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Full text of "Ye olden blue laws"

Courtesy of P. F. Collier & Son. 

Arresting a Woman Charged with Witchcraft 



YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 



YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 



BY 

GUSTAVUS MYERS 

AUTHOR OF "THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN 

FORTUNES," "HISTORY OF THE SUPREME COURT 

OF THE UNITED STATES," "HISTORY OP 

TAMMANY HALL," ETC. 



Illustrates 




NEW YORK 

THE CENTURY CO. 
1921 



fc^ 



Copyright, 1921, by 
THE CENTUBY Co. 



PREFACE 

FOR the reader s convenience it has been 
thought desirable to omit the multitude of foot 
notes that would have cluttered these pages had 
references been given in the case of each fact 
related. All of the vital facts herein described 
are taken from official or other authentic docu 
ments, a list of which is presented at the end of 
this book. It will be noted that the laws, court 
records, and other annals of various colonies were 
copied from original manuscript volumes by ex 
perts of historical societies acting under order of 
legislatures, and that publication was done under 
legislative sanction. Other compilations of laws 
were prepared either by direction of Provincial 
or State legislative bodies or by legal authorities 
the exactness of whose works has never been 
questioned. 

Great care has been taken throughout this 
book to adhere to accuracy of fact and to avoid 
overdrawing of narrative. Strong as the facts 



558273 



vi PREFACE 

are in many chapters, they do not by any means 
include all of those set forth in the records. Had 
these been added, they would have compelled a 
far more elaborate account than it is the purpose 
to give here; and moreover some are of such a 
nature that it better served the interests of 
propriety to generalize rather than to go into 
details. \ 






CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT .... 3 

II THE BAN ON FASHION 28 

III GAG RULE 47 

IV TONGUES UNTIED 65 

V PENNING THE FLOCK 84 

VI RELIEF IN ERUPTION 100 

VII HARRIED TO DESPERATION 113 

VIII A PALL UPON JOY 126 

IX YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 144 

X WOE TO WOOERS 165 

XI CLOSED TO TRAVEL 175 

XII AN OPEN ROUTE FOUND 186 

XIII DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 201 

XIV FOOTLIGHTS ABLAZE 219 

XV THE TRAIL OF PREJUDICE 231 

XVI REAPERS OF WRATH 245 

REFERENCES . . . 269 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Arresting a woman charged with witchcraft . Frontispiece 



PACING 
PAGE 



TheBranks 38 

The Pillory . . . . . r .- -.- -., . 86 

The Scarlet Letter 118 

The Drunkard s Cloak 150 

The Ducking Stool 182 

Laying by the heels in the Bilboes 214 

A Quaker in the Stocks 262 



YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 



YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

CHAPTER I 

A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 

WHEN, during the thrilling days of the 
World War, the constitutional amend 
ment decreeing abolition of the liquor traffic 
was adopted, the supposition prevailed that 
there was nothing left to legislate out of 
existence, at least nothing concerning habits, 
tastes, and customs. Undeniably there was a 
wide-spread belief in immunity from further 
agitations. 

However the amendment pleased or shocked 
individual sensibilities, the era of summary 
revolutionary changes seemed to have reached 
a climax. An institution, almost as old as writ 
ten history itself, had been abolished. That hav 
ing been done, each prepared to adjust himself 
accordingly, either by obeying or surreptitiously 



4, YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

violating the law, as suited his fancy, inclinations, 
convictions, or interests. 

But to the great surprise of the generality 
of people, it was soon discovered that, instead 
of being a culmination, the overthrow of the 
liquor traffic was the beginning of a series of as 
saults. They had fondly assured themselves that 
the Militant Moralist would do nothing more 
because there remained nothing for him to do, 
and had pictured him retiring gracefully into 
obscurity, well content with the remembrance 
of great deeds accomplished. They did not 
know that the Militia of Morals had its divisions 
of forces, and that while one section was on the 
front lines, attacking liquor, others were in re 
serve, preparing for energetic combat. Its or 
ganizations had long since been formed, and 
were only awaiting the strategic time when they 
could project themselves into the fight with their 
bill of demands. 

To many people the announcement of these 
facts was bewildering. Long propagandizing 
had accustomed them to associating the word 
prohibition entirely with the anti-liquor cam 
paign. They did not foresee that its significance 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 5 

would be extended to include numerous other 
prohibitions. It was represented with such 
positiveness that the exclusion of liquor would 
cure moral, social, political, and economic evils 
that the assurance was tolerated even in quarters 
where these large promises met with doubt or 
disbelief. People at least wished to see how 
liquor prohibition would work; yet without giv 
ing them adequate opportunity, a number of 
self-constituted organizations have come for 
ward with a list of what they say are other evils 
to be prohibited. Their demands include: 

The abolition of tobacco. 

No Sunday sports. 

No Sunday concerts or entertainments. 

No Sunday newspapers. 

No Sunday opening of any kind of stores. 

No Sunday motion pictures. 

Drastic restriction of Sunday travel. 

Stricter regulation of marriage and divorce. 

A single standard of morality. 

Added to the foregoing are three proposals 
which are still in an incipient state. They have 
not reached the point of peremptory demands 



6 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

but are more in the form of suggestive agitation. 
These are the regulation of women s dress, the 
censorship of publications, and the protection 
of ministers against caustic criticism. 

The program is a formidable one. But un 
like the liquor prohibitory movement, which was 
long treated with levity or ignored, its successor 
movements have been taken seriously. Started 
by American clergymen in 1826, the liquor pro 
hibitory movement was popularly regarded as 
futile. It was ridiculed and derided, and the 
newspapers gave scant attention to it. But it 
throve on the very lack of publicity which would 
have been fatal to any other kind of movement. 
It developed its own missionary methods of 
gradually arousing and shaping a compact ele 
ment of public opinion, and it created an efficient 
machine for influencing legislative action. Per 
sistently working upon lawmakers, it finally at 
tained the success which the large opposition had 
thought impossible. 

Its triumph has had a double effect. With 
its methods and victory so fresh in the public 
mind, there is no general disposition to slight the 
potentialities of similar movements, no matter 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 7 

how extravagant their demands may seem. On 
the other hand, the leaders of the other pro 
hibitory movements are imbued with a radiant 
self-confidence. The active leaders of the Lord s 
Day Alliance of the United States, the Women s 
National Sabbath Alliance, the International 
Reform Bureau, the National Women s Chris 
tian Temperance Union, the National Anti- 
Divorce League, and other such bodies are either 
ministers or groups influenced by ministers 
chiefly of two leading Protestant denominations. 

Filled with the spirit and zeal of crusaders, 
they are sanguine that as liquor prohibition was 
legally accomplished, any reform is attainable, 
and that the success of that movement has given 
them the right to speak with a tone of authority. 
They are convinced that they can effect a com 
plete social and moral transformation, and it does 
not seem to them a far-fetched belief that in the 
very exercise of their power they will restore the 
ancient prestige of church and clergy, which ad 
mittedly has long been diminishing. 

The state that it is their aim to establish they 
officially hail as "The New Era." This sounds 
like the promise of something transcendently 



8 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

novel and glorious in the annals of American life. 
But there is nothing new about their motive, the 
means they purpose to use, or the laws they de 
mand. America once had a long and trying ex 
perience with precisely the same kind of experi 
ment. There is not one of the fundamentals of 
the proposed list of demands that has not been 
tried before, and tried during a period when con 
ditions were most propitious for success. But 
the protracted experiment failed badly, and was 
discarded by the American people as intolerant 
and impracticable. 

The exact parallel between the impetus and 
development of the Puritan blue-law regime and 
the aims of the present movement is striking. 

Leading Massachusetts settlers, both Puritans 
and Pilgrims, believed in the feasibility of the 
establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth. 
They were always rapturously talking and 
writing about this, and about the "beautiful city" 
which they were sure they could create and main 
tain. The present crusading movements in their 
quest of the "New Era" have the same exalted 
ideal. The Puritans, and indeed some other 
sects, were convinced that laws could change 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 9 

human ways and mold mankind in any form 
desired. Therefore it was necessary only to 
enact laws and ever more laws ; the stricter and 
sterner the laws, they believed, the more compel 
ling their effect in the ingraining of standards. 

The movements of to-day have inherited this 
theory. They assume that Puritan inhibitive 
laws must necessarily have been successful, and 
forthwith adopt the Puritan method as their 
model. With the scope of those laws and their 
consequences the clerical chiefs of the present 
Sabbatarian movements may not be and often 
are not familiar. But they do know the com 
manding position ministers and other church 
functionaries held in colonial days, dominating 
law as well as directing religion; and they be 
lieve that in a like way the responsibility devolves 
upon them to undertake the moral guardianship 
of the people. 

The parallel goes further. The Puritans be 
gan with certain summary repressive laws, and 
followed them with a succession of other repres 
sive laws, pyramiding constantly. The move" 
ments of the present day began with prohibition 
as the great goal. But scarcely had that been 



10 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

achieved when the American public was in 
formed that a multitude of other restrictions 
were to be imposed. The Puritans found their 
sanction in the Bible and religion; so do the 
various inter joined crusading organizations of 
our time. 

Conventional history represents the Puritans 
as coming to this continent to establish the prin 
ciples of religious freedom. So they did, but 
for themselves and for nobody else. And only 
for such of themselves as were a part of their 
theocratic machine and were subservient to their 
decrees and obedient to their laws. 

Suppression was the fixed policy from the 
very inception of the Puritan colony. The First 
General Letter of April 17, 1629, from the offi 
cials of the New England Company to the 
settlers in Massachusetts ordered them "to sup 
press vain disputes that busy persons may beget 
as to religion." This was to be done to promote 
"peace and unity," but the elysium of peace and 
unity that ensued was one promoted by the bit 
ted persecution of all other sects. At the same 
time the settlers were assured that the company 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 11 

had been careful "to make plentiful provision of 
godly ministers." 

This letter of instructions contained the first 
summary law. The planting of tobacco was pro 
hibited, unless in small quantity for physic to 
preserve health. Its use was to be rigidly con 
fined to medicinal purposes only. No tobacco 
was to be laden upon any ships leaving the 
colony. 

The tobacco decree was the beginning of the 
whole code of inhibitive laws. It bore the same 
relation to the colonial period that liquor pro 
hibition does to ours. The General Court of 
Massachusetts, which made the laws, followed 
up the decree by enacting severe statutes. The 
idea that they would be violated never occurred 
to it. Care had been taken to get rid of un 
desirable settlers. The New England Company 
had expressly ordered that any incorrigible 
drones, libertines, or profligates be shipped back 
to England. Those settlers allowed to stay 
were supposed to be of guaranteed virtue and 
piety, and zealous and dependable in support 
of church and ministerial edicts. The established 
Puritan church not merely swayed but controlled 



12 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

politics. No QGej^^J^lljnember_was allowed 
to vote. The laws were made? by ministers or 
church elders, who constituted, a special ruling 
class. At different times they exempted them 
selves in law from taxation. Laws were enforced 
by magistrates who necessarily belonged to the 
church. 

But it was soon found that when law, even 
church-made law, interfered with personal tastes 
and habits, it ignominiously suffered. The aver 
age Puritan liked tobacco so well that he not 
only smoked but drank it. Of the nature of the 
concoction made from it the records do not tell. 
The ministers indignantly declaimed against to 
bacco, and the courts sternly inflicted punish 
ment. Still the tobacco habit grew. It spread 
so fast that in a moment of despair the General 
Court repealed all of the laws against it. But 
this lapse was temporary; the court soon re 
covered its belief in the invincibility of law, and 
began to pass new prohibitory statutes. 

Its law of September 6, 1688^ was not based 
upon moral objections as were the previous laws. 
By this time both masters and menials had be 
come infected with the tobacco habit. Masters 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 13 

did not take kindly to any law classing them 
selves as immoral. The lawmakers were 
obliging; they put necessity for the law of 1638 
on other grounds. One declared purpose was to 
prevent fires. Tobacco-pipes were then_often 
kindled from gumoowder_^ig^iition. As they 
felled the forests, tilled the fields, and reaped 
the harvests, the Puritan stalwarts occasionally 
indulged in a smoke. This law severely fined 
any one smoking in barns, fields, or forests, and 
also forbade the use of tobacco in any inn or 
other public house except in a private room, "so 
as neither the master of the same house, nor any 
other guests there shall take offense thereat; 
which if they do, then such person is forthwith 
to forbear upon pain of two shillings, sixpence 
fine for every offense." 

Puritan lawmakers are supposed to have been 
inflexible in their conceptions of impartial law 
for all, but^they neveri lacked geixexosity 4o 4he 
influential andjx>werful. Indirectly, in this law 
they gave the masters the full privilege of smok 
ing as much as they pleased. But if servants or 
workmen smoked in or anywhere near a house, 
barn, or other building, or in the fields or forests, 



14 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

the master was empowered to deduct from their 
wages the amount of the prescribed fine and turn 
it into the town treasury. In the absence of 
proof to the contrary, we must assume that he 
did hand in the money to the public treasury, al 
though there was no way provided of compelling 
him to do so, and no penalty for his not doing it. 
Constantly seeing masters indulging in the use 
of the much-prized weed, servants and artisans 
were disgruntled. True, the law did not utterly 
forbid tobacco to those working for wages, but 
it placed restrictions on its use that amounted to 
complete denial. The servant of that time was 
not the same as the domestic servant of to-day; 
he not only was one who gave personal service, 
but was often a skilled workman bonded to per 
form many kinds of tasks for merchants, ship 
pers and plantation owners. Seldom could a ser 
vant go anywhere except with the master s for 
mal permission; he could not leave a master until 
his term of indenture had expired ; and if he ran 
away it was provided by the law of 1630 that the 
magistrate and two chief inhabitants were "to 
press men and boats or pinnaces, at the public 
charge, to pursue such persons by sea and land, 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 15 

and bring them back by force of arms." Only 
when the master was cruel was the servant held 
justified in fleeing, and in such a case the master s 
testimony was usually accepted. By the law of 
1634 no servant might have any land allotted to 
him "till he hath approved his faithfulness to 
his master during his time of service," and the 
act of 1636 made servants ineligible for any 
office. 

The effect of the law restraining servants from 
smoking was to goad them to a clandestine use 
of tobacco. When the master was not on the 
scene, the workman would take advantage of the 
occasion by smoking in some place where he 
thought himself tolerably safe. Occasional de 
tection did not prevent the practice from becom 
ing wide-spread. In 1646 the General Court 
enacted a new law, decreeing that smoking was 
lawful only when done on a journey, five miles 
remote from any town. Ostensibly this law was 
of general application, but it was particularly 
intended to bear upon servants, few of whom 
ever had opportunity to go any long distance 
from a house. The records of the times are frag 
mentary, but it is evident that so general was 



16 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

the spirit of resentment and defiance that a law 
had to be passed late in 1646 forbidding the 
bringing of pipes and tobacco into the austere 
precincts of the court, and providing that any 
person using tobacco in the room where the court 
was sitting was to forfeit sixpence for every pipe 
taken, and double that fine for the second of 
fense. 

That was the last law passed against the use 
of tobacco in Massachusetts Colony. In their 
contest with tobacco, the authorities were utterly 
defeated. Laws regarding it remained in the 
official tomes, but they were ignored. Jurymen 
themselves smoked, and found ways of conven 
iently interpreting the law. A case came be 
fore the General Court, on October 13, 1680, 
concerning a parcel of tobacco seized by one Ed 
ward Randolph. The legal trial decided that the 
law could not be construed to condemn the pos 
session of tobacco, and therefore declared that 
the parcel "ought not longer to be detained in 
the custody of the law" but was to be returned 
to the owners. The significance of the precedent 
established was clear: what was tobacco for if 
not to be used? 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 17 

Plymouth Colony, settled by the Pilgrims, 
had somewhat the same experience with tobacco. 
For smoking on the streets, a law of 1638 im 
posed a fine of ten shillings for every offense. 
Formal history may not say so, but nevertheless 
many Pilgrims loved to smoke while deliberating, 
a fact that called forth a law in 1639 to stop 
jurymen from smoking, which fined them five 
shillings for every time they were caught. As 
smoking everywhere increased, the ministers de 
cided that they would put an end to it by a 
sweeping interdiction. They caused a law to 
be passed in 1641 prohibiting the importation of 
tobacco. Their logic was good enough; how 
could people smoke if they could not get tobacco? 
But the people proved that they could get it by 
smuggling. The ministers were pained that so 
many of their church members should turn 
smugglers, and the best way of retrieving an 
embarrassing situation they had that law re 
pealed the very next year. 

The law of 1638 did not stop smoking on the 
streets. Themselves relishing a puff, constables 
could be afflicted with poor eyesight when the oc 
casion arose. The ministers had a new law with 



18 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

severer penalties passed in 1646, and later in the 
same year another law with still heavier penal 
ties. But some sardonic lawmaker inserted in 
one of these laws what we should now term "a 
little joker." It exempted "soldiers in time of 
their training" from the act s provisions. Now, 
as virtually the whole male population in those 
days was required to be in more or less constant 
training tojiglit Indians, this meant thai many 
were exempted. 

Pilgrims smoked not only on week-days but 
on the holy Sabbath and even on their way to 
church. The remedy was a new law in 1669. 
Any person, it proclaimed, found smoking to 
bacco on a Sabbath, going or coming, within 
two miles of a meeting-house (church) was to 
be fined twelvepence for every offense. 

That was the final instance in the Plymouth 
Colony records of a law being passed against 
tobacco. Use of the weed had grown to be an in 
stitution, and no procession of laws could abolish 
it. 

Connecticut, like some other colonies, was 
usually influenced by Massachusetts, and imi 
tated its laws. In regard to tobacco there was 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 19 

an exception; it was never outlawed. Concern 
ing many other habits the moral code of the 
Connecticut theocracy was searching and severe ; 
in theory it did not approve of tobacco any more 
than that of Massachusetts, but in practice it 
was susceptible of statesmanlike adaptations. 

Tobacco raising throve in the Connecticut 
River valley. There, as in Virginia and Mary 
land, tobacco often passed as currency, although 
in Connecticut ministers were not paid salaries 
in tobacco as was long the case in Maryland and 
Virginia. A Maryland law levied a tax of thirty 
pounds of tobacco upon all parish tithables for 
the support of the clergy, and in Virginia the 
amount of tobacco to be paid to ministers was 
gradually increased until in 1696 it was made 
sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco a year, be 
sides perquisites for each minister. 

"A competent and sufficient provision for the 
clergy," the Virginia law said, "will be the only 
means to supply this dominion with able and 
faithful ministers whereby the glory of God 
may be advanced, the church propagated, and the 
people edified." Church wardens collected the 
tobacco payments, and clerks of vestries were 



20 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

allowed by law to demand five pounds of to 
bacco for every birth, burial, and marriage re 
corded. It was not until 1755 that, because the 
tobacco crop had failed, the Virginia legislature 
allowed payments to be made to ministers in 
either money or tobacco, at the option of the tax 
payer. 

It was by indirect means that tobacco con 
tributed to the support of church and clergy 
in Connecticut. Sometimes there would be a 
shortage of the home product, and Virginia to 
bacco was imported. This made Connecticut 
lawmakers uneasy lest their people acquire too 
much of a taste for the Virginia product, and 
thus injure a local industry which was so prom 
ising a source of ready wealth. An accommodat 
ing Connecticut law of June 11, 1640, was in 
substance a sort of protective tariff and the first 
legislation of its kind in American history. It 
ordered that any one who, after September, 1641, 
drank any tobacco other than that grown in Con 
necticut be fined five shillings for every pound 
in money so spent. After five years operation 
this law was repealed in 1646, because Connecti 
cut tobacco raising spread so rapidly that the 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 21 

fear of competition subsided. "We have no 
need of Virginia trade, most people planting so 
much tobacco as they spend," later reported the 
colony authorities in reply to a questionnaire sent 
from London by the Committee for Trade and 
Foreign Plantations. 

In Connecticut the use of tobacco became a 
general habit; men smoked and chewed, as did 
boys, but indulgence by women is not mentioned 
in the records. Gathered in social parties, men 
would find the attractions of companionship en 
hanced by the pipe and also by rum. Rum 
they had, and plenty of it. Shipping staves, peas, 
pork, and flour to Barbados, Jamaica, and else 
where, they received in exchange rum, sugar, and 
other products, "and some money." 

The ministers and church elders decided that 
it was time to do some salutary regulating. Their 
mandate called forth a new law in 1647. The 
first part of this act was rational and reasonable 
enough, although curiously affected by the 
prevalent notion that tobacco had virtue as a 
medicine. No person under twenty years of 
age, nor any other person unaccustomed to its 



22 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

use was to use any tobacco unless he had a physi 
cian s certificate and a license from the court. 

So far the act had all the appearance of a 
purely disinterested measure, the purpose of 
which was to preserve youth and innocence from 
contamination. Other provisions followed. In 
forbidding the use of tobacco on the streets the 
necessity was urged of protecting non-smokers 
from inhalations, and in prohibiting smoking in 
fields and woods unless on a journey of ten miles 
the justification advanced was the necessity of 
preventing fires near towns and settlements. 

But another portion of the law was aimed at 
something about which the ministers were per 
sonally and theologically alarmed. To them 
pleasure was an invention of Satan. When a 
man smoked alone, there was not the inducement 
to linger and succumb to conviviality that there 
was when he smoked in company. Smoking in 
solitude was not inconsistent with meditation and 
decorum, whereas when done with others it gave 
unseemly pleasure and caused waste of time. 
This was their belief. They further held that loi 
tering of any kind tended to breed a sacrilegious 
disregard for the many church duties imposed 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 23 

by law, and that the attractions of pleasure in 
clined to undermine their own drawing-power 
and lead to a disputing of their authority. 

To crush this increasing love of pleasure the 
Connecticut law of 1647 sternly decreed that 
only the solitary_smoke^ jjhould be permitted. 
Only once a day, at dinner or otherwise, might 
tobacco be used, "and then not in company with 
any other." No one might use tobacco in any 
other house than his own in the town where he 
lived "with and in company of more than one 
who useth and drinketh the same weed, with him 
at that time." For violating any item of the 
law the penalty was sixpence, and only one wit 
ness was required. 

The tradition^ that the New England settlers 
were a law-abiding people_is_Qne of our cher 
ished inheritances. So they were when the laws 
suited them. When they disliked laws they 
simply evaded, circumvented, or defied them. 
That is what they did by various devices in this 
case. No laws nor any amount of preaching 
could convince them that they did wrong in 
inviting a few boon companions to take part in 
a smoker. They fastened doors, used cellars for 



24 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

tobacco parties, and did homage to Lady Nico 
tine in secluded woodland spots or in boats 
anchored at a safe distance from shore. Within 
three years this law fell into such disrepute that 
when the Connecticut Code of Laws of 1650 was 
drafted, only the sections forbidding youths to 
use tobacco and prohibiting smoking on the 
streets were repeated. The first of these had a 
certain effectiveness, while the other was increas 
ingly dishonored. 

The crusading elements of this unregenerate 
year 1921 exalt Pilgrim and Puritan times as 
the great model. They delight in tracing their 
inspiration to the heroic virtues and irreproach 
able conduct and standards of their Puritan fore 
bears. "They knew what they were about and 
thus laid the foundation for the moral and na 
tional progress which we are profiting by to 
day," the "Lord s Day Leader," the organ of 
the Lord s Day Alliance of the United States, 
quotes one of its ministers as saying in an address. 

The organization foremost in demanding the 
abolition of tobacco is the National Women s 
Christian Temperance Union. It is now carry 
ing on the same campaign against tobacco that it 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 25 

formerly waged against alcohol. The first out 
break of the anti-tobacco crusade some years ago 
was against the cigarette. A number of States 
passed laws against the cigarette, but some States 
have modified or repealed them. The Iowa legis 
lature, in 1919, came near repealing its law; 
Nebraska did repeal its statute against cigar 
ettes; and early in 1921 Tennessee also repealed 
its act forbidding the sale of cigarettes. In 
Kansas the American Legion has been agitating 
for the repeal of such parts of the anti-cigarette 
law as prohibit the sale of cigarettes to adults. 
Arkansas recently repealed an old anti-cigarette 
law, and licensed the sale of cigarettes except to 
minors. On the other hand, Utah, in 1921, 
adopted a law prohibiting the sale of cigarettes 
and forbidding smoking in public places. 

But the demand of the Women s Christian 
Temperance Union is for the eradication of all 
forms of tobacco. Its many leaflets unreservedly 
condemn nicotine. Reading these leaflets, one 
is tempted to believe that some genius of economy 
has taken over the entire body of the original 
propaganda against liquor by"the simple substi- 
tution of the words tobacco and_ nicotine for 



26 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

liquor and alcohol. These are some selected 
specimens : 

Tobacco not only robs life, but it hinders ad 
vancement. 

Nicotine is not only an enemy to life, scholarship 
and attainment, but it is hostile to nearly every avenue 
of thought. 

Tobacco robs families of food and other necessities. 
The cigarette fiend will steal money from his mother s 
purse, rob his father s till or pawn books from the 
family library in order to secure cigarettes. The 
tobacco sot will buy tobacco to feed his degraded ap 
petite while the bread bin is depleted, the sugar bowl 
empty, the milk supply inadequate, the cookie jar 
desolate and the children suffer for sweets. 

The use of tobacco may or may not be a vice. 
That is a debatable question which is not being 
considered here; all that I am doing is narrating 
cogent facts. BuLspecujaiinTi rnnnot be avoided 
as to how^jLtobacco has all of the baleful effects 
thus represented, Puritan and other New Eng- 
land and American civilization in general man- 
agedjojevolve. The very Pilgrims and Puritans 
whose works are idealized by our modern cru 
saders were suchjnvgterate smokers that every 



A SMOKED-OUT EXPERIMENT 27 

law passed against smoking w%s ineffective. Yet 
it was those very men who replaced a wilderness 
with farms, villages, and cities, resisted savages, 
and erected commonwealths. They created 
school systems and developed a manly sense of 
independence which was later effectual in over 
throwing both ecclesiastical tyranny at home 
and monarchical tyranny abroad. 

The Puritan blue laws did not emanate from 
the Puritan people at large. They were the 
mandates imposed by a ministerial oligarchy 
controlling law, and both privileged and fortified 
in law. To-day we are witnessing a gradual 
effort to reproduce that phenomenon. 



CHAPTER II 

THE BAN ON FASHION 

A DORNMENT of all kinds was abhorrent 
** to the original custodians of the Puritan 
faith. Their opposition was particularly 
directed against elegant clothes and other em 
bellishment of person. They believed in 
severely restrained apparel; gladsome expres 
sion, whether of feelingjorjmnient, was regarded 
as a triviality unworthy of a God-fearing people. 
Their frequent proclamations called for days of 
fasting and humiliation. Festivities were dis 
couraged; the ministerial conception of life was 
of one prolonged, solemn, prayerful function. 
Clothes were considered an important part of 
this requisite attitude, inasmuch as they were 
taken to betoken the state of mind and spirit. 

Tradition pictures New England settlers as 
people of simple wants, clad in plain garments 
of home-made materials. To a considerable 

28 



THE BAN ON FASHION 29 

extent this is fictitious portraiture, though faith 
ful to the folk of secluded rural and frontier re 
gions. In the growing towns the love of finery 
manifested itself within a few years after their 
settlement. The first to bedeck themselves were 
the sons and daughters of those who were mak 
ing money by shipping timber, furs, and fish 
to Europe or elsewhere. 

When the pastors and elders saw that some 
of their own flocks were arraying themselves in 
gorgeous fashion they were much perturbed, for 
they thought that they had firmly instilled prin 
ciples of serious ways and sober costume. Yet 
Jiere were maidens actually making themselves 
attractive in silks and laces and jewelry! 

Even mature women were showing a decided 
leaning in the same direction. Young men and 
older ones, too, were abandoning dullness for 
display, setting off their clothes with gold and 
silver lace and other showy decoration. Most 
grievous of all offenses, youngjneajKr refus- 
ing to crop their hair, and were cultivating long 
tresses. 

Far from seeing either reason or romance in 
these ways, the ministers saw only irreverence 



80 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

and iniquity. Fashion the jade, the despoiler 
of faith, the diabolical prompter of vanity, and 
the sustainer of pride, was held responsible. 
That people should ever have a natural longing 
for novelty was something that the parsons either 
scouted or insisted should be repressed. They 
were sure that the following of fashion was due 
either to wicked disposition or innate rebellious 
ness against church tenets. Self-evidently it 
signified a terrifying growth of the love of 
worldly sensation that any one could find satis 
faction in pagan display. To them self-in 
dulgence was the deadly enemy of profound 
religious feeling, the nurture of corruption, the 
sure provoker of the wrath of God. 

The word went forth from the ministers that 
these evil fashions must be swept away, and the 
summary law of September 6, 1634, was passed 
by the General Court of Massachusetts. In the 
drafting of the law care was taken not to offend 
susceptibilities by stigmatizing as depraved those 
wearing adornment. Had that been done it 
would have borne too close an application to 
many church households. 

The stated grounds for the law were the need 



THE BAN ON FASHION 31 

of strict economy and the immodesty of the new 
fashions. Costly apparel, the law said, entailed 
"great, superfluous and unnecessary expenses." 
The common wearing of silver or gold girdles, 
silk laces, hatbands, and other such adornment 
was a folly. It was therefore decreed that no 
man or woman was thereafter to make or buy 
any apparel, whether woolen, silk, or linen, with 
any lace on jt. Neither should it contain any 
silver, gold,or_silk thread. If any person pre 
sumed to appear in clothes of that kind, the 
clothes were toj)e confiscated. 

But the law of 1634 did not end with this gen 
eral prohibition. It went on to regulate specifi 
cally just what could and should be worn. The 
making and buying of slashed clothes were al 
lowed only when there was "one slash in the 
sleeve and another in the back." Just why only 
one slash fore and alt was^permitted was not 
explained, and it must ever remain one of the 
inscrutable mysteries of Puritan legislation. 
The law went on to enumerate more prohibited 
items. All cut-work, embroidered or needle 
caps, bands, and rails, were outlawed. They 
could neither be made nor be worn. The same 



32 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

prohibition extended to gold and silver girdles, 
hat-bands, belts, ruffs, and beaver hats. If any 
of these articles were seen, they were to be con 
fiscated without ceremony. 

So far the law prescribed no penalty other 
than that of forfeiture. The provisions of the 
final paragraph, however, were chiefly depended 
upon to strike terror into the minds of ungodly 
belles and gallants. It curiously read: "More 
over it is agreed, if any man shall judge the wear 
ing of any of the forenamed particulars, new 
fashions, or long hair, or anything of the like 
nature to be uncomely or prejudiced to the pub 
lic good, and the party offending reform not the 
same upon notice given him," he or she was to 
be subject to a summons from the court and con 
dign punishment. 

This opened up a pleasant prospect for over- 
zealous busybodies, trouble-makers, and the 
spiteful. All that a parson or a church elder had 
to do, if he were offended by the splendor of any 
one s clothes, was to order the finery to be cast 
away, and if it was not, he could apply for an 
order for the wearer s arrest. If a short-haired 
suitor wished to get rid of a long-haired rival, 



THE BAN ON FASHION 33 

he need only complain of the other as an "un 
comely" coxcomb, harmful to society, to have 
him haled to court; and should some prim spin 
ster, outclassed in the race for love, be over 
shadowed by a finely clad maiden, retaliation 
was easy. The opportunities for mischief -mak 
ing were various and many. Whether or not 
they were seized is something that the court 
records of the times do not disclose. It is prob 
able that charges made under this law were 
classed under a head not formally identifying 
them with violations of the apparel law. 

There was a feeling akin to consternation in 
the ministerial group when it was discovered 
that something had been omitted from the law 
of 1634. Bone lace (so called because the bob 
bins were originally of bone) and some other 
kinds of lace had not been specifically forbidden. 
People hastened to make them and tailors to put 
them on clothes. To allow such a practice to go 
on was not to be thought of, and forth came the 
law of October 28, 1636, providing that no per 
son be allowed to make or sell bone lace or any 
other kind of lace. For so doing the penalty 
was five shillings the yard for every yard worn 



34 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

or put on clothes. If any tailor affixed lace to 
a garment, the penalty was ten shillings for every 
offense. 

But this law generously made a concession; 
it did allow binding and small edging laces. 
Thus, of some dozens of different kinds of dainty 
laces of most appealing design, only a few in 
conspicuous ones were permitted. 

The passion for lace in the seventeenth cen 
tury was widespread. In places such as Boston 
the wearing of thread lace or of gold or silver 
lace for men s clothes was a common craving 
and could not be suppressed. Law or no law, 
those who had the dexterity to make it or the 
money to buy it, wore it. Sadly the General 
Court of Massachusetts admitted that there was 
little compliance with its laws. A law of Sep 
tember 9, 1639, began, "Whereas, there is much 
complaint of the excessive wearing of lace and 
other superfluities tending to little use or benefit, 
but to the nourishing of pride and also of evil 
example to others. ..." No person, this new 
law reiterated, was to have the presumption to 
make, buy, or sell any manner of lace ; no tailor 



THE BAN ON FASHION 35 

was to set it, and no clothes were to be orna 
mented with it. 

A new scandal had arisen which engaged the 
shocked attention of the Puritan lawmakers. 
Women had actually gone to the flagrant extent 
of wearing a dress that exposed jmrt^ of their 
arms. In this heinous excess even members of 
the church participated, declared the law of 
1639 in telling how grieved some persons were 
that this should be so. No garment, the law 
ordered, should be made with short sleeves, 
"whereby the nakedness of the arm may be dis 
covered." The law proceeded to prescribe the 
exact length of sleeves that might be worn. But 
in respect to punishment for breaking the law, it 
dealt with transgressors, especially church-fol 
lowers, with marked tenderness. The General 
Court had confidence, said the law, in the ability 
of the churches to take care of their own mem 
bers, thereby evidently suggesting church dis 
cipline. It therefore named no punishment, 
contenting itself with the warning that any 
wearers of lace ruffles, cuffs, and other inter 
dicted adornment who obstinately persisted in 






36 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

their course would be brought before the grand 
jury for criminal action. 

InsteadTf diminishing, the general desire for 
exquisite and showy costume increased, and both 
men and women ignored the laws openly. 
Furthermore, the fashion for display spread to 
the lower ranks of society; and for nearly twelve 
years the guardians of the faith despairingly 
watched this growth. In 1651 they again be 
stirred themselves and on October 14th they had 
the General Court pass a new law. 

It was very different from the previous sump 
tuary laws. It opened with a note of sad aston 
ishment that laws had proved powerless, and 
confessed that the ruling of the court "hath not 
yet taken that effect which were to be desired." 
Moreover, the court shifted its ground, and 
mainly expended its grief on the fact "that un- 
tolerable excess and bravery hath crept in upon 
us, and especially among people of mean condi 
tion, to the dishonor of God, the scandal of our 
profession, the consumption of estates, and alto 
gether unsuitable to our poverty." 

It is evident that the pursuit that we now ex 
pressively term "keeping up with the proces- 



THE BAN ON FASHION 37 

sion" was comparatively as keenly followed in 
Puritan times as in ours. To the masters and 
their families disporting themselves in brilliant 
raiment there was still an appearance of min 
isterial objection. The formal attitude of the 
ministers was that of not justifying "excess" on 
the part of any person of whatever condition, 
though actually the lawmakers directed their 
prohibitions mainly against those working for 
wages. Thejeriod was one of sharp class jJiyj- 
sions. The masters resented any aping of their 
dress by their^ inferiors, with its tendencyjto 
break down obvious Asocial barriers. Nor did 
they like to see artisans_ar^rtiously_^iving to 
give themselves a tone that might at any time 
lead to a demand for higher pay to help sustain 
their more expensive style of living. 

It would not have been politic to single out 
one class alone for condemnation and in its law 
of 1651 the General Court declared: 

We acknowledge it to be a matter of much difficulty, 
in regard of the blindness of men s minds and the stub 
bornness of their wills, to set down exact rules to con 
fine all sorts of persons, yet we cannot but accompt it a 



38 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

duty to commend unto all sorts of persons a sober and 
moderate use of those blessings which, beyond our ex 
pectations, the Lord hath been pleased to afford us in 
this wilderness. 



Having acknowledged this qualified disapproval 
of display by the wealthy, the court proceeded 
at once to matters concerning which it felt it 
could speak freely: 

We declare our utter detestation and dislike that men 
and women of mean condition, education and callings 
should take upon themselves the garb of gentlemen by 
the wearing of gold or silver lace, or buttons, or points 
at their knees, to walk in great boots ; or women to 
wear silk or tiffany hoods or scarfs, which, though 
allowable to persons of greater estates, or more liberal 
education, yet we cannot but judge it intolerable in 
persons of such like condition. 

Thereupon the law ordered that no person 
in Massachusetts whose "visible estate real and 
personal shall not exceed the true and indifferent 
value of <200," or any relative dependent upon 
that person, wear any gold or silver lace or gold 
or silver buttons. Also that no person of that 
rank should wear any bone lace costing more 




Courtesy of Duffield & Co. 



THE BAN ON FASHION 39 

than two shillings a yard, or silk hoods or scarfs. 
The penalty for violations was ten shillings for 
every offense, and arraignment before the grand 
jury was to follow every infraction. 

But in what way was it to be determined just 
who was and who was not entitled to the privi 
leges of finery? This, the General Court ex 
plained in the law, was not simple, "forasmuch 
as distinct and particular rules in this case, suit 
able to the estate and quality of each person can 
not easily be given." The expedient was adopted 
of making the selectmen of each town arbiters, 
and they were authorized to pay special atten 
tion to the clothes worn by every inhabitant. 
They were particularly instructed to watch for 
wearers of ribbons and great boots (leather then 
being scarce in the colony). In all cases where 
any person appeared to go beyond his or her 
station in display, the selectmen were empow 
ered to assess each at a ratable taxation of two 
hundred pounds, "according to that proportion 
that such men use to pay to whom such apparel 
is suitable and allowed." 

Dissatisfaction on the part of various persons 
who were members of the political and theo- 



40 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

logical machine, or adherents of it, would have 
been sure to break out had the law stopped 
here ; for some public officials were poor, as were 
many teachers and soldiers. The law, however, 
was drawn in so discriminating a fashion that 
it gave full privileges to all these. Its last few 
lines were the epitome of generosity. They dis 
tinctly declared that restraints as to apparel 
should not extend to any magistrate or other 
public officer or to their wives or children, "who 
are left to their discretion in the wearing of 
apparel." 

Furthermore, the law allowed the right of 
showy apparel to any military officer or soldier 
in time of military service. It also extended it 
to "any other whose education and employment 
have been above the ordinary degree, or whose 
estates have been considerable though now de 
cayed." 

The meaner sort were not pleased with this 
arbitrary discrimination, but their wishes or feel 
ings did not have to be considered. The Puritan 
fathers were deep in politics as well as in religion, 
and few menials had any vote or other means 
of expression. Even men of some property 



THE BAN ON FASHION 41 

were denied suffrage if they were not church 
members. It strains ^our reverence somewhat 
to learn that the pillars of the Puritan church 
had their peculiar system of manipulating elec 
tions. In 1666 the king s commissioners, in their 
report on Massachusetts, touched upon this sub 
ject. Of the Puritans they stated: 

To elude his Majesty s desire, of their admitting 
men of civil and of competent estates to be freemen, 
they have made an Act whereby he that is twenty-four 
years old, a housekeeper, and brings one certificate of 
his civil life, another of his being orthodox in matters 
of faith, a third of his paying ten shillings (besides 
head money) at a single rate, may then have the liberty 
to make his desire known to the Court and it shall be 
put to the vote. 

As the years passed, the ministers felt with 
intense chagrin that the law of 1651 was a failure. 
Perhaps their indignation was increased by the 
expostulations of the wealthy, into whose fami 
lies many of them had married. "They will not 
admit any who is not a member of their church 
to their Communion, yet they will marry their 
children to Jhosfi^yehom they will not admit to 



42 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

baptism, if they be rich," reported the king s 
commissioners in 1666. 

Yet maid-servants continued to rebel against 
restriction to garments of plain linen, linsey, 
calico, to heavy shoes, and homespun-thread 
and yarn stockings. Men-servants, too, objected 
to a constant apparel of leather, serge, fustian, 
or other plain stuffs. They liked to convert them 
selves into gentlemen by the simple process of 
donning their masters ornamented clothes, if 
these were not too gross a misfit. So apprecia 
tive an attachment did they form for such ap 
parel that they frequently disappeared with it, 
and would turn up in some other community all 
shiningly arrayed as persons of quality. 

The law of May 7, 1662, supplied an addition 
to former laws. Declaring that there was "ex 
cess in apparel amongst us," it asserted that "the 
rising generation are in danger to be corrupted 
and effeminated." Then the law went on to tell 
precisely who were subject to that demoralizing 
process. They were persons of inferior station. 
Who could asperse the higher classes by insinu 
ating that corruption and effeminacy could ever 
attack them? 



THE BAN ON FASHION 43 

Tersely the law said that no child or servants 
in families should wear any apparel "exceeding 
the qualitj^and condition of thejjL_persons- and 
estate." If convicted in court, they were to be 
admonished for the first offense. Twenty shil 
lings were to be mulcted for the second offense, 
forty shillings for the third; and thereafter, as 
their offenses multiplied, they were to pay forty 
shillings at a time to the treasury of the county. 
Any tailor making garments for such persons, 
unless he had the permission of parents or 
masters, was to receive a reprimand for the first 
offense, and for the second he was to forfeit 
double the value of the garments. 

It took thirteen years more for the Puritan 
lawmakers to acknowledge that law had lost the 
contest with fashion. The gentleman was now 
topped with wig and goldlaced hat, and his cloth 
or camlet suit was gay with buttons, braid, and 
buckles. He wore an embroidered waistcoat, 
lace ruffles, cravat, and silk stockings. A small 
sword often dangled at his side. The wardrobe 
of ladies was of brilliant variety. Their stom 
achers and corsages were long and stiff; the 
finest of cambric fichus modestly crossed their 



44 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

bosom, sometimes exposing a V of bare neck. 
There was a plenitude of gimp, ribbon, and 
galloon. Their petticoats were of silk or satin, 
and dainty stockings and shoes set off their feet. 

Not so much a law as a fulmination was the 
act passed on November 3, 1675, by the Massa 
chusetts General Court. God, it said, had 
caused the Indians to rise in warfare because 
of Puritan sins, and among those sins, the court 
averred, was the "manifest pride openly appear 
ing amongst us in that long hair, like women s 
hair, is worn by some men, either their own or 
others hair made into periwigs." Also, women 
were wearing borders of hair and affecting "cut 
ting, curling and immodest laying out of their 
hair, which practice doth prevail and increase, 
especially among the younger sort." The court 
pronounced this "ill custom as offensive to them 
and divers sober Christians amongst us," and 
all persons were exhorted to use moderation in 
dress. 

Then followed a further confession of futility, 
mingled with something of a note of melancholy 
resignation. Notwithstanding the wholesome 
laws already made for restraining excess in ap- 



THE BAN ON FASHION 45 

parel, yet because of "corruption in many, and 
neglect of due execution of those laws," the Gen 
eral Court declared that the effort had failed. 
The evil of pride in apparel had grown. This was 
shown not only in the desire of the "poorer sort" 
for costliness, but in the eagerness of both poor 
and rich to take up vain, new, and strange 
fashions "with naked breasts and arms, or, as it 
were, pinioned with the addition of superstitious 
ribbons both on hair and apparel." 

Evidently, the lawmakers believed that they 
had exhausted the entire list of possible penal 
ties, for they inflicted no new ones. All they 
did was to order the grand jury to fine offenders, 
and if that failed to bring betterment, the county 
court was to act. 

It was the last law the Puritans ever pro 
claimed against fashion. For more than forty 
years they had sermonized, inveighed , and legis 
lated against it, but all to no effect. The more 
stringent their attempts at repression, the more 
Fashion snapped her be jeweled fingers and 
multiplied her votaries. 

Similar assaults were made by the Connecti 
cut theocratic lawmakers. Following the ex- 



46 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

ample of Massachusetts, they early legislated 
against fine clothes. A second law was made on 
April 9, 1641, subjecting to censure any one 
who wore attire of a kind and quality above his 
or her station. Thirty-five years later there was 
another effort at repression. This law was sub 
stantially a copy of the Massachusetts laws of 
1651 and 1662. The Connecticut ministers and 
church elders seem to have had an exalted opin 
ion of their power, thinking to succeed where 
those in Massachusetts had failed; but their 
laws fared no better, and they, too, became mute 
on the subject. 

So supreme did fashion rise that the period 
came when people chose the churches themselves 
as the best of all places to display their ex 
travagance and finery. The Abbe Robin, who 
visited Boston in the time of the French Revo 
lution, told how the principal churches were at 
tended by women dressed in the finest silks. 
After the fashion of French aristocrats, their 
hair was raised and supported upon cushions to 
a lofty height, and their hats were adorned with 
superb plumes. 



CHAPTER III 

GAG RULE 

IN the present attempt to resurrect blue laws 
some ministers of certain denominations 
deeply resent criticism. 

Recently the Public Morals Board of one of 
these sects announced that it would begin a cam 
paign to stop strictures by writers and unfavor 
able representations by cartoonists and actors. 
Its declaration did not go so far as to say that 
all criticism should be suppressed. It confined 
its demand to the cessation of what it termed 
"contemptuous treatment." The implied sug 
gestion was that if protest were unavailing, re 
lief would be sought in the pressure of law. But 
if such laws were adopted, they might conceiv 
ably be so drawn or construed or gradually 
amended as to include all kinds of criticism, even 
the most inoffensively legitimate. 

If this were to happen it would not be for the 

47 



48 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

first time in our national life. In bygone cen 
turies the American people had a long, onerous 
application of this kind of blue laws. The prin 
ciple being invoked now is in essence the same 
as was the core of those statutes. For religion 
itself profound respect has never been wanting; 
the objection was to the things that were often 
done in the name of religion. 

Back to the bliss of olden days! This is the 
cry of some pastors venerating the conditions 
of whilom times, when, as they like to think, 
creed and clergy were treated with heartfelt 
reverence. Other ministers to whom the past 
and its methods are apparently unknown seem 
to think that criticism of their profession is wholly 
a startling outbreak of our own reckless age. 

From the dawn of American life the clergy 
did not invite respect; they demanded it and 
they insisted upon it by all the force of law. 
By the same terrors of law they forbade criti 
cism of themselves, their dogmas, and their per 
sonal conduct. Much in the way of suppressive 
methods can justly be laid to the Puritans. But 
it was not the Puritans who started this par 
ticular kind of repression, although they did 



GAG RULE 49 

early use it and long stretched it to extremes. 

Virginia, so often conventionally portrayed 
as the land of the easy-going and soft-tempered, 
was the region from which first issued stern 
decrees. 

Here the Church of England was the estab 
lished state church. The law of 1623 and suc 
cessive laws demanded obedience to its canons, 
doctrines, and discipline. The ancient Hebrew 
custom of tithes (signifying the tenth part of 
the products of land, stock, and industry) had 
been revived by Charlemagne in the ninth cen 
tury for the benefit of ecclesiasticism. It per 
vaded Europe and with the glebe system was 
transported to America. Every one who worked 
the land in Virginia had to pay tithes to the 
ministers. These tithes were tobacco, calves, 
pigs, goats, or other produce or stock. 

Accustomed to standards of comfort in Eng 
land, few of the ministers there cared to go to 
the Virginia wilds. Most of the first arrivals 
were anything but satisfactory. Whereupon as 
a writer of that time tells of the Virginia officials : 
"They then began to provide, and sent home for 
gospel ministers; but Virginia, savoring not 



50 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

handsomely in England, very few of good con 
versation would adventure thither (or thinking 
it a place where surely the fear of God was not) , 
yet many came such as wore black coats, and 
could babble in a pulpit, roar in a tavern, exact 
from their parishioners, and rather by their dis 
soluteness destroy than feed their flocks." In 
deed, they would often extort marriage fees from 
the poor by breaking off in the middle of the 
service and refusing to go on until they were 
paid. 

Then there were counterfeit ministers. At 
least one specific example is preserved of these 
adventurers. He boldly presented forged letters 
of his ordination as a doctor of divinity, and 
long successfully preserved his imposture. 

Fox hunting was a favorite pastime of the 
Virginia ministers. This they brought over from 
England, where it was customary among the 
clergy. But the Virginia clergymen reveled in 
other amusements. Some joined with the 
planters in every kind of looseness and dissipa 
tion, especially gambling and drinking-bouts, 
and often sheer immorality. So far did they 



GAG RULE 51 

carry these excesses that frequently they failed 
to appear at church for service on Sunday. 

The governing officials were loath to take any 
action against ministers. But in such a case 
as this they had to do something, or at least 
make a show of doing something. The Virginia 
General Assembly early in 1624 passed a puni 
tive law. Any minister absenting himself from 
his church more than two months in all the year 
was to forfeit half of "his means" meaning his 
revenue. If he were absent more than four 
months in the whole year he was to be deprived 
of his "whole means and cure," or in modern 
language, both revenue and ministry. 

Naturally, no set of ministers could conduct 
themselves as did many of those of Virginia 
without creating much scandal. Gossip grew 
hot. The ministers arrogated to themselves the 
right to do what they pleased, but objected to 
other people having the right to talk as they 
pleased. They demanded that a stop be put to 
the flow of talk which, they protested, was dam 
aging to the holy church and its missionaries. 

Always solicitous for the church, the General 
Assembly readily complied. In 1624 at about 



52 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

the time it passed the act compelling ministers 
to attend church it decreed a law prohibiting 
the defamation of ministers. Whoever, said this 
law, disparaged a minister without bringing suffi 
cient proof to justify his accusations, "whereby 
the minds of his parishioners may be alienated, 
and his ministry prove the less effectual for their 
prejudication" was to be punished. Not only 
must a fine of fifty pounds of tobacco be paid, 
but the culprit must also "ask the minister so 
wronged for forgiveness publicly in the con 
gregation." 

On its face this law seemed fair enough. Yet 
in reality it gave the ministers substantial pro 
tection, for, in most instances, the circumstances 
and nature of their misdeeds were such that 
proof was hard to get. Many of them felt so 
secure on this point that they continued their 
licentious careers. There were constant squab 
bles between them and the people. 

So scandalous grew the dpings of the clergy 
that the Virginia General Assembly was driven 
to enacting more law. By one law of 1632 min 
isters were required to preach one sermon every 
Sunday. Another law of the same year pro- 



GAG RULE 53 

claimed that "ministers shall not give themselves 
to excess in drinking or riot, spending their time 
idly by day or night, playing at dice, or other 
unlawful game." They were required "to hear 
or read somewhat of the holy scriptures," or 
to "occupy themselves with some other honest 
study or exercise." The law further instructed 
them that it was their duty to set an example 
to the people to live well and Christianly. 

At the same time the law of 1624 prohibiting 
defamation of ministers was substantially reen- 
acted. More and more this law was construed 
to shield ministers from all kinds of criticism, 
even deserved criticism. 

The clergy increasingly became privileged 
characters. They and the church wardens and 
vestries were censors of morals and inquisitors 
of public and private life ; they were registers of 
births, marriages, and deaths; and if they were 
not paid for recording in any case, the law clothed 
them with state powers to collect. The vestries 
were empowered by law to have charge of the 
poor, vagrants, orphans, and neglected and other 
unfortunate children, whom they could bind out 
at will for a term of servitude to the planters. 



54 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

In time the church wardens and vestries be 
came the real powers, and the ministers for a 
while were reduced almost to nonentities. The 
wardens and members of the vestries were self- 
perpetuating, and usually were rich landed pro 
prietors who had obtained or were further gek 
ting land grants by fraud. Many of them were 
also profligates. 

But it was dangerous to criticize them. Tak 
ing the law forbidding defamation of ministers 
as a precedent, they had another law passed in 
1646. The church wardens were actually given 
the powers and more of a grand jury. The 
wardens of every parish were authorized to make 
a presentment of any one found "profaning 
God s name and his holy Sabbath, abusing his 
holy words and commandments." 

Under such a law it was possible for them to 
frame a charge of blasphemy against any one 
criticizing them. They were judges as well ; the 
law gave them the power to impose fines and 
inflict other punishments. Blasphemy (which 
often might be the merest chance remark) was 
inhumanly punished. The stocks, pillory, 
whipping-post and ducking-stool came much 



GAG RULE 55 

later in Virginia than in New England, but they 
were set up in every county court-house. Any 
one, either drunk or sober, so ordered the Vir 
ginia army regulations of 1676, who blas 
phemed the name of God "should, for every 
offence, run the gauntlet through one hundred 
men or thereabouts." And if the blasphemer 
persisted in his wickedness he was "to be bored 
through the tongue with a hot iron." 

Several authorities on the practices of those 
times relate that a minister in Virginia had to 
be very careful not to preach against the vices 
of the rich. Vestries would hire a minister by 
the sermon or by the year instead of for life, 
so as to know if he were properly disposed. A 
number of outspoken clergymen, however, did 
denounce the dissipation of the rich; they were 
instantly discharged, even where contracts ex 
isted, without a charge being made or a reason 
given. Bacon s Rebellion, in 1676, put an end 
to the vestrymen s power, and the ministers 
again became ascendent. 

There was no necessity for passing any new 
laws specifically providing for punishing de- 
famers of ministers. The old laws silencing 



56 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

those talking about what ministers did were still 
in force. What the clergy now wanted was a 
means of punishing critics of what the ministers 
said, and they attained their object. 

Ostensibly the enactment of April, 1699, 
was aimed at atheists. But anybody expressing 
the least doubt of accepted dogma was then 
branded an atheist. Under this law any person 
brought up in the Christian religion who denied 
the being of a God or the Holy Trinity was 
penalized. Likewise, any one asserting that there 
were more gods than one, or who denied the 
Christian religion to be true, or who refused to 
accept the whole Bible, every book of it, as of 
divine authority. The ministers sermons were 
based upon these declared premises. Inferen- 
tially, therefore, any critic of the ministers 
postulates was avowing the abominable doctrines 
of atheism. These were the punishments: 

For the first offense the convicted was dis 
qualified from holding any office, ecclesiastical, 
civil or military; if he held any office he was to 
be removed. The second offense disabled him 
from suing in any court; he was disqualified to 
act as guardian, or executor; he could not take 



GAG RULE 57 

any gift or legacy, and could hold no office. 
Furthermore, he was to suffer three years im 
prisonment. But the law considerately pro 
vided he could be freed from these penalties 
if, within six months, he renounced the forbidden 
opinions. 

We shall now turn to the Puritans of Massa 
chusetts. The theocracies of both Plymouth 
Colony and Massachusetts Colony insisted that 
their ministers be inviolate from criticism. 

His honor was demanded for them. This was 
exacted because, as the instructions of the New 
England Company in 1629 explained, "their 
doctrine will hardly be well esteemed whose per 
sons are not reverenced." Everybody was re 
quired to conform to what the ministers taught 
and commanded. Doctrine was the all-impor 
tant thing: its purity and sanctity were to be 
maintained at all hazards. As for character, it 
was believed that the pastors were all men of 
exemplary virtue and that, therefore, no right- 
minded person could think of criticism on that 
score. 

Puritan ministers were, indeed, of a far differ 
ent type from those in Virginia. Religion was 



58 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

their life, but it was a religion of intolerance. 
They acclaimed intolerance of_alLather_ creeds 
and sects as a prime necessit^to^keejp their own 
creed from corrupt and demoralizing contact. 

From the ^original idea of~protection of doc 
trine it was a quick process to arrive at the point 
of proscribing all manner of criticism. 

The ministers and church elders grew big with 
power. One of their very first acts in Massa 
chusetts Colony was to have a law passed in 
1631 confining civil rights to church members. 
They followed this with another law three years 
later establishing the strictest discipline in the 
churches. By this law the magistrates were 
ordered to consult the church elders as to what 
punishment should be wreaked upon offenders. 
Houses of correction had already been estab 
lished, and now came the setting up of stocks 
and whipping-post in every township both in 
Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies. 

At first the Puritan ministers resorted to ex 
communicating all those classed as unworthy. 
This term might mean that the person cast out 
of the church was of wayward character, or it 
might mean that he had audaciously ventured 



GAG RULE 59 

to dispute some church rule or theological dogma* 
Outcasts took their sentences most disrespect 
fully. They "do profanely condemn the same 
sacred and dreadful ordinance, by presenting 
themselves overboldly in other assemblies and 
speaking lightly of their censures," lamented 
a Massachusetts law of September 6, 1638. The 
ministers were determined that they and their 
words should be regarded with awe. The law, 
therefore, commanded further punishment. 
Whoever stood excommunicated for six months 
without full repentance should be arraigned in 
court and punished by fine, imprisonment, ban 
ishment, "or further" as his contempt and ob 
stinacy deserved. But for some reason not clear 
this law was repealed just about a year later. 
Perhaps in the view of some influential church 
members, the excommunication fiat smacked too 
much of the ways of another church, to which 
Puritanism was bitterly hostile. 

It may be said in passing, however, that the 
Puritans were not the only Protestant sect that 
practised excommunication. Lord Bellomont, 
Captain- General of New York and Massachu 
setts Bay, complained to the Lords of Trade, 



60 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

April 13, 1696, that the Rev. Mr. Dellius, pastor 
of the Dutch Reformed Church at Albany, New 
York, threatened the mayor of that place and 
others with excommunication. Bellomont de 
scribed Pastor Dellius as something of a toper. 
It may be that those threatened with excom 
munication made some uncharitable remarks 
about the minister s propensities. Lord Bello 
mont did not succeed in having the antagonistic 
parties reconciled ; Dellius sent word it was vain. 

Differences of opinion on theological matters 
were incessantly coming up in Massachusetts. 
To strengthen their hold the Puritan ministers 
decided to go to extremes. The law of Novem- 
ber 4, 1646, made death the punishment for any 
persistently obstinate adult Christian who denied 
the Holy Scriptures to be the word of God, 
"or nolJx^e-aBenc^^ 

tians/^No one would now, it was thought, dare 
to question the majestic authority of the min 
istry. 

But Dr. Robert Child and some others did 
have the temerity to do that very thing. On a 
charge of "slandering the people of God," and 
other charges Child and his accomplices in bias- 



GAG RULE 61 

phemy were haled to court. There was a long 
trial. The court did not, however, inflict the 
death sentence. On May 26, 1647, it fined Child 
two hundred pounds, and upon the others im 
posed varying fines of from fifty to two hundred 
pounds. 

Now came the production by the Massachu 
setts General Court of the law of May 27, 1652. 
Any professed Christian more than sixteen 
years old who by word or writing denied any 
of the books of the Old or New Testament to 
be the written and infallible word of God was 
to be severely punished. First he was to be com 
mitted without bail to prison at Boston. After 
conviction he was (unless he publicly recanted) 
to pay a fine of not more than fifty pounds or 
he was to be publicly whipped not more than 
forty strokes by the executioner. If after re 
cantation he persisted "in maintaining his wicked 
opinion" he was, as the court could decide, to 
be banished or put to death. 

A few weak places still remained in the Puri 
tan ministerial stronghold. The election of 
church officers and the calling of ministers some 
times provoked bitter controversy and threat- 



62 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

ened authority. The better to curb the possibility 
of such turbulence and establish a harmony in 
suring an incontestable berth, a new law was 
asked and granted. 

A member not in full communion presuming 
to raise any question was declared by the Massa 
chusetts Colony law of October 4, 1668, to be 
a disturber of the peace. Unless in full com 
munion no one was allowed to vote, or challenge 
or criticize the calling or election of any church 
minister or officer. But by what reasoning did 
the doing of any of those things make him a dis 
turber of the peace? The law explained. The 
Christian magistrate, it said, was "bound by the 
word of ,God to preserve the peace, order or 
liberty of the Churches of Christ, and by all due 
means to promote religion in doctrine and disci 
pline, according to the will of God." Therefore 
it was his duty to punish any one introducing 
discord into the church. Those convicted of dis 
turbing the peace were to be punished either by 
admonition, security for good behavior, fine or 
imprisonment "according to the quality of the 
offense." 



GAG RULE 63 

One thing more was needed to give the min 
isters complete immunity from criticism; that 
was censorship of the press under their own 
supervision. "" 

The law of October 8, 1862, passed by the 
Massachusetts General Court, supplied this. 
No copy of any publication was to be printed 
except by permission of a specified committee 
of two ministerial censors called "overseers of 
the press." The friends of liberty of the press 
raised a storm that caused the law to be repealed 
the next year. But the ministerial cohorts ral 
lied to the attack, and in 1664 had the censorship 
law restored. By the law of October 19th, no 
printing-press was allowed in any town but 
Cambridge, and this was under constant sur 
veillance of the censors. The Rev. Thomas 
Thatcher and the Rev. Increase Mather were, 
by the law of May 27, 1674, added to the com 
mittee of censors. When in 1675 the Rev. John 
Oxenbridge, one of the committee, died, the 
Rev. James Alin was, by the law of May 12th 
of that year, appointed in his place. 

No word even indirectly reflecting upon min- 



64 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

isters or questioning their doctrines could now 
get into print. One thing they lavishly encour 
aged was the publication of their own volumi 
nous sermons. 



CHAPTER IV 

TONGUES UNTIED 

IT was some years before this that the Pil 
grim lawmakers of Plymouth Colony began 
to make their first distinct enactment against 
criticism of the ministry. 

Explanation of what most influenced them to 
do so unfolds an interesting tale. Church mem 
bers in Massachusetts were both exceedingly de 
vout and intensely practical. In some of their 
extant personal memoranda entries of pounds, 
shillings, and pence taken or owing in trading 
operations may be found quaintly mixed with 
pious reflections and scriptural citations. They 
believed that the Divine will had placed them 
in their positions to reap the fruits thereof, and 
they took it for granted that true-blue church 
members were first entitled to benefits dis 
tributed. 

One of these benefits was the granting or sale 

65 



66 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

of land in various towns. By both common un 
derstanding and law church members were to 
be the chief recipients. Church society by no 
means included all who went to service; many 
had to attend who were never admitted to mem 
bership. The select inner circle, forming a sort 
of close corporation, composed what was eulo 
gized as church society. Like our modern clubs, 
churches had their waiting lists, and to be passed 
upon favorably was a certificate of high standing. 

Great was the arising scandal when the church 
committees of the town of Sandwich admitted 
into their fold "divers persons unfit for church 
society" and gave them a prominent share in the 
disposal of lands. Upon which the General 
Court, in 1639, at New Plymouth sternly re 
buked the Sandwich church for its presumption 
in breaking down the rules of exclusiveness. 
When land was to be disposed of, the court s 
orders always were that ministers and church 
members should have precedence in the award 
of choice lots. 

To the beneficiaries such a rule was comfort 
ably satisfying. But the excluded believed that 
they had the best of reasons for thinking it dis- 



TONGUES UNTIED 67 

criminatory and oppressive. They knew the 
peril of openly expressing their smoldering in 
dignation against ministers and church set; 
some, however, were so incautious or courageous 
as to protest. 

Their resentment was increased when the Gen 
eral Court turned out successive laws compelling 
all, irrespective of religious belief, to contribute, 
according to their means, to the support of the 
established ministry. 

It was a criminal offense to fail to pay taxes 
for the support of the ministry. There were 
frequent cases of refusals. The refractory were 
dragged to court and heavily fined. In other 
cases, where the tax was paid under protest, the 
payers would sometimes find relief in later ex 
pressing their opinions. If overheard by some 
one ill disposed, trouble was sure to follow. 

Lieutenant Matthew Fuller was unusually 
emphatic. His crime lay in saying that a law 
enacted about ministers maintenance was "a 
wicked and devilish law" and that the devil stood 
at the stern when it was enacted. The court, at 
New Plymouth, on October 2, 1658, promptly 
decided that nothing less than the weightiest kind 



68 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

of fine would be meet punishment for such in 
iquity; he was mulcted fifty shillings. 

To safeguard ministers from criticism the law 
of June 10, 1650, was passed by the General 
Court of New Plymouth. Any one, that law 
declared, convicted of villifying "by opprobri 
ous terms or speeches any church or ministry or 
ordinance" was to be fined ten shillings for each 
offense. 

Before the bar of the court at New Plymouth, 
on February 3, 1657, Nicholas Upsiall, Rich 
ard Kerbey, Mistress John Newland, and others 
were haled. What were their high crimes and 
misdemeanors? They were Quakers, but the 
charge against them was not formally based upon 
that fact. These criminals, the accusation ran, 
did frequently meet together in the house of 
William Allen, at Sandwich, "at which meetings 
they used to inveigh against ministers and 
magistrates to the dishonor of God and the con 
tempt of Government." Upsiall was banished 
from the colony; the others were thrown in 
prison until they paid their fines. 

Robert Bartlett committed the enormity "of 
speaking contemptuously of the ordinance of 



TONGUES UNTIED 69 

singing of psalms." Convicted, Robert was let 
off by the court, on May 1, 1660, only upon his 
solemn promise not to do it again. Later, Josiah 
Palmer was arraigned "for speaking contemptu 
ously of the word of God and of the ministry" ; 
he was fined twenty shillings, which, the sentence 
specified, had to be paid "in silver money." 
Christopher Gifford also had to face the court 
"for contemptuously speaking against the dis 
pensers of the word of God"; his fine was ten 
shillings. Elizabeth Snow, wife of Jabez Snow, 
of Eastham, spoke her mind freely to the Rev. 
Mr. Samuel Treat; for so doing Elizabeth was 
charged with having used "railing expressions" 
to a minister, and had to pay ten shillings to 
the court. These are a few of the criminal court 
cases at New Plymouth of persons found guilty 
"of reviling ministers." 

After Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies 
became merged in the Province of Massachu 
setts the old laws against blasphemy were re 
peated with additions. Any denier of the di 
vine nature of the books of both Old and New 
Testaments was classed by the Provincial law 
of October, 1697, as an atheist and blasphemer. 



70 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Conviction was (at the judge s discretion) to 
entail either six months imprisonment, confine 
ment in the pillory, whipping, boring through 
the tongue with a hot iron, or being forced to sit 
upon the gallows with a rope around the neck. 

Blasphemy statutes were common in various 
colonies. Like a contagion the example of Puri 
tan blue laws spread. "I do not know," wrote 
Governor Sir Edmund Andros to the British 
Council of Trade, in 1678, "that there is any 
superiority of one colony over another, but all 
are independent, though generally give place to 
and are most influenced by the Massachusetts, 
both in State and Religion." 

Death was long the punishment for blasphemy 
according to one of Connecticut s twelve capital 
laws based upon the Mosaic code. But there 
seems to be no case recorded where death was in 
flicted. In Maryland the two divisions of the 
Christian faith vied with each other in severe laws 
against blasphemy. Under Roman Catholic con 
trol, an act of 1639 made idolatry (defined as the 
worship of a false God) blasphemy and felony. 
Hanging was prescribed as the fate of any one 
found guilty of blasphemy and sorcery; later, 



TONGUES UNTIED 71 

burning was substituted. When the Protestants 
came into control of Maryland about ten 
years later, they at first punished blasphemy 
with boring of the tongue and branding of the 
forehead. An act of 1649 decreed death and 
confiscation of property for blasphemy. 

There was, however, such a conglomeration 
of sects in Maryland that it was hardly possible 
to determine who were or were not blasphemers. 
There were Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, 
Puritans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Calvinists, 
Anabaptists, Brownists, Schismatics, and others. 
To placate them all the law of 1649 provided 
that whoever stigmatized any in a manner re 
proachful to religion, was to pay a fine. If the 
fine could not be paid, he was to be publicly 
whipped and imprisoned without bail. He was, 
furthermore, to stay in prison until he publicly 
apologized and asked forgiveness for each 
offense. 

Later, in their laws against blasphemy, the 
Protestant rulers of Maryland took lessons from 
the Puritans of Massachusetts. The Maryland 
law of July 22, 1699, was one of terror. He 
who cursed God, or would not acknowledge 



72 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Christ to be the son of God, or denied the Holy 
Trinity, was declared a blasphemer. For the 
first offense he was to be bored through the 
tongue and fined twenty pounds sterling; and 
if unable to pay, he was to be put in prison for 
six months without benefit of bail. Should he 
offend a second time he was to be branded on 
the forehead with the letter B and fined forty 
pounds. If he could not pay this, a year s im 
prisonment without bail was to be the alternative. 
The third offense was to be punished by death 
and confiscation of property. 

To get back to Massachusetts: There were 
towns that either could not or would not pay 
taxes enough to support the established state 
ministers. Despite long persecution, or perhaps 
because of it, new sects had increased, and they 
did not see the justice of being forced to pay 
for the support of pastors who did not represent 
their opinions. The ministers and church elders 
easily overcame this obstinacy. They had a law 
passed by the General Assembly, November 14, 
1706, that where a town failed to pay, the specific 
sums needed for ministerial support were to be 
paid from public tax collections. 



TONGUES UNTIED 73 

These methods, together with the host of re 
pressive laws of many varieties, bred a spirit of 
deep-seated opposition often cynically con 
temptuous. Clergymen found that they could 
not control censorship. Broadsides and pam 
phlets lampooning them and their practices 
would suddenly appear from mysterious sources. 
This very anonymity made some people eager 
to read such attacks ; and as ministers denounced 
instead of ignoring them, general curiosity was 
only the more aroused concerning their contents. 
Songs directed at clerical foibles would come 
from somewhere and spread with astonishing 
speed. To a ministry which had taken every 
pains to shield itself from criticism, these pro 
ductions were disconcerting; if some were in 
delicate, others were of a witty nature provoca 
tive of mirth. Of all things, the ministers 
naturally most objected to being laughed at, but 
they could not bring themselves to inquire why 
ridicule had broken loose. They could see noth 
ing but ribald blasphemy in their being made 
the butt. 

From the General Assembly they procured, 
on March 19, 1712, a new law. It interdicted 



74 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

the "composing, printing, writing or publishing 
any filthy, obscene or profane song, pamphlet, 
libel or mock sermon, in imitation of or in mim 
icking of preaching, or any other part of divine 
service." Any one found guilty was to be fined 
not more than twenty pounds, or, if the judge 
so decided, the convicted was "to stand in the 
pillory, once or oftener, with an inscription of 
his crime, in capital letters, affixed over his 
head." 

Alert minds did not fail to note that in the 
very act of suppressing criticism of themselves, 
the ministers adopted the guise of suppressing 
indecency. Their chief concern was imperson 
ally represented as not so much to protect them 
selves as to put down immorality. 

This transparent device imposed so little upon 
many people that they murmured all the more 
against the tyranny of ministers, church elders, 
and their retinue. Unfortunately for the ec 
clesiastics, a new agency had come into aggres 
sive being. This was the newspaper. Often 
the editors of newspapers were outspoken men 
who would not and could not be kept in order. 
James Franklin (elder brother of Benjamin 



TONGUES UNTIED 75 

Franklin, who assisted him), the editor of the 
"New England Courant," published at Boston, 
was one of these. He seems to have delighted 
in exposing shams. And so, in his issue of Janu 
ary 14, 1722, he delivered His honest opinion of 
certain men "full of pious pretensions." He 
trenchantly wrote: 

But yet, these very men are often found to be the 
greatest cheats imaginable; they will dissemble and lie 
and snuffle and whiffle; and, if it be possible, they will 
overreach and defraud all who deal with them. Indeed, 
all their fine pretenses to religion are only to qualify 
them to act the more securely: For when once they 
have gained a great reputation for piety, and are cried 
up by their neighbors for eminent saints, everyone will 
be ready to trust to their honesty in any affair what 
soever; they though seldom fail to trick and bite them 
as a reward for their credulity and good opinion. . . . 
It is far worse dealing with such religious hypocrites 
than with the most arrant knave in the world; and if 
a man is nicked by a notorious rogue, it does not vex 
him half so much as to be cheated under the pretense 
of religion. 

These animadversions have so genuine a ring 
of feeling that one wonders whether James 



76 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Franklin did not write from actual personal ex 
perience. There were those who took religion 
as a reality, to be lived in action. But there were 
also many others to whom the institutional 
church, all-powerful as it was, was a convenient 
means of self-aggrandizernent. 

That was a time when those seeking distinc 
tion and power professionally, socially, and 
politically, went into the church. This was a 
general condition. According to Article 101 of 
the "Fundamental Constitutions" of the Caro- 
linas, no person more than seventeen years old, 
not a member of some church or religious pro 
fession, was allowed any benefit or protection of 
law, or could attain any place or honor. No 
one, by the Carolinas law of 1704, could become 
a legislator until_he had taken an oath of con 
formity to the doctrm?lind discipline of the 
Church of England. The"~stated justification 
for this exaction was that although the Church 
of England was opposed to persecution for con 
science sake, yet religious contentions and ani 
mosities had greatly obstructed the public busi 
ness. This act was repealed two years later, but 
another law made the Church of England the 



TONGUES UNTIED 77 

established church to be supported by a tax on 
furs and skins. 

The power of the clergy everywhere was 
mighty. They could thunder against any person, 
holding him up to odium, yet no reply was al 
lowed. They could pry into the most private 
of people s affairs and dictate what should or 
should not be done. 

If, for example, a man in Maryland associated 
with a woman of whom the minister or vestry did 
not approve, the minister and church officials by 
the law of September 28, 1704, could order that 
he discontinue his affair. If he did not obey, 
the offender was haled to court. Conviction 
brought a fine of thirty shillings or six hundred 
pounds of tobacco; and in the case of inability 
to pay, whipping was inflicted on the bare body 
by enough stripes to cause the blood to flow, 
although most benevolently the law limited the 
lashing to thirty-nine stripes. 

For ministers to descend in person upon pub 
lic officials, berate them for some real or fancied 
dereliction of duty or other fault, and arrogantly 
give them orders, was not an unusual occur 
rence. An illustration of this practice was the 



78 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

case of the Rev. George Whitefield, one of the 
original missionaries of Methodism. 

Now, Whitefield did not, like so many min 
isters of the established denominations, cringe to 
the rich and denounce the poor. Methodism 
was then making its appeal to the very under 
lings of society that Puritanism and some other 
sects slighted. When, on one occasion, White- 
field preached at Moorfields, Massachusetts, a 
Boston newspaper slurringly said that he dis 
coursed "not to the Rich and Noble, but to the 
small contemptible rabble." The lowly were 
stirred by his powerful tirades against "ecclesi 
astical fooleries." 

But Whitefield believed, as did many others 
of his calling, that ministers were privileged 
functionaries, quite over and beyond the re 
straints of mere civil law. When in Savannah, 
he stalked into the court-room and unceremoni 
ously and peremptorily harangued the grand 
jury. He loftily laid down the course it should 
follow and demanded that measures be taken 
to remove the "barefaced wickedness" that he 
said existed. 

Of all the colonies, Georgia had been one of 



TONGUES UNTIED 79 

the most liberal-minded in its attitude toward 
religion. How did the grand jury regard this 
presumption? 

Colonel William Stephens, a high Georgia 
official, made at once a note of the incident. His 
narrative is set forth in the Colonial Records 
of Georgia, Vol. IV (1737-40), pages 495-496. 
He commented that many who agreed that wick 
edness should be effaced "seemed not well pleased 
at his taking upon himself to harangue the Grand 
Jury with what more properly would have come 
from the pulpit. I myself feared it would 
have a different Effect upon the Grand Jury 
from what was hoped and expected." And it 
did; in its presentment the grand jury ignored 
Whitefield s pleas. 

Censorship of all kinds, whether ministerial 
or official, became increasingly irksome to the 
people. Church bodies were so compactly or 
ganized that it was hard to obtain repeal of 
laws. In Pennsylvania a board of censors long 
prevailed. Yet what avail were these laws if 
juries failed to convict? In 1735 John Peter 
Zenger, editor of the "New York Weekly 
Journal," was brought to trial in New York City 



80 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

on a charge of seditiously libeling the governor. 
Andrew Hamilton, eighty years old, was his 
lawyer. In a speech of extraordinary power 
Hamilton told the jury that the real issue was 
the according of the full right to speak and write 
the truth. Zenger was acquitted. With this 
notable precedent, the American press, for the 
first time, now felt that it was really free. There 
were later prosecutions, but no jury would con 
vict. Liberty of the press was the passionate 
watchword of the times. 

Many ministers now adopted the tactic of try 
ing to prejudice their followers against such of 
the secular press as they did not favor, denounc 
ing it as sensational and blasphemous. Any 
church member found with such reading-matter 
was subjected to a grilling, and perhaps outright 
expulsion. The Boston Evening Post" of De 
cember, 1742, said: 

We are credibly informed that an eminent minister 
of this town has lately warned his people against read 
ing of pamphlets and newspapers, wherein are con 
tained religious controversies. This seems a bold 
stroke, and a considerable step (if the advice be re- 



TONGUES UNTIED 81 

garded) towards that state of ignorance in which, it 
seems, some folk would willingly see the body of this 
people enveloped. The next stroke may probably be 
at the Liberty of the Press. 

The censoring power that ecclesiastics sought 
to use after this was not so much the invocation 
of laws as that of the boycotting of disapproved 
publications and the ostracism of editors. 

In these respects the power of the ministers 
remained for a considerable time a thing to be 
reckoned with. It awed some of the editors ; as, 
for instance, the owner of the "New Hampshire 
Gazette" who, on October 7, 1756, gave editorial 
assurance that although his paper would reflect 
the freedom of the press, yet "no Encouragement 
will be given by the Publisher to any Thing 
which is apparently to foment Divisions in 
Church or State, nor to any thing profane, or 
tending to Encourage Immorality, nor to such 
Writings as are produced by private Pique and 
filled with personal Reflections and insolent 
scurrilous Language." 

For laws that they argued would preserve the 
essentials of religion from assault, the ministers 



82 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

did not cease to ask. Either for form s sake, or 
in order not to antagonize church congregations, 
or for both reasons, legislatures would allow old 
laws to remain or pass new laws. Thus, on July 3, 
1782, at a time when everywhere in the United 
States the alliance of church and state was be 
ing sundered, the Massachusetts legislature 
enacted a new blasphemy law. The offender, it 
was provided, was to be punished "according to 
the aggravation of the offense" with imprison 
ment not exceeding twelve months, or by being 
placed in the pillory, or by being whipped, or by 
being forced to sit on the gallows with a rope 
around his neck. 

But such a law as this virtually died a-borning. 
Public opinion would not tolerate its being en 
forced. It might long remain on the statute 
books, but it was in effect an excrescence. 

Down to our own era, however, certain min 
isterial usages derived from extensive powers of 
old have more or less evidenced themselves from 
time to time. The occasional practice of pastors 
inveighing from the pulpit against this or that 
political party or city government or of their 
directing public offiqials what to do, is a relic of 



TONGUES UNTIED 83 

the period when ecclesiasticism was enthroned. 
But while in those times the ministers wide dis 
ciplinary power was fixed in custom or cemented 
in law, it has in modern times been exercised only 
morally as incidental to the preaching of religion 
itself. Now some aggregations of ministers are 
endeavoring to have restored the manifold pow 
ers their predecessors wielded in times when the 
parson s word was commanding in civil as well 
as supreme in religious matters. 






CHAPTER V 

PENNING THE FLOCK 

ONE perfervid advocate of strict Sunday 
laws expressed the hope that the day 
would come when policemen could be requisi 
tioned to compel church members to attend ser 
vices regularly. 

This may seem the fantastic thought of an 
overwrought individual. But, in point of fact, 
there was a time when force was used in America 
to make delinquents go to church. That force, 
moreover, was not only the coercion of law but 
military force under constant orders to see that 
the law was carried out. 

The favorite and ever-welling theme of the 
spokesmen of the Lord s^Day Alliance of the 
United States is the sublime wisdom of the 
Puritan fathers. "Nothing but a return to the 
Puritan conscience will ever save this genera 
tion," says a reverend eulogist of Puritan meth- 

84 



PENNING THE FLOCK 85 

ods of Sabbath observance. His address, pub 
lished in the "Lord s Day Leader," is sprinkled 
with defiance of opponents. He says: 

Such a pestilential phrase as "Blue Laws * is quite 
the vogue among the Philistines to-day, forgetting [sic] 
apparently that blue is the color of steadfastness and 
that the American flag carries a big patch of the color 
right up in the place of honor, at the top of the flag 
pole. Then there is the fiery shaft that stamps the 
friends of the Sabbath with that ominous epithet, 
"puritanic" just as if the etymology of the word itself 
does not bear testimony that the root quality of these 
sturdy progenitors of ours was "purity." 

If the much-abused Puritan fathers could 
become reanimated no one would be more 
astonished than they at having received the ex 
clusive credit or discredit for originating Sab 
bath blue laws. One fancies that they would not 
be slow in reproaching their descendants for hav 
ing so slight a knowledge of the times that these 
reformers so ecstatically exalt. 

The first statute laws were those of the Vir 
ginia ecclesiastics of the Church of England. 
Unlike the original aim of the Pilgrims and 



86 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Puritans, the purpose of the Virginia ministers 
was not that of establishing a celestial order on 
earth. From the start, the object of the Virginia 
ministers was that of church power and personal 
aggrandizement. 

William Waller Hening, who in 1809 pre 
pared a "Collection of the Laws of Virginia" 
(published in 1823), wrote of that colony in his 
preface: 

The first pages of our statute book, of the acts of 
each of the early sessions, and of every revisal prior to 
the American Revolution, are devoted to the cause of 
religion and churc h government; not that religion 
which every one might think proper to profess, or that 
liberal system which permitted every individual to 
worship his God according to the dictates of his con 
science; but the religion of the Church was the ruling 
party in the State, and none other was tolerated. 

Compulsory church attendance was one of the 
initial Virginia laws. The Virginia General As 
sembly act of 1624 declared that any one absent 
ing himself from divine service on Sunday with 
out allowable excuse was to be fined a pound of 
tobacco. He that stayed away for a month was 



PENNING THE FLOCK 87 

to be fined fifty pounds of tobacco. There should 
be, the law ordered, a house or a room for wor 
ship on every plantation. 

But often, as we have seen, some ministers 
would not recover from the effects of their revels 
in time to be in the pulpit. If others appeared, 
their condition more than occasionally was such 
that they discreetly refrained from giving ser 
mons. Such irregular conduct did not, of course, 
conduce either to inspire respect for pastors or 
to quicken desire to attend services. 

The unwilling were persistent in their refusals. 
The General Assembly decided that if fines 
would not make them go to church, force should. 
Military commanders were ordered, by a law of 
1629, to see to it that people did attend church 
on the Sabbath. The penalties of the act of 1624 
also were repeated by this law. Against the soli 
taries living in outlying, remote parts the law 
could not be summarily enforced. It could be 
and was enforced against people clustered in 
settlements or grouped about plantations. 

Transgressors were, however, variously 
treated by the soldiers. Those considered 
superior in station could count upon a deferen- 



88 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

tial summons or upon their dereliction being over 
looked. In all directions the laws discriminated 
sharply in their favor. By one act of 1624 "per 
sons of quality" who committed any breach of the 
law were not subjected to the indignity of cor 
poral punishment; they were not "fit" for that 
kind of handling, it said, meaning that their 
natures were too delicate to warrant it. Abso 
lute obedience to superiors was decreed by an 
other law of the same year and reenacted in 
1632; menials "at their uttermost peril" had to 
give it. 

Under these regulations ordinary people had 
no choice. Such as were disinclined to go to 
church were commanded by the soldiers to do so. 
A winsome maid-servant could get gallant escort, 
and perhaps the soldier would vouchsafe the 
favor of forgetting orders. But boys were 
chased to church and men drudges dragooned 
there if they showed any tendency to resist. Yet 
there were ameliorating circumstances. Some 
gift or other judiciously bestowed would often 
blind commander or soldier. 

The force law was disappointing to its authors. 
It proved to have an effect the very reverse of 



PENNING THE FLOCK 89 

what was expected. Folks could be thrust bodily 
into church, but once there they had means of 
reprisal. There was nothing in the law to pre 
vent people from going to sleep or feigning sleep 
or from taking on unpleasant attitudes. This is 
what many of them did for a while, causing as 
much trouble to the beadles as they could. Then, 
tiring of their manoeuvers, they began to stay 
away, simulating sickness or using other subter 
fuges when the Sabbath came. 

The Virginia General Assembly found it 
necessary, in 1632, to pass another compulsory 
church-attendance law. Also an act inflicting 
the penalty of censure on parents and masters 
for not sending their children to church and on 
children for refusing to learn sacred lessons. 
That the regularly ordained minister was not in 
church was held to be no excuse. The vestry 
would put a lay minister (then called a clerk) 
in his place temporarily. Meanwhile the min 
ister suffered no worldly loss ; the State provided 
him with everything he needed. At first rather 
poor and mean, ministers dwellings gradually 
became mansions. Almost if not always each 
had a glebe or two hundred and fifty acres 



90 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

stocked with cattle and with slaves and servants. 

Church-attendance laws in Virginia long re 
mained in force. But never did they equal in 
stern scope those of the Puritans. 

The Puritan Sabbath did not merely mean 
Sunday. It virtually began at three o clock on 
Saturday afternoon throughout the year. By 
orders of the New England Company, in 1629, 
all inhabitants were to surcease labor at that 
hour, "that they may spend the rest of that day 
in catechizing and preparation for the Sabbath 
as the minister shall direct." 

It was expected that none of the Puritan band 
would be so lacking in holiness as not to be 
zealous in attending church. Yet very soon after 
the settlement of Massachusetts Colony voids be 
gan to appear in the congregation. Faces that 
should have been there were not. The General 
Court of Massachusetts Colony, on March 4, 
1634, felt it incumbent to pass a law. "Whereas 
complaint hath been made to this Court that 
divers persons within this jurisdiction do usually 
absent themselves from church meetings on the 
Lord s Day," the preamble read. Non-attend 
ance at church services was made a misdemeanor, 



PENNING THE FLOCK 91 

punishable by a fine of not more than five shill 
ings for each offense or imprisonment if the fines 
were not paid. 

Here, by the way, it may be casually men 
tioned that in choosing its name the Lord s Day 
Alliance of the United States has not, as might 
be supposed, strained a point to convert Sunday 
into the Lord s Day. "Lord s Day" was literally 
the term generally used in Puritan times, though 
sometimes the day was referred to as the Sab 
bath. 

For twelve years the law of 1634 was depended 
upon to insure church attendance. It turned out 
to be woefully insufficient. Puritan stamina in 
the case of many was not equal to the terrific 
ordeal to which it was subjected. The morning 
sermon often occupied two hours or more, and 
was filled with indigestible theological subtleties. 
After a few hours came the evening sermon 
which, although shorter, was altogether too long 
for anything but the most stalwart spiritual en 
durance. The result was that some of the people 
either went to church infrequently or stayed 
away entirely. 

"Contempt of public worship" was what a new 



92 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

law of November 4, 1646, branded non-attend 
ance at church. It put a fine of five shillings 
upon any one absent from church services on the 
Lord s Day, on public fast days, and on Thanks 
giving days. Starting out simply enough, this 
law elaborated into a series of fine-spun con 
structions. It asserted that the constant keep 
ing away from church amounted to a renouncing 
of church connections. This, in turn, was held 
to be an assault on the church s integrity. Again, 
in turn, a renouncer was construed to be one 
"who thus goes about disturbing or destroying 
the church ordinances." Upon conviction, the 
culprit was to be mulcted forty shillings for every 
month that he continued obstinate. 

Many-barbed as this law was, it by no means 
stopped at this point. The open contempt of 
God s word and messengers thereof, it averred, 
was the desolating sin of civil states and of 
churches. Preaching by ministers was the chief 
means God ordained for the converting, edifying, 
and saving of the souls of the elect. Therefore 
if any "so-called" Christian should contemptu 
ously behave in or out of church toward the word 
preached or toward God s ministers he was sub- 



PENNING THE FLOCK 93 

ject to punishment. It was specified that there 
was to be no interruption of preachers, no false 
charging of errors in their discourses, no reflec 
tions upon the true doctrine, no reproaching of 
the ministers in any way. He who was guilty of 
any of these offenses made "God s ways con 
temptible and ridiculous." 

For the first "scandal" the offender was to be 
reproved openly by the magistrate and held 
under bonds for good behavior. If for the sec 
ond time the violator broke into "the like con 
temptuous carriages," he either had to pay five 
pounds to the public treasury "or stand two 
hours openly upon a block four feet high, on a 
lecture day, with a paper fixed on his breast 
with A WANTON GOSPELLER written in capital 
letters, that others may fear and be ashamed of 
breaking into the like wickedness." 

L aw^_jwere_ong ; thing and life was another. 
Most certainly a truism, yet one that Puritan 
theocratic legislators never could understand. 
Theirs was a wOTJdjn.whjfih.ihe human being was 
to be made to fit the rigid formulas. 

Such adults as were involuntarily in church 
could for the most part control themselves to 



94 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

wear appropriately serious faces provided they 
kept awake. But with the youthful of both sexes 
it was different. Instead of lulling them into 
somnolence, dry sermonizing either turned them 
into images or provoked their hilarity. They 
sought relief in stealthy juvenile pranks, fidgeted, 
and shuffled ; and some would at last slip through 
the door. 

Shocking conduct of this kind had to be sup 
pressed. The Massachusetts General Court, on 
October 18, 1654, produced the law that the min 
isters expected would do it. Its preamble set 
forth how in the several congregations there was 
much disorder "through the irreverent carriage 
and behavior of divers young persons." Pro 
ceeding to business, the act instructed town se 
lectmen to nominate committees to admonish the 
transgressors, either in the congregation or else 
where. If solemn reproof failed, the magis 
trates were required to take a hand. 

Then this law went on to make a suggestion 
that the ministers must have thought extraor 
dinary. Seldom could any law objectionable to 
the theocratic coterie be passed. However, in 
this case the provision was merely a proposal and 



PENNING THE FLOCK 95 

nothing more. It was a hope expressed in the 
end of the act that "the reverend elders of the 
several congregations, according to their wis 
dom, will so order the time of their public ex 
ercise, that none shall be ordinarily occasioned 
to break off from the congregation before the 
full conclusion of the public exercise." 

Here was an intimation that shorter sermons 
would no doubt be more effectual in holding 
flocks intact. But if there was anything that 
ministers believed their divinely bestowed and 
inalienable right, it was the expounding of the 
word in long-drawn sermons. It was their great 
opportunity to shine effulgently. They would 
not give it up, and the "twentieth and lastly," 
"thirtieth and lastly" remained as fixed an in 
stitution as it was before. 

In the ensuing years the habit of leaving ser 
vice aforetimes spread. Grown-ups contracted 
it as well as the young. The General Court tried 
to stop Sabbath abuses with the law of August 
1, 1665, which dolefully complained of the wicked 
practices of many persons who profaned God s 
holy day and contemned the worship of his 
house; these enormities, said the law, had to 



96 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

cease. Corporal punishment was now ordered 
in every case where fines were not paid. Beating 
and lashing were no more effective than were 
previous methods. Bolting from church services 
developed into an acute issue. 

An heroic remedy was needed to stop the im 
pious practice. In passing its law of May 3, 
1675, the General Court believed that it had hit 
upon the sovereign cure. "There is so much 
profaneness amongst us in persons turning their 
backs upon the public worship before it be finished 
and the blessing pronounced," declared that law s 
preamble as though everybody did not know 
it well. What concerned popular interest was 
what the lawmakers were going to do about it. 
The law satisfied this curiosity. During services 
the church doors were to be shut and kept locked. 
The church officers or town selectmen were 
authorized to appoint men to see that this was 
done, act as guards, and allow no one out until 
the right time. 

Good students of human nature would have 
known that the effect of such a law would be 
the very opposite of that intended. Even some 
of those who had valiantly stood the dreary, 



PENNING THE FLOCK 97 

prolix sermons resented the idea of virtually 
being imprisoned. To stay away from church 
upon one pretext or another became the expedi 
ent of considerable numbers of persons propor 
tionate to the population. 

It was now that the flowering of Puritan laws 
came into exuberance. 

The stated object of the law of May 24, 1677, 
was to suppress profanation of the Sabbath. 
The act began with the self comforting assump 
tion that people were merely forgetful of all the 
laws on the subject. Inferentially, that was 
the reason they did not live up to them. 

Ministers were ordered to read publicly on 
the Sabbath all of the Lord s Day laws and im 
pressively caution people to heed them. This 
was assuredly a formidable undertaking. The 
list of laws was appallingly long, including not 
only church-attendance laws but a staggering 
array of others. For two years the ministers 
performed the imposed task. Wearying of it, 
they had the law amended so as to shift the 
burden upon constables and town clerks. These 
were dismayed, but they had no choice; prob 
ably foreseeing their reluctance, the law was ex- 



98 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

pressly drafted to penalize them if they failed. 

The establishment of spying committees was, 
however, the supreme creation of the law of 
l&JT There had always been a certain amount 
oF~spying, often encouraged and abetted by 
parsons and church elders. This law legalized 
and systematized it. Town selectmen were 
authorized to see to it that one man was ap 
pointed to inspect ten families among his neigh 
bors. These inquisitors were invested with more 
than the right to pry at will. In the absence 
of the constable they had the power to arrest 
any Sabbath violator of any kind, haul him be 
fore a magistrate, and have him locked up. The 
law decreed that in the market-places in Boston 
and other towns cages were to be built, and all 
offenders kept in them until the magistrate 
passed sentence. 

Nothing, it was confidently supposed, could 
escape the drag-net of this aggregation of pry 
ing searchers. There seemed to be no resource 
left to transgressors. But there was. Unless 
he had a grudge against a neighbor, no in 
quisitor cared to make serious trouble for those 
living near him. If he did they had telling ways 



PENNING THE FLOCK 99 

of striking back; unpopularity with neighbors 
was not a thing to be courted. 

It quickly became evident that the part of 
the law prescribing spying on neighboring fami 
lies did not work. Less than five months after 
its enactment, the General Court hastened to 
alter it. Greater inquisitorial powers were given 
the spies (they were sweetly designated as "in 
spectors") by not only allowing them to enter 
any house, private and public, but authorizing 
them to go into one another s precincts. This 
roaming commission would, the lawmakers be 
lieved, bring the spies more in contact with 
strangers and do away with favoritism to 
neighbors. 

Yet no matter where they went, the inquisitors 
were unfailingly tender toward any one having 
the least influence or power. 



CHAPTER VI 

BELIEF IN ERUPTION 

rflHE original band of Pilgrims in Plymouth 
* Colony was liberally tolerant compared 
with the Puritans of Massachusetts Colony. 
Its laws were not severe nor its spirit fanatical. 
To a number of religious dissenters such as 
Mrs. Hutchinson and Roger Williams, ban 
ished from Massachusetts Colony, it gave shelter. 
But as the years rolled on, it was overborne 
by the dominating influence of the Puritans to 
the north, and it surrendered its individuality. 
Discords also broke out, and there came an in 
filtration of new-comers to whom it was thought 
needful to apply disciplining. The Pilgrims 
began to imitate many of the harsh laws and 
standardizing methods of the Massachusetts 
Colony Puritans. 

They first copied a chain of regulations 

compelling a rigorously devotional Sabbath. 

100 



RELIEF IN ERUPTION 101 

Church attendance was made the great test of 
piety and character; to this all else was second 
ary. Almost every motion of people was so or 
dered and circumscribed that it was thought 
they, perforce, had to go to church, having 
nothing else that they were allowed to do and 
nowhere else to go. 

Punishments for infractions of the Lord s- 
Day laws began at a comparatively early stage. 
For some trivial act of Sabbath breaking, John 
Barnes was sentenced by the court at New 
Plymouth, on October 5, 1636, to a fine of thirty 
shillings and to sit an hour in the stocks. On 
the same day Edward Holman was let off with 
a fine of twenty shillings; he, it seems, was "not 
guilty in so high a degree." 

Webb Adey was a baffling problem to Pil 
grim magistrates. He had his own way of 
spending Sunday and he could not be broken 
of it. First Webb was given a taste of the 
stocks. He was not convinced. Shortly after 
he was seen imperturbably working in his garden 
on Sunday. A constable pounced upon him and 
put him in jail, and he was brought up before 
the court at New Plymouth, on June 5, 1638, 



102 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

to answer for his unpardonable act. Witnesses 
to it were duly there in the persons of Josias 
Cooke and Ralph Smyth. The marginal note 
on the court record reads: "Censured and 
whipt." 

Lashing did not change Webb s ways. That 
garden of his had fascination for him and he 
continued his attentions to it on Sunday, which 
was the only time he had for working in it. 
Again he was haled before the court, this time 
on July 7, 1638, and "was censured to be severely 
whipt at the post, which was accordingly per 
formed." Of Webb Adey s career after this 
the court records do not tell. He was merely 
one of a number of transgressors, although few 
others were as pertinacious. 

There was, however, a way of evading Sun 
day laws. Either the legislators had not ex 
pected that it would be availed of or they had 
quite overlooked its possibilities. It was simple 
enough. Folks not wishing to go to church 
would forget to awake or if they did awake would 
get a flash of the prospect before them, roll over, 
and go to sleep again. 

This iniquity had to be extirpated. Two laws 



RELIEF IN ERUPTION 103 

coined on June 6, 1651, were relied upon to do 
it. The mandate of one law was that no one 
should be permitted to neglect public worship 
on the Lord s Day. But the real menace of this 
law was intended for the Quakers, who were 
compelled to go to the established church or 
pay individually a fine of ten shillings. It was 
the other law that struck at the sleepers. Any 
one, it was ordered, who in any way was given 
to lazy, slothful, or profane habits, thereby 
neglecting church attendance, was to be fined 
ten shillings for every offense or be publicly 
whipped. For some reason not now discover 
able, both of these laws were later repealed. 

But other laws took their place. One of these 
was an enactment of June 5, 1655, decreeing 
that anybody denying the Scriptures to be a 
rule of life was to be punished as the magistrates 
decided "so it shall not extend to life or limb." 
The meaning of this act was that a whole series 
of regulations taken from the Mosaic books were 
made the absolute code for Plymouth Colony. 
From time to time other laws were enacted re 
quiring church attendance. 

In trying to enforce all of these laws the 



104 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

authorities encountered many a case of what they 
called perverseness. 

Elizabeth Eeddy of New Plymouth wrung 
and hung out clothes "on the Lord s Day in 
time of church services." Perhaps she had heen 
indisposed, her wash had accumulated, and it 
had to be disposed of. Her offense noted, she 
was arrested and arraigned before the court on 
October 7, 1651. She was fined ten shillings, 
but later the fine was graciously remitted. 

Whether Abraham Peirse of the town of Dux- 
barrow was a toiler who needed to rest upon 
the Sunday, the records do not reveal. But he 
did commit the crime of sleeping on the sacred 
day. So, on March 2, 1652, when he was ar 
raigned in court charged with "slothful and 
negligent expending the Sabbath," he had to 
listen to a racking lecture rounded out by a stern 
warning to amend. 

Other offenders had to suffer something more 
than censure. Nathaniel Bassett and Joseph 
Prior were brought up in court, on March 2, 
1652, charged with disturbing the church at Dux- 
barrow on the Lord s Day. This was a general 
accusation. But what specifically did they do? 



RELIEF IN ERUPTION 105 

Did they venture to controvert the minister? 
Did they make grimaces or obnoxious remarks? 
Or was their disturbance shall we suggest it? 
that of a volley of snores? On these points 
the court records are tantalizingly silent. But 
whatever they did do, it was considered to call 
for condign punishment. Each of them was 
sentenced to pay a fine of twenty shillings or 
be bound to a post in a public place for two hours, 
"with a paper on their heads on which their 
capital crime shall be written perspicuously, so 
as may be read." 

Ralph Jones s crime in "not repairing to the 
public worship of God" cost him, on October 
6, 1657, a fine of ten shillings. Other similar 
violators were on different occasions likewise 
fined. Lieutenant James Wyatt wrote a note 
on business matters on Sunday when he should 
have been in church; some tell-tale quickly in 
formed on him; he was arrested, arraigned in 
court on October 2, 1658, and sharply reproved 
for his writing on the Lord s Day "at least in 
the evening somewhat too soon." Under a law 
prohibiting any kind of work on Sunday, Samuel 
Howland of Duxbarrow was haled to court 



106 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

charged with having carried grist from the mill 
on the Lord s Day; his sentence, on October 3, 
1662, was that he should pay ten shillings fine 
or be whipped. These are a random few of 
numerous cases of the kind. 

What happened to many who, for fear of 
being fined, did go to church? Whether it was 
the almost interminable sermons that induced 
the need for a restorative cannot be positively 
said. But certain it was that between morning 
and evening services the "ordinaries" dispensing 
liquor were immoderately patronized. 

The General Court of Plymouth Colony did 
not relish the mortification of admitting such a 
sorry state of affairs. Yet even that body had 
to come to the point of openly recognizing what 
the sophisticated all knew. In a law of June, 
1662, it bemoaned that persons imbibed all too 
freely between church services, and it thereupon 
forbade keepers of ordinaries under pain of ten 
shillings fine for each offense to draw any wine 
or liquor on the Lord s Day except for the faint 
and sick. 

After the passage of this law there was a 
surprising assortment of persons who of a sud- 



RELIEF IN ERUPTION 107 

den would be taken with some kind of ailment 
necessitating liquid treatment. Before long, 
however, they discarded all pretexts ; and the or 
dinaries resumed an undisguised rushing business 
on the Lord s Day. Finally, in 1674, the min 
isters caused another and similar law to be passed, 
although why it is not easy to understand, see 
ing that the first was so ineffective. 

But this was not the only trouble agitating 
all good souls who wished to see the Lord s Day 
kept pure and undefiled. Sleeping on the Sab 
bath had become rather epidemic. Boys and 
youths would stand outside the church doors and 
oh, most nefarious conduct! would jest with 
one another. Jesting is the very wordjnentioned 
in the law of 1665, designed to put an end both 
to that and to sleeping in sundry towns where 
there was "complaint of great abuse" in these 
enormities. The guilty so read the law were 
first to be admonished; if they persisted they 
were to be set in stocks; and if this did not re 
claim them they were to be arraigned before the 
court for harsher punishment. 

Jesters could be caught red-handed. But how 
were sleepy-heads, protected as they were by 



108 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

the privacy of their homes, to be detected in the 
act? For five years parsons and church elders 
and lawmakers wrestled hard with this problem. 

At last, in June, 1670, came their solution. 
It was a law empowering the town selectmen to 
requisition a constable and send him into any 
house or place the inmates of which were sus 
pected of neglecting public worship on the 
Lord s Day. The constables were even author 
ized to "get together in companies" for the pur 
pose. They were required to take note of all 
that they saw and report the facts to the court. 

In executing this law it was tacitly expected 
by the lawmakers that the constables would not 
be so lacking in judgment as to intrude upon 
the well-placed. The "inferior sort" knew well 
enough what was in store for them, and when 
ever they could conveniently arrange the plan, 
they or at least such as wished to spend Sunday 
in their own way would have a sentinel on the 
lookout. But numbers were caught unawares. 
The court records from 1670 on are full of 
breach-of- Sabbath cases and their sentences of 
punishment, which often was whipping. 

Perhaps it was in the course of a poking ex- 



RELIEF IN ERUPTION 109 

pedition that the constable came upon Edward 
Cottle and his wife belaboring each other with 
hard words. In court, on March 5, 1678, they 
were jointly fined forty shillings "for quarrel 
ling on the Lord s Day and thus profaning it." 
On the same day and for the same offense Mrs. 
Nathaniel Covell was given the alternative of 
paying a like fine or being whipped. 

John Arthur, Matthew Bloomer, and John 
Leyton were a companionable trio of bachelors; 
one morning they were raided and routed out, 
lugged to court on June 1, 1675, charged with 
not attending the public worship of God and 
also with "living lonely and in a heathenish way 
from good society." They were told they must 
go regularly to church or they would have to 
quit the colony. 

There was George Russell of Duxbarrow. 
He neglected to go to church on the Lord s Day, 
was bundled to court, on March 9, 1683, and 
only by promising reformation could get condi 
tional release ; "but in case he does not reform," 
the court entry reads, "he remains liable to pun 
ishment for this and for that also." George 
was not by any means the only probationer. As 



110 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

I am not a genealogist, I cannot tell how many 
noted persons to-day could, if they would, trace 
their ancestry to George and other notorious 
lawbreakers like him. 

Not only were there those who failed to go 
to church on the Sabbath, but card playing on 
Sunday was a not-unknown pastime, as fre 
quent court cases attest. Also, there were too- 
eager souls who never would let the Sabbath 
stand in the way of their making a good bar 
gain. John Reed, of Freetown, bought a beaver 
skin on the Lord s Day, but it turned out to be 
a bad bargain, for the court, on July 11, 1685, 
fined him forty shillings, which must have left 
John with a deep grudge against the babbler 
who had informed on him. 

Laws compelling church attendance were con 
tinued after the uniting of Massachusetts and 
Plymouth colonies in the Province of Massachu 
setts. Whenever the disregard of them became 
too conspicuous the lawmakers would respond to 
ministerial demands by enacting new laws. On 
November 26, 1717, a law was passed in Massa 
chusetts declaring that persons who for one 
month neglected to attend public worship should 



RELIEF IN ERUPTION 111 

be indicted and, upon conviction, fined twenty 
shillings, or be placed in the cage or stocks for 
not more than three hours. The act of 1746 
reiterated this law, and there were further laws 
in Massachusetts to the same purport. 

At the behest of the ministerial hierarchy the 
Connecticut General Court repeatedly issued 
laws making church attendance compulsory. 

A Connecticut law of May 20, 1668, insisted 
that "the sanctification of the Sabbath is a matter 
of great concernment to the weal of a people, 
and the profanation thereof is that pulls down 
the Judgments of God upon that place or people 
that suffer the same." Those staying away from 
church unnecessarily were each, it was decreed, 
to be fined five shillings for every offense or be 
set in the stocks for an hour. But church going 
did not remain the only requirement. Under a 
law of May 13, 1680, ministers were to give lec 
tures every Thursday in each county. This, the 
law announced, was to be done in order "that 
people may have opportunity to partake of the 
variety of ministerial gifts" a high privilege 
that failed to call forth enthusiastic reception 



112 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

from a people that willy-nilly had to endure the 
impact of two sermons every Sunday. 

The catechizing of youths under twenty years 
of age by ministers on the Sabbath day was a 
recommendation of this same Connecticut law of 
May 13, 1680; it was essential "for the better 
preservation and propagation of religion to pos 
terity." Masters of families also were required 
by law to instruct and catechize their children 
and servants on the Sabbath. Exhaustion soon 
seized many of the masters and they dropped the 
undertaking. 



CHAPTER VII 

HARRIED TO DESPERATION 

MONOTONOUS drilling, heaping of 
wearisome obligations, and the weight 
of other repressions signalized Sunday in the 
minds of many as a fearsome day. Its approach 
was regarded with dread. 

The same results came in Connecticut as were 
evidenced all along in Massachusetts, as well 
as in other colonies having drastic regulatory 

laws. All times flLraj^aranteri>f^ by R certain 

degree jDiLcr-ime. But it was then excessive, 
measured by the expectation of ministers, and 
legislators that the severity jrf JtheirjjLscJpl i ning 
would effacejt. The reverse was the jsJffeeL No 
one who studies the proofs of ttiose tmies^can 
escape being impressed byjthe_long,_continuous 
roster of crimes,jabnorma^ 

For some share of these crimes unstable char 
acters arriving constantly were responsible. But 

113 



114 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

that does not explain the outbreak of vice and 
crime among residents, not excepting church 
elders and ministers. 

Drunkenness persisted notwithstanding the 
fact that the drunkard could be and was dis 
franchised and also "must wear about his neck 
and so as to hang about his outward garment a 
D made of red cloth and set upon white and to 
continue this for a year, and not to leave it off 
when he comes among company," under heavy 
penalty for disobedience. Such sentences were 
actually carried out, as the Massachusetts court 
records show. Gambling, lying, swearing, 
cursing, quarreling, horse stealing, forgery, 
arson, swindling Indians, and corrupting public 
officers were common charges. Frequent laws 
were passed in the attempt to stop these crimes. 

A more sinister aspect, however, was that of 
a diversity of crimes flowing from sheer immor 
ality. Vicious assaults and^iUKitJntimacy were 
not occasional. Convictions for certain unname- 
able offenses were anything but rarities. Lack 
of chastity and disregard of marital ties was 
all too frequent, and bigamy on the part of 
some whose wives or husbands were in England 



HARRIED TO DESPERATION 115 

or elsewhere became such a scandal that a Massa 
chusetts Colony law, of November 11, 1647, 
ordered all such married persons to return by the 
first ship to their relatives. 

No thought ever occurred to law devisers that 
the pressure of their multifarious inhibitions 
might itself be a main precipitant of these ex 
plosions. This was a principle they neither per 
ceived nor cared to perceive. To them the sole 
cause was inherent depravity. But, as a matter 
of fact, many of these evil-doers were innately 
well disposed and in act hard workers. It was 
the throttling at every jurn of normal expres 
sion, cooped., .as. jt_ .was - in_ najJL9w^_set_channels 
not even admitting of the most innocent and 
harmless manifestations, that impelled an out 
let for pent-up nature. The recoil was. corre 
spondingly violent. 

For both men and women convicted of the 
scarlet sin death was fixed as the penalty by the 
Massachusetts Colony law of October 18, 1631, 
and confirmed by laws of 1638, 1640, and other 
years. It was not inflicted, but other punish 
ments were. Both there and in Plymouth 
Colony the guilty were whipped, put in stocks, 



116 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

jailed, or subjected to worse ignominy. Upon 
conviction, Mary Mendame was sentenced at 
New Plymouth, on September 3, 1639, to un 
dergo this punishment: She was whipped at a 
cart-tail through the town streets and had to 
wear a badge of infamy on her left sleeve; if 
found without it she was to be burned in the 
face with a hot iron. As she was adjudged the 
more at fault, the other party, an Indian, was 
given what was considered the mild sentence of 
a sound whipping at the post with a halter around 
his neck. 

Law piled upon law only added to the com 
bustion. Everywhere was an atmosphere of 
backbiting and strangling suspicion. To such a 
pass did matters come that, on May 27, 1674, 
the Massachusetts General Court delivered itself 
of this climacteric law : 

This Court, accounting it their duty by all due 
means to prevent appearance of sin and wickedness of 
any kind, do order that henceforth it shall not be lawful 
for any single woman or wife in the absence of her 
husband to entertain or lodge any inmate or sojourner 
with the dislike of the selectmen of the town, or magis 
trate, or commissioners who may have cognizance 



HARRIED TO DESPERATION 117 

thereof, upon penalty of 5 per week, on conviction 
thereof before any court or magistrate, or be corpo 
rally punished, not exceeding ten stripes; and all con 
stables are to take cognizance hereof for information 
of such cases. 

This was followed by a later law empower 
ing magistrates and commissioners to search 
suspected premises. 

Similarly in Connecticut a race of lawbreakers 
was created by the laws themselves. The 
lamentation of the General Court, on May 8, 
1684, was that "provoking evils" persisted. The 
Sabbath was profaned. There was neglect of 
the catechizing of children and servants and 
of family prayer and church attendance. Tip 
pling and drinking weFe rife. Uncleanness 
(meaning immorality) prevailed. But it was 
not the laws, asseverated the General Court, 
which were responsible. No, it was the "want 
of due prosecution of offenders that are guilty 
of breach of them." This was the reason why 
these laws had "not answered that expectation 
of reformation which this Court aimed at." The 
mandate went forth that selectmen, constables, 
and grand jurymen must take special care to 



118 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

discover lawbreakers and present them once a 
month at court. If sin were not eradicated the 
Lord would again show displeasure as in the 
last Indian war. 

But reform did not come. Vice and corrup 
tion of manners increased and abounded, the 
General Court affirmed in May, 1690, it found 
to its sorrow, and it called upon ministers to 
forward the work of reformation. Its decrees, 
however, seemed to be much like those of King 
Canute to the ocean. In May, 1704, it was 
still plaintively dwelling upon a list of crying 
evils and directing the reverend ministers "to 
excite and stir up their good people to particular 
societies in order to endeavor a reformation." 
The ministers must have had scant success, for, 
in 1712, another Connecticut law to enforce 
church attendance was passed. 

Something was wrong somewhere. What was 
it? The legislature, in 1714, gave the Connecti 
cut General Association of Churches power to 
make an inquiry. A typical report was turned 
in the next year. That there might be an over 
dose of religious exaction, a surplusage of laws, 




he ocao-let 1 Better 



Courtesy of Duffield & Co. 



HARRIED TO DESPERATION 119 

was a concept that did not even remotely occur 
to the ministerial investigators. Their minds 
ran in one immutable direction; this was that 
there never could be enough of enforced religion 
or of repressive laws. 

However, we shall give their findings and in 
their own language exactly as they are set forth 
in the official records. These were the prevalent 
conditions reported: 

1 A want of Bibles in particular families. 

2 Remissness and great neglect of attendance on 
the public worship of God upon Sabbath days and 
other seasons. 

3 Catechizing being too much neglected in sundry 
places. 

4 Great deficiency in domestical or family government. 

5 Irregularity in commutative justice upon several ac 
counts. 

6 Talebearing and defamation. 

7 Calumniating and contempt of authority and or 
der, both civil and ecclesiastical. 

8 And intemperance : with several other things therein 
mentioned. 

The uppermost question was what to do about 
these evils. The answer was the usual one 



120 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

more laws^-nmre scrutinizing. "Decays in re 
ligion" had to be prevented, the Connecticut 
General Assembly (as the legislative body was 
now named) resolved. 

A law was thereupon passed that selectmen 
should go from domicile to domicile and make 
diligent inquiry of householders "how they are 
stored with Bibles." If not provided with at 
least one Bible, the householder was to procure 
it. In cases where a family had numerous mem 
bers and could afford to buy a considerable 
number of Bibles, it had to do so. In addition, 
all families were required to have a suitable 
supply of orthodox catechisms "and other good 
books of practical godliness." 

The concrete results of this measure were 
singular. With the law plenty of families had 
to comply. But that was as far as many went. 
Not a word did the law say as to these books 
having to be read and studied; the supposition 
of lawmakers was that the possession of them 
would, of course, mean perusal, but that result 
did not at all follow. The books were ostenta 
tiously placed on a parlor table as sureties for 
the household s piety, and there they remained 



HARRIED TO DESPERATION 121 

as the most useful of all testimonials. Seeing 
them there, could any pry successfully assert 
that the household having them was not the abode 
of righteousness? Many a piece of mischief or 
rascality was now done with all the greater assur 
ance and feeling of security. 

Hot from the legislative mills proceeded an 
other law on October 13, 1719. It compelled the 
town clerk, under penalty of heavy fine for 
not obeying, to read publicly at stated times the 
full text of the act of 1715. This law, it may 
be remarked, was entitled "An Act for the Ef 
fectual Suppression of Immorality." It vir 
tually classed all persons not strictly regular and 
orthodox in church and other religious perform 
ance as of immoral character. 

Another lugubrious wail and two new laws 
came in May, 1721, from the Connecticut Gen 
eral Assembly. 

Notwithstanding, said the preamble, the laws 
already provided for the sanctification of the 
Lord s Day, "many disorderly persons in abuse 
of that liberty regardless of the laws neglect the 
public worship of God and profane the day by 
their rude and unlawful behavior." Anybody 



122 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

who did not duly attend some lawful congrega 
tion, unless he had a satisfactory excuse, was to 
be fined five shillings for every offense. The 
other law ordered grand jurymen, tithing-men, 
and constables to inspect carefully the behavior 
of all persons on the Lord s Day or other wor 
ship days, especially between church services. 
Any person, whether adult or child, not measur 
ing to correct deportment, was to be fined five 
shillings, and the offender or parent was to pay 
to the grand jurymen and other inquisitors two 
shillings for each day spent in the prosecution. 

To enumerate the further attempts to compel 
church attendance would be tiresome repetition. 
To a certain degree they were effective because, 
as one British official wrote, of the fear of being 
fined. Church congregations were really com 
posed of two classes, those who willingly went 
to service and such as were driven there by the 
laws. 

This was so not only in New England but in 
other colonies where there were stringent church- 
attendance laws. To such an extent did Puri 
tan influence sway the colonies everywhere that 
as late as March, 1762, the Georgia legislature 



HARRIED TO DESPERATION 123 

enacted a law compelling all persons "to observe 
the Lord s Day and frequent some place of 
public worship." At no time and at no place 
did these laws succeed for any appreciable length 
of time. Each increasingly aroused popular re 
sentment so greatly that irreligion (then called 
atheism) was mentioned in many a law as a grow 
ing menace. Incessantly in New York, New 
Jersey, and other colonies the ministers were 
complaining of inordinate drinking, gambling, 
swearing, immorality, and other vices and 
breaches on the Lord s Day as well as on other 
days. 

Decade after decade went by, but the min 
isters tenaciously adhered to their long-drawn 
prayers and voluminous sermons. The longer 
they could make these the more their pulpit 
power was extolled in ecclesiastical circles. "He 
greatly excelled in devotional exercises. He 
would sometimes occupy forty minutes in prayer. 
His public services usually lasted two full 
hours." Thus did Sprague, in his "Annals of 
the American Pulpit," admiringly write of the 
Rev. Nathaniel Porter, D.D., pastor of the Con 
gregational Church at New Durham, New 



124 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Hampshire, in 1773. Of the reverence ministers 
received, this sketch, written by Josiah Quincy 
of the Rev. Jonathan French, of Andover, 
Massachusetts, furnishes a vivid illustration: 

The whole space before the meeting-house [church] 
was filled with a waiting, respectful and expecting mul 
titude. At the moment of service, the pastor issued 
from his mansion, with Bible and manuscript sermon 
under his arm, with his wife leaning on one arm, flanked 
by his negro man on his side, as his wife was by her 
negro woman, the little negroes being distributed, ac 
cording to their sex, by the side of their respective 
parents. Then followed every member of the family, 
according to age and rank, making often with family 
visitants, somewhat of a formidable procession. 

As soon as it appeared, the congregation, as if moved 
by one spirit, began to move towards the door of the 
church ; and before the procession reached it, all were in 
their places. As soon as the pastor entered the church, 
the whole congregation stood until the pastor was in 
the pulpit and his family were seated until which was 
done, the whole assembly continued standing. At the 
close of the service the congregation stood until he and 
his family had left the church, before any one moved 
towards the door. Forenoon and afternoon the same 
course of proceeding was had, expressive of the rever- 



HARRIED TO DESPERATION 125 

ential relation in which the people acknowledged that 
they stood towards their clergymen. 

A picturesque account, this, showing the pomp 
surrounding ministers and the authority with 
which they are invested. But, in truth, obeisance 
to them was far from being wholly voluntary. 
Some of the congregation to whom forms were 
as precious as feeling rendered it spontaneously. 
But in many a case it was an affectation, a mask, 
an unavoidable convention. Beneath the out 
ward display and profession was a deep-seated 
fear of the consequences of lack of compliance, 
and the knowledge that ministers could, in one 
way or another, invoke the severity of a host 
of laws against any one not yielding due rever 
ence. 



CHAPTER VIII 

A PALL UPON JOY 

A MUSEMENTS and recreations on Sun- 
-*** day are among the list of doings that the 
Lord s Day Alliance of the United States aims 
to have prohibited. 

"When Sunday is spent in play, there is no 
gain, but rather loss," says one of its members, 
whose outline of the program is published in 
the "Lord s Day Leader." "Our fathers were 
wise after a worldly fashion as well as morally 
and religiously, when they placed the Sunday 
laws on the statute books. They knew well 
enough that games, picnics and such things not 
only violated God s will, but weakened human 
usefulness and capacity for healthy toil, even 
as they knew that mind and spirit as well as body 
demanded worship." 

It is such avowals before the assenting inner 
circle that lucidly indicate the lengths to which 

126 



A PALL UPON JOY 127 

professional Sabbatarians are prepared to go. 
In newspaper interviews spokesmen of the 
Lord s Day Alliance and similar organizations 
may disclaim being too extreme. Appeasingly 
they may say that their assault is mostly against 
Sunday amusements from which profit is de 
rived. 

They do not overlook the fact that it is those 
very amusements which are popular with vast 
numbers of the American people; it is precisely 
because of that widespread patronization that 
they aim to have them abolished. Toward the 
favored classes they adopt a complaisant attitude. 
As though already possessed of the power of 
controlling lawmaking, they avouch that they 
will not be disposed to interfere with such recrea 
tions as golf and automobile riding. 

Of the whole population comparatively few 
play golf, but those few are, generally speaking, 
of the prominent and influential. In a wider 
sense this is true of automobile users; and, be 
sides, many a rural church-goer finds recreation 
for himself and his family in an automobile 
jaunt on Sunday afternoon. To attempt to 
banish the automobile on Sunday would antag- 



128 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

onize much support in the rural districts, which 
in general are the mainstay of the Lord s Day 
movement. To the city dweller a motion pic 
ture show, a concert, a baseball game or a sea 
side excursion on a Sunday afternoon or evening 
has the same recreational value that an automo 
bile drive has to the rural resident. In the one 
case the Lord s Day Alliance advocates would 
prohibit, and in the other permit. 

Up to the present this discrimination stands 
out strongly. But it may not remain so. Organ 
izations such as the Lord s Day Alliance do not 
lack a sense of political strategy. It is good 
tactics, they know, not to demand everything 
at once but to try eventually to achieve their 
whole program by a gradual approach. 

Beginning with attacking amusements pro 
vided for profit they may proceed to the point 
of pronouncing immoral and impious all kinds 
of play and enjoyments on Sunday, whether 
paid fprjOT pot. The views of the reformer just 
quoted significantly point in that direction; and 
those views are shared half -openly or covertly 
by many other leaders. They believe that play 
on Sunday is a demoralizing distraction from 



A PALL UPON JOY 129 

the solemnity with which they hold that day 
ought to be religiously observed. 

For a supreme model they hark back to the 
example of "the fathers." By these they of 
course mean the Puritans. Aglow with homage 
of Puritan ways, they take it for granted that 
the results of those ways were all that they like 
to think them. Conjuring a beauteous picture 
of those times, they assume that the Puritan 
people did not wish to play on Sunday because 
they were enwrapped in a piety that admitted 
of no diverting. The church was the great mag 
netic attraction the voice and teaching of which 
suffused the multitude ! This is the retrospective 
vision of our modern Sabbatarians and they re 
joice in it. They think they see what glories a 
playless Sunday then brought; how, among 
other wonders, it enspirited and invigorated and 
sent people back to their tasks on Monday filled 
with a light-hearted alacrity. They wish to be 
lieve that this was so, and hence in their minds 
it forthwith becomes so. 

But dreams are not facts. Of what the actual 
conditions were we have already given some en- 



130 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

lightening details. We shall now present some 
more equally authentic. 

Between the Puritan theocracy and the gen 
erality of the people there was a great gap. The 
one was continuously making rules for conduct 
and trying to enforce obedience; in the other 
was a spirit of insubordination clearly showing 
the revolt of human nature against excessive 
efforts to constrict it. 

Of the value of relaxation and its benefits to 
mind and body the Puritan rulers had no con 
ception. Church attendance, catechism, and 
prayer, they believed, were relaxation and all 
that was necessary. 

One of their very fir^l 



idleness. This did not meanmerely shiftlessness. 
A couple of wo^iTexchangmg gossip (which 
was then the sole vehicle of news) ; a youth sit 
ting on a stump and contemplating landscape 
beauties ; a group of men in expansive social con 
verse all these and many others came under 
the ban of idleness. The Massachusetts Colony 
law of 1633 ordered that "no person, householder 
or other, shall spend his time idly or unprofit- 
ably, under pain of such punishment as the Court 



A PALL UPON JOY 131 

shall think meet to inflict." A Watts lying 
before a fireside watching the steam lift the pot 
lid; a Burns pausing spell-bound at his plow 
to behold the charms of a sunset or the actions 
of a mouse; an Abraham Lincoln outstretched 
in the woods in deep meditation these would, 
under Puritan law, have been condemned as sheer 
idlers because they seemed to spend their time 
unprofitably. Just as religion had to take the 
form of religiosity, proving itself by the outward 
display, so activity of mind had visibly to show 
itself in vigorous application, else it was not work 
but inanity. 

In proscribing idleness, there was in that 
Puritan statute the kernel of an ideal which has 
powerfully influenced American life. This is 
that work is the order of life and that it bestows 
the dignity of usefulness. But as in so many 
other things, the Puritan hierarchy carried the 
idea to an impossible extreme. All work and no 
play was its demand. 

This formula was applied to adults as well as 
to all such children as were thought old enough 
to be put to work. Men had their own way of 
mingling socially after a hard day s work. They 



132 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

would foregather at the inns, and amid friendly 
converse would treat and drink to one another s 
health. It was a species of mature play, or at 
least an ebullition of good feeling. But to the 
General Court "the common custom of drinking 
to one another is a mere useless ceremony, and 
draweth on the abominable practice of drinking 
healths." This is how the Massachusetts Colony 
law of September 4, 1639, denounced the prac 
tice and then forbade it under penalty of fines. 
Those against whom the law was aimed could 
not bring themselves to see how a custom which 
they thought promoted good fellowship could 
be either useless or abominable. They kept it up 
and with such gusto that the thwarted legisla 
tors could do nothing else than repeal that par 
ticular law in 1645. 

Women liked to have their little pleasurable 
parties at which cakes and buns were served. 
Of course they exchanged gossip; what would 
such affairs have been without it? Quite natu 
rally they enjoyed it and one another s company. 
To the ministers all this was utter frivolity. 
Evidently the lawmakers were of the opinion 
that if cakes and buns were prohibited, there 



A PALL UPON JOY 133 

would be nothing left to attract. A law was 
passed putting a fine of ten shillings upon any 
one selling cakes or buns except for some special 
occasion as marriage and burial parties. The 
circumventing of this law was outrageously easy. 
The women but made the more buns and cakes 
and pies. Overcoming all original legal ob 
stacles, New England pies and doughnuts rose 
to lasting celebrity. The very law designed to 
lessen their consumption led to the housewives 
becoming the greater adepts in making them. 

To a liberal age the intense opposition of the 
Puritan ministers and church elders to mirth 
and leisure seems incomprehensible. But when 
the peculiar tenets of their faith are explained 
it becomes clear. One of their most firmly rooted 
beliefs was that Satan found his readiest prey 
in the idle. Hence, to baffle his malevolent de 
signs, every one, children as well as adults, had 
to be kept busy at work, devotion, or some other 
duty occupying the mind. 

With the increase of children in Massachusetts 
and Plymouth colonies came a new problem. 
How keep them from the clutches of lurking 
Satan? To the people of our day the spectacle 



134 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

of children playing and romping and perform 
ing numberless antics and committing perhaps 
little depredations seems the most natural thing 
in the world. Not so to the Puritan parsons. 
These ways, especially on the part of children 
in their teens, excited growing disapproval and 
solicitude. Where could these outbreaks lead 
but to perdition? Such ebullience imperiling 
the soul and threatening the State had to be 
held down. 

At the ministerial prompting laws were passed 
to regulate child life. Plymouth Colony, in 1641, 
ordered all poor children to be put a fitting em 
ployment. The Puritan lawmakers of Massa 
chusetts Colony on June 14, 1642, adopted a 
far more sweeping law. It might have been 
appropriately entitled, "An Act to Frustrate 
Satan." 

It opened with a scolding of parents and 
masters for their great neglect; they were not 
properly training their children "in learning and 
labor and other employments" which might be 
"profitable to the commonwealth." This was an 
evil, and the authorities of every town were com 
manded to eradicate it. If they failed they were 



A PALL UPON JOY 135 

to be indicted by the grand jury and fined upon 
conviction. 

These officials were directed to examine all 
parents and masters from time to time and find 
out how the children were occupied. They were 
especially instructed to inquire into the children s 
"ability to read and understand the principles 
of religion and the capital laws of the country." 
Anticipating that many parents or masters 
would object to this prying, the lawmakers were 
careful to provide a fine for refusal to furnish 
information. The town authorities were given 
the power of seizure ; they could take away chil 
dren the parents or masters of whom they judged 
"not to be fit" to do the rearing. These children 
were then to be bound out as apprentices. 

Then came a section of the law showing the 
extraordinary length to which repression of chil 
dren was carried. 

All apprenticed children were to be trained 
to some useful trade. But their intercourse was 
to be so controlled "that boys and girls be not 
suffered to converse together as may occasion 
any wanton, dishonest or immodest behavior." 
Talk that in our age would be dismissed as the 



136 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

inconsequential effervescence of youth was then 
scowled upon as ominous, a probable enough 
prelude to evil deeds. But as Satan was an in 
visible fiend, suspicion had to be fastened upon 
corporeal beings, and it therefore was fixed upon 
every motion and gesture of boys and girls. 

To make sure that boys and girls would be 
kept at work and punctiliously observe regu 
lations, selectmen were ordered to apportion 
towns into districts. Each selectman was to 
keep sharp watch over a certain number of as 
signed families. That no family or tradesman 
could plead lack of equipment for not putting 
the children at work, the law authorized the town 
officials in necessary cases to provide tools, and 
materials such as hemp and flax. "And if," the 
finale of the law read, "they [the officials] meet 
with any difficulty or opposition that they can 
not well master, they can have recourse to any 
magistrate." 

Child life was an endless round of duties. But 
toil, sermons, prayer, catechizing, and lectures 
were by no means all that had to be uncomplain 
ingly endured. Boys and youths from ten to 
sixteen years old had to undergo military train- 



A PALL UPON JOY 137 

ing in bow-and-arrow and pike practice as well 
as in that of small guns. A Massachusetts 
Colony law of May 14, 1645, compelled this. 

In addition, there was another duty which, 
however, should be placed in a somewhat differ 
ent category. It was that of education. The 
original educational motives and methods of the 
Puritans were not those of broad general devel 
opment. The preeminent aim was to recruit 
students for the ministry; this was distinctly 
stated in the Massachusetts law of 1646. When 
that same law urged "the necessity and singular 
use of good literature in managing the things 
of the greatest concernment in the Common 
wealth" it meant Scriptures and sermons. These 
were the good literature the Puritan leaders had 
in mind. 

This purpose was amplified in the act of 1647. 
The provisions of this law made it an indictable 
offense for townships not to establish and main 
tain schools. "It being one chief project of 
Satan to keep men from the knowledge of the 
Scripture," the preamble of this law began, 
"... and to the end that learning may not be 
buried in the graves of our forefathers" every 



138 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

township having fifty householders was requisi 
tioned to appoint one of their number to teach 
such children "as shall resort to him" to read 
and write. But no teachers who manifested 
themselves "unsound in the faith" were per 
mitted. This meant that only those of orthodox 
church membership were licensed to teach, and 
this for a considerable time remained so. Teach 
er s wages were paid either by the parents or the 
masters, or by the inhabitants in general in sup 
plies. 

Even although educational facilities were later 
extended both in Massachusetts and Plymouth 
colonies and their aims broadened, schools were 
long virtually extensions of the established 
church. They were not public schools in the 
modern sense. Teachers were auxiliaries of the 
ministers; they carried into the schools the 
church atmosphere and the strict overseership 
that the church demanded. They were privileged 
functionaries of the State, which further subsi 
dized them by exemptions from taxation. Gen 
erally their students were only those whose par 
ents could afford to contribute. 

Every channel of action was filled with aggres- 



A PALL UPON JOY 139 

sive ministerial influence. In the effort to en 
force the complexity of laws the well-to-do were 
not much disturbed; the assumption was that 
they had the virtue and intelligence to guide their 
children properly. It was the poorer parents 
whom the inquisitors unsparingly quizzed, 
nagged, and worried. 

Under this irritating pressure many parents 
sought to make their children conform to the 
set trammels. But the irresponsible impulses 
of youth would often rebel against the crushing 
grind and constraint. Of the joy of play, the 
higher freedom of initiative, they were deprived 
almost entirely. Any rational society might 
have confidently expected what happened. Boys 
and girls would often get into towering quarrels 
with parents; sometimes the one would begin, 
sometimes the other. 

The Puritan clerical mind was both naive and 
solidified. Its surprise was enormous that laws 
did not answer expectations, yet never did it 
think of either questioning the wisdom of laws 
or of analyzing their palpable effects. Laws, 
laws, laws were its perpetual demand. 

Death for cursing or striking parents was de- 



140 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

creed by the Massachusetts Colony law of No 
vember 4, 1646. This was to be the fate of any 
boy or girl more than sixteen years old and of 
sufficient understanding. There was no ambig 
uity in this law. Whatever child of that age, it 
said, who "shall curse or smite their natural 
father or mother, he or she shall be put to death." 
The only allowances for mitigation of this sen 
tence were proofs that "the parents have been 
very unchristianly negligent in their education 
of such children, or so provoked them by extreme 
and cruel correction, that they have been forced 
thereunto to preserve themselves from death or 
maiming." 

As it stood the law was drastic enough. But 
there was more death-dealing in it. 

The laws themselves, which were so many con 
spiracies against the legitimate needs of youth, 
drove many a juvenile into escapades or misdeeds 
of one sort or another. These might be tippling, 
or card-playing and dice-throwing in barns or 
in the woods, or they might be defiance of the 
moral code. Any youth transgressing overmuch 
was stamped by this law of 1646 as "a stubborn 
and rebellious son." To us of the present age 



A PALL UPON JOY 141 

a boy of sixteen is regarded as an undeveloped 
stripling. But that law classed the sixteen-year- 
old as being "of sufficient age and understand 
ing." He was supposed to be endowed with 
adult qualities, and virtually expected to act with 
the sense and gravity of maturity. 

In the case of any son, the law went on, "which 
will not obey the voice of his father or the voice 
of his mother, and when they have chastened him 
will not hearken unto them, then shall his father 
and mother being his natural parents, lay hold 
on him and bring him to the magistrates assem 
bled in the Court." Upon their producing suffi 
cient testimony "that their son is stubborn and 
rebellious, and will not obey their voice and chas 
tisement, but lives in sundry notorious crimes, 
such a son shall be put to death." 

This law was meant in stern earnestness. In 
fact, its substance was copied in a Connecticut 
law of l5JL_Yet although it was long a live law, 
in neither colony did officials dare enforce the 
extremity; no record is extant of a single child 
executed. 

Did such affrighting laws deter all youths? 
They did not. Upon adventurous youths of 



142 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

strong will the frequent effect was only to en 
kindle a furious dare-devil spirit. The embargo 
on normal self-assertion turned their thoughts 
toward illegal enterprises, and gave these a dis 
tinctive flavor because of the very dangers in 
volved. Some youths shirked work; others both 
did that and took to tippling. The lawmakers 
could not bethink themselves that in their own 
laws were salient provocative causes; character 
istically, they cast the blame upon "enticers." 
Their law of October 14, 1651, ordered that 
youths be kept from idleness and dissipation, and 
subjected "enticers" to fine. 

Our generation, which has put into force en 
lightened practices and laws as to the treatment 
and development of children, does not have to 
be told what would happen if youth were denied 
adequate play and amusement. But the Puritan 
legislators were astonished that children would 
not pattern themselves according to a set of rigid 
laws. 

From the ceaseless foundry of laws another 
act issued on August 22, 1654. It lamented that 
"divers children and servants do behave them 
selves too disrepectfully, disobediently and dis- 



A PALL UPON JOY 143 

orderly toward their parents, masters and gov 
ernors. Whenever legislators in general of that 
period could not think of any other remedy, or 
did not wish to, there was always the easy and 
inexpensive resource of whipping. That was 
what this law decreed. Any child or servant 
(they were often one and the same) convicted of 
such unruly conduct was to be corporally pun 
ished by as many as ten stripes "or otherwise" 
for each offense. 

These punishments, however, were rarely in 
flicted upon children in public. What this law 
did was virtually to sanction severe chastisement 
at the hands of masters, overseers, or parents. 
It was not an uncommon procedure of the Puri 
tan and Pilgrim courts to sentence even women 
to a castigation from their husbands. For in 
stance : Joane, wife of Obadiah Miller, of Taun- 
ton, was arraigned in court, on March 6, 1655, 
"for beating and reviling her husband, and egg 
ing her children to help her, bidding them knock 
him in the head, and wishing his victuals might 
choke him." The court record detailing the case 
concludes laconically, "Punished at home." 



CHAPTER IX 

YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 

PLAYING on Sunday had hitherto been 
considered unbecoming and was ranked as 
a sin. The reproof and flogging depended upon 
to correct recalcitrants had not met with the 
hoped-for success. Abuses were numerous, the 
General Court of Massachusetts Colony set 
forth when, on August 30, 1653, it created a 
new law. To play, gaunter, or sport on Sunday 
was now made a positive ~mis3emeanor, and 
greater responsibility was put upon masters 
and parents by making them subject to fine or 
indictment. 

As its justification, this law ruefully itemized 
the list of transgressions on the Lord s Day. 
Children played in the streets and other places; 
youths, maidens, and other persons went about 
"uncivilly walking the streets and fields," or took 
to sports, drink, or other practices. In those or 
other ways "they misspend that precious time 

144 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 145 

which things tend much to the dishonor of God, 
the reproach of religion, grieving the souls of 
God s servants." In stern terms the law gave 
notice that no children, youths, maids, or others 
should continue these transgressions "on penalty 
of being reputed great provokers of the high dis 
pleasure of Almighty God." 

All parents and governors of children more 
than seven years old ("not," the law explained, 
"that we approve younger children in evil") 
were to be admonished for the first offense com 
mitted by their children. For the second offense 
they were to be fined five shillings ; for the third, 
ten shillings; and they were to be indicted for 
the fourth. In the case of all offending youths 
and maids more than fourteen years old and of 
older persons a similar grading of punishments 
was decreed and they were all, youths and maids 
as well as adults, to pay their own fines. If un 
able or unwilling to do so, they were to be 
whipped by the constable, not more than five 
stripes for ten shillings fine. Copies of this law 
were to be posted conspicuously on all church 
doors for a month at least. 

The strictly pious were highly gratified. Min- 



146 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

isters and church elders were now confident that 
they had an effective law. Among those who 
saw nothing evil in playing on Sunday the first 
feeling was one of depression. 

But when the provisions of the law were care 
fully examined, the gladsome word was passed 
around that there was a way a partial way, it 
was true, but still a way of evading it. In 
unmistakable language the law read that the 
punishments named were to be incurred for vio 
lations during only the daytime of the Lord s 
Day. It was a standing enjoinment of the Pur 
itan church that Saturday afternoon and night 
should be given to studious preparation for the 
morrow and that Sunday night was an integral 
part of the Sabbath. Why the law of 1656 omit 
ted including them is something that cannot be 
ascertained. Possibly it was assumed that with 
the young compelled to stay indoors at night and 
sent to bed early there was slight danger of 
frolics abroad. 

This law was passed at a time in the summer 
when the sun is tolerably high. Evidently, the 
lawmakers overlooked the patent fact that sea 
sons come when the sun sinks early, leaving a 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 147 

considerable margin of daytime. But the law 
specified daylight, not daytkne. This was a 
most important and welcome distinction to those 
hankering for play. Obeying the letter of the 
law, they would impatiently watch for the sun 
to set, and then feeling secure would exhilarat- 
ingly betake themselves to diversions. 

Just why the Puritan lawmakers waited five 
years before launching another law is inexplica 
ble. The General Court, however, came to it on 
October 19, 1658. The law opened: 

Whereas by too sad experience it is observed, the sun 
being set, both every Saturday and on the Lord s Day, 
young people take liberty to walk and sport themselves 
in the streets and fields in the several towns of this 
jurisdiction . . . and too frequently repair to public 
houses of entertainment and there sit drinking, all of 
which tends not only to the hindering of due prepara 
tion for the Sabbath, but inasmuch as in them lies 
renders the ordinances of God altogether unprofitable, 
and threatens rooting out of the power of godliness, 
and procuring the wrath and judgments of God upon 
us and our posterity. 

It was ordered that every one found sporting 
in the streets and fields either on Saturday night 



148 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

or after sunset on the Lord s Day was to be fined 
five shillings or whipped. Likewise, anybody 
(except strangers or sojourners) drinking or 
even being in any house of entertainment on 
those nights. 

In ensuing years further laws to prevent prof 
anation of the Lord s Day were enacted, but all 
proved ineffectual. 

Distaste for liquor had never been a general 
Puritan trait. Objections of lawmakers had not 
been to liquor but to the prices charged, as laws 
forcing a lower schedule showed. With con 
stables and other church members on the alert 
to detect those playing on Sunday, more and 
more youngjDeople^felt themselves driven to the 
seclusion of inns and[^tHer_resorts and haunts. 
To cope with this condition, the General Court, 
on October 15, 1679, created a series of fresh 
inquisitorial commissions, composed of the tith- 
ingmen of each town. More than ordinary spy 
ing commissions, they were invested not only with 
search and seizure powers but with magisterial 
functions to proceed criminally against offend 
ers. 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 149 

They were required to inspect all houses, li 
censed and unlicensed, where they had reason to 
suspect illicit liquor selling or tippling, gam 
bling, or other evil conduct. They had to inspect 
the manners of all disorderly persons, and to 
report to the grand jury "the names of stubborn 
and disorderly children and servants, night walk 
ers, tipplers, Sabbath breakers, and such as ab 
sent themselves from the Church." Also they 
were required "to inspect the course or practice 
of any person whatsoever tending to debauch 
ery, irreligion, profaneness and atheism amongst 
us wherein by omission of family government, 
nurture and religious duties and instruction of 
children or servants, or idleness, profligate, un 
civil or rude practices of any sort." All such cul 
prits were to be fined or imprisoned. Cumbrous 
and involved as was the phraseology of this stat 
ute, its meaning was not obscure. 

Did weight of law and prying inquisitors abol 
ish play and sports ? Not in the long run. Forth 
came another onslaught of law on October 22, 
1692, after the combining of Massachusetts and 
Plymouth colonies. All persons were solemnly 
warned carefully to apply themselves, publicly 



150 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

and privately, to duties of religion and piety on 
the Lord s Day. Old laws were repeated for 
bidding tradesmen, artificers, laborers, and 
others, on land or water, from doing any business 
or work, except that of charity and necessity, on 
that day. No game, sport, play, or recreation 
was allowed on the Lord s Day "or any part 
thereof." Swimming was prohibited, as also was 
"all unnecessary and unseasonable walking in the 
streets and fields." The penalty was a fine. 

With the passing years the ministerial group 
found that not only did play persist but new, 
strange, exotic amusements came in. If there 
was anything to_which_Puritan church upholders 
were averse, it was art and music. Their churches 
were built in severe style, with the barest inte 
riors. To stringed instruments and the organ 
they had the strongest_objection. One powerful 
reason for this opposition was their associating 
decoration and melody with the cathedrals of 
Roman Catholicism, every suggestion of which 
they repudiated. 

The vogue for music, singing, and dancing 
began among the families and intimates of the 
royal oiHcials in New England. Then it spread 



The Drunkards Cloak 




Courtesy of Duffield & Co. 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 151 

among the rich. So long as it was confined to 
these classes, the lawmakers did not venture to 
interfere. But when it spread farther and be 
came a popular passion the parsons were highly 
alarmed. In vain did they denounce it as a poi 
sonous evil which no upright person should tol 
erate. Some of the very youths and misses listen 
ing to their exhortations would, when occasion 
offered, enthusiastically yield themselves to the 
whirl enlivened by the stirring notes of the violin 
or pipe. 

Suppression by mandate of law was finally 
determined upon. The act of March 19,_1712 JL . 
aiming to do this was typically entitled, "An Act 
against Intemperance, Immorality and Profane- 
ness." By this slurring wording it at the outset 
threw the onus upon singing, dancing, and music 
as being hostile to morality. The taverns of that 
time were not merely eating- and drinking-places 
but resorts for general amusements. It was to 
them that what were called ordinary people 
went. This law prohibited at all times fiddling, 
piping, or any other kind of music in taverns or 
other public houses. It equally forbade singing, 
dancing, or reveling in those places. For viola- 



152 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

tion the master of the house had to pay ten shil 
lings fine, and every person present five shillings. 

To root out the same amusements elsewhere, 
the law prohibited them at night in any part of 
any town. No one, either singly or in company, 
was to presume to sing, dance, fiddle, pipe, "or 
make any rout or other disturbance, to the dis 
quiet and distress of the inhabitants." This so 
licitude for mental comfort had no connection 
with the quality of the music. To the orthodox 
all music, singing, and dancing, whether good or 
bad, was repugnant/The offender was liable to 
one of four varieties of punishment: Five shil 
lings fine, whipping, imprisonment, or a session 
in the stocks or cage. 

Without the slightest realization that every 
new statute on the subject was a virtual admis 
sion of the lack of success of Sunday laws, the 
General Court of Massachusetts included in the 
act of 1712 provisions "for the more religious 
observance of the Lord s Day/ No one was 
allowed to play, sport, or loiter in the streets and 
fields, or about the wharves. Whoever was con 
victed was to pay five shillings fine, or suffer 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 153 

twelve hours imprisonment or two hours in the 
stocks. 

This law had no more effect than previous 
laws. Five years later on November 26, 1717 
it was held necessary to pass another Lord s 
Day law. Any one working, doing business, or 
indulging in any game, sport, or recreation was 
to be fined ten shillings for the first offense, and 
twenty shillings for the second and to give bonds 
for good behavior. Persons that for a month 
neglected to attend church were open to indict 
ment and a fine of twenty shillings. The alterna 
tive of non-payment in all cases was three hours 
confinement in the stocks or cage. 

The enumeration of successive laws may be a 
tax on patience, but it is important as showing 
how indomitably the ministers tried to bring 
about a perfect Sabbath, and how as often their 
efforts failed. The Puritan legislators could see 
neither the moral nor the humor of their frequent 
acknowledgments of failure; they clung to the 
delusion that by increasing fines and other pun 
ishments they could somehow attain their object. 

So another law was added on December 27, 
1728. This date, as is evident, was two days 



154 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

after Christmas. To moderns this may seem 
a singular time to have passed a law. But to 
orthodox Puritans Christmas celebrations were 
objectionable as savoring too much of the prac 
tices of "Papists." In fact, the General Court 
of Massachusetts had, in 1659, made the observ 
ance of Christmas a punishable offense. Although 
in the next generation there was a growing dis 
position to celebrate it, the pillars of the church 
adhered to the old opposition. This prejudice 
against Christmas as a festival long survived 
in certain parts of New England. 

"Notwithstanding the many good and whole 
some laws made to prevent the profanation of 
the Lord s Day, some wicked and evil-disposed 
persons do yet presume to do unnecessary work." 
Thus a Massachusetts law of 1728 introduced 
itself. "For the more effectual preventing such 
vile and unlawful practices," it increased the fine 
for working, doing business, playing, etcetera, 
to fifteen shillings for the first offense, and 
thirty shillings for the second, with bonds re 
quired for good behavior. Failure to pay the 
fine meant four hours in the cage or stocks or 
five days in jail. 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 155 

To circumvent former laws against swim 
ming on Sunday, many lads and a goodly num 
ber of men had taken to swimming in the dusk 
of Saturday and Sunday, when they could not 
easily be seen. The law of 1728 specifically pro 
hibited swimming, not only on Sunday but also 
on Saturday evening. It forbade funerals on 
Sunday except those specifically licensed. Need 
less to say, it reiterated, with heavier penalties, 
former laws against walking, promenading, or 
riding in streets, lanes, roads, and fields. 

By a Massachusetts law of 1746 all precedent 
Lord s Day laws were declared in full force. 
Arrests and convictions had been made all along; 
yet numbers of people refused to be made pious 
by law, and infractions of the Sabbath continued. 
The church element prodded the legislature for 
still another law, and obtained in 1761 what it 
wanted. This law did more than repeat the inhi 
bitions of previous laws. It established inquisi 
torial commissions in every town. We shall give 
a description of these in a more appropriate place 
later. 

Connecticut had much the same Lord s Day 
laws. In that colony even Indians were pro- 



156 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

hibited from playing on Sunday. A law of May, 
1667, decreed this. Walking the streets on Sun 
day evening, and singing and dancing in houses 
of public entertainment at all times, were for 
bidden by a Connecticut law of May 13, 1686, 
which ordered the authorities "to put on a spirit 
of courage in receiving the complaints" and exe 
cuting the laws "with such severity that others 
may hear and fear." 

Young folks decided that they would not be 
cheated of diversion. Evening social parties be 
came their mode of enjoyment. The Connecti 
cut General Court pursued them with a new law 
in October, 1709. It prohibited all such gather 
ings on Sunday evenings, fast days, and Thurs 
day lecture days. Comminglings that in our time 
are regarded as proper and natural were then 
held by ministers and lawmakers to be "disorder 
ly parties." 

By threatening each offender with a fine of 
five shillings or two hours in the stocks, the law 
makers thought that these social parties would 
be broken up. The young people, however, con 
trived to outwit the law. It clearly read "that 
this act shall not be taken or construed to hinder 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 157 

the meetings of such single and young persons 
upon any religious occasion." What, then, was 
to prevent young men and women from meeting 
and with solemn faces opening what seemed to 
be a gathering solely for piety s sake? Having 
complied nominally, at least, with the law s re 
quirements, they would then unbend and im 
merse themselves in subdued mirth, exchanging 
pretty compliments, indulging in gay sallies, and 
giving smiles free play. 

For a time the ministers were deceived. When 
they realized just what the import of those "re 
ligious parties" was, they were enraged. They 
demanded a severer law, and obtained in Octo 
ber, 1715, "An Act to Prevent Unseasonable 
Meetings of Young People in the Evening after 
the Sabbath Day and at other Times." It di 
rected constables and grand jurymen in the va 
rious towns to walk the streets and search all 
places suspected of harboring or entertaining 
illegal parties. These officials were not always 
anxious to carry out instructions too literally; 
they might at any time be confronted by their 
own sons and daughters or nephews and nieces 
participating in sequestered social parties. 



158 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

How ineffective all of the Connecticut Lord s 
Day laws were, may be judged by the irate con 
tents of a new law passed in 1721. It read: 

That whatsoever person shall be guilty of any rude 
and unlawful behavior on the Lord s Day, either in 
word or action, by clamorous discourse, or by shout 
ing, hollowing, screaming, running, riding, singing, 
dancing, jumping, winding horns or the like, in any 
house or place so near to any public meeting house for 
divine worship that those who do meet there may be 
disturbed by such rude and profane behavior, and 
being thereof convicted, shall incur the penalty of forty 
shillings, money, for each offense. 

Whatsoever person shall be present at any unlawful 
meeting, or be guilty of going from the place of his or 
her abode, and unlawful behavior on the Lord s Day 
contrary to this act, and being convicted and fined shall 
refuse to pay within the space of a week after convic 
tion shall be sent to a house of correction to lie at his 
or her own charge and be employed in labor not more 
than a month for any one offense. The profit of labor 
goes to the town treasury and the sheriff of the county. 

No delinquent convict shall have any review or ap 
peal but charges must be brought and accused prose 
cuted within a week after commission of the breach. 

A formidable law; yet it, too, was barren of 
permanent results. 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 159 

The Lord s Day laws of other colonies came 
later than those of the Puritans, and in a meas 
ure were patterned after them. In its law of 
1673 prohibiting games, work, and other recrea 
tions and occupations on Sunday, the Rhode 
Island General Assembly expressly declared that 
it did this not to oppose or propagate any wor 
ship but as a preventive of debaseness. Another 
Rhode Island law followed on May 7, 1679, in 
flicting a punishment of three hours in the stocks 
or a fine of five shillings upon any person pre 
suming to sport, game or play, shoot, or tipple 
on Sunday. 

New York and New Jersey began in 1675 
specifically to prohibit play, recreations, and 
servile work on Sunday. In both colonies the 
law was largely resented and ignored. The New 
York General Assembly, on November 3, 1685, 
set forth how the Lord s Day was neglected and 
profaned, and in the act that it passed on that 
day prohibited everything which clerical zealots 
believed interfered with Sabbath observance. 
Pastimes were forbidden as well as worldly labor, 
hunting, shooting, horse-racing, and other acts. 
A fine or a public sitting of two hours in the 



160 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

stocks for every offense was prescribed. These 
prohibitions were repeated in a law of October 
22, 1695, increasing the stocks treatment to three 
hours, and providing that an Indian or Negro 
slave or servant receive thirteen lashes across the 
bare back for each offense: This was the last 
Lord s Day law passed in New York for a long 
time. Neither the officials nor the upper classes 
of New York took such laws too seriously, and 
the same was then generally true of those of 
New Jersey. 

Pennsylvania s first Sunday laws were of a 
liberality that the Puritan sticklers would not 
have tolerated. "That looseness, irreligion and 
atheism may not creep in under pretense of con 
science," the law of November 27, 1700, simply 
decreed that people should spend the day at home, 
reading "the scriptures of truth," or attend what 
ever church suited them. The law of January 12, 
1706, was even more generous. It allowed dress 
ing of victuals of families, cook-shops, or victual- 
ing-houses ; it legalized the landing of passengers 
by watermen on Sunday; it permitted butchers 
to kill animals and sell meat and fishermen to 
sell fish on Sunday mornings during June, July, 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 161 

and August; milk venders could cry forth their 
presence before nine in the morning and after 
five in the afternoon on Sundays. The Quakers 
no doubt thought that good Sunday meals were 
a strong prop to piety. 

During the latter part of the eighteenth cen 
tury, cock-fighting, horse-racing and shooting- 
matches, with other such sports became Sunday 
indulgences in the realm of the Quakers. Whip 
ping up influential public sentiment against these 
practices, church leaders took advantage of the 
occasion to have a law enacted, on March 30, 
1779, forbidding play, games, sport, or any other 
kind of diversion on Sunday. Milk could still 
be sold before and after certain hours, victuals 
dressed, and passengers landed from boats, but 
almost everything else was prohibited. Viola 
tions meant a heavy fine or a stay in the work 
house. Further Lord s Day laws were passed 
in 1786 and 1794. Under the 1794 act the buyer 
of articles on Sunday could be convicted as well 
as the seller. 

The Georgia law of 1762 forbade play and 
games, and other colonies had similar laws. 

After the Revolution the clergy were shorn 



162 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

of their political power; yet by means of their 
compact associations and their agitational force 
they at times succeeded in influencing some legis 
latures. Many of the old blue laws were contin 
ued, or new ones enacted. 

The New Jersey law of April 15, 1846, is a 
vivid example. Under the guise of "An Act for 
Suppressing Vice and Immorality" it prohibited 
nearly every human activity on Sunday except 
breathing, dressing, eating, and church going. 
Driving, sledding, singing, "fiddling or other 
music for the sake of merriment," games and 
sports of all kinds, and fishing were among a 
host of amusements that were not allowed. Po 
licemen took a lenient view of the situation a 
view often enlarged by the proffer of a suitable 
consideration. 

In Pennsylvania, where public opinion was 
comfortably sluggish, the law of 1794 long was 
retained. For nearly a century thereafter there 
were intermittent convictions under it. The 
courts there decided in 1852 that a barber broke 
the law by shaving a customer on Sunday. Fre 
quently ministers would raise outcries about 
breaches of the Lord s Day, and officials would 



YOUTH A HIGH CRIME 163 

make a show of bestirring themselves. Barbers, 
cigar sellers, and other Sunday violators were 
often arrested and sent to prison even in the early 
eighties. Although in a state of quiescence, some 
of the musty old laws still hold good as unre- 
pealed statutes. 

The most trivial infraction of old blue laws in 
Massachusetts was long proceeded against crim 
inally. A typical case was that of James and 
Gamaliel Simpson, farmers near Scituate. On 
November 25, 1864, there was a storm which 
threw up on the beach a large quantity of sea 
weed. Needing this for manuring land, the 
Simpson brothers, armed with a license from the 
shore owner, went to the beach when the tide 
was low, loaded the seaweed into a cart drawn by 
oxen, and took it to their farm. They were ar 
rested, charged with working on the Sabbath, 
and convicted, although the court recognized the 
fact that "the seaweed might have been floated 
away or injured unless removed at the time in 
question." To the great delight of the ministerial 
forces, the conviction was upheld by the Supreme 
Judicial Court of Massachusetts in October, 
1867. 



164 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Another illuminative case was that of Charles 
S. Josselyn, convicted in 1866 of "hoeing a field 
on the Lord s Day." He was a shoemaker, and 
had a garden back of his house which badly need 
ed hoeing. The judge admitted that Josselyn 
possibly had no time to complete the hoeing on 
week-days; yet it was enough, the judge instruct 
ed, to prove that he worked on Sunday and that 
it was not "a case of charity or necessity." Con 
victed, Josselyn appealed to the Massachusetts 
Supreme Judicial Court, which body sustained 
the conviction on the impressive ground "that 
there was nothing to show any necessity for the 
defendant s labor on that day." 

As cities grew larger, the population became 
diversified, and liberalizing influences spread, in 
many States it became increasingly difficult to 
enforce the old laws. Yet antiquated laws 
themselves, like so many moldy legacies of the 
past> remained on the statute books. It was not 
until very recent years that baseball playing on 
Sunday afternoons was legalized in the cities, 
towns, and villages of New York State, provided 
that consent of local authorities be given. 



CHAPTER X 

WOE TO WOOERS 

NOW rises the president of the National 
Anti-Divorce League of the United States 
with a program that doubtless satisfies him and 
his organization as original and epochal. One 
of its features, according to published reports, 
is the demand for laws providing for the advertis 
ing of marriage applications sixty days before 
the wedding. 

A clergyman with all the tokens of a militant 
reformer may at once be acquitted of any ulterior 
aim to swell advertising revenue. This one hails, 
tis said, from Henrietta, Oklahoma. Obscure 
though such a town may be, it must be mentioned 
with the deference born of experience, for it is 
in such out-of-the-way spots that crusades often 
originated which later swept cities, States, and 
even the nation. No doubt Henrietta is as good 
a place as any to sprout an idea. It happens, 

165 



166 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

however, that this idea is a very old one some 
thing that reform promoters may not know but 
nevertheless is a fact. 

Back to the fountain head at least in America 
we go again. Need it be said that the Puritan 
master spirits with their inexhaustible zeal for 
regulating did not overlook marriage? Not 
they! Problems that baffled the wisest of many 
a generation they thought they could solve by the 
simple stroke of passing a law or two. So they 
went even farther. They established their con 
trol or tried to over the jealously guarded 
domain of wooing itself. 

One of their earliest fiats was against clandes 
tine marriages. It might be supposed that in 
a sparsely settled country, greedy for population, 
they would have welcomed any kind of mar 
riages, secret or not. But principles counted 
more than population. Puritan churchmen 
thought only of faith and form. Conduct not 
squaring itself in every detail with formulas was 
utterly wrong. 

A fixed canon of theirs was that God had en 
trusted to parents the power of disposing of 
children. Hence it was a divinely endowed right 



WOE TO WOOERS 167 

of parents to make or unmake matches. If at 
tachments met with parental approval, they were 
right and blessed of Heaven; if vetoed, they 
were bad and accursed. To act counter to the 
will of parents was set down as one of the wick 
edest of sins. 

Nlow, these dogmas did not mean that children 
were regarded as chattel property. Their wel 
fare was an item of consideration. They were 
supposed to be reckless by the mere fact of youth, 
and unable to steer themselves properly in the 
hazardous waters of matrimony. In all other ac 
tions, as we have seen, youths more than sixteen 
years old were more or less credited with a ma 
ture understanding and held strictly accountable. 
But in matters matrimonial youths and misses 
were viewed as green and tender sprigs to be 
sheltered from the raw blasts of mischance. 

However well intentioned this guardianship, 
life beckoned otherwise. It taught the offspring 
of unhappy unions that they could not do worse 
and perhaps would do much better by voluntary, 
independent choice of mates. The incendiary 
Cupid was ever playing strange pranks. He 
often assorted couples in his own way, careless 



168 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

of their differences of standing and circum 
stances. In the grand design of nature it was an 
excellent method of leavening. But it aroused 
unphilosophical ire in the higher classes keen to 
maintain their order intact. No actual legal re 
strictions existed to prevent lovers from marry 
ing and then at their leisure heralding the event. 

Repetitions of these surprise parties moved 
Puritan legislators to action. A Massachusetts 
Colony law of September 9, 1639, ordered that 
notice must be published fourteen days before 
marriage. 

The idea was not a Puritan invention. The 
publishing of banns had been an ancient custom 
in Europe, dating from ecclesiastical legislation 
in the year 1215^ A. D. Its purpose was to allow 
opportunity to those having objections to a mar 
riage to state them to the proper authorities. 

Connecticut, the almost invariable echo of 
Massachusetts, followed suit the next year. 
"Many persons entangle themselves by rash and 
inconsiderate contracts for their future joining 
in marriage covenant, to the great trouble and 
grief of their friends," asserted its law of April 
10, 1640. To avoid that evil, the law said, all 



WOE TO WOOERS 169 

marriage contracts had to be published in some 
public place and announced at some public meet 
ing in the town where the parties dwelt, at least 
eight days before their engagement, and there 
had to be another interval of eight days before 
the wedding. 

Obediently as such laws had been accepted in 
Europe, where the castes and divisions of society 
were rigidly fixed, their effect was not the same 
in America, the primitive settlement of which 
bred a passion for adventure and a sense of inde 
pendent position. Confronted by the marriage 
laws, many lovers, despairing of parental sanc 
tion, resorted to secret meetings. Clandestine 
courtship spread. 

To Puritan disciplinarians this irregular kind 
of wooing signified deep evil. To be proper, all 
attentions to damsels had to be formal, re 
strained, ceremonious, and safeguarded by wit 
nesses. Indeed, lovemaking in all circumstances 
was codified by Puritan theologians as one of 
the sinuous,, jagratiating Ljway_s^ by__which Satan 
achieved foul possession. Romance, as one of 
Satan s prime instruments, had no place among 



170 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

a God-fearing people. It was associated in the 
Puritan mind with original sin. 

The Massachusetts law of November 11, 1647, 
prohibiting clandestine courtship was a typical 
product of the Puritan theocratic blinkards. 
There was no recognition of the fact that some 
courtship might be artless and innocent. There 
was no trace of suggestion that perhaps young 
ladies might in some cases initiate sentiment and 
in general reciprocate it. No; the young men 
were a set of wily despoilers, playing upon im 
pressionable hearts for their own base aims. The 
law did not intimate this; it plainly said so. It 
was a common practice in divers places, the law 
declared, for young men to watch all advantages 
for their evil purposes, and to insinuate them 
selves into the affections of young maids "by 
coming to them in places and seasons unknown 
to their parents for such ends, whereby much 
evil has grown among us to ye dishonor of God 
and damage of ye parties." 

Clandestine courtship was penalized. This 
law ordered that upon conviction a five-pound 
fine was to be paid for the first offense, and ten 



WOE TO WOOERS 171 

pounds for the second; and for the third a prison 
sentence was to be inflicted. 

In Plymouth there were similar laws. Neither 
there nor in Massachusetts Colony were they al 
lowed to be inert. Parents would frequently 
invoke them to get rid of suitors that did not 
please them either personally or because of fail 
ure to meet the requirements of family calcula 
tion or ambition. 

Such a case was that of Arthur Howland, 
junior. He was brought before the court, on 
March 5, 1666, charged with courting Elizabeth 
Prence against her parents will. The presiding 
judge was named Prence, but what relation he 
was to Elizabeth is uncertain. The court record 
reads : 

Arthur Howland, Jr., for inveigling Mistress Eliza 
beth Prence and making motion of marriage to her and 
prosecuting same contrary to her parents liking and 
without their consent, and directly contrary to their 
mind and will, was sentenced to pay 5 and to find 
sureties for his good behavior, and in special that he 
desist from the use of any means to obtain or retain 
her affections as aforesaid. 



172 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Arthur was not released from bonds until July, 
1667. Of the final outcome of this shattered ro 
mance no hint is given. 

Did these laws against secret wooings and 
secret marriages ensure superior morality? An 
examination of the court records shows most 
emphatically that they did not. The aftermath 
of frailties was large and continuous a state 
ment which is no exaggeration. The vice of ex 
cessive legislation tended to expand the very evils 
it sought to avert. 

This was also true in other colonies imitating 
Puritan laws. Maryland was one of these. By 
a law of September 20, 1704, Maryland required 
three weeks publication before marriage, and 
the affianced then had to get a license from a min 
ister or the court. Any person violating this act 
was liable to a fine of one thousand pounds of 
tobacco, and any minister or magistrate perform 
ing a marriage ceremony without previous pub 
lication and license was liable to a fine of five 
thousand pounds of tobacco. Here, too, as in 
New England, many lovers could not brook de 
lays, and had to answer in court for the results of 
their impatience. 



WOE TO WOOERS 173 

There was, however, a singular kind of court 
ship in New England which neither ministerial 
denunciations nor bombardment of laws could 
overcome. It was called "bundling," and was 
supposed to have come about as a necessity in 
the frontier regions of Massachusetts and Con 
necticut. Cabins had only a room and a loft. 
The family usually slept in the lower room, the 
temperature of which was more endurable in 
extremes of hot or cold weather. 

After working hard all day, a young man 
would often tramp a long distance in the evening 
to pay court to one of the daughters of such a 
family. Naturally, parents would not be so in 
considerate as to expect him to trudge back home 
that night. It was the understood thing that he 
should stay. 

In winter parents went to bed early or, lacking 
a bed, lay on the floor and covered themselves 
with blankets or skins. To keep warm the sweet 
hearts while talking would drape themselves with 
blankets and skins. The custom gradually 
spread, and was accepted as a commonplace of 
life in many places. It was thought by back 
woods and fishing-village people appropriate to 



174 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

the circumstances and an innocent expedient. 
Sometimes, it is related, matters would go awry, 
but not as much so as in the upper social ranks, 
where very dissimilar methods of courtship ob 
tained. In the communities where "bundling" 
went on, no young woman, whatever the results, 
ever lost social standing; if she were known to 
have committed a mistake, it was palliated, and it 
did not interfere with her marrying later and 
retaining general local esteem. 

"Bundling" continued until about the advent 
of the nineteenth century. Cape Cod folk, it is 
narrated, were the last to abandon it. 



CHAPTER XI 

CLOSED TO TRAVEL 

UNTIL recently the majority of our popula 
tion was rural. The 1920 census showed 
that for the first time in the nation s history the 
urban population surpassed that of the country 
districts. Persons living in cities and towns of 
more than 2,500 numbered more than 51 per cent, 
of the total inhabitants. In States such as Mas 
sachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New 
Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and California 
the population is overwhelmingly or largely 
urban. 

With this increase of city population has 
grown the custom of out-of-town jaunts on week 
ends or Sundays. Formerly this journeying 
was limited mainly to the well-to-do and re 
stricted chiefly to the clement months. But the 
custom has spread until now all classes, as oppor 
tunity offers, are habituated to it. When cities 

175 



176 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

were smaller it was the summer heat that drove 
people to country or seashore; the rest of the 
year was endurable. Such is the prodigious ex 
pansion of cities and the multiplication of their 
activities, with the consequent strain upon 
nerves, that working people as well as the 
wealthier element find an escape between busi 
ness weeks highly refreshing. There is no 
longer a dependence wholly upon summer vaca 
tions. Trolleys, electric railroads, and automo 
biles, affording easy and speedy means of 
traveling, have powerfully stimulated the gen 
eral zest for frequent relief from city confine 
ment. 

Is it possible that a state of affairs can be 
brought about whereby railroad, trolley, and boat 
transportation will be drastically restricted on 
Sunday? Some organizations intent upon estab 
lishing by law a closed Sunday believe that this 
can be done. 

Representatives of one of these organizations 
recently drafted a Sunday-observance bill (the 
Temple Rest Bill) for introduction in Congