutions : — 

Resolved^ That the Massachusetts Historical Society have 
heard with deep regret of the deaths of their distinguished 
and respected associates, Hon. Paul Ansel Chadbourne and 
Nathaniel Thayer, Esq., and that memoirs of them be pre- 
pared for some future volume of our Proceedings. 

Resolved^ That the memoir of Mr. Thayer be committed to 
Dr. George E. Ellis, and that of Dr. Chadbourne to Professor 
Egbert C. Smyth. 

Dr. George E. Ellis, in seconding the first Resolution, 
said : — 

It is with reason that this Society bears on its charter list, 
of one hundred members, the names of men known and hon- 
ored among us for other services than those of chroniclers of 
past times or events, or of any form of authorship except that 
of good deeds. Such were among its founders nearly a cen- 
tury ago. Such have ever since been on its roll, as they are 
to-day. The Society lives by and lives for all the means and 
agents that foster intelligence, prosperity, patriotism, and all 
benevolent objects in this community. It gladly welcomes 
selected associates worthy and conspicuous in the manifold 
forms of high service for passing years or for all time to come. 
Those who write history, and those who do what will enter 
into history, need not weigh together their respective claims 
to membership. Among those who have sat in these halls, 
we recall the names of such as Perkins, Coolidge, Gardner, 
Welles, Tudor, Lawrence, Sears, Brooks, Mason, E. B. Bige- 
low, and others, whose works, other than those of research or 
chronicling of the past, none the less are historical, because 
of extended and permanent good. 

Mr. Thayer had been a member of this Society for nine- 
teen years. He certainly was not a familiar presence at our 
monthly meetings, but he kept himself well informed of our 
proceedings. In rare intervals of leisure from engrossing 
business cares of his own and of others, there were no vol- 
umes of which he so much enjoyed the perusal as those which 
go from these halls. Had he had time or taste for the use of 
his pen in narrative or history, he might have drawn from his 
own ledgers and letter-books a relation of the most authentic 



1883,] DEATH OF MR. THAYER. 109 

and extraordinary character of his own agency in the marvel- 
lous development of intercommunication and traffic in the 
middle and western sections of this country. Hazardous and 
anxious contingencies came in with some of the complications 
and fluctuations of these enterprises, but large success for 
himself and for others crowned the results. 

The best part of the record of every man's life is that of 
what he has done for others. Our community has been 
trained to stand in inquisition by the side of Death, which is 
the great Probate Judge, as it takes the keys and searches the 
safe and the pockets of every deceased rich man, to find out 
what he has given away, and to whom. Mr. Thayer antici- 
pated that inquisition. As soon as he realized the possession 
of very large means, he once said to me in words so strong and 
simple that they struck into my memory, "A power of money 
has come to me. If it is to make me happy, it will be by en- 
abling me to do good with it." The good he did with it was 
most varied and comprehensive in object and method. It had 
the largeness of the ocean in its patronage of the interests of 
the highest sciences, and it ran into every stream and little 
rill which feeds great charities or helps and cheers private 
and unknown beneficiaries. A costly scientific expedition, a 
munificently planned herbarium, a noble college hall, a stu- 
dents' refectory, a town library building, a whole ward of free 
beds in more than one hospital, signalize a list of donations 
from which probably not a single one of all our ingeniously 
special benedictive and benevolent agencies is omitted. Many 
who during his long debility were uncertain whether he still 
survived, were assured of the fact by the recognition of his 
generous response to some of the most recent appeals. The 
papers of the day which announced his decease found his 
name and gift on the last of them. He would wish the 
privacies of his large kindness to remain so. 

No tribute to Mr. Thayer, however brief or inadequate, 
may omit connecting him with the beautiful Nashua valley 
town of Lancaster, and with the grateful and affectionate 
regard of all who dwell there. It was his birtliplace, the 
scene of a happy boyhood, held by him to be his real home, 
for active work, rest, hospitality, and enjoyment for a great 
part of each year. Highways, farms, church, library, burial- 
ground, are all of them memorials of him. Filial veneration 
for his father, so long the pastor of the whole town, was the 
root of the bond which bound him there. The people in it 
who Avere old when he was young, and their children and 
children's children, growing on with his own years, seemed to 



110 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

him alike his father's parishioners. The farmers would come 
to the walls and fences of the fields as he was driving by over 
the old roads, welcoming his cheerful and kindly interest in 
their work and crops. The Boston banker always appeared 
at his best as the Lancaster farmer. 

The Rev. Dr. Peabody then spoke as follows : — 

Mr. President, — I cannot suffer the resolution before you 
to pass without paying my hearty, if inadequate, tribute to 
my dear friend, Mr. Thayer. I have never known a man who 
more truly lived to do good. He coined his own happiness 
from the happiness that he diffused. He seemed to assimilate 
into the substance of bis own joy all the joy he gave. Simple 
in his tastes and habits, he sought and prized wealth, that 
as employer, host, citizen, private and public benefactor, he 
might make the most generous and liberal investments in 
whatever could contribute to comfort, enjoyment, and well- 
being, whether among those near him, or among those, how- 
ever remote, whom his kindness could reach. I was his 
almoner in one of the many fields of his generous cave. I 
furnished, at his no small cost, the dining hall, built almost 
wholly at his charge nearly twenty years ago, designed to 
board at the lowest possible rate such students of Harvard 
College as could afford to pay no more. For twenty-one years 
of active service in the college faculty, I gave in his behalf 
whatever I saw fit to needy students, the only conditions 
being that I should not use his name, and that I should never 
leave a deserving applicant unaided. The subsidies thus be- 
stowed amounted to many more thousands of dollars than the 
years for which I was his agent in bestowing them. At the 
same time there were always in college, students — sons of 
clergymen with small salaries, of widows, of Lancaster men 
— whom he supported entirely and with the most liberal pro- 
vision. L\ his native town it is impossible to say in what 
conceivable form his beneficence has not been felt alike in its 
public institutions and in every home where there has been 
want or distress. There are few persons in the town iu need 
of counsel, sympathy, or aid, who have not ample reason to 
bless his memory, and there can hardly be a man, woman, or 
child within its borders who is not to-day a sincere mourner. 

From what has incidentally come to my knowledge during 
my long intimacy with him, I am led to regard his public 
benefactions as but a small part of his charity. Far-off kin- 
dred, when in necessity or tribulation, have been counted by 



1883.] DEATH OF MR. THAYER. Ill 

him as near relatives, and those of them who in their pros- 
perity hardly knew him, have in their adversity been sought 
out by him, and had his most assiduous ministries of mercy. 
There have been constantly those who could on no pretext 
whatever have laid claim to his bounty, whom he has relieved 
as soon as he knew them to be impoverished or straitened. I 
have made so many discoveries of this sort without any clew 
from him, that I have come to consider it as hard to conceal 
good deeds meant to be done in secret as it is to smother fire 
with linen garments. He had ever the profound feeling that 
his wealth was a stewardship for the service of God by serv- 
ing man, and his aim was not to prepare for an account in 
the far-off future, but day by day to render an account 
worthy to be entered in the book of eternal remembrance. 

With the munificence which has given him a justly hon- 
ored name in our whole community, and far beyond it, we 
who have known him cherish equally the memory of the 
quiet, modest virtues, the gentle, lovely, winning traits of 
character which made him unspeakably dear in the nearer 
circles of kindred and friendship, and of the Christian faith 
and principle which governed his active life, sustained him 
in infirmity and suffering, and poured the light of the eternal 
day on the death-shadow as it gathered over him. 

The following letter was received from the Rev. Dr. 
Lothrop: — 

12 Chestnut Street, March 8, 1883. 

My dear Mr. Winthrop, — I am exceedingly sorry not to be 
at the meeting of the Historical Society this afternoon, for as Mr. 
Thayer's death will be noticed, I should be glad to embrace the oppor- 
tunity of saying a few words about one whom I have known for nearly 
sixty-five years, whose memory will ever be pleasant to me, as to 
many others, and whose life and character I hold in reverence, honor, 
and gratitude ; but I feel that my first duty to-day is to be at my post 
as a member of the Standing Committee of the Massachusetts Society 
of the Cincinnati, when at our dinner and adjourned meeting this 
afternoon some important matters connected with our Centennial, 
which occurs in May, 1883, may come up for conversation and dis- 
cussion, and perhaps action. So please hold me excused. 
Ever faithfully yours, 



S. K. Lothrop. 



Hon. R. C. Winthrop, 

President of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 



The Resolutions were then unanimously adopted. 



112 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

The following committees were appointed in view of the 
approaching annual meeting : To nominate officers for the 
ensuing year, Messrs. Lodge, A. T. Perkins, and Chase ; to 
audit the Treasurer's account, Messrs. Cobb, Abbott Law- 
rence, and Lyman. 

Signor Cornelio Desimoni, Vice-President of the Histori- 
cal Society at Genoa, Italy, was elected a Corresponding 
Member of the Society. 

The Rev. Dr. Paige, in presenting to the Society a copy 
of his " History of Hard wick,'* said : — 

Mr. President, — It may be remembered by some of the 
gentlemen now present, that six years ago, on the eighth day 
of March, on which day I attained the age of seventy-five 
years, I presented a copy of my '' History of Cambridge " as a 
birthday offering. That work was undertaken as early as 
1841, and this Society, at the suggestion of the venerable Dr. 
Harris, kindly granted me permission to explore its treasures 
before I was admitted to membership. I commenced my task 
with earnestness and zeal, but not long afterwards I was 
made to believe it was my duty to lay it aside for a season, 
and to write a *' Commentary on the New Testament." While 
engaged on that long-continued labor, however, I embraced 
every opportunity, here and elsewhere, to collect materials, 
which, after many years, were arranged and combined ; and 
the " History of Cambridge '* was the result. My mind then 
reverted to another work contemplated in my early days, 
namely, a " History of Hard wick," my native town. To this 
labor I devoted such strength and ability as remained to me, 
and the History was substantially completed a year ago ; but 
various obstacles hindered its publication until now. It af- 
fords me great satisfaction, on the arrival of another birthday, 
to lay this volume on the table. It contains the first literary 
work projected by me, though it be the last which I have ac- 
complished ; even as my Commentary was the last projected 
and the first accomplished. 

I have been a member of this Society almost forty years, 
having been admitted May 30, 1844. I regret that during 
this long period I have contributed so little aid to the work 
in which it is engaged ; but I rejoice in the belief that I am 
not regarded as an altogether unprofitable associate. 

And now, Mr. President, having probably accomplished 
literally my last labor of any considerable importance, I have 
a painful impression that I ought to resign my membership, 
and give place to a younger and more active man. But I 



1883.] EABLY POETR AIT-PAINTERS IN BOSTON. 113 

confess myself hardly equal to such an act of self-denial. I 
am so selfish that I cannot yet quite resolve to surrender the 
privilege of attending our stated meetings, and looking upon 
the pleasant faces which surround this table, and listening to 
the voices which have so long and so often l3oth cheered and 
instructed me. Under such circumstances, I hope to be par- 
doned' if I cling a little longer to my present position, which 
affords me so much enjoyment in my old age. 

The President, in reply, said that it was not usual to make 
any formal acknowledgment of presents from members to 
the Library, but he was sure that, in this case, the Society 
would like to record a vote of thanks to Dr. Paige for his 
gifts of his '' History of Hardwick " to-day, and of his "History 
of Cambridge" six years ago. A vote of thanks proposed by 
the President was unanimously adopted. 

Communications from the Third Section having been called 
for, Mr. R. C. Winthrop, Jr., said : — 

I desire to call the attention of the Society to the present 
state of the evidence upon the somewhat vexed question as 
to how early in the Colonial period it can be proved that por- 
traits were painted in Boston. It would be easy for me, or 
any one else interested in the subject, to appear here with a 
long list of portraits fondly believed by their possessors to 
date from the early Colonial period, and to many of which 
interesting family traditions have become attached ; but we all 
know how untrustworthy such traditions are. Our volumes 
of Proceedings contain two formal communications on this 
subject, — the first, by Mr. Whitmore, in 1866, entitled 
" Early Painters and Engravers of New England." He begins 
by stating that " it has commonly been supposed that the earli- 
est portraits painted in New England, except possibly a few 
executed by amateurs, were those by Smibert," and he then 
proceeds to show that there was at least one earlier resident 
portrait-painter, namely, Peter Pelham, who was here some 
years before Smibert. Mr. Whitmore gives no authority for 
this implication that portraits anterior to Smibert and Pelham 
were by " amateurs," and it was perhaps only a conjecture. 
There is no difference that I am aware of between an ama- 
teur and a professional artist, except that the one paints for 
relaxation, and the other as a permanent or temporary means 
of livelihood ; and when we consider what very busy lives 
people led in Boston in the seventeenth century, it would 
certainly seem more probable that, if any portraits were then 

15 



114 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

painted here, the work was done rather for compensation than 
for amusement. 

The second communication on this subject was in 1867, and 
entitled ''The Alleged Portrait of Rev. John Wilson, with 
some Notices of other Early Portraits." It was read by Mr. 
Deane, but written by Dr. John Appleton, then Assistant- 
Librarian of this Society. After seriously impeaching the 
authenticity of the Wilson portrait, Dr. Appleton goes on to 
say : " It appears to be conclusively established that there was 
some one exercising the art of a ' limner ' in Boston before 
1667, as appears from Cotton Mather's statement in relation 
to Wilson." This statement was made in 1695, and, setting 
aside any question of Cotton Mather's accuracy. Dr. Apple- 
ton then proceeds to name four portraits which, after careful 
investigation, are believed to have been painted in Boston 
prior to 1680. They are — 

1. The portrait of Dr. John Clark, belonging to this So- 
ciety, by no means despicable as a work of art, and inscribed 
" ^TATis sUuE 66. ANN.suo.," at which time he is known 
to have been living in Boston. 

2. & 3. Two portraits of children named Gibbs, inscribed 
with their ages and the date 1670, and which have continued 
in possession of their descendants to the present time. 

4. The portrait of Increase Mather, sent by him to his 
brother Nathaniel, in Dublin, and acknowledged by the latter 
in a letter dated March 2, 1680. 

Besides these four cases, Dr. Appleton cites a letter written 
by Nathaniel Mather to his brother Increase, in March, 1684, 
introducing one Joseph Allen, who was about sailing for Bos- 
ton, and describing him as one who " by his own ingenuity 
and industry acquired good skill in watchmaking, clock- 
making, graving, and limning ; and his design in going to 
New England is, that he is under a necessity of earning his 
bread by practising his skill in some of those things." This 
was clearly no amateur, but it has not yet been possible to 
identify any portraits which he painted here. 

So far as I am aware, no new light was shed upon this sub- 
ject until the publication of the second volume of Judge 
Sewall's Diary, in which, at page 170, occurs the entry, 
familiar, doubtless, to some of us : — 

"Nov. 10, 1706. This morning, Tom Child the painter died. 

" Tom Child had often painted Death, 
But never to the Life before : 
Doing it now, he's out of Breath, 
He paints it once and paints no more." 



1883.] EARLY PORTRAIT-PAINTERS IN BOSTON. 116 

The editors of Sewall state that in Child's will, dated in 
1702, he is termed a painter-stainer, that Se wall's lines evi- 
dently imply he was a portrait-painter, and they add, '' Here 
may be the long-sought-for artist who preceded Peter 
Pelham." 

Finally, there appeared a year ago the fourth and last 
volume of the " Memorial History of Boston," the sixth 
chapter of which is devoted to an article on " The Fine 
Arts in Boston," by an accomplished gentleman and a partic- 
ular friend of mine, among whose varied tastes antiquarian 
research has never found a place, and who, I am firmly per- 
suaded, knows no more about the Puritans than he does 
about the Patagonians. Thus, the first page of an article 
which subsequently becomes interesting and valuable has 
apparently been evolved out of the writer's internal con- 
sciousness, in disregard or ignorance of the record. With 
one magisterial sweep of his pen he extinguishes Dr. Cotton 
Mather and his limner, Mr. William H. Whitmore and his 
amateurs, Dr. John Appleton and his four authenticated 
cases, Mr. Joseph Allen and Tom Child, — and he starts with 
the uncompromising and emphatic statement that " not until 
a hundred years after its foundation do we find any traces of 
art in Boston." A few paragraphs farther along, while telling 
his readers about John Smibert, a certain misgiving appears 
to have seized him, and he inserts a sort of parenthetical 
qualification that "perhaps Pelham may have done a few 
heads," and that it is " not certain" there may not have been 
other artists ; but he leaves the force of his original assertion 
unimpaired, and it is evident that Mr. Winsor, the learned 
editor of the Memorial History, perceived that his contribu:- 
tor was somewhat beyond his depth, as he came to his res- 
cue in a footnote, — a cautious footnote, — in which he says 
that there is " a surmise that one Tom Child was a still ear- 
lier limner of features," and adds, " See also some notes on 
presumably earlier portraits " in this Society's Proceedings 
for 1867, to wit. Dr. Appleton's article. The average 
general reader, however, pays little attention to footnotes, 
and still less takes the trouble of verifying the references in 
footnotes, so that, as I have reason to know, many persons 
have unhesitatingly accepted the statement that for the first 
hundred years not a trace of art can be found in Boston. 

Well, sir, I can perfectly well understand that sceptical per- 
sons — and scepticism is the fashion — may say, ''Oh, we put 
no faith in Cotton Mather ; we imagine Mr. Whitmore's ama- 
teurs to have been as unreal as the ghost of Banquo ; as to 



116 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOBICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

Dr. Appleton's cases, you cannot prove those dates on the 
Clark and Gibbs portraits were not put on after the event ; 
you cannot prove Dr. Increase Mather did not go privately 
to Europe, have himself painted, bring the portrait over here 
and send it back to his brother in Dublin; you cannot 
prove Joseph Allen ever handled a brush in Boston, or that 
Tom Child was more than a sign-painter." I am free to con- 
fess that we cannot now absolutely and conclusively prove 
any one of these facts ; but so many fresh sources of informa- 
tion develop themselves unexpectedly year by year, that I 
by no means despair of not only gradually establishing the 
accuracy of these instances, but of bringing to light many 
others. 

In the mean time, I desire to call the Society's attention to 
a little bit of evidence on this subject contained in the very 
last volume of the Society's Collections, — Part IV. of the 
Winthrop Papers, — which came out only a few months ago. 
The greater part of that volume is dry reading, and I dare 
say the passage I am about to quote has escaped notice. It 
is on page 500, in a letter from Wait Winthrop, then one of 
the judges in Boston, to his elder brother, Fitz-John Win- 
throp, at New London, in Connecticut. Under date of Oct. 
81, 1691, he says: ''If you could by a very careful hand, 
send the little picture of my grandfather, put carefully up in 
some little box, here is one would copy it for my cousin 
Adam ; the great one here in the town-house had some dam- 
age, especially in one of the eyes, and he desires to see that 
[the little one]." 

I may say, in explanation, that this " little picture " was a 
miniature of Governor Winthrop the elder, which is still in 
existence; that the "great one in the town-house " was 
evidently the portrait which has so long hung in the Sen- 
ate-chamber of Massachusetts ; and that the copy then about 
to be painted was in all probability the portrait now belonging 
to the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, to which 
it was given by a descendant of " cousin Adam," who was 
Mr. Adam Winthrop, a merchant of Boston. The most 
sceptical person will now not dispute that in 1691 there was 
at least one gentleman in Boston who had a fancy for a por- 
trait of his grandfather, who took some trouble to get it 
painted, and who found an artist to do it. The date is not 
as early as I wish it was, but it is between thirty and forty 
years before the period assigned in the Memorial History to 
the first trace of art in Boston, and it will be noticed that 
the request is mentioned rather as a matter of course and not 



1883.] 



EABLY PORTBAIT-PAINTERS IN BOSTON. 117 



as if the presence here of an artist were novel or unheard of. 
I may add, that when the writer of that letter died (many 
years later, it is true, but still long within the period in ques- 
tion), an inventory of his personal effects shows " eight pic- 
tures," obviously portraits, in his house in Boston; and as he 
died at a very advanced age, they had probably been long 
in his possession. He was by no means the richest man in 
town ; and if he, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, 
had eight portraits hanging on his walls, we may fairly sup- 
pose other leading citizens had as many, and that they were 
all painted in England is most improbable. 

I shall be very glad if gentlemen whose reading is more 
extensive than mine will furnish other and earlier evidence 
bearing upon this subject ; and if the Society will be patient 
with me a few minutes longer, I should like to call attention 
to one or two other passages in the article in the Memorial 
History from which I have already quoted. The writer's 
opening sentence is, '' A Puritan society was not favorable to 
art." There we are all agreed. I am not aware that art de- 
veloped itself more rapidly in Virginia than in Massachusetts, 
but the most ardent admirer of the New England Puritans 
would not venture to claim them as art-patrons. The first two 
lines of the sentence immediately following, however, caused 
me to rub my eyes. It begins, ''Men believing in a literal 
interpretation of the Scriptures frowned on every thing like 
graven images, and devoted themselves grimly to the work," 
and so forth. Taken in connection with what follows about 
there not being a trace of art here for a hundred years, and 
about portrait-painting being the first branch of art to spring up 
in a young country, the writer is apparently under the impres- 
sion that because the Puritans believed in a literal interpre- 
tation of the Bible and abhorred stained -glass and sculptured 
stone in places of worship, as reminding them of the Church 
of Rome which they hated and the church of Archbishop 
Laud which they feared, that therefore a Puritan gentleman 
would consider his grandmother's portrait a graven image, 
and shudder at the thought of possessing a likeness of his 
wife or daughter. Why, sir, many of us have visited the 
National Portrait Gallery in London, and some, at least, of 
the innumerable private collections scattered throughout the 
length and breadth of England, and we have seen hundreds 
of portraits, representing not merely Puritan soldiers, states- 
men, and divines, but private individuals of Puritan families, 
male and femalei I shall be happy to be corrected, but I 
have never seen a jot or tittle of evidence to show that Oliver 



118 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOKICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

Cromwell and John Milton were any less willing to have their 
features transferred to canvas than King Charles I. or Lord 
Clarendon was. The only difference I have ever been able to 
perceive between a Puritan and a Cavalier portrait is, that 
the former is ordinarily characterized by more sober apparel 
and fewer accessories; this, however, is not an invariable 
rule, and perhaps the most liberal display of neck and bosom 
I remember to have seen depicted was in a portrait of one 
of Oliver Cromwell's daughters. Take the leading Puritans 
who crossed the ocean to found these New England Colonies. 
There is an original portrait of John Endicott, which has 
always been in possession of his descendants ; there is a fine 
portrait of Sir Richard Saltonstall, of which a copy hangs on 
our staircase; I will not include the portraits of John Cotton, 
Thomas Dudley, or Francis Higginson, as the authenticity 
of all three has been disputed, but there is no doubt what- 
ever about those of the two John Winthrops, of Sir Harry 
Vane, of Winslow, Davenport, and others whom I will not 
take up time by mentioning. | 

One single quotation more. After stating that there was 
not a trace of art for one hundred years, the writer goes on : 
*' By that time the severe race of Puritans had passed away, 
the young Colony had prospered and drawn over from Eng- 
land many who had less sad views of life, w^ho saw no harm 
in fine clothes, and hung on the walls of their houses a few 
good pictures brought from their old homes." In other 
words, we are asked to believe that not only were no portraits 
painted here for a century, but that our ancestors were so 
severe that it took them one hundred years to consent to 
hang pictures brought from England on their walls, and that 
all this time the portraits of the Fathers of New England 
and their families were consigned to cellars and attics. 
Doubtless there were some fanatics, — there are fanatics in 
all parties and in all ages, — a sprinkling of men who could n't 
afford family portraits themselves and so thought it wrong in 
other people to have any, but that there was any wide-spread 
prejudice against them I confidently deny. There is con- 
temporary evidence that at Governor Winthrop's death, in 
1649, at least one portrait (his own) was hanging in his prin- 
cipal room, — it is almost certain there were others, — and 
there is no reason to suppose his house differed materially 
from the houses of other magistrates and elders. 

Then, again, as to dress. An ingenuous and unsuspecting 
reader, obtaining his or her first impressions of Puritan soci- 
ety from this article, would suppose it took us here in Boston 



1883.] EAELY POBTRAIT-PAINTERS IN BOSTON. 119 

one hundred years to develop a taste for fine clothes ; whereas, 
if the writer had taken the trouble to run his eye over Mr. 
Scudder's admirable article in an earlier volume of this same 
History, he would have seen that before our fathers had been 
four years on this peninsula that taste became so strong it 
had to be restrained by sumptuary laws ; and in 1651 it was 
enacted that no woman not enjoying property to the value of 
£200 should wear '' lace, or tiffany hoods, or scarves," and 
that no man worth less than that amount should wear gold 
or silver lace on his coat, knotted ribbon at his knees, &c. 
What the Puritans aimed at was not a general denunciation 
of what we should consider very fine clothes indeed, but to 
compel persons to dress according to their station in life, to 
prevent servant-girls from aping their mistresses, and young 
men from running up bills at their tailor's. And if any one 
undertakes to reply that these sumptuary laws were intended 
for what may be termed the outsiders in the Massachusetts 
Colony, and that the strictest Puritans delighted only in the 
plainest and saddest-colored raiment, I would say that who- 
ever will take the trouble to consult old inventories and mar- 
riage settlements will find the evidence largely the other way. 
I will give an instance in my own family, simply because it is 
always easier to quote one's own family, but I have no doubt 
I could find similar instances in other families. In an inven- 
tory of certain movables in Governor Winthrop's house in 
Boston, at the time of his death, I find such items as these : 
'* Two tufted velvet jerkins," " one scarlet cap," '^ two satin 
doublets," " one clothe of gold scarf," " two clothe of gold 
belts," (Sec. If the present Governor of Massachusetts were to 
walk down State Street in a scarlet cap, a tufted velvet jer- 
kin, and a cloth-of-gold scarf, we should certainly consider 
him a very un-Puritanical looking person ; yet this was appar- 
ently Governor Winthrop's Sunday-best, — a man renowned 
for the simplicity of his daily life, and a typical Puritan if 
there ever was one. 

I have detained the Society too long, and will only add 
that my reason for dwelling so much upon the article in the 
Memorial History is this. The forty-eight volumes of this 
Society's Collections are, to all intents and purposes, for spe- 
cial students. Setting aside the comic portions of Judge 
Sewall's Diary, the general reading public takes no more 
interest in them than in the sacred books of the Hindus ; 
whereas the Memorial History of Boston is not merely a 
great literary achievement and a monumental work of refer- 
ence, but it has attracted the attention of thousands who 



120 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

would be repelled by a purely antiquarian publication. They 
turn over its pages, look at the illustrations, read a little here 
and there, often obtaining their first impressions of the sub- 
ject, and it is very desirable such impressions should be well 
founded. The exceptional interest in art now prevailing in 
this neighborhood has caused this particular article to be, 
perhaps, more read than any other in the whole four volumes, 
and the passages to which I have called attention seem to me to 
convey some very erroneous ideas of the early Colonial period. 

Mr. Henry Lee then alluded to a portrait in his posses- 
sion of Major Thomas Savage, who came to New England 
from Taunton, Somersetshire, in 1635 and, so far as is known, 
never revisited his native country. It is a large three-quar- 
ter portrait, with numerous accessories, and, in one corner, 
a coat of arms and the inscription, " Anno 1679, ^T 73." 
A woodcut of it is given in the Memorial History of Boston, 
vol. i. p. 318, and there can be no doubt it was painted here. 

Mr. C. F. Adams, Jr., remarked, that in the old Adams 
mansion at Quincy, now the summer residence of his father's 
family, there were two very ancient oil-paintings, similar to 
those of the Gibbs children, and probably by the same hand. 
They came from the house at Mt. WoUaston, in Quincy, 
which Colonel John Quincy built and lived in, and which, 
abandoned as a dwelling-house early in the present century, 
was demolished about thirty years ago. John Adams came 
into possession of the property on the death of Norton Quincy, 
the son of John Quincy, in 1801, and going there one day 
some years later he found these pictures, then, like every 
thing else about the house, in a very neglected condition. 
He had them at once put into his carriage and took them 
home. But no better care was taken of them in his house 
than had been taken of them at Norton Quincy's, and it was 
probably some twenty-five years later that President J. Q. 
Adams one day carelessly gave the better of the two pictures 
to his daughter-in-law, the present Mrs. Charles Francis 
Adams, who subsequently had it restored. The other picture, 
then in a sadly damaged state, was not attended to until 
about 1850. 

The two apparently represent a mother and child ; the 
picture of the child being a work of some merit, and in a fair 
state of preservation. It represents an infant of two years 
of age, full length and life size, standing on a white and 
black checkered canvas carpet or painted floor, holding an 



1883.] EARLY POUTE. AIT-PAINTERS IN BOSTON. 121 

apple in one hand, which it points at with the other. The 
date is in the upper right-hand corner, and is apparently 
1670. The other picture is very inferior. It represents a 
young woman in a very stiff white dress, standing, and hold- 
ing a folded fan in her hand. It is perfectly conventional 
and uninteresting. There is no date. The two are unques- 
tionably portraits of members of the Quincy family. John 
Adams always asserted that the child's picture was a portrait 
of Colonel John Quincy, and that the other was the portrait 
of John Quincy's mother. She was a Shepard, daughter of 
the Rev. Thomas Shepard, of Charlestown, and she married 
Daniel Quincy, of Braintree, Nov. 9, 1682. The wedding 
was marked by a terribly tragic incident, of which Sewall 
gives an account (Coll. V. vol. vi. p. *18). In the midst of 
the festivities, the bride's aunt, Mrs. Brattle, was taken ill 
and died in her chair. '' At length out of the kitchen we 
carry the chair and her in it, into the wedding-hall ; and after 
a while lay the corpse of the dead aunt in the bride-bed. So 
that now the strangeness and horror of the thing filled the 
just now joyous house with ejulation. The bridegroom and 
bride lie at Mr. Ayres, son-in-law to the deceased, going away 
like persons put to flight in battle." There is also a mention 
of this incident in a letter of Samuel No well to John Richards 
of Nov. 9, 1682 (Coll. V. vol. i. p. 432). 

John Quincy was not born until 1689. As already men- 
tioned, the date on the picture of the child now looks like 
1670. The old-fashioned way of forming the figures is, how- 
ever, very deceptive, and it may be 1690. It is either the 
one or the other. The evidence of John Adams is tolerably 
direct. He married John Quincy's granddaughter, and was 
a frequent guest at his house. The two pictures were hang- 
ing there at that time, and were comparatively new. John 
Quincy could not but have known whose portraits they 
were, especially if one of them represented his own baby- 
hood. As he was born in 1689, the date of the painting 
would be fixed for 1690, and not 1670. It was from John 
Quincy and his wife that John Adams undoubtedly got his 
information, and the tradition of two hundred years is thus 
handed down through only two lives. In any event, there 
the two pictures are, and one of them is by no means bad as 
a work of art. As bearing upon the query just raised by Mr. 
Winthrop, there is no room at all for doubt that they were 
painted in Massachusetts in the latter part of the seventeenth 
century, and it is most reasonable to suppose that they were 
the work of either Tom Child or Joseph Allen. 

16 



122 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOEICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

Mr. GooDBLL spoke as follows : — 

Mr. President, — I know nothing about the conversation at 
our last meeting, concerning the execution of Mark and Phillis 
in 1755, beyond what was reported in the newspapers, but, 
as I minutely examined the records of the case several years 
ago, and as I do not think that a full account of this inter- 
esting trial has ever been published, I venture to call the 
attention of the Society to the details of this — the only case 
of petit treason, I believe, in the history of Massachusetts. 

It is not surprising that the execution of a woman, by burn- 
ing, so lately as when Shirley was governor, — a period when 
the province had greatly advanced in culture and refinement, 
— should seem to any one incredible. Indeed, even so critical 
and thorough a student of our provincial history as our late 
distinguished associate. Dr. Palfrey, once wrote to me inquir- 
ing if the rumor of such a proceeding had any foundation in 
fact, and if so, whether the execution took place according to 
law, or by the impulse of an infuriated mob. It gave me 
great satisfaction to be able to settle his doubts on this subject 
by referring him to the records of the Superior Court of Judi- 
cature, where the judgment, from which I shall presently read 
to you, and a copy of which I sent to him, appears at length. 

The subject is important at this day only as serving to de- 
fine the nature of the " cruel and unusual punishments " pro- 
hibited by the thirty-first article of the Declaration of Rights, 
in our state Constitution, since this mode of punishment, hav- 
ing continued after the adoption of the Constitution, cannot 
have been considered by the framers of that instrument either 
as " cruel " or " unusual" in the sense in which they used these 
words. 

The particulars of the crime for which the malefactors, 
Mark and Phillis, were executed are briefly as follows : Cap- 
tain John Codman, a thrifty saddler, sea-captain, and mer- 
chant, of Charlestown, was the owner of several slaves whom 
he employed either as mechanics, common laborers, or house 
servants. Three of the most trusted of these, Mark, Phillis, 
and Phebe, — particularly Mark, — found the rigid discipline 
of their master unendurable, and, after setting fire to his 
workshop some six years before, hoping by the destruction 
of this building to so embarrass him that he would be obliged 
to sell them, they, in the year 1755, conspired to gain their 
end by poisoning him to death. 

In this confederacy some five or six negroes belonging to 
other owners were more or less directly implicated. Mark, 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 123 

the leader, was able to read, and signed his examination, here- 
after referred to, in a bold, legible hand. He professed to 
have read the Bible through, in order to find if, in any way, 
his master could be killed without inducing guilt, and had 
come to the conclusion that according to Scripture no sin would 
be committed if the act could be accomplished without blood- 
shed. It seems, moreover, to have been commonly believed 
by the negroes that a Mr. Salmon had been poisoned to death 
by one of his slaves, without discovery of the crime. So, 
application was made by Mark, first to Kerr, the servant of 
Dr. John Gibbons, and then to Robin, the servant of Dr. Wm. 
Clarke, at the North End of Boston, for poison from their 
masters' apothecary stores, which was to be administered by 
the two women. 

Essex, the servant of Thomas Powers, had also furnished 
Mark with a quantity of " black lead " for the same purpose. 
This was, unquestionably, not the harmless plumbago to which 
that name is now usually given, but galena, or plumbum ni- 
grum^ a native sulphuret of lead, probably used for a glaze by 
the potters of Charlestown. 

Kerr declined to have any hand in the business; but Robin 
twice obtained and delivered to Mark a quantity of arsenic, of 
which the women, Phebe and Phillis, made a solution which 
the}'' kept secreted in a vial, and from time to time mixed with 
the water-gruel and sago which they sometimes gave directly 
to their victim to eat, and at other times prepared to be inno- 
cently administered to him by one of his daughters. They also 
mixed with his food some of the ''black lead," which Phillis 
seems to have thought was the efficient poison, though it ap- 
peared from the testimony that he was killed by the arsenic. 

The crime was promptly traced home to the conspirators ; 
and on the second day of July, the day after Captain Cod- 
man's death, a coroner's jury found that he died from poison 
feloniously procured and administered by Mark. Ten days 
later, Quaco, — the nominal husband of Phebe, and one of the 
negroes implicated, — who was the servant of Mr. James Dal- 
ton, of Boston, was examined before William Stoddard, a jus- 
tice of the peace, and on the same day Robin was arrested 
and committed to jail. The examination of Quaco was fol- 
lowed by the examination of Mark, and of Phillis, later in 
the month. These last were taken before the Attorney- 
General and Mr. Thaddeus Mason. 

At the term of the " Superiour Court of Judicature, Court 
of Assize, and General Goal Delivery," held at Cambridge 
on the second Tuesday of August following, the grand jury 



124 



MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. 



[Mar. 



found a true bill for petit treason against Phillis, and against 
Mark and Robin as accessories before the fact. As this is the 
only indictment for this offence known to have been found 
in Massachusetts, and was drawn by that eminent lawyer, 
Edmund Trowbridge, then Attorney-General, it is worthy of 
being preserved in print, in connection with the coroner's ver- 
dict and the examinations of the suspected parties, which are 
as follows : — 

[^Coroner's Inquest,'] 

[Two-penny "I __ 
stamp. J Middlesex ss. 

An Inquisition Indented, Taken at Charlestown Within the County 
of Middlesex Aforesaid the Second day of July in the Twenty ninth 
year of the Reign of our Lord George the Second by the Grace of 
God, of Great Britain France and Ireland, King Defender of the 
Faith &f, before John Remington Gentleman one of the Coroners of 
our said Lord the King, Within the County of Middlesex Aforesaid ; 
upon view of the Body of John Codman of Charlestown Aforesaid 
Gentleman then and there Being dead by the oaths of Josiah White- 
more, Samuel Larkip, Samuel Larkin Junf Richard Deavens, William 
Thompson, Nathaniel Brown, Samuel Kettle, John Larkin, Thomas 
Larkin, David Cheever, Barnabas Davis, Edward Goodwin, Benja- 
min Brazier, Samuel Sprague, Richard Phillips, Samuel Hendley and 
Michael Brigden Good and Lawfull men of Charlestown Aforesaid 
Within the. County Aforesaid ; Who being Charg'd and Sworn to In- 
quire for our said Lord the King, When, and by What means, and how 
the Said John Codman Came to his Death — upon their Oaths do Say 
that the said John Codman Came to his death By Poison Procured by 
his negro man servant Mark Which he took and Languishd untill the 
first of July Current and then died and so the Jurors Aforesaid upon 
their oaths do Say, that Aforesaid Mark in manner and Form Afore- 
said, the Aforesaid John Codman then and there feloniously did Poison 
against the peace of our Soverign Lord the King his Crown and 
Dignity — 

In Witness, Whereof, as Well I the Coroner Aforesaid, as the 
Jurors Aforesaid, to this Inquisition have Interchangeably put our 
hands and Seals, the day And year Abovesaid. 



RiCH^ Phillips 
Sam^^ Kettell 
John Larkin 
Samuel Larkin Jn? 
William Thompson 
Thomas Larkin 
Richard Devens 



Seal.' 
Seal.; 
Seal. 
Seal.^ 
^Seal.' 
'Seal.^ 
^Seal.' 



John Remington Coroner 
Josiah Whittemore 
Sam^ Hendly 
MicH^^ Brigden 
Nath^^ Brown 
David Cheever 
Sam^^ Larkin 
Benjamin Brazier 
Barnabas Davis 
Samuell Sprague 
EdwP Goodwin 



;Seal. 
Seal. 

;seai.; 

Seal. 
Seal. 
;Seal. 
Seal. 
Seal. 
Seal.^ 
Seal.' 
Seal' 



1883.] THE MUKDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 125 



\_Examination of Quaco,"] 

On the 12*^ July 1755. was Examined Quacoe a Negro man be- 
longing to M' James Dalton of Boston Victualler He s^ Quacoe says 
that some time the last winter one Kerr a Negro man belonging to 
Doctf Jn° Gibbons came to the s^ Quacoe & told him that Mark 
belong? to M' Codman had Been w*!" him to get some Poyson and 
the s'f Quaco says that Ker told him that Mark asked the sf Kerr 
whither Phoebe had been w*^ him for said Poyson. The said Quacoe 
also says that he Spoke to Phoebe M"" Codman's negro woman whom he 
called his Wife & told her not to be Concerned with Mark for that she 
would be Brought into Trouble by him, for that Mark had been wl^ Kerr 
Gibbons to get Poyson, & had askt s*^ Kerr whither Phoebe had not 
been w*^ him for s*^ Poyson. The s^ Quacoe also says that the above 
discourse w*^ Phoebe was when they were going to Bed the Saturday 
night after the discourse had w*^ Kerr Gibbons. He also says that 
he charged her not to be concerned w*^ Mark about Poyson on any 
acco* whatever. 

The above Examination Taken on the 12*? July 1755 at Boston 

f W^ Stoddard J Pacts 



^Mittimus against Bohin,'] 
Suffolk ss: 

To The Keeper of His Majestys Goal in Boston and to the Consta- 
bles of Boston Greeting — 

I herewith Comit to you MT Constable Pattin the Body of 
Robin a Negro man belonging to Df William Clarke of the 



L. s. 



North End of Boston, who is this day Charged w*^ being Concerned 
in the Poysoning of the late MT John Codman of Charles Town 
Deceased. Take Care of him and deliver him to The Keeper of His 
Majestys Goal in Boston ; and you the s^ Keeper are hereby Com- 
manded to Receive the Body of the Said Robin and him Safely Keep 
untill he shall be discharged by Due Course of Law, 

Given under my hand and Seal at Boston the Twelfth day of July 
anno Domini 1755 and in the Twenty ninth Year of the Kings 
Reign. 

W^ Stoddard, Just: Pacts. 



[^Examination of PhillisJ] 
MiDD* ss : 

The Examination of Phillis a negro Servant of John Codman late 
of Charlstown deceased taken by Edmund Trowbridge and Thaddeus 
Mason Esq" at Cambridge in the County of Middlesex the 26*.^ Day 
of July Anno Domini 1755. And y® 2*^ of Aug* following — 



126 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOBICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

Quest^. Was Mf John Codman late of Charlstown deed, your 
Master ? 

Answ'', Yes he was. 

Ques*. How long was you his servant ? 

Answ"". He my said Master bought me when I was a little girl and 
I continued his servant untill his Death. 

Quest^. Do you know of what sickness your said master died ? 

Answer, I suppose he was poisoned. 

Ques*. Do you know he was poisoned ? 

Answ^, I do know he was poisoned. 

Qties*. What was he poisoned with ? 

AnswT—li was with that black lead. 

Ques', what black Lead is it you mean ? 

Answ^. The Potter's Lead. 

Ques^. How do you know your s^ master was poisoned with that 
Lead? 

Ansvf, Mark got some of the said Potter's Lead from Essex Pow- 
ers and my young mistress Molly found some of the same Lead in the 
Porringer that my Master's Sagoe was in, he complain'd it was gritty ; 
and that made Miss Molly look into the Porringer, and finding the 
Lead there, she ask'd me what it was, I told her I did not know. — I 
cleaned the Skillet the Sagoe was boiled in and found some of the 
same stuff in the bottom of the skillet that was in the bottom of the 
Porringer. And presently after Mark was carried to Goal, Tom 
brought a Paper of the Potter's Lead out of the Blacksmith's Shop, 
which he said he found there; and I saw it and am sure it was the same 
with that which Was in the bottom of the Porringer and the Skillet. 

Quest. Do you know that any other Poison besides the Potter's 
Lead was given to your s^ master ? 

Ansvf, Yes. 

Quest. What was it? 

Answ"^, It was Water which was poured out of a Vial. 

Quest, How do you know that, that Water was Poison? 

Answ'', There was a White Powder in the Yial, which Sunk to the 
Bottom of it. — 

Quest, Do you know who put the Powder into the Yial ? 

Answ^, I put the first Powder in. 

Quest, Where did you get that Powder ? 

Answ^, Phebe gave it to me up in the Garret, ihQ Sabbath Day 
morning before the last Sacrament before my master dyed, and Phoebe 
at the same time told me Mark gave it to her. 

Ques*. What was the Powder in when Phoebe gave it you? 

Answer, It was in a White Paper, folded up Square, both ends being 
turn'd up, & it was tyed with some Twine. 

Quest, How much Powder was there in the Paper? 

Answ^. There was a good deal of it I believe near an ounce. 

Quest, Did you put all that Powder into the Yial ? 

Answ^, No, I put in but a little of it, only so much as lay on the 
Point of a narrow Piece of flat Iron, with which I put it in, which Iron 



1883.] 



THE MUKDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 127 



Mark made & gave it to me to give to Phebe, Mark gave me the s^ Iron 
the Saturday before the Sabbath afores^. I ask'd him what it was for, 
he would not tell me; he said Robbin gave him one, and he had lost it; 
and that he himself went into the shop and made this. I gave the 
s* Iron to Phoebe that same afternoon, in the Kitchen ; and the next 
morning she gave it to me in the Garret, and Quaco was there with 
her ; she whispered to me and told me to take the Paper of Powder 
which was in the hollow over the Window, and the flat Iron which was 
with it and put some of it into the Yial with the Iron which I did ; and 
she bid me put some water into it, but I did not; but she afterwards 
put some in herself, as she told me, and she put it into the Closet in the 
Kitchen in a Corner behind a black Jug ; and the same Vial was kept 
there untill my master dyed. 

Quest. Had your Master any of that Water which was put into the 
said Vial given to him? 

Answ'^, Yes he had. 

QuesK How was it given to him ? 

Answ^, It was poured into his barly Drink and into his Infusion, 
and into his Chocalate, and into his Watergruel. 

Quest, Who poured the Water out of the s*^ Vial into the Chocalate? 

Answ''. Phoebe did, and Master afterwards eat it. 

Quest. Who pour'd it into his barly Drink ? 

Ansvf. I did it myself ; I pour'd a drop out of the Vial into the 
barly Drink, & I felt ugly, and pour'd the Water out of the mug again 
off from the Barly, and put clean Water into the mug again & cover'd 
it over that it might boil quick. 

Quest. Who pour'd the Water out of the Vial into the Infusion ? 

Ansvf. Phoebe did. 

Quest. How do you know it? 

Ansuf. I came into the Kitchen and saw her do it. 

Quest. Did your master drink the Infusion after that water was so 
pour'd in ? 

Answ''. He drank one Tea Cup full of it. 

Quest. How do you know that Phoebe poured any of the poisoned 
Water out of the Vial into your Master's Chocalate ? 

Answ''. She told me she had done it. 

Quest. When did she tell you so ? 

Ansvtf. That Same Day. 

Quest. Was it before or after your Master eat that Chocalate that 
the poison'd Water was pour'd into, that She told you so ? 

Answ^, Before he eat it. 

Quest. Did you see him eat that Chocalate ? 

Answ'^. Yes, I did, he eat it in the Kitchen on a little round Table. 

Quest. Who put the Second Powder into the Vial ? 

AnsW. Phoebe put it in ; I left Part of the Powder she gave me in 
the Paper, and she afterwards put that into the Vial as she told me. 
as I was in the cellar drawing some Cyder, I heard Phoebe tell Mark 
that the Powder was all out, and all used up ; 

Quest, When was it that you heard Phoebe tell Mark so ? 



128 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

Answ^. The Wednesday before my master dyed. 

Quest. Do you know of any more Powder being got to give to your 
master ? 

Answer, Yes, but master never took any of it. 

Quest Who got this last Powder ? 

Answ^. Mark got it. 

Quest, What did he do with it ? 

Answ'', He gave it to me ; in our little House. 

Quest, What Sort of Powder was it that Mark gave You ? 

Ansvf, I[t ?] was white the same as the first. 

Quest, What was it in ? 

Answ^, In a Peice of Paper ; he had more of that Powder than he 
gave me, it was in a Paper folded up in a long Square, he tore off Part 
of that Paper, and put Some of the Powder into it, and gave it to me 
and kept the rest himself, and at the same time that he gave it to me 
he told me that Robbin said we were damn'd Fools we had not given 
Master that first Powder at two Doses, for it wou'd have killed him, 
and no Body would have known who hurt him, for it was enough to 
^kill the strongest man living ; upon which I ask'd Mark how he knew, 
it would not have been found out, he said that Mr. Salmon's Negros 
poison'd him, and were never found out, but had got good masters, & 
so might we. 

Quest, What did you do with that Powder which Mark gave you ? 

Answ^, I put it into the Vial, & set it in the Same Place it was in 
before, there was some of the first Powder & Water remaining in the 
Vial when I put this last in. 

Quest. Do you know that any of the Water that was in the Vial 
iafter you put this last Powder in was given to your Master ? 

Answ^, No, he never had a drop of it. The next Day after Master 
died Mark came into the Closet where I was eating my Dinner and 
ask'd me for that Bottle, I ask'd him what he wanted it for, and he 
would not tell me, but insisted upon having it, upon which I told him 
that it was there behind the Jugg, and he took it and went directly 
down to the Shop in the yard, and I never saw it afterwards 'till Justice 
Mason shew it to me, on the Fast Day night. 

Quest, Do you know where Mark got that Powder which he gave 
to you ? 

Answ'^, He had it of Robbin, Doc*'' Clark's Negro ; that liv'd with 
Mr. Vassall. 

Quest. How do you know that Mark had that Powder of Robbin ? 

Answ^. The Thursday night before my master died Mark told me 
he was going over to Boston to Robbin to get some more Powder for 
he sf Phoebe told him y* the other was all out ; and Mark went over 
to Boston, and return'd again about nine o' Clock ; and I ask'd Mark 
if he had got it, and he told me no, he had not, but Robbin was to 
bring it over the next night ; and between 8 & 9 o'Clock that next 
night, a negro Fellow came to me in our Yard & ask'd me for Mark, 
And I ask'd him his name but he would not tell me, and I said to 
him, Countryman, if you'l tell me your name PU call Mark, for I know 



1883.] THE MURDEK OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 129 

where he is, but he would not, I then askt him if he was not 
Robbin Vassall, (for I mistrusted it was he) and upon that he laughed 
and said his name was not Robbin Vassall, but he came out of the 
Country and wanted to see Mark very much about his Child ; and 
upon my refusing to tell him where Mark was the negro went away 
down to the Ferry, and I followed him at some distance & saw him go 
into the Ferry Boat, and the Boat put off, with him in it. That same 
Fryday, in the afternoon, Mark told me, if any Negro Fellow shou'd 
come ; & say that he came out of the Country to call him, I ask'd 
him what negro it was that he expected wou*d come ; he told me it 
was Robbin, and that he was to say that he came out of the Country 
to speak with Mark about his Child, and bid me tell no Body 
about it. 

Quest, Do you know Robbin DoctT Clark's negro? 

Answ^, I do, and have known him for many years. 

Quest. How then happeu'd it that you cou'd not certainly tell 
whether the negro afores^ that askt for Mark was Robbin or not ? 

Answ^, Because it was dark. So dark I cou'd not see his Face so 
as certainly to know him, but I am fully satisfied it was Robbin. 

Quest, What Reason have you to be satisfyed it was Robbin ? 

Answ'', That same night I told Mark that a negro Fellow had been 
there and ask'd for him & wanted him, he ask'd me why I did not call 
him, I told him our Folks called me and I could not, Mark told me 
he was very Sorry I did not, and asked me if he gave me any Thing, 
I told him he did not, he said he was very sorry he did not ; then I 
ask'd him who it was, and he said it was Robbin, and then he told me 
that he thought Robbin & he had been playing blind-mans BufF, for 
they had been over the Ferry twice that night and mist one another ; 
and that Elij^ Phipps & Tirao Rand told him that a negro Fellow 
had been over the Ferry to speak with him about his Child. And 
then Mark told me he would the next Night go over to Robbin and 
get some more of the same Powder, and would bring it over on the 
Sabbath Day, & he went to Boston on the Saturday night, but did 
not return till Monday morning, when he brought it and gave it to me 
in the little House, as I told you before. 

Quest, Did you see Robbin at Charlstown in the Time of your 
master's sickness or about the Time of his Death ? 

Answ'', Yes, I saw him on y® Tuesday the Ship was launched, 
when my master catch'd Mark buying Drink at M" Shearman's to treat 
him with, & drove him away ; and I saw him at Charlstown on the Sat- 
urday after my Master was buried ; but I did not speak with him at 
either of those Times. The Tuesday he was before our Shop Door, in 
the Street, with Mark and had a Bag upon his shoulder ; and on the 
Saturday in the afternoon I saw him going up the Street by our House, 
while Phoebe and I were washing in the back yard ; I told Phoebe 
there was Robbin a going along this minit, and she said is he? and 
ask'd me what Cloaths he had on ; I told her he had a bluish Coat on 
lined with a straw coloured or yellow lining and the Cuffs open 
& lined with the said Yellow lining, and that he had a black wigg on ; 

17 



130 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

and I told Phoebe I believed he was gone up to Mark to tell him not 
to own that he had given any Thing to him, and Phoebe said she 
believed so to; and I went into the street to the Pump with a Pail to 
get some Water, designing to see whether he went that Way, and I 
saw him go right up the main street, and I could see him as far up as 
Mr. Eleazer Phillips's, and I did not see him afterwards. I never see 
him with a Wigg on before, but as he went by us he look'd me full in 
the Face and 1 knew it was Robbin. When I told Phoebe that 
Robbin was going by, I thought she saw him, but she questioned 
whether it was he, and I told her I was sure it was he, for I had 
known him ever since he was a boy, and I told her I would lay a 
mug of Flip that it was he, but she wou'd not ; and then it was that I 
told her I believed he was gone up to Mark &c. 

Quest, Do you know what Powder that was which Mark & Phoebe 
gave you, and you put into the Vial ? 

Answ^. Mark told me it was Ratsbane, but I told Phoebe I be- 
lieved Mark lied & that it was only burnt allom, for I told her, that 
upon taking Ratsbane they would directly swell, and Master did not 
swell ; and she said she believed so to. 

Quest. How many Times was any of that Water, which was in the 
Vial afores*^, put into your master's victuals ? 

AnsW, Not above Seven Times. 

Quest. When was the first Time ? 

Answ^. The next Monday morning after Phoebe gave me the first 
Powder, then it was put into his Chocalate, by Phoebe. The next was 
also put in to his Chocalate by Phoebe on the next Wednesday morning, 
and I thinking she put in more than she should, told her her hand was 
heavy, and there was no more put in, that, I know of till the next 
Fryday, when Phoebe put some into his Chocalate, and my Master eat 
the Chocalate all the three times aforesaid in the Kitchen, and I was 
there & saw him ; The next was on the Saturday following, when I put 
Some into his Watergruel, but I felt ugly and threw it away, and made 
some fresh, and did not put any into that. The next was on the after- 
noon of the same Saturday, I made him some more Watergruel & 
pour'd some of the Water out of the Vial into it, and it turned yellow, 
and Miss Betty, ask'd me what was the matter with the Watergruel 
and I gave her no answer; but that was thrown away, and more fresh 
made, and Miss Molly was going to put the same Plumbs in again, and 
Phoebe told her not to do it, but she had better put in some fresh 
Plumbs, and she did ; and no Poison was put into that ; It was by 
Phoebe's advice that I put it into the first this afternoon. And he had 
no more, that I know of 'till the next Monday night, when Mark put 
some of the Potter's Lead into Masters Sagoe. 

Quest. How do you know that Mark put any of the Potter's Lead 
into the Sagoe ? 

Ariswer. When I went out of the Kitchen I left the Sagoe in the 
little Iron Skillet on the Fire, and no body was in the Kitchen then, 
but when I returned, Mark was Sitting on a Form in the Corner, and 
I afterwards found Some of that Lead in the Skillet, and neither 
Phoebe nor I had any Such Lead. 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 131 

Quest. Do you know of any other Poison prepared for, or given to 
your Master ? 

AnsW, No, I do not. 

Quest Who was it that first contrived the poisoning your Master 
Codman ? 

Answ^, It was Mark who first contrived it, He told Phoebe and I 
that he had read the Bible through, and that it was no Sin to kill him 
if they did not lay violent Hands on him So as to shed Blood, by 
sticking or stabbing or cutting his Throat. 

Quest. When was it that Mark first proposed the poisoning his 
Master ? 

Answ^. Some time last Winter ; he proposed it to Phoebe and I, 
but we would not agree to it, and told him. No Such Thing should be 
done in the House ; This before my Master brought him home from 
Boston. 

Quest. Did he ever afterwards propose the poisoning his s*^ Master? 

Answ^. Yes he did, a Week or a Fortnight after my Master brought 
him home from Boston, he proposed it to me first, and I would not 
agree to it, and then he proposed it to Pha;be. 

Quet. Wliat Reason did Mark give for poisoning his Master ? 

Answ. He said he was uneasy and wanted to have another Master, 
and he was concerned for Phoebe and I too. 

Quest. Do you know how your Master's Work house that was 
burnt down came on Fire ? 

Answ''. Yes I do. 

Quest. How came it on fire ? 

Ansio''. I set it on fire, but it was thro' Mark's means, he gave me 
no rest 'till I did it. 

Quest. How did you Set your Master's Work House on fire ? 

Answ^. I threw a Coal of Fire into some Shavings between the 
Blacksmith's Shop & the Work House, and I went away & did not 
see it kindle. 

Quest. Who put the Shavings there ? 

Answ'', Mark did. 

Ques*. Was any Body concern'd in the burning the Work house 
besides Mark and you ? 

Answ^. Yes, Phoebe knew about it as w^ell as I. 

Quest. W^here was Phoebe & Mark when you put the Coal of Fire 
into the Shavings ? 

Answ'\ The were up Garret in bed. 

Quest. Who first proposed the Setting the Workhouse on fire ? and 
what reason was given for doing it ? 

Answ"". Mark first proposed it, to Phoebe and I ; and the Reason he 
gave us was that he wanted to get to Boston, and if all was burnt 
down, he did not know what Master could do without selling us. 

Quest. Why did you, when Phoebe pour'd Some of the Water out 
of the Vial into the Chocalate tell her, " her hand was heavy ? " 

AnsW, I thought she pour'd in too much, more than she should I 
felt ugly and I wan't willing she shou'd put in so much and that he 



132 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

should be kilFd so quick. Mark's orders were to give it in two Doses, 
that was the Directions Robbin gave to Mark, as Mark told me, and 
Mark Said Robbin told him there was no more taste in it than in Cold 
Water. 

Qicest Why did you not tell your Master or some of the Family 
that Phoebe had poisoned the Chocalate, and thereby prevent your 
Master's eating it ? 

Ansvf, I do not know why I did not tell. 

The mark of X Phillis. 



[^Examination of Marh'] 
Middlesex ss : 

The Examination of Mark a Negro Servant of John Codman late 
of Charlstown deceased taken by Edmund Trowbridge & Thaddeus 
Mason Esq? at Charlstown in the County of Middlesex the 
Day of July Anno Dom : 1755. 

Quest, What is your name? 
Answ^, Mark. 

Quest. Are you a Servant or Freeman ? 

Ansvf, A Servant. Mf John Codman decf was my master. 

Quest, How long was you his Servant? 

Ansvf, For several Years before & untill his Death. 

Quest, Do you know what occasioned your s? Master's Death ? 
Ansvf, He was poisoned. 

Q, What was he poisoned with ? 

A, With Poison that came from the Doctor's. 

Q, What Doctor ? 

Ansvf, Doctr Clark that lives at the North End of Boston. 

Q, What sort of Poison was that? 

A. It was a White Powder put up in a Paper. 

Q, How do you know that that Powder came from Doctf Clark's ? 
A, Robbin the Negro Fellow that belongs to Doctf Clark gave it 
to me. 

Q, When & where did Robbin give you that Powder ? 
An, A Week Day night, at his Master's Barn. 

Qu, Was there any Person present with you when Robbin gave you 
that Powder? 

An. No. The first Time, the negro man his fellow Servant called 
him out, it was in the Evening near 9 o'Clock. 

Qu, How many Times had you such Powder of Robbin ? 

An, Twice only. 

Qu, When was the last Time you had any such Powder of him ? 

An, The Sabbath Day night before my sf Master died, in the Even- 
ing after Candle Light. 



1883.] 



THE MURDER OF CAPTAJ:N CODMAN. 133 



Qu. Where was it you had this last Powder of him, and what was 
it in ? 

An, He gave it to me in the same Barn, it was done up in a long 
square in two Papers, the outtermost Pape^r was brown and the iner- 
most Paper was White, as the other was. 

Qu, What did Robbin give you these Powders for ? 

An, To kill three Pigs belonging to Quaco as Phoebe told me. 

Qu, How long ago was it Since Robbin gave you the first of these 
Powders ? 

An, I can't certainly tell. 

Qu, Was it before Robbin & you wenj together at John Harris 
y® Potters Work house ? 

Ans^, I think it was before. 

Qu, How long before was it ? 

Ans^, About a Week before. 

Qu, Did you pay Robbin any Thing for these Powders ? 

An, No. I did not. 

Q, What did you do with them ? 

Ans, Phoebe had the first ; and she sent Phillis for the second and 
I gave it to her. 

Qu, When & where did you give Phoe be the first Paper of that 
Powder ? 

An, In our Garret ; the same night I brought it over. 

Qu, Was any Body there when you gave it to her ? 

An, No. 

Qu, What did she do with it ? 

An, She took it & put it upon the Table. 

Qu, Did you give her the whole of the l^owder you had of Robbin 
the first Time ? 

An, Yes. I gave her the Paper with all the Powder in it, as I 
received it of Robbin. 

Qu, Did you tell her what was in the Paper ? 

An, No. She knew what was in it ; for she told me what to get. 

Qu. What did she tell you to get ? 

An, Something to kill three Pigs. 

Qu, Did Robbin give you any Directions how to use that Powder, 
and tell you what Effect it would have ? 

Ans, He told me to put it into about 2 Quarts of Swill or Indian 
meal, and it would make 'em swell up. 

Qu, Did you tell her how she must use tlie Powder ? or what Effect 
it would have ? 

Ansvf, yes I told her as Robbin told me. 

Qu. Do you know whether she used that Powder or any Part of it? 

Ansvf, no otherwise than as Phoebe & Phillis told me Since my 
master's Death. 

Qu, Who did you give the Second Papei!* of Powder to ? 

An, To Phillis. 

Qu, When & where did you give that Paper of Powder to Phillis ? 

Ans, In the little House ; She came to empty a Pot over the 



134 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

WharlBfe, and I gave it to her, The Monday before my s? Master died, 
after Breakfast in the Forenoon. 

Qu : Did you then give her all the Powder you rec^ of Robbin the 
Second Time ? 

Ans. Yes. I to/)k o"ff the brown Paper and gave it to her in the 
white Paper, that it was in, when Robbin gave it to me. 

Qu, What did she do with it ? 

Ansvf. She caried it into the House to Phoebe as Phillis told me, 
She came to me & told me Phoebe sent her for that Thing that She 
sent me for, and thereupon I gave Phillis the Paper. 

Qu : How was your Master poisoned with these Powders ? 

Answ"". Phoebe & Phillis told me that they used them for that End. 

Qu : When did they tell you this ? 

Answ'^, The next Day after my master died. 

Q : Were they together when they told you So ? 

Answ^, No, Phillis told me of it first, and said that Phoebe used 
all that I brought first, that Way ; and that the last was used so too by 
her and Phoebe ; and then I went to Phoebe and ask'd her about it, 
and She denyed it at first but when I told her that Phillis had told me 
all about it, then she owned it. 

Ques* Had you no Reason before your s? master dyed to think that 
the Powders you had of Robbin were given to your master or that he 
was poison'd therewith ? 

Answ'', No other Reason than hearing Phoebe the Saturday night 
before master died ask Phillis, if she had given him enough, to which 
she replyed, yes. I have given him enough, and will stick as close to 
him as his shirt to his back ; but who she meant I did not then know, 
nor untill after master died. 

Quest, Was there no Discourse had between you Phoebe & Phillis 
about getting more Poison, after you had the first, of Robbin ? 

Answ. The Fryday before my master died Phoebe told me that she 
had lost that stuff* that I had brought to her from Robbin, and desired 
me to get her some more. I told her I wou'd when I went over to 
Boston ; this was in the Forenoon, when she was washing in the back 
yard. 

Quest. Did you get her any more of Robbin? 

Ans^. Yes, and that was it which I gave to Phillis 

Quest, When did you go over to get the last Poison ? 

Ans, on the Saturday night before my master died ; I went over 
after Sunset ; I went directly to Robbin ; & told him I wanted some 
of the same I had of him before for that was lost, Robbin was then 
at the Comer of his master's House out in the street, he told me he 
could not get any then, but if I wou'd come on the Sabbath Day night 
he would let me have some, and I went to him on the Sabbath Day 
night after Candle Light, and he then gave it to me. 

Quest, Was there any Body with you on the Saturday night when 
you ask'd for the Poison, or do you know whether any Person saw you 
& Robbin together that Evening? 

Answ^, No, nobody was there, and I dont know that any Body saw 
us together that Evening. 



1883.] THE MUKDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 135 

Quest, How long was you with Robbin at M!; Harris's Work 
house ? 

Answ^', I made no tarry there, but left him at the Pot house, and he 
and the young man that was with him followed me and overtook me a 
little below Mf Waite's Slaughter house ; And they went with me into 
the Lane leading from the market Place to the long Wharffe near M" 
Shearman's, while I went into M? Shearmans and got a mug of Toddy, 
in the mug I brought from Mf Harris's Work house, and I carried it to 
them and they both drank with me. 

Quest. Had you any Discourse with Robbin in private or between 
you and him alone that Day ? 

Ansr, No, none at all. 

Quest. Where did you drink the Toddy ? 

Ansuf. In the Lane afores^. 

Quest. Where did you all go after you drank the Toddy ? 

Ansuf'. We all came 'away together & went thro' M!: Sprague's 
Yard & so thro' M? Silence Harris's yard & Entry into the street. 
and they went directly down to the Ferry and I went into my master's 
Yard with the Pots 1 brought from the Potters Work house. 

Quest. Did you then go with them to the Ferry or nearer to it than 
your master's House ? 

Ansvf. No, I did not. 

Quest. Did Robbin give you, or did you give Robbin any Thing 
between the Time of your coming out of Mf Harris's Entry and his 
going over the Ferry ? 

Answ''. No, I did not give him any Thing neither did he give me 
any Thing. 

Quest. After you had parted with him when you came thro' the 
Entry, did you call him back? 

Ansuf, No, I did not. 

Quest. Did your master that Day forbid M'^' Shearman's letting you 
have any more Drink ? 

Ansvf. Yes, my master told her not to sell any Drink to any of his 
Servants. 

Quest. Did Robbin know of it ? 

Ansuf. Not that I know of; he see master go into M*:" Shearman's 
Shop, and pass'd by Robbin in the Lane as Robbin told me. 

Quest. Did you ever apply to any body else, besides Robbin for 
Poison ? 

Ansvf. No, only to Carr, Doctf Gibbon's negro man, and then 
Phoebe sent me for it. She had been with Carr before on the same 
account, & he told her he cou'd not get her any then, as she told me ; 

Quest. Did you get any Poison of Carr ? 

Ans''. No, he told me he wou'd not let me have any, untill he had 
seen Quaco, and did not know whether he shou'd then or not, and I 
never went to him afterwards. 

Quest. Did you never ask DoctT Rand's Cato for any Poison ? 

Ansvf. No, I do not know that I ever did, in the World. 

Quest. Had you and Phoebe any Conversation together about your 



136 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

master in or near your Blacksmith's Shop or in the yard the Mon- 
day before your master (Jied ? 

Ansvf, I had not, that I know of. 

Quest. Did you that Day before Tom or any other of your master's 
Servants say that you knew that your master would dye or utter any 
Words to that effect? 

Answ''. No, I did not. The Day before master dyed, Phoebe came 
into the Shop to dress Tom's Eye & got to dancing & mocking master 
& shaking herself & acting as master did in the Bed ; And Tom said 
he did not care, he hop'd he wou'd never get up again for his Eye's 
sake, and Scipio was there at the same time and saw her. 

Quest, Did you ever Say that your master had been offer'd £400 
for you but wou'd not take it, and now he shou'd not have a farthing 
or Words to that effect ? 

Answ''. No I never said any such Thing. Mark.* 

Quest. Did you ever tell Phoebe or PhilKs that the Week before 
your master dyed, that you went over the Ferry to see Bobbin to get 
some more Poison, and that he came over the Ferry in another Boat 
and so you mist each other and that he Bobbin pretended to the Ferry- 
man that he was a Country negro and wanted to see you about your 
Child, or Words to that Effect ? 

Ansvf. I never told them or either of them so. 

Quest. How came that Viall buried near your Forge in the Black- 
Smith's Shop, that you told M!; Kettell of, and he found there ? 

Answ^'. I buried it there. 

Quest. When did you bury it there ? 

Ansvf. In the afternoon of that Day that master dyed. 

Quest. Where did you get that Vial ? 

Answ^. I took it from Phillis that same Afternoon. 

Quest. Did any body see you take it from her ? 

Answ"". No. When I took it from Phillis she own'd that Phoebe 
had given the first Poison that I brought to master ; and that she and 
Phoebe had given him all the Best saving what was then in the Bottle, 
and thereupon I went to Phoebe and charged her with it, she at first 
deny'd it, but at last own'd it it and begg'd me to say nothing about it ; 
I told her if I had known she wou'd have put it to that use I would 
not have got it for her ; then I call'd Pompey to go down to the shop 
with me for I wanted to speak with him, intending to shew him the 
Vial, and he came into the shop but before I had an opportunity to 
speak to him Mf Kettell took me. 

Quest. Where was the Vial when you talked with Phoebe as 
afores*^ ? 

Answ"^. I had it in my Pocket, and told her so, then I went into the 
shop and buried it, then I went into the House immediately to call 
Pompey to shew it to him. 



* Mark signed his deposition here, and the entry, " continued," was made at 
the end of the sheet; the next sheet beginning, "Mark's Examination, con- 
tinued." 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 137 

Quest Why did you bury the Vial before you called Pompy ? or 
shew it to any body ? 

Ansvf I buried it because I did not want any body should see it 
before I shewed it to him. 

QuesVJ Have you lately had any Potters powder'd Lead by you or 
in your Possession ? 

Answ"^. Only that I had from Essex Powars ; which was as I sup- 
pose ground to Powder. 

Quest, When did you get that powder'd Lead of Essex ? 

Ans^, I had it of hira that Day I went there for six butter Pots, 
which my master's son Isaac sent me for. 

Quest. What did you get that Lead for ? 

Answ"^, To see if it would melt in our Fire, upon a Dispute between 
Tom and I about it ; Tom said it would melt, and I told him I did not 
believe it would ; I carried it home and laid it upon the Wall Plate in 
the Blacksmith's shop, and I never moved it afterwards or thought 
any Thing about it, *till it was show'd to me by the Justice. 

Quet, Do you know that any Part of that Lead you had of Essex 
or any Lead like unto it was given to your master or put into his 
Victuals or Drink ? 

Answ'', I do not. 

Quest. Do you know of any Proposal made of poisoning your 
master ? 

A71SW. No, I do not, nor ever heard any such Thing proposed by 
any Body. 

Quest, Do you know of any Cushoe nuts being procured for that 
Purpose ? 

Ans'uf, No ; I have not seen a Cushoe nut since I have been in this 
Country. 

Quest, Do you know of any Copperas or Green stuff being provided 
for that Purpose ? 

Ansvf, No I do not. 

Quest, What Time on the Saturday before your master dyed was it 
that you heard Phoebe ask Phillis, if she had given him enough, and 
Phillis said she had, and would stick as close to him as his Shirt to his 
Back? 

Ansvf, In the afternoon about Dark ; and before I went to Boston. 

Quest. How came you, after you had heard this Talk between 
Phoebe and Phillis, to get her s^ Phoebe more Poison ? 

Ansvf, I did not know what she meant by their Talk, nor who 
they meant, by him. 

Quest. Did you tell Carr that Phoebe sent you for that Poison 
you apply ed to him for ? 

Answ"", She did not tell me it was Poison, but told me to ask Carr 
for that Thing he had promised her ; he said he knew what it was 
and would not send it, 'till he had talked to Quaco, and did not 
know that he should send it afterwards ; and I said no more to Carr 
about it. 

Quest, Did you ever ask Carr at any other Time for Poison ? 

18 



138 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

-iws**. No. 

Quest Did you never ask him for something to Poison or kill a 
Dog? 

Answ"", No, not that I know of. 

Quest, Was you ever bit by a Dog ? 

Answ^, No. I never was. 

Quest. Do you know any Thing more of your master's being poi- 
soned than you have before related ? 

Ans"". No, 1 do not. 

Mabk. 



[^Bill of Indictment.'] 

Middlesex ss. At His Majesties Superiour Court of Judicature Court 
of Assize and General Goal Delivery held at Cam- 
bridge in and for the County of Middlesex on the 
first Tuesday of August in the Twenty ninth Year 
of the Reign of George the Second by the Grace 
of God of Great Britain France & Ireland King 
Defender of the Faith &\ 

The Jurors for the said Lord the King upon their Oath present 
That Phillis a Negro woman of Charlestown in the County of Mid- 
dlesex Spinster Servant of John Codman late of Charlestown afore- 
said Gentleman not having the Fear of God before her Eyes but of her 
Malice forethought contriving to deprive the said John Codman her 
said Master of his Life and him feloniously and Traiterously to kill and 
murder, She the said Phillis on the thirtieth Day of June last at 
Charlestown aforesaid in the Dwelling house of the said John there 
did of her Malice forethought willfully feloniously and Traiterously 
put a Deadly Poison called Arsenick into a Vial of water and thereby 

did then and there Poison the same Water and that the said 

Phillis knowing the Water aforesaid to be so poisoned did then and 
there feloniously willfully traiterously and of her Malice forethought 
put one spoonfuU of the Same Water so poisoned into a Pint of the 

Said John's Watergruel and thereby poison the Same Watergruel 

And that the said Phillis did then and there of her malice forethought 
feloniously willfully and traiterously in manner as aforesaid poison 
the Watergruel aforesaid, with a felonious and Traiterous Intent and 
Design that the said John her said master then being should then and 
there eat the Same Watergruel so poisoned and thereby be poisoned 
killed & murdered And that one Elizabeth Codman not know- 
ing the Watergruel aforesaid to be so poisoned then and there Inno- 
cently gave the Same Watergruel so poisoned as aforesaid to the said 
John to eat — 

And that the said John then and there being the said Phillis*s Master 
and being altogether ignorant of the Watergruel aforesaid's being 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 139 

poisoned as as* aforesaid and Suspecting no Evil did then and there eat 

the same Watergruel so poisoned as aforesaid And that the said 

Phillis then and there was feloniously and traiterously present with 
the said Elizabeth & John knowing of and consenting unto the said 
Elizabeth's giving him the said John the Watergruel aforesaid so 

poisoned as aforesaid and his eating the same as aforesaid And 

that the said John by means of his eating the Watergruel aforesaid so 
poisoned as aforesaid There Languished for the space of fifteen Hours 
and then at Charlestown aforesaid Died of the Poison aforesaid given 

him as aforesaid And So the Jurors aforesaid upon their Oath say 

that the said Phillis did at Charlestown aforesaid of her malice 
forethought in manner and form aforesaid willfully feloniously and 
traiterously poison kill & murder the said John Codman her said 
master against the Peace of the said Lord the King his Crown & 
Dignity. 

And the Jurors aforesaid upon their Oath further present That 
Mark a Negro man of Charlestown aforesaid Labourer and Servant of 
the said John Codman. And Robbin a Negro man of Boston in the 
County of Suffolk Labourer & Servant of John Clark of Boston afore- 
said Apothecary before the said Treason and murder aforesaid com- 
mitted by the said Phillis in manner & form aforesaid did at Charles- 
town aforesaid on the twentieth Day of June last of their malice 
forethought (the said Mark then being Servant of the said John Cod- 
man) feloniously & traiterously advise & incite procure & abet the 
said Phillis to do and commit the said Treason & Murder aforesaid 
against the Peace of the said Lord the King his Crown and Dignity. 

Edm Trowbridge AW ^ Dom Reg^* 

This is a True Bill. 

Caleb Dana foreman. 

The case was tried, at the same term at which the parties 
were indicted, before Stephen Sewall, chief justice, and Ben- 
jamin Lynde, John Gushing, and Chambers Russell, associate 
justices, — all fairly read in the law, and the Chief Justice 
eminent in his profession. Samuel Winthrop and Nathaniel 
Hatch, jointly, were clerks of the court.f 

Mark and Phillis were convicted, and sentence of death 
was pronounced upon them in strict conformity to the com- 
mon law of England. On the 6th of September, a warrant 
for their execution was issued, under the seal of the court. 



* Sic. 

t This is assumed to be the ease, since both these clerks officially signed pa- 
pers in this very case, though, from the loose custom which gradually obtained 
with the clerks of our highest judicial court, of not recording their appointments, 
it is impossible to verify this statement by the record. Samuel Tyley, Jr., and 
Benjamin Rolfe were sworn in as joint clerks of this court, Feb. 26, 1718, and 
Samuel Winthrop was clerk as early as June, 1745, and Nathaniel Hatch as 
early as September, 1752. 



140 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

commanding Richard Foster, Sheriff of Middlesex, to perform 
the last office of the law, on the 18th of the same month ; and 
upon this warrant the sheriff made return upon the day of the 
execution. 

The subpoenas to the witnesses against the accused, the cap- 
tion and conclusion of the record of the case, and the warrant 
for the execution of the condemned are as follows: — 

Province of the ) George the Second by the Grace of God of Great 
Massachusetts Bay, \ Britain France S^ Ireland King Defender 

^'- ^ of y' Faith S^^. 



To the Sheriff of our County of Middlesex his under 
Sheriff or Deputy or to any Constable of the Town of 
Charlestown within Said County, Greeting — 

We Command you That you Sumon W*? Brattle Esqr Docter 
Pinchin of Boston Joseph Rand Jun! Hatter Bartholomew Powers 
Isaac Rand Phisitian W*? Kneland, Benj^ Codman Parnel Codman 
Eliz^ Codman Mary Codman Ann Codman Catherine Codman, Pom- 
pey Thomas Cuffee and Scipeo negro servants that were Jno. Cod- 
man Dec^ James Kittle W'? Foster Phisitian Essex Servant to 
thomas powers Serv* of Dr. Rand Dinah Serv* of RicM Foster Esqr 
Ruth Adams 

To appear Before our Justices of our Superiour Court of Judicature 
Court of Assize and General Goal Delivery now held at Cambridge 
within & for said County tomorrow at Eight of y® Clock before noon 
to give Such Evidence in our Behalf (as you know) against Mark a 
Negro man & Phillis a Negro woman both of Charlestown aforesaid — 

Hereof fail not and so soon as may be make return of this Writ 
with your Doings Therein into the same Court Witness Stephen 
Sewall Esq. at Boston the sixth Day of August in the twenty ninth 
year of our Reign Annoq. Domini 1755 

Sam^ Winthrop Cler 

[Endorsed Return.] 
Middlesex ss. August 7, 1755 

We have somoned the persons within named to appear & Give 
Evidence at the time & place within mentioned. 

James Kettell, Dept Sheriffs 
& John Miller 
Comtabel. 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 141 



Province of the ) George the Second by the Grace of God of 
Massachusetts Bay ss J g^eat Britain France S^ Ireland King 

defender of the Faith S^c. 



To the Sheriff of our County of Suffolk his under Sheriff 
or Deputy or any Constable of the Town of Boston in 
s^ County Greeting 

We Command you that you Summon The Wife of Ichabod Jones 
Eliz* Mercy Car, a negro man servant of John Gibbins Apothecary 
Quaco the serv* of Dal ton Quaco a Negro man belonging to mf 

John White 

To appear before our Justices of our Superiour Court of Judicature 
Court of Assize & General Goal Delivery now holden at Cambridge 
within and for said County Tomorrow morning at Eight of y* Clock 
before noon Then and there to give Such Evidence in our Behalf as 
you know against Mark a Negro man & Phillis a Negro woman both 
of Charlestown in our County of Middlesex — 

Hereof Fail not and so soon as may be make Return of this Writ 
with your Doings therein into the same Court 

Witness Stephen Sewall Esq. at Boston the Sixth Day of August 
in the twenty ninth year of our Reign Annoq, Domini 1755 

Sam^ Winthrop Cler 



\^Record of the Case."] 

Province of the ^ Anno Regni Regis Georgii secundi Magnce 

Massachusetts Bat > Britannice Francice Hibemice vicesimo- 
Middlesex ss. ) 

' nono. 

At his Majestys Superiour Court of Judicature Court of 
Assize and General Goal Delivery began and held at 
Cambridge within and for the County of Middlesex on 
the first Tuesday of August Annoque Domini 1755 — 

By the Hon°M« Stephen Sewall Esqf Chief Justice 

Benjamin Lynde * ') 
John Cushing& >• Esquires Justices 
Chambers Russell ) 



* Judge Lynde makes a memorandum of this trial, and of the particulars of 
the executions, in his diary under date of July 9, 1755. — Lynde Diaries (pri- 
vately printed, 1880), p. 179. — Eds. 



142 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 



[^After reciting the words of the indictment, the record proceeds as fol- 
lows, being, as far as where the record of the trial and sentence begins^ 
an extension of a memorandum on the indictment, "] 

Upon this Indictment the said Phillis was arraigned and upon her 
arraignment pleaded not guilty and for trial put herself upon God and 
the Country and the said Mark was also arraigned upon this Indict- 
ment and upon his arraignment pleaded not Guilty and for trial put 
himself upon God and the Country, a Jury was thereupon Sworne to 
try the issue Mf John Miller Foreman and fellows who liaving fully 
heared the Evidence went out to consider thereof and returned with 
their verdicts and upon their oath's say'd that the said Phillis is Guilty, 
and that the said Mark is Guilty, upon which the prisoners were re- 
manded, and being again brot and set to the Bar, the Kings Attorney 
moved the Court that Judgment of Death might be given against 
then^, whereupon they were asked by the chief Justice if they had 
ought to say why Judgment of Death should not be given against them, 
and having nothing material to offer Judgment of Death was pro- 
nounced against them by the chief Justice in the name of the Court 
in form following that is to Say that the said Phillis go from hence to 
the place where she came from, and from thence to the place of Execu- 
tion & there be burnt to Death, and that the said Mark go from hence 
to the place where he came from, and from thence be drawn to the 
place of Execution and there be hanged by the neck until he be dead 
and God Almighty have mercy upon their Souls. Ordered that these 
Sentences be put into Execution upon thursday the eighth* day of 
September next between the hours of one and five of the Clock in the 
Afternoon. 

Warrant issued Sep. 6. 1755. 



[ Writ of execution, or death-warrant,'] 

Pkovince of the J George the second by the Grace of God of 

""'TZl^ZM'^ Great Brita^ France and Ireland King 

' Defender of the Faith ^ G"- 



To Richard Foster Esqf Sheriff of our County of Mid- 
dlesex in Said Province 

Greeting 

Whereas at our Superiour Court of Judicature Court of Assize and 
General Goal Delivery begun and held at Cambridge within and for 
the County of Middlesex on the first Tuesday of August last the Grand 
Jurors for us for the Body of our said County of Middlesex did on 

* An error. It should have been " eighteenth." 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 143 

their Oath Present That Phillis a Negro woman of Charlestown in 
the County of Middlesex Spinster Servant of John Codman late of 
Charlestown aforesaid Gentleman, not having the fear of God before 
her Eyes, but of her malice forethought contriving to deprive the Said 
John Codman her Said master of his life and him feloniously and 
Traiterously to kill and murder, she the said Phillis on the thirteenth 
day of June last at Charlestown aforesaid in the dwelling house of the 
said John there did of her malice forethought willfully felloniously and 
Traiterously put a Deadly Poison called Arsenick into a Vial of Water 
and thereby did then and there Poison the same water — and That the 
said Phillis knowing the water aforesaid to be so poisoned did then and 
there feloniously willfully traiterously and of her malice forethought 
put. one spoonfull of the same water so poisoned into a pint of the said 
John-s watergruel and thereby poison the same watergruel — and that 
the said Phillis did then and there of her malice forethought felloniously 
willfully & traiterously in manner as aforesaid poison the watergruel 
aforesaid, with a felonious and traiterous Intent and design that the 
said John her said master then being should then and there eat the 
Same Watergruel so poisoned and thereby be Poisoned killed and 
murdered. And that one Elizabeth Codman not knowing the water- 
gruel aforesaid to be so poisoned then and there Innocently gave the 
Same Watergruel so poisoned as aforesaid to the Said John to eat, and 
that the Said John then and there being the said Phillis' master and 
being altogether Ignorant of the watergruel aforesaid's being poisoned 
as aforesaid and suspecting no Evil did then & there eat the same 
watergruel so poisoned as aforesaid & that the said Phillis then and 
there was feloniously and traiterously present with the said Elizabeth 
& John knowing of & consenting unto the s^ ^Elizabeth's giving him 
the said John the watergruel aforesi so poisoned as aforesaid & his 
eating the same as aforesf And that the said John by means of his 
eating the watergruel aforesaid so poisoned as aforesaid there Lan- 
guished for the space of Fifteen hours & then at Charlestown aforesaid 
died of the Poison afores^. given him as aforesaid — and so the Jurors 
aforesaid upon their Oath said that the said Phillis did at Charlestown 
aforesaid of her malice forethought in manner and form aforesaid will- 
fully feloniously and traiterously poison kill & murder the said John 
Codman her Said master against our Peace Crown & Dignity, and 
The Jurors aforesaid upon their Oath further present That Mark a 
Negroman of Charlestown aforesaid Labourer and Servant of the said 
John Codman before the said Treason and murder aforesaid committed 
by the said Phillis in manner and form aforesaid did at Charlestown 
aforesaid on the twentieth day of June last of his malice forethought 
(the said Mark then being Servant of the said John Codman) felloni- 
ously & traiterously advise and incite procure & abet the Said Phillis 
to do & commit the said Treason & murder aforesaid against our peace 
crown & Dignity (as in Said Indictm* is at large Set forth) upon 
which Indictment the said Phillis and Mark were Severally arraigned 
and upon their arraignment Severally pleaded not Guilty and for Tryal 
put themselves on God and the Country, and Whereas the said Phillis 



144 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

& Mark at our Court aforesaid were each of them convict of the 
crime respectively alledg'd to be committed by them as aforesaid by 
the Verdict of twelve good & lawful men of our Said County and were 
by the consideration of our Said Court adjudged to Suffer the Pains of 
Death therefor ; as to us appears of Record Execution of which said 
Sentence doth still remain to be done we command you therefore that 
on Thursday the Eighteenth day of September instant between the 
hours of one & Five o*Clock in the day time you cause the said Phillis 
to be drawn from our Goal in our County of Middlesex aforesaid 
(where she now is) to the place of Execution and there be burnt to 
Death & also that on the Same day between the hours of one & five of 
the Clock in the day time you cause the Said Mark to be drawn from 
our Goal in our County of Middlesex aforesaid (where he now is) to 
the place of Execution & there be hanged up by the Neck until he be 
dead, & for so doing this shall be your Sufficient Warrant — Hereof 
fail not ; and make Return of this writ with your doings therein into 
the Clerks Office of our Said Court as soon as may be after you have 
Executed the Same Witness Stephen Sewall Esqf at Boston the 
sixth day of September in the Twenty ninth Year of our reign Annoque 
Domini 1755 — 
By Order of Court 

Nathaniel Hatch 



Middlesex, ss — September the 18^ 1755. 

I Executed this warrant as above directed, by causing Phillis to be 
burnt to Death, and Mark to be hang*d by the neck until he was dead, 
between the hours of one and five a Clock of Said day — 

Rich? Foster Sheriff 

It is worthy of observation that no such process as a formal 
warrant was required for a capital execution by the laws of 
England. In the King^s Bench, the prisoner was committed 
to the custody of the marshal at the beginning of the trial, 
and an award of judgment upon the record was all the au- 
thority that that officer had for the execution. Formerly, it 
was customary in courts of oyer and terminer, and of jail 
delivery, to authorize the execution by a precept under the 
hands and seals of three or more commissioners, of whom one, 
at least, should be of the quorum ; but this custom had be- 
come obsolete at the time of this trial, and only a calendar, or 
abstract of the record, subscribed by the judge, was put into 
the hands of the sheriff for this purpose ; and such is the 
practice in England, I presume, to this day. 

Even Blackstone, who is so blind to many gross imperfec- 
tions in the jurisprudence of his native country, is forced 
to remark, in view of the looseness of procedure in capital 
cases, — 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 145 

" It may certainly afford matter of speculation that in civil causes 
there should be such a variety of writs of execution to recover a tri- 
fling debt, issued in the king's name, and under the seal of the court, 
without which the sheriff cannot legally stir one step ; and yet that the 
execution of a man, the most important and terrible task of any, should 
depend upon a marginal note." * 

The courts and people of New England were always more 
mindful of the sacredness of human life than those of other 
nations, save, perhaps, the little community of the Nether- 
lands. They also attached great importance to the formal 
proceedings by which the ends of justice were reached in 
criminal cases. This is well illustrated by an incident that is 
recorded relative to the action of the judges of the Superior 
Court of the Province when, after the conviction of Richard- 
son for the murder of the boy Sneider, in 1770, it became evi- 
dent to them that the cause of justice required that they should 
intercede to prevent his execution. They were long in doubt 
as to the sufficiency of a pardon obtained from the crown 
through the recommendation of the Lieutenant-Governor 
upon their certificate of its propriety, the only evidence of 
the pardon being its insertion in the Newgate Calendar. 
Hutchinson relates that *^ they were at length satisfied ; and 
the prisoner having been brought into court early in the 
morning, when scarcely anybody but the officers of the court 
were present, pleaded his Majesty's pardon, and was dis- 
charged, and immediately absconded." f 

But, to proceed with a definition of the crime committed by 
these negroes, and a more particular account of the punish- 
ment for petit treason : — 

By the statute 25 Edw. III., this crime, which had had a 
wider application, was restricted to three classes of cases: 1, 
where a servant killed his master or mistress ; 2, where a 
wife killed her husband ; 3, where a clergyman killed his 
prelate, or the superior to whom he owed canonical obedi- 
ence. The sentence in the case of a woman was, that she 
be burned to death, and in the case of a man, that he be drawn 
to the place of execution and there hanged by the neck until 
he be dead. J To mitigate the sufferings of felons at the 

* Coram, book iv. cb. 82, p. 403. t Hist. Mass. Bay, vol. iii. p. 287, n. 

X By Stat. 22 Hen. VIH. cb. 9, a person of eitber sex, who was convicted of 
murdering anotber by poison, was to be boiled to deatb, and tbe offence was, by 
the same act, declared high treason ; but this act was repealed by 1 Edw. VI. ch. 12, 
after several executions under it, including that of Margaret Davy, who poisoned 
her mistress. Though by the common law poisoning was deemed a most atro- 
cious circumstance, it did not alter the punishment of the principal crime in- 
volved. The law considered only the crime, and not the manner in which it was 
committed. 19 



146 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

stake, the executioner usually fastened one end of a cord to the 
stake, and bringing this cord around the neck of the woman, 
pulled it tightly the moment the torch was applied, and con- 
tinued the strain until life was extinct, which, unless the cord 
was sooner burnt asunder, generally happened before the con- 
demned had suffered much from the intensity of the flames. 

In cases of high treason, other barbarities were practised 
upon the bodies of the criminals ; but these were frequently, 
and in cases of persons of distinction, generally, remitted. 
Indeed, even the hanging was dispensed with in these latter 
cases ; and hence we read of the execution of great prisoners 
of state, male and female, by beheading, which, strictly, is a 
manner of death unknown to the laws of England, except as 
an incident to the principal penalty by hanging or burning. 
After the hanging, the body, according to rule, was to be cut 
down (if possible, while yet alive), to be eviscerated, then be- 
headed, and the trunk and limbs divided into four parts, to 
be disposed of as the sovereign should order. By special writ, 
under the privy seal, all these circumstances, except decapita- 
tion, were, as I have already said, usually omitted. 

All male persons convicted whether of high treason or of 
petit treason were, unless specially exempted in the manner 
I have stated, drawn to the place of execution. This was 
originally an ignominious incident of the terrible penalty, and 
required that the criminal should be rudely pulled along over 
the ground, behind a horse ; later, however, a hurdle or wicker 
frame, or a sledge, — that is, as we call it, a sled, — was used, 
either from motives of humanity, or in order to prolong the 
life of the traitor through subsequent stages of the punish- 
ment. Properly, however, women were not to be drawn in 
cases of petit treason * until 1790, after the repeal of the law 
for burning, for which drawing and hanging were substituted. 

Another incident to this punishment, though not peculiar 
to it, since it applied to all atrocious felonies, was the gibbet- 
ing, or hanging in chains. This was no part of the sentence, 
but was performed in accordance with a special order or 
direction of the court, given, probably, in most cases, ver- 
bally to the sheriff. After execution, the body of the felon 

* Hale, p. C, i. 382 ; ii. 397. This was the better opinion, though the law 
was uncertain. It will have been noticed that though the judgment against 
Phillis was that she go to the place of execution, the warrant required that she 
be drawn thither according to the practice in England, which, though sustained 
hy the current of authorities, is not sanctioned by the statutes referred to, nor 
the cases cited by the commentators, and would have been challenged, proba- 
bly, if the cruelties incident thereto had not become obsolete. Comp. Hale, 
ut supra, witli Staundf. 182; Lamb. Eiren., 570; 3 Inst. 211; Hawk. P. C, ii. 
ch. 48, § 6 ; Black. Comm. iv. 204; and Hale P. C. i. 85i . ii 9m, 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 147 

was taken from the gallows and hung upon a gibbet conven- 
iently near the place where the fact was committed, there 
to remain, until, from the action of the elements, or the rav- 
ages of birds of prey, it disappeared. Of the object of this 
ghastly feature of capital punishment it is alleged, '* besides 
the terror of the example," '' that it is a comfortable sight to 
the friends and relations of the deceased " ; but the obvious- 
ness of this reason is somewhat lessened by the doubt in which 
we are left as to which deceased person, the criminal or his 
victim, is referred to. In the case of Mark it is noticeable 
that no sentence to the gibbet appears in the record, and I 
have found no order for it, or mention of it, in the papers on 
file. 

Phillis and Mark were executed at the usual place of exe- 
cution in Cambridge ; and tfie foUofwing account of the affair 
is taken from the Bbston "Evening Post," of Sept. 22, 
1755: — 

" Thursday last, in the Afternoon, Mark^ a Negro Man, and PhiUis^ 
a Negro Woman, both Servants to the late Capt. John Codman, of 
Oharlestown, were executed at Cambridge, for poisoning their said 
Master, as mentioned in this Paper some Weeks ago. The Fellow was 
hanged, and the Woman burned at a Stake about Ten Yards distant 
from the Gallows. They both confessed themselves guilty of the Crime 
for which they suffered, acknowledged the Justice of their Sentence, and 
died very penitent. After Execution, the Body of Mark was brought 
down to Gharlestown Common, and hanged in Chains, on a Gibbet 
erected there for that Purpose." 

Frothingham, in his " History of Gharlestown," * quotes this 
item from the " Post," and adds, from Dr. Josiah Bartlett's 
account of Charlestown,t that '* the place where Mark was 
suspended in irons was on the northerly side of Cambridge 
Road, about one fourth of a mile above our peninsula." He 
also adds, from the same authority, that "Phebe, who was 
the most culpable," became evidence against the others, and 
that she was transported to the West Indies. 

It is very likely that Phebe was transported, as described by 
Dr. Bartlett, but there is nothing on record to show that she 
was used as a principal witness. Indeed, the answers of 
Phillis aiid Mark on their examination are mutually recrimi- 
native, and amount to a plenary confession of the crime of 
each. Besides, as neither the governor nor the court had any 



* Pace 264. 

t 2 Mass. Hist. Coll., vol. ii. p. 166, and note. 



148 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

authority to grant a pardon for murder,* it is not likely that 
any favor was shown to her in accordance with a promise 
from either, nor is there any evidence that any lenity was 
actually extended to her, except the negative circumstance 
that she was not included in the indictment. 

This completes the narrative of this remarkable case. The 
body of Mark is said by Dr. Bartlett to have remained on the 
gibbet '' until a short time before the Revolution." Certain 
it is that when Dr. Caleb Rea passed through Charlestown on 
the first day of June, 1758, on his way from Dan vers to join 
the regiment, of which he had been chosen surgeon, in the 
expedition against Ticonderoga, he found the body hanging, 
and, having examined it, recorded in his journal that " his 
[Mark's] skin was but very little broken, although he had 
hung there near three or four years." f 

Finally, another patriot, — Paul Revere, — in describing 
his famous ride on the 18th of April, 1775, on a still more 
important errand, says, "After I had passed Charlestown 
Neck, and got nearly opposite where Marie was hung in chains^ 
I saw two men on horseback under a tree," % &c. ; thus al- 
luding to the site of the gibbet as a place well known at 
that time, — as undoubtedly it was, to all the country round. 

I have said that this is the only case of petit treason to be 
found in our records. There was, indeed, an earlier case in 
which the penalty of death by burning was inflicted ; but in 
regard to that case there is no suggestion anywhere to my 
knowledge that the crime of petit treason had been commit- 
ted, nor any allegation to that effect in the charge or indict- 
ment, nor even a hint that any life was lost by tlie misconduct 
of the condemned. § This was the case of Maria, a negress, 

* See Hutchinson's Hist. Mass. Bay, vol. iii. p. 287, n. Instances of par- 
dons and reprieves occur in our judicial history, but they were invariably granted 
in the name of the king, by the commander-in-chief; and, if for a graver offence 
than manslaughter, it seems to have been understood that a pardon was not to 
be granted without previous express directions from the king. This was in 
compliance with a clause in the royal instructions, issued to all the governors, 
by which they were enjoined not to remit any fines or forfeitures above £10 in 
amount, or to dispose of escheats, without the royal sanction ; forfeiture of 
lands and chattels being a consequence of attainder upon conviction of the higher 
class of felonies. The commission to Andros expressly excepted treason and 
murder from the offences which he was authorized to pardon. 

t Hist. Coll. Essex Inst., vol. xviii. p. 88, n. 

X Letter of Colonel Revere to Cor. Sec. of Mass. Hist. Soc, Jan. 1, 1798 : 
1 Mass. Hist. Coll., vol. v. p. 107. 

§ Although the record contains no allegation of loss of life, Increase Mather 
states in his diary, under date of Sept. 22, 1681, that a child was burnt to death 
in one of the houses set on fire by this negress. Even if this were true, it is not 
probable that the relation of master and servant subsisted between the deceased 
and Maria, and neither this relation, nor the fact of treason, is averred in the 
indictment. See Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc, vol. iii. p. 320. 



1883.] THE MUEDER OP CAPTAIN CODMAN. 149 

who was executed at Roxbury in 1681. Perhaps it will be 
well to give the story of this case as it appears on the records 
of the Court of Assistants.* 

"Marjat Negro Servant to Joshua Lambe of Roxbury in the 
County of Suffolk in New England being presented by the Grand Jury 
was Indicted by the name of Marja Negro for no* hauing the feare of 
God before hir eyes & being Instigated by the divil at or upon the 
eleventh Day of July last in the night did wittingly willirjgly & fello- 
niously set on fier the dwelling house of Thomas Swann of sd Roxbury 
by taking a coale from vnder a still & carrjed it into another Roome 
and layd it on floore neere the doore & presently went & crept into a 
hole at a back doore of thy master Lambs house & set it on fier also 
taking a Hue coale betweene two chips & carried it into the chimbe' by 
which also it was Consumed as by y' Confession will appeare Contrary 
to the peace of our Soueraigne Lord the king his croune & dignity 
the lawes of this Jurisdiction in that Case made & prouided title firing 
of houses = The prisoner at the barr pleaded & acknowledged hirselfe 
to be Guilty of ye fact. And accordingly the nex* day being Again 
brought to the Barr had sentenc of death pronnonc't ag* hir by the 
Honno^^® Gounod that she should Goe from the barr to the prison 
whenc she came & thence to the place of execution & there be burn*= 
Y® lord be merciful! to thy Soule sd y® Gov." 

The case was capital under the act referred to in the record. 
The act reads as follows : — 

•n Houses ^^^ ^^ ^^^ person of the age aforesaid, [16 years 

urning ^^^es. ^^^ upwards] shall after the publication hereof, wittingly 

and willingly, and felloniously, set on fire any Dwelling Bouse, Meeting 

House^ Store House^ or shall in like manner, set on fire any out-House, 

Barn^ Stable, Leanto, Stack of Hay, Corn or Wood, or any thing of like 

nature, whereby any Dwelling Bouse, Meeting Bouse or Store Bouse 

Cometh to be burnt, the party or parties vehemently suspected thereof, 

shall be apprehended by Warrant from one or more of the Magistrates, 

and committed to Prison, there to remain without Baile, till 

*^'*^' the next Court of Assistants, who upon legal conviction 

by due proof, or confession of the Crime, shall adjudge such person or 

persons to be put to death, and to forfeit so much of his Lands, Goods 

or Chattels, as shall make full satisfaction, to the party or parties 

damnified. [1652.] % 

It will be observed that the law prescribes no such punish- 
ment as was ordered by the Assistants, and how the court 



* Boston, Sept. 6, 1681. . 

t I have followed Secretary Kawson in his peculiar use of the letter j. See 
many similar instances in the Mass. Colony Kecords. 
X Mass. Colony Laws, ed. 1672, p. 62. 



150 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

were satisfied of the legality of their sentence is to me inex- 
plicable, except upon the possible claim that they might right- 
fully exercise the expansive discretion which they applied to 
the case of the first Quakers, and so supply a deficiency in the 
ordinances of the General Court, by administering the lex 
talionis^ in this particular instance as a necessary terror to 
evil-doers. 

The public opinion which permitted the colonial magistrates 
to exercise, unchallenged, a discretion not given to them by 
positive law, as in this case and that of the first Quakers, and 
in the instance of their conviction of a capital crime, of Tom, 
the Indian, in 1674,f of whose guilt the jury were doubtful, 
cannot be deemed to have enlarged their authority, by cus- 
tom^ without a perversion of language and a disregard of 
fundamental distinctions relative to the nature and source of 
la W.J 

Two other negroes who were suspected of complicity 
with Maria were ordered to be transported. The record is 
as follows : — 

" Chessaieer ne- Chessalecr negro servant to Tho. Walker brickmaker 

gros Sentence " jjq^ {^ Goale on suspition of Joyning w*^ Marja Negro in 

Burning of D"^ Swans' & Lambs houses in Rox- 

bury in July last The Court on Consideration of the 

* Exodus xxi. 25. *' In all criminall offences, where the law hath prescribed 
no certaine penaltie, the judges have power to inflict penalties, according to the 
rule of God's word/' — Declaration of the General Court : Hutch. Coll. Papers, 
p. 207. And see the first article of the Colonial "Liberties/' in Mass. Hist. 
Coll., vol. viii. p. 216. 

t Records of the Court of Assistants, 1674, p. 14. 

X By the stat. 8 Hen. VI. ch. 6, the burning of houses, after a threat to do 
so if money be not paid, &c., was made high treason, and the incendiary suffered 
as any other traitor; that is, if a woman, she was burned to death. But this 
statute was repealed in the reign of Edward VI., as regards the treason, and the 
offence remained felony as at the common law, and punishable by hanging only. 

That mistaken notions as to the nature of penalties to be inflicted in crimi- 
nal cases, and as to the authority of the bench to impose unusual punishments, 
were not solely entertained in this distant colony, and among men not bred to 
the law, may be shown by many instances in the English law-books. One of 
the most notable is Sir Edw. Coke's reference to the case of Peter Burchet, a 
prisoner in the Tower, — who slew his keeper with a billet of wood, which drew 
blood, — as an authority for inflicting the additional punishment of cutting off the 
hand (under the stat. 33 Hen. VIII.) in the case of murder perpetrated in the 
king's palace, when attended with bloodshed. In Elderton's case, Chief Justice 
Holt, whose habits of thorough research were not less remarkable than his abso- 
lute fairness and honesty, said, " I have searched for the case cited [as Jones's 
case] about killing a man in the Tower. It is Burdelt and Muskett's case. Being 
dissatisfied with niy Lord Coke's report of it, therefore I sent for the record, . . . 
and there is judgment of death given, but no judgment that his right hand should 
be cut off". It is indeed so related in Stowe's Chronicle, and in fact his hand was 
cut off, but there was no judgment for it." Compare 3 Inst., ch. 65 (p. 140 1) 
with 2 Ld. Raym., 978, 982. 



1883.] THE MURDER OF CAPTAIK CODMAN. 151 

Case Judged it meet to orde^ that he be kept in prison 
till his master send him out of the country & then dis- 
chardg y® charges of Imprisonment wch if he refuse to doe 
aboue one moneth the country Tresurer is to see it donne 
& when y^ chardges be defrayd to returne the ouerplus to 
y® sd Walker 
p mb - '^^^ ^^^^ Judgment & sentenc was declard against 
ton! negro Jame^ Pcmbc^'ton's negro in all respects as ag* Chessaleer 

sentence ^^^^.^ ^^^„ ^ 



Still another negro was convicted, at the same term of the 
court, of the crime of arson, and ordered to be hanged, and 
afterwards consumed to ashes in the same fire with Maria, as 
appears by the following record : — 

" Jack negro servant to IVP Samuel Woolcot of Weath- 
e'sfield thou art Jndicted by the name of Jack Negro for 
no* hauing the feare of God before thy eyes being Insti- 
gated by the Divill did at or upon the foureteenth day of 
July last 1681 wittingly & felloniously sett on fier Leif- 
tehat W"' Clark s house in North Hampton, by taking a Jack negro Jn- 
brand of fier from the hearth and swinging it vp & doune tenc^ ^^' 

for to find victualls as by his confession may Appeare Con- 
trary to the peace of ou*" Soueraigne Lord the King his 
Croune & dignity the lawes of God & of this Jurisdiction 
in that case made & prouided title firing of houses page 
(52) to wch Jndictment at the barr he pleaded not Guilty, 
& Afiirmd he would be trjed by God & the Country and 
after his Confessions &c were read to him & his ownig 
thereof were Comitted to the Jury who brought him in 
Guilty and the nex* day had his sentence pronounct agt 
him by the Gouernor that he should goe from the barr to 
the place whence he came & there be hang*^ by the neck 
till he be dead & then taken doune & burnt to Ashes in the 
fier w*^ Marja Negro = The Lord be mercifull to thy soule 
sajd the Gouerno'' " t 

There was some excuse for the latter part of this sentence, 
for since the offence was an atrocious felony, such as in Eng- 
land would subject the offender to an infamous punishment, 
it seemed proper to attach something more of ignominy to his 
sentence than the mere execution by hanging. 

Our forefathers of the colonial period regarded the Mosaic 
law as of too sacred obligation to be impaired in the least de- 



* Record of the Court of Assistants, ubi supra, pp. 138, 139. 
t Ibid. 



162 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOKICAL SOCIETY. [Mab. 

gree ; much more to be expressly contravened by the courts 
of justice in respect to the command, — 

" And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to 
be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain 
all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day ; 
(for he that is hanged is accursed of God ; ) that thy land be not 
defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance." * 

— they, therefore, by an ordinance passed in 1641, had re- 
quired that the body of every executed criminal should be 
buried within twelve hours after death, except in cases of 
anatomy, which prevented the possibility of hanging in chains 
after the English fashion ; and the only way in which they 
could set a mark of infamy upon the deceased criminal, with- 
out a breach of the colonial ordinance as well as of the divine 
law, was to burn the body.f 

But this tendency to a strict adherence to the laws of 
Israel disappeared early in the provincial period, under the 
operation of the same causes which led to the abandonment 
of those rugged metaphrases of the Psalms of David, and of 
the song of Deborah and Barak, &c., contained in the Bay 
Psalm-Book, for the smoother though less literal version of 
Tate and Brady and the presumptuous ''Imitations " of Dr. 
Watts. When, therefore, under the new charter the offence 
called for it according to the custom of England, the gibbet 
was erected ; and though the occasions for its employment 
were very rare, the report of sundry instances of its use has 
come down to us, as in the case of the pirates whose bodies 
hung in chains, from time to time, on the now vanished Bird 
Island in Boston Harbor, a locality as near the place where the 
fact was committed as could conveniently be used. I confess I 
find it impossible to understand whence the provincial judges 
claimed to derive their authority for ordering the bodies of 
criminals to be hung in chains. We have seen that, even 
if our fathers brought with them the right to exercise this 
authority, they soon enacted provisions entirely inconsistent 
with the practice ; and I am not aware of any subsequent act 
of parliament, extending to the Colonies, that restored the 

* Deut. xxi. 22, 23. 

t Tlie ordinary punishment for all capital felonies during the colonial regime 
seems to have been simply hanging. Heretics and witches were subjected to no 
severer penalty ; and in 1674, Robert Driver, who was convicted of murdering 
his master, Robert Williams of Piscataqua, and who thus incurred the penalty 
for petit treason, was sentenced to be " hanged by the neck until he be dead." 

— See Records of the Court of Assistants. 



1883.] THE MUEDEB OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 153 

authority ; and certainly there was no law of the Province to 
that effect. 

I ought not to dismiss this subject without adding some- 
thing to the brief allusion already made to the comparative 
mildness of the laws of Massachusetts in respect to capital 
punishment. The execution of Mark and Phillis took place 
just about the time that Blackstone was delivering his lectures 
at Oxford, which have since given him an enduring and world- 
wide fame as a commentator on the laws of England. This 
elegant defender and apologist for English laws and customs, 
in his commentaries, admits, seemingly with reluctance and 
regret, that there then existed on the statute-books of Eng- 
land no less than one hundred and sixty capital offences. At 
that time the number of capital offences in Massachusetts was 
less than one-tenth this number, if we exclude those made so 
by the acts relating to military offenders in actual service, and 
felonies on the high seas, and a few others, which, like the 
latter, were created by including among capital crimes certain 
offences which, though theretofore exempt from the death 
penalty by special circumstances and technical rules, had 
always been capitally punished when committed under other 
and not less justifiable circumstances. 

Said Isaac Backus, whom I find to be a very trustworthy 
authority, in a letter to this Society, under date of Feb. 20, 
1794, " There has not been any person hanged in Plymouth 
County for above these sixty years past." * More than a 
century earlier, John Dunton mentions a sermon of Mather's, 
preached at the execution of '' Morgan, the only person exe- 
cuted in that country [Massachusetts] for near seven years."! 
He must, however, I think, have forgotten the case of Maria, 
the negro woman. 

Again, when the English riot act (1 Geo. I. stat. 2, ch. 5) 
was substantially adopted by the Province in. 1751, the legis- 
lature studiously avoided the harshness of the former act by 
substituting forfeiture of lands and chattels, and whipping 
and imprisonment, for the death penalty .J 

In 1761 Governor Bernard vainly labored with his utmost 
zeal to secure the passage of an act or acts making it felony, 
without benefit of clergy, to forge public and private secu- 
rities or vouchers for money, or to coin or counterfeit the cur- 

* 1 Mass. Hist. Coll., vol. iii. p. 152. 
t Ibid., 2d series, vol. ii. p. 102. 

X Compare provincial statute 1750-51, ch. 17 (Prov. Laws, vol. iii. p. 540), 
with the act of parliament referred to. 

20 



154 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

rent money of the Province. He sent a special message upon 
the subject to the Assembly, in which he stated : — 

" In regard to the popular prejudices against capital punishments 
which have hitherto prevailed in this country, I shall only say that at 
present they are very ill-timed. Whilst the people of this country 
lived from hand to mouth, aud had very little wealth but what was con- 
fined among themselves, a simple system of laws might be proper, and 
capital punishments might in a great measure be avoided ; but when by 
the acquisition, diffusion, and general intercourse of wealth, the temp- 
tations to fraud are abundantly increased, the terrors of it must be 
also proportionably enlarged; otherwise if, through a false tenderness 
for wicked men, the laws should not be sufficient to protect the pro})- 
erty of the honest and industrious, the rights of the latter are given up 
to the former, and the undue mercy shown to the one becomes a real 
injury to the other. To instance this, I need only say that I have no 
doubt but that if these crimes had been capital some years ago, and 
usually punished as such, they would not have been committed at all 
at the present time." 

The Governor's opinion, however, was not borne out by the 
experience of the British government in its dealings with 
crime. There, it was made a capital felony to steal in a dwell- 
ing-house to the amount of 40s., or, privately, in a shop, goods 
to the value of 5s., or to counterfeit stamps that were used 
for the sale of perfumery, or such as were used for the certifi- 
cates of hair-powder ; and yet, notwithstanding this severity, 
all who considered the subject thoughtfully found that the 
increase of capital crimes more than kept pace with the in- 
crease of laws creating them ; and this became so alarmingly 
evident that at length the conservative opposition to reform 
was overborne, and Sir Samuel Romilly and his coadjutors 
began those changes which have continued in the same direc- 
tion to the present day. Before the reform was established, 
however, executions became so frequent that it was not un- 
common for citizens to avoid certain parts of London and its 
environs on account of the intolerable odor, there, of decay- 
ing human bodies, hung in chains by the highways and before 
the doors of citizens. 

Still the judges rode their circuits, leaving briefly minuted 
" calendars " in the hands of the executioners, who erected 
close behind them the gallows and the gibbet as monuments 
of their dispensation of ''justice." Barristers bandied repar- 
tees and cracked jokes over good dinners, and Serjeants hob- 
nobbed with their brethren of the bench and of the coif, 
apparently unconcerned at the responsible part they were 



1883.] THE MUKDER OF CAPTAIN CODMAN. 155 

enacting in this awful drama ; while the poor rabble put on 
their best attire on the days of execution, and liberally patron- 
ized the venders of cakes and ale who, near the gallows, 
erected booths as on other gala days, — many of the specta- 
tors, no doubt, thinking that it would not be so bad a thing, 
after all, if it came their turn next to better their desperate 
condition by swinging on the newly contrived gallows, on 
which ten criminals could be hanged together.* 

Alas ! well may we ask with astonishment if it is possible 
that such a state of society really existed in the England of 
Hannah More, of Sir William Jones and Edmund Burke, — 
the land throughout which the Wesleys were preaching and 
singing to eager multitudes of the free grace and abounding 
mercy of God ; where the pious Cowper was pleading for the 
relief of " insolvent innocence," and Clarkson and Wilberforce 
and Granville Sharp w^ere rousing the public mind to the 
evils of slavery in distant colonies ! 

The case of petit treason which we have been considering 
occurred nine years before Beccaria startled all Europe with 
'' the code of humanity," — his treatise on crimes and punish- 
ments ; yet had he known of our experience in this Province, 
he could have pointed to Massachusetts as the strongest practi- 
cal illustration of the truth of his theory, that it is not neces- 
sary to multiply extreme penalties in order to prevent crime, 
but that we are to look for the amelioration of manners and 
the diminution of public and private wrongs to the mental 
and moral education of the people rather than to the terrors 
of the law. 

In 1777, when the Revolutionary War was beginning to 
assume its gravest aspect, and when the hopes of traitors 
were reviving, the barbarous incidents of the punishment for 
treason were abolished by the legislature of Massachusetts, 
and this crime was made punishable simply by hanging. 
Eight years later the distinction between petit treason and 
murder was abolished, — an improvement of the criminal code 
in which we were followed by Great Britain five years later 
still.f 



* See a picture of the new gallows, in the illustrated " Newgate Calendar." 

t The Massachusetts act is as follows : — 

" Whereas it does not appear reasonable any longer to continue the distinc- 
tion between the crimes of murder and petit treason : 

" Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court 
assembled, and by the authority of the same. That from and after the passing 
of this act, in all cases wherein heretofore any person or persons would have 
been deemed or taken to have committed the crime of petit treason, such per- 
son or persons shall be deemed and taken to have committed the crime of mur- 



156 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOBICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

So that it was possible that our good city of Boston might 
have been disgraced by one of these horrible executions as 
late as 1785, and that a delicate woman could, with all the 
solemnity of legal forms, have been publicly burned to death 
at Tyburn as late as 1790. 

In point of fact such executions occurred in England long 
after the burning of Phillis. A memorable case is that of 
Anne Beddingfield, who was burned for petit treason at 
Riishmore, near Ipswich, in 1763. 

In 1813 the last of the minor infamous punishments, such 
as whipping, branding, the stocks, the pillory, cutting off ears, 
slitting noses, boring tongues, &c., were abolished in this 
Commonwealth. 

As for hanging in chains, I cannot find when the custom was 
discontinued in Massachusetts. I do not remember to have 
read of an instance of this kind since the adoption of the 
Constitution, though I have made no special search for such 
an instance. Some of my hearers may be able to refer me 
definitely to the time and reason of the change. 

In England, by the stat. 25 Geo. IL, ch. 35 (1752), which 
was three years before the execution at Cambridge, provision 
was made that hanging in chains should be included in the 
sentence to be pronounced by the court against all persons 
convicted of murder, and that the sentence should be exe- 
cuted on the next day but one after it was pronounced. This 
was changed by the stat. 9 Geo. IV., ch. 31, so as to give the 
court a discretion to order hanging in chains or dissection ; 
and the next year this act was extended to Ireland. By" the 
stat. 2 & 3 Wm. IV., ch. 75, the court was authorized to order 
the body to be hung in chains or buried ; and, finally, by the 
stat. 4 & 5 of Wm. IV., ch. 26 (July 25, 1834), all laws re- 
quiring bodies to be hung in chains were repealed. 

No such sudden punishment as that prescribed by the act 
of parliament of the 25 Geo. II., could be legally inflicted 
here, — at least during the colonial period ; for the colonial 
ordinance of 1641 required that four days at least should 
intervene between judgment and execution. 

The only barbarous treatment of the bodies of criminals 
authorized by law in Massachusetts since the adoption of the 
Constitution, that I am aware of, was prescribed by the act of 
1784, to discourage the practice of duelling, which revived 
some of the provisions of a law of the Province, passed in 

der only, and indicted and prosecuted to final judgment accordingly ; and the 
same punishment only shall be inflicted as in the case of murder. — [This act 
passed March 16, 1785.] " 



1883.] PROVINCIAL SEALS IN MASSACHUSETTS. 157 

1728, denying duellists the right to be buried in a coffin, and 
requiring the coroner or executioner to see that their bodies 
be interred near the place of execution, or in the public 
highway, with a stake driven through them.* 

Now, happily, capital punishment is restricted in this Com- 
monwealth and in England to two offences only ; and while, 
here, even high treason is punishable simply by imprisonment, 
in England, strong efforts have been repeatedly made, and 
recently with a fair prospect of ultimate success, to induce 
parliament to imitate our example and take away the death 
penalty from this the highest crime known to the common 
law. 

Mr. Jenks exhibited a contemporary broadside ballad on 
the execution of these slaves, belonging to the Bostonian 
Society, whose officers had kindly lent it to him for this 
purpose. 

Mr. WiNSOR presented one of a few copies of an engraving 
of a new map of New Sweden made by Professor Gregory B. 
Keen, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, who 
has compiled it from material in the archives at Stockholm, 
and from local remains on the Delaware. It is a much more 
accurate presentation of the geography of the Swedes' colony 
on the Delaware than any ever before made. 

Mr. GooDELL, in presenting to the members photo-litho- 
graphs of the court seals used in Massachusetts during the 
provincial period, made the following remarks: f — 

No attempt is known to have been made to preserve the 
shapes and devices of the seals of the colonial and provincial 
courts of justice. As the use of such seals was made imper- 
ative by law, and as they were essential to the proper au- 
thentication of writs and other processes, they are of such 
importance, both juridically and historically, as to make the 
labor of restoring them profitable, as well as deeply interest- 
ing, and to entitle a full and exact account of them to an 
honorable place in our Proceedings. 

Whether the account which follows, and the accompanying 
lithographs, are thus deserving, depends upon the degree of 
thoroughness and accuracy attained by the author in his in- 
vestigations, and also upon his skill — - as a tyro, rather than 

* Compare act of June 30, 1784, with Prov. Stat. 1728-29, ch. 15: Prov, 
Laws, vol. ii. p. 616. 

t The Society is indebted to Mr. Goodell for the photo-lithographs of these 
seals here inserted. — Eds. 



158 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOBICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

an amateur — in the art of pen-and-ink drawing. Of these 
others must judge. 

Of the original stamps, or mounted dies, used by the clerks 
to impress these seals, only four are known to be in existence ; 
namely, those of the Superior Court of Judicature, of the com- 
mon-law county-courts of Plymouth and Essex, and of the 
Probate Court of Plymouth County. The Essex county- 
courts seal dates back, certainly, to the time of Andros, as 
appears by its impression in wax on the original printed writs 
of capias and summons returnable to the Inferior Court of 
Common Pleas for that county in 1687. 

No. 1 of the accompanying lithographic representations of 
seals is, as the abbreviated Latin inscription signifies,* the 
seal of the Superior Court of Judicature already referred to. 
This court was first erected by the act of Nov. 2 >, 1692,f but, 
having ceased to exist by reason of the disallowance of this 
act, by the Privy Council, J it was revived, and continued to 
the end of the May session of the General Court of 1(397, by 
the act of Oct. 3, 1696,§ when it was reconstituted under the 
name of the '' Superiour Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, 
and General Goal Delivery." This last act,l| and the reviving 
act of 1696, were disallowed by the Privy Council, Nov. 24, 
1698. Upon receiving notice of this last disallowance, Gov- 
ernor Bellomont, early in the May session of the General Court 
of 1699, urged the Assembly to take immediate steps to re- 
establish the court, and, accordingly, another act was passed^ 
erecting a court with the same title. Thus organized, it con- 
tinued in existence until the' adoption of the Constitution. 

The jurisdiction of the Superior Court was coextensive 
with the territory of the Province, and it had '' cognizance of 
all pleas, real, personal, or mixt, as well all pleas of ihe Crown, 
and all matters relating to the conservation of the peace and 
punishment of offenders, as civil causes, or actions i)etween 
party and party, and between his Majesty and any of ])is sub- 
jects, whether the same do concern the realty and relate to 
any right of freehold and inheritance, or whether the same do 
concern the personalty and relate to matter of debt, contract, 
damage, or personal injury ; and also all mixt actions which 
concern both realty and personalty brought before them by 



* Siqllliim Curice Supcrions ex Provincia Massachusetts-Bay, Novce Anglico. 
t 1692-3, oil. 33, § : Province Laws, vol. i. p. 73. 

} Aug. 22, 1605, The date of the letter communicating official notice of the 
disallovvauce is Dec. 26, 1695. 
§ Province Laws, 1696, cb. 6. 
j) Ibid., 1697, ch. 9. IF Ibid., 1699-1700, cli. 3. 



1883.] PROVINCIAL SEALS IN MASSACHUSETTS. 159 

appeal, review, writ of error, or otherwise, as the law directs; 
and, generally, of all other matters, as fully and amply, to all 
intents and purposes, whatsoever, as the courts of King's 
Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer within his majesty's 
kingdom of England have or ought to have." * 

AH these acts required that all the processes and writs of 
the court should issue out of the clerk's office, either " under 
the seal of said office" or "under the seal of said court." 
Accordingi}^ we find that a seal of the design here depicted 
was used from the first organization of the court until the 
period of the Revolution, when it was discontinued, and other 
miscellaneous devices were used ; such as an antique head, 
and, occasionall}^ what appears to be the head of Charles 
Townshend, and, again, the arms of the Cushings, and of 
other families, and St. George and the Dragon, — very similar 
to, if not identical with, the seal shown in No. 23, — though 
this last device does not appear to have been used after the 
Declaration of Independence. The use of these miscellaneous 
seals was continued until about 1785, when the present seal, 
— issuing from a cloud, a hand holding a pair of scales in 
equipoise, with the motto, " Nulli negahimus^ nulli vendemus 
justitiam^^' — appears to have been adopted, although I have 
been unable to find any record of its adoption. f 

I have mentioned the fact that the original seal of the Supe- 
rior Court is still in existence. Of this fact I was not aware 
until after my drawings had gone to the lithographer, when, 
while conversing upon the general subject of court seals, in 
the presence of Mr. John Ward Dean, that modest and accom- 
plished antiquary put into my hands the veritable original, 
which had been intrusted to his keeping by an officer of the 
Dorchester Antiquarian Societ}^ which is the owner or depos- 
itary of this interesting treasure. The mingled emotions of 
surprise, delight, and veneration with which I regarded this 
almost miraculously preserved relic of provincial times — the 
faint and broken impressions of which I had for more than 
twenty years made the subject of desultory but deeply curious 
study with a view to its pei'fect restoration — can be better 



* Province Laws, 1699-1700, ch. 3, § 1. 

t I found in the possession of the late Geo. W. Jenks, clerk of the courts for 
Nantucket, an ancient die, — which had been recut on the back, for a notary pub- 
lic, — bearing tlie device of an Indian facing to the right and holding a bow, with 
the inscription, " S. J. Court. Massachusetts." This suggested the interesting 
inquiry, which I am unable to answer, whether or not such a seal was adopted 
by tlie Supreme Judicial Court before the present seal. A careful, though not 
exliaustive, search among the files of this court has disclosed no evidence of its 
use. 



160 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

imagined than described. This was the seal that — through 
what unknown vicissitudes during nearly two centuries — 
had come to my hand from the hand of Jonathan Ellatson, 
the first clerk. With this instrument the first original pro- 
cess that issued from the Superior Court was sealed, and this 
identical seal was impressed upon the Writs of Assistance. 
S tough ton, the first chief justice in the days of William and 
Mary, and Peter Oliver, the last chief justice under George 
III., have looked down upon this bit of wood and silver in 
the hands of the earlier or later clerks ; and so, doubtless, 
have good old Samuel Sewall, and his nephew, Stephen, and 
the two Lyndes, — father and son, — and the learned Edmund 
Trowbridge and William Gushing. Newton and Bullivant, 
no doubt, and Overing and Auchmuty, Read and Pratt, Jer- 
emy Gridley and James Otis, John Adams and Josiah Quincy, 
have toyed with this same little instrument while chatting 
with the clerks or nervously addressing the court. And yet, 
after more than a century of disuse, and after the fact of its 
ever having existed is so far forgotten that not even a tradi- 
tion of its use lingers in the clerk's office or is known to a 
judge upon the bench, it is here * before us, of the same mate- 
rials, and substantially as it appeared when the judges ap- 
pointed by Sir William Phips first opened court in Boston. 
The device is a portcullis, with chains appendant.! 

No. 2 is the first seal of the Gourt of Vice- Admiralty estab- 
lished for the district of Boston. It bears the date. May 1, 
1716, and from the interior inscription, which appears to be an 
abbreviation of ^^ per curiam^'" it was probably designed by 
the court, which modestly adopted as its device one of the 
three anchors on the seal of the High Gourt of Admiralty in 
England. 

* The original seal was produced at this meeting, and handed around for 
examination. 

t This device, which is strictly heraldic, was adopted by Henry VII. in token 
of his descent from the house of Beaufort, on whose escutcheon it was originally 
borne. He added the motto, Altera securitas, "implying that, as a portcullis is 
an additional defence to a gate, so his descent from the Beaufort family [which 
is traceable to John of Gaunt] afforded him an additional title to the crown." 
From tlie time of Elizabeth — if not from that of the first of the Tudors — it has 
been the principal badge on the collar of SS worn by the Lords Chancellors and 
Lords Chief Justices of England. The identical collar worn by Sir Edward Coke, 
and bearing tliis badge, was in the possession of Mr. Justice Coleridge as lately 
as 1876. In pictures of the High Court of Chancery and Court of King's Bench 
of the time of Henry VI., or earlier, preserved in illuminated MSS., the justices, 
though clad in scarlet robes and the coif, do not wear collars, nor is the port- 
cullis represented in the escutcheons on the walls of the court-rooms. Sir 
Thomas More, who was appointed Lord Chancellor in 1530, and whose portrait 
was painted by Holbein, is represented as wearing the collar containing this 
badge. 



1883.] PEOVINCIAL SEALS IN MASSACHUSETTS. 161 

No. 3 is the seal of the Supreme Court of Probate, and is 
remarkable as the first use, on a court seal in Massachusetts, of 
the figure of Justice, or of the scales. By the Province char- 
ter the Governor and Council were empowered to '' doe exe- 
cute or performe all that is necessary for the Probate of Wills 
Granting of Administracons for touching or concerning any 
Interest or Estate which any person or persons shall have 
within our said Province or Territory." For a short time 
after the charter went into operation the Governor and Coun- 
cil exercised probate jurisdiction for the entire Province ; but 
on the 18th of June, 1692, judges and registers of probate 
were appointed for the four principal counties, Suffolk, Essex, 
Middlesex, and Hampshire, without any enabling act of the 
legislature, but by a delegation of judicial functions, according 
to the civil law, the rules of which were followed in the ec- 
clesiastical courts. This delegation of judicial functions was 
continued during the provincial period until probate courts 
were established in all the counties, and recognized by the 
legislature in numerous acts enlarging or defining their juris- 
diction, establishing the fees of their judges and registers, and 
providing for the security of heirs, distributees, and creditors, 
and for the faithful p'erformance of duty by executors, admin- 
istrators, and other appointees of these courts. 

That these inferior ecclesiastical tribunals were supposed to 
authenticate their peculiar processes by official seals, appears 
not only from the actual practice of these courts, but also 
from the act of Nov. 1, 1692, for the punishment of criminal 
offenders,* which exempted judges and registers of probate 
from liability to conviction of forgery for innocently affixing 
" their seal of office " to any forged will. Of these seals par- 
ticular details will be given hereafter. 

Appeals from the probate courts lay to the Governor and 
Council as the Supreme Court of Probate, which, after the 
establishment of the county tribunals, retained, or rather 
exercised, only this appellate jurisdiction. No attempt 
seems to have been made by the Governor and Council to 
separate the performance of their judicial functions from 
their ordinary transactions in their executive capacity until 
Feb. 9, 1760, when, at the instance of Governor Pownall, 
who prepared and laid before the Council an elaborate ac- 
count of their probate jurisdiction,! they formally organized 



* Province Laws, 1692-93, ch. 18, § 8. 

t See this message of Governor Pownall's, printed in Appendix HL to 
Quincy's Mass. Reports, p. 673. 

21 



162 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

a Supreme Court of Probate, and adopted the seal here 
depicted.* 

No. 4. This most interesting seal is remarkable as being the 
first seal ever adopted by a judicial court in Massachusetts. 
It was designed in 1680,1 to be used on the probate letters 
issued from the Suffolk County-Court, and in 1692 was adopted 
as the seal of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, and the 
Court of General Sessions of the Peace for that county. The 
only impressions of this seal that I have discovered being 
upon paper, over a wafer, and either lightly made, or else 
much affected by time, I had great difficulty in making it 
out. However, by comparing many impressions, I was, for- 
tunately, able to ascertain, with sufficient accuracy, even the 
most obscure details of the device and inscription. 

No. 5 is the seal of the Probate Court for Suffolk County, 
as shown by the legend, in abbreviated Latin. | Seventy-two 
different impressions of this seal, selected from files contained 
in more than fifty-six hundred envelopes, were carefully 
studied and compared in order to accurately ascertain the 
details of the device and the surrounding inscription. The 
swan is an ancient heraldic royal device used even by Ed- 
ward III., but chiefly by the Henrys, IV. and V., who derived 
it from the Bohuns. No special reason for its adoption here 
has been discovered. 

No. 6 is the seal of the common-law courts of Essex County, 
and is a monogram for " Essex." Over the monogram is a 
legless bird, and beneath it a fleur-de-lys, each between two 

* " Ordered, likewise, that there be a seal provided and appropriated to the 
use of this court/' — Order in Council: Ibid. 

t I must acknowledge my indebtedness to John Coffin Jones Brown, Esq., for 
this important item. Since the meeting at which the accompanying lithographs 
were exhibited, Mr. Brown referred me to the following entry in the Records 
of the County Court : " At a County Court, held at Boston, 25 January, A^. 
1680 [-1] Present, S^ Bradstreet, Esqr., Govr, 

Wm. Stoughton ^ 

Joseph Dudley 

Hump''. Dayie 

John Richards 

Samuel Nowell 

John Hull 

Ordered, that the Gierke provide a Seale for the Courts use to annex to pro- 
bate of wills and grants of Adm"*"* the circumference thereof to bee the same of a 
Shilling and a Ship engraven thereon with this inscription Sigillum Comitatus 

SUFFOLCI^." 

Mr. Brown also called my attention to the resemblance between this seal and 
the Admiralty seal of Boston, in Lincolnshire, Eng., the device on which he has 
incorporated in the seal which he ingeniously designed for the Bostonian 
Society. 

X Sigillum Comitatus Suffolcice, in Nova Ang/ia, de Probatione Testa mentorum : — 
The seal of the Probate of Wills for the County of Suffolk in New England. 



Esq" 



1883.] PROVINCIAL SEALS IN MASSACHUSETTS. 163 

groups of dots, which may have been intended for roses or, 
possibly, estoiles. This ancient seal, which, as I have already 
said, is still in existence, though somewhat changed by wear 
and occasional recutting, is now used as the seal of the Board 
of County Commissioners, which succeeds to the administrative 
functions of the old Court of Sessions. It was originally de- 
signed for the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, as has already 
been said. Later, it was impressed upon the subpoenas and 
other processes issued by Stephen Sewall, clerk of the Special 
Court of Oyer and Terminer, before which the persons accused 
of witchcraft were tried in 1692 ; although the warrant for 
the execution of Bridget Bishop — and, perhaps, all the other 
"death-warrants" — was sealed with the private arms of 
Stoughton, the chief justice. 

Upon the establishment of the Court of Common Pleas and 
Court of Sessions, in 1692, it was adopted b}^ them, and con- 
tinued in use as the seal of those courts until they were 
abolished. 

No. 7 is the seal of the Probate Court for Essex County, 
and was adopted at the time of the establishment of the court. 
The device — a lion rampant — still appears on the seal of 
that court, though, since the Revolution, the legend '* County 
of Essex " has been substituted for the Latin inscription of 
the original seal. 

No. 8 is the seal of the common-law courts of Middlesex 
County. The admirable condition in which the files of the 
Inferior Court of Common Pleas and of the Court of Ses- 
sions for that county are kept enables us easily to trace the 
use of this seal back to 1692-93, but the loss of the more an- 
cient files of the County Court leaves us in doubt as to its 
earlier use. Samuel Phips, the first clerk under the Charter, 
occasionally sealed warrants and subpoenas of the Court of 
Sessions with a stamp on which his initials were cut enclosed 
in a circle. 

In the seal here depicted the illiterate seal-cutter omitted a 
" d " in '' Middlesex," and evidently intended " Registry " 
by the anomalous word "• Regisley." 

No. 9 is the seal of the Probate Court for Middlesex County. 
A naturalist would hardly be able to classify the bird here 
represented. The device intended was, undoubtedly, in the 
language of the heralds, '' a pelican vulning herself." The 
absence in this case of the characteristic pouch of the pelican 
is not more remarkable than the absence of one of the two 
legs characteristic of all perfect birds. If the "gouts" of 
blood that are represented as falling from her self-inflicted 



164 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

wounds were nourishing her brood around her, she would be 
described by the heralds as " in her piety," and the appro- 
priateness of this device, for a probate court, might then be 
more apparent; but it is difficult to understand why the 
attention of the afflicted petitioners to the Probate Court of 
Middlesex should have been officially called to this example 
of wanton self-injury. 

No. 10 is the seal of the common-law courts of Plymouth 
County. It is still preserved by the Clerk of the Courts, 
though not in use. This is fortunate, since the ancient files 
of the clerk's office were recently almost totally destroyed by 
fire. On a few of the scattered papers of early date that were 
saved from the fire, I was, by the kindness of their possessors, 
enabled to discover the impression of this seal, and to observe 
that it has undergone but very slight change since 1692. 

No. 11 is the seal of the Probate Court for Plymouth County. 
As the legend implies, the person here represented as kneel- 
ing is the '' relicta^'' or widow. She holds in her left hand the 
extended hand of her " orphan " child, and in her right hand, 
what — though it more nearly resembles a fan, or bunch of 
cigars — must have been intended to represent a petition to 
the judge. The antique costume of these figures is noticeable, 
and might be referred to a period much earlier than the date 
of the establishment of the Probate Court in this county ; I 
have not, however, found an instance of the use of this seal 
before 1707. It was probably adopted by the first judge of 
this court, about 1702, and is still in the custody of the Reg- 
ister of Probate. The present seal of the same court exhibits 
the same legend and device, though the latter, aesthetically, 
is much improved. 

No. 12 is the seal of the common-law courts of Bristol 
County. It bears date 1687, whiah, no doubt, is the date of 
its adoption, although the first instance of its use on record is 
Nov. 28, 1689, while Stephen Burton was clerk. Like the 
other county seals herein described, it was used for the Infe- 
rior Court of Common Pleas and Court of General Sessions 
of the Peace, until they were superseded by the Circuit 
Court of Common Pleas. 

No. 13 is the Probate Court seal of Bristol County. This 
drawing was made from nine fragmentary impressions on wax, 
discovered in a careful search through more than twenty-eight 
hundred different envelopes of the filed papers of this court. 
The results of this careful scrutiny left nothing for conjecture 
except the first three letters of the word *' county," which 
were not on either of the fragments found. No instance of 



1883.] PROVINCIAL SEALS IN MASSACHUSETTS. 165 

the use of this seal has been discovered before 1755, and from 
the comparatively mo'dern appearance of the letters of the in- 
scription, as well as from the neatness of the workmanship, I 
should suppose it to be not older than 1750. 

This seal evidently represents a probate court in session. 
The judge, wearing a curled wig, sits at the left, in his gown 
and bands, holding a book or paper in his left hand, which he 
keeps open with his right hand, while on his left, and behind 
a table, sits the register. On this table is an inkstand in 
which a quill-pen stands upright. Another pen, and a book 
or fold of paper, lie before the register, whose left arm is ex- 
tended upon the table while with his right hand he is pass- 
ing to the judge a folded letter. In the background, between 
the judge and the register, is a Doric column or pilaster, and 
between this and the judge is a casement, or window, with 
lozenge-shaped panes. A parquetry j&oor extends from the 
edge of the table-cloth — which hangs in folds nearly to the 
floor — to the extreme front of the foreground. The whole 
design presents a curious and interesting picture of what may 
be fairly considered an actual scene in New England in the 
middle of the eighteenth century, or earlier. 

There was considerable irregularity in the use of seals in 
the Probate Court of Bristol before and after the earliest 
known instance of the employment of the seal here depicted. 
Other seals were used by the same officers who used this seal. 
Thus, Judge Blagrove, — 1729-44, — or his register, Stephen 
Paine, used a shield, with an inscribed heart nearly filling the 
field, and an estoile of eight points, or rays, for a crest ; and 
Judge Leonard, or his son, the register of the same name, 
after 1747, used different armorial devices, — sometimes a 
double-headed eagle, displayed, and sometimes a lion ram- 
pant, with his name, '' George Leonard," circumscribed ; he 
also used a small seal representing a lymphad, or other vessel, 
opposite a port flanked with towers, and superscribed, " Porto 
Bello." 

No. 14 is the seal of the common-law courts of Worcester 
County. A seal of substantially the same design is still used 
by the County Commissioners, and is known as the county 
seal. An enlarged representation of it hangs on the wall of 
the law library in Worcester. It continued to be used for the 
Inferior Court of Common Pleas and Court of Sessions from 
1731, when the county was established, until those courts 
were superseded ; and some of the best impressions of it 
may be seen on writs filed in the clerk's office in the years 
1812-15. 



166 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOEICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

No. 15 is the seal of the Probate Court of Worcester 
County. The bird here intended I conceive to be a turkey, 
though neither nature nor the heralds have anywhere pro- 
duced its archetype. The peculiar fitness of this device as 
an emblem for this county and court is not obvious on its 
face, nor have I been able to discover any further facts relat- 
ing to its adoption, than that it was used by the first appointed 
officers of the Probate Court. After the Revolution it was 
disused, and has long been forgotten by the probate officers 
and even by the antiquaries. 

No. 16, as appears by the inscription,* is, strictly, the seal 
of the Probate Court for Hampshire County, — which origi- 
nally included Berkshire, Hampden, and Franklin, — but it 
appears to have been, also, the only seal used by the Inferior 
Court of Common Pleas and of the Court of Sessions for that 
large territory. It dates back, undoubtedly, to 1692, when the 
Probate Court in Hampshire County was first established. 

No. 17 was drawn from a fragment of what is supposed to 
have been the original Probate Court seal of Nantucket 
County. Of the impressions of this seal, — all of which are 
indistinct and fragmentary, — it is possible that the more per- 
fect ones may have been made by applying the seal twice, so 
as to partly overlay a former impression, thus rendering the 
inscription more obscure, and producing the appearance of 
four arch-diadems where only two should appear. In 1715, 
while this seal was in use, and while James Coffin was judge 
and Eleazer Folger was acting as register, I find used as a 
seal, an impression of arms which appear to be a chief, in- 
dented, and a chevron. Just before the Revolution, and 
later, another seal, not infrequently used, was a crest, — a 
wyvern, or cockatrice ; more probably the latter. This last- 
mentioned seal was used while Grafton Gardner was judge 
and Frederick Folger was register. In 1771, under the same 
judge and register, the device of St. George and the Dragon 
(No. 23) was also used in a few instances. 

No seal for the common-law courts seems to have been spe- 
cially adopted in Nantucket ; it is certain that the files saved 
from the fire of July, 1846, show no such seal ; and the sup- 
position is confirmed by the practice, since 1800, of sealing 
the writs of the Inferior Courts of Common Pleas with the 
reverse of a cent, or with any other coin or instrument that 
could be conveniently employed for that purpose. 

No. 18 is the seal of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas 

* Sigillum, Comitatus Hamptonice, de Probatione Testamentorum. 



1883.] PROVINCIAL SEALS IN MASSACHUSETTS. 16T 

and Court of General Sessions of the Peace for Cumberland 
County, which was set off from the County of York in 1760,* 
and, with the parent county and the county of Lincoln, re- 
mained a part of Massachusetts until Maine was admitted into 
the Union as a sovereign State in 1820. Tliis seal continued 
in use after Maine became a State, and it is yet the county 



Unfortunately, the great fire in Portland in July, 1866, 
which destroyed the court-house, consumed all the files and 
records of the probate office, which was, too confidently, 
deemed fire-proof. I have not yet been able to learn from 
any other source whether or not there was a probate seal from 
the establishment of the court, which is as old as the county. 
The earliest impression of a seal of this court that has come 
to my notice is of comparatively recent date, and nearly re- 
sembles, except in point of size, 'the seal now in use. The de- 
vice is an urn surrounded by an inner inscription, '' JEquitas 
SuPERSTiTiBUS," and an outer inscription, " Cumbp:bland 
Probate Court." At least three distinct seals, substan- 
tially identical in design, have been successively used by this 
court ; but the first of these has not been traced back further 
than thirty years. f 

No. 19 is all that I have been able to make out of the seal 
of the courts of Lincoln County, which was set off from York 
County in 1760, by the act above mentioned. At first, no seal 
was specially adopted for any of these courts ; but, at a Court 
of Sessions held at Pownalborough, June 1, 1762, the follow- 
ing order was passed : " Ordered that a seal presented by 
Samuel Denny, Esq., the Motto whereof being a cup and 
three mullets, being the lawful Coat of Arms of the said Den- 
ny's Family, with the said Denny's name, at large, in the 
verge thereof, be accepted, and that it be established to be 
the common Seal of this Court." J 

Denny was, at that time, chief justice of the Inferior Court 
of Common Pleas for the county, and William Cushing — 
afterwards distinguished, successively, as a justice and chief 
justice of the Superior Court of Judicature of the Province, 
and chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of the State, 

* June 21 : Province Laws, 1760-61, ch. 7. 

t I have seen a letter of administration and a letter of guardianship granted 
in 1797, when William Gorham was judge and Samuel Freeman was register, 
both of which letters bear the impression of seal No. 18 ; and I have not yet 
seen a paper of earlier date than these, that was issued by the Court of Probate 
for this county. 

X Sessions Records, Lincoln County, vol. !., p. 17. I find no confirmation 
of the claim of this family to these arms. 



168 MASSACHUSETTS HISTOEICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

of Massachusetts, and a justice of the Supreme Court of the 
United States — was judge of probate. Jona,than Bowman, 
at that time clerk of the courts and register of probate, used 
this seal alike in common-law and probate proceedings ; and 
his successors continued the practice certainly as late as the 
beginning of the Revolution. 

A seal much used on writs and probate papers in Lincoln 
County, before the adoption of the Denny arms, was the head 
of one of the Georges, — a seal occasionally used officiallj^, and 
sometimes on bonds and deeds, in other counties. This 
device is shown in No. 24, and it is not unlikely that seals 
bearing this royal likeness were to be had of the stationers or 
haberdashers of that period. 

Nos. 20, 21, and 22 are seals formerly in use in Barnstable 
County. 

All the court and probate files of this county were lost in 
the fire which consumed the court-house at Barnstable on the 
night of Oct. 22, 1827. Fortunately, however, most of the 
books of probate records were saved, and in the first volume 
of these, Barnabas Lothrop, the first judge of probate for this 
county, not only made the first record of a letter testamen- 
tary,* but affixed his seal thereto in wax. This impression 
is shown in No. 22. No. 20 was used by Nathaniel Otis 
while he was clerk, in 1729, as the seal of the Inferior Court 
of Common Pleas. No. 21 was used from 1730 to 1750, while 
John Sturgis was clerk. This last may have been used as 
the initial letter for Barnstable, or for Bourne — members of 
that family having held either one or more of the offices of the 
Common Pleas or Probate Courts during this period. On 
the whole, the indications are that no particular seal for 
either of the courts of Barnstable County was adopted during 
the provincial period. 

In Dukes County I find occasionally used as the seal of the 
Probate Court an intricate monogram, the faint and imper- 
fect impressions of which I have been unable to decipher.f 
In 1715 the initials '' B. S." occur, being evidently those of 
Benjamin Skiffe, who was then judge of probate. Later, I 
find a mitre sometimes used, and sometimes two keys crossed 
saltierwise, among the miscellaneous devices appearing upon 
the papers of the Probate Court ; but no evidence that a seal 
was specially adopted for any of the courts. 

York County seems also to have been without a regular 

* Will of Edmond Hawes, Sept. 2, 1693. 

t This may have been a double monogram for "J. Athearn," — Jabez Athearn 
having been for many years register of the court. 



1883.] PROVINCIAL SEALS IN MASSACHUSETTS. 169 

court seal for either of its courts. Very early, an obscure 
monogram was used on the writs of the Inferior Court of 
Common Pleas ; and the impression of a seal, still more ob- 
scure, but which may possibly have been the same, is found 
on a few early probate papers. Finally, the common-law 
courts seem to have adopted the device — shown in No. 23 
— of St. George and the Dragon. This continued in use cer- 
tainly as late as 1820. 

The seal last described was occasionally used by the pro- 
bate officers in 1731, and again ten years later. Towards the 
end of the term of Charles Frost, who was register of probate 
from 1700 to 1733, a small double monogram of his initials, 
^ ' C. F." was used, and occasionally a rudely cut crest, — 
a stag, lodged. Simon Frost, while register, — 1744-66, — 
also used a seal bearing only his initials, rudely cut. Under 
Judge Jeremiah Moulton, however, — 1746-65, — which 
covered most of the time during which Simon Frost was reg- 
ister, the seal most commonly used appears to have been a 
fesse ; in the chief, two swords crossed, saltier- wise, and in 
the base a mullet : crest, a mullet. I have not ascertained to 
what family these arms, which are very neatly and artistically 
cut on the seal in question, belong. This seal continued to 
be used occasionally on probate papers as late as 1821. In 
1776, under Judge John Bradbury, a bird — perhaps a dove or 
a raven, and, apparently, a crest — was sometimes used. While 
David Sewall was register, the full arms of the Sewalls — a 
chevron between three bees : crest, a bee, — were used under 
Judge John Hill ; and the crest, simply, under Judge Joseph 
Simpson, in 1779. It appears from the foregoing that the 
register, rather than the judge, appointed the seal of the 
court. 

In the County of Berkshire, which, as has been said, was 
set off from Hampshire in 1761, no seal seems to have been 
regularly adopted by either of the county courts. Among the 
miscellaneous devices used in sealing the letters of the Probate 
Court from 1773 to 1784 was one that appears to have been 
the original corporate seal of Princeton College, New Jersey. 
Private coats of arms were also used for the same purpose then 
and earlier. 

Although it is not my purpose at this time to describe seals 
that were not in use before the adoption of the State Consti- 
tution, I will so far overstep my proposed limits as to observe 
here that the first seal used in Berkshire County was the pro- 
bate seal, which appears to have been adopted about 1797, 
and which continued in use until 1811 or 1812. It bore sub- 

22 



170 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mar. 

stantially the same device as that upon the State seal, with an 
inscription showing that it was the seal of the Probate Court. 
This was superseded by another seal, which first appears in 
1813, on which are represented two figures; one evidently 
meant for the judge of probate sitting in a round-backed 
chair, and the other, a small boy standing before the judge, 
whose left hand is laid tenderly upon the boy's head, while 
his right clasps the boy's left hand. It is inscribed, ''Seal of 
the Court of Probate, Berkshire," with an inner inscription 
of ''Mass." on a scroll above the judge's head. This seal, 
having been broken, was repaired, when the seal-cutter took 
the liberty to substitute a straight-posted chair for the judge's 
seat, and to make other slight changes in the design. 

A regular seal for the common-law courts of Berkshire seems 
to have been first used at the June Term of the Inferior Court 
of Common Pleas in 1804 ; and it probably continued to be 
used b}^ that court and the Court of Sessions until the estab- 
lishment of the Circuit Courts of Common Pleas. The device 
on this seal was an awkward figure of " Justice," with her 
head extending into the verge of the seal, holding a sword in 
her right hand and a pair of scales, equipoised, in her left 
hand. The inscription is, SiG. Com. Pleas. Berk^ Mass.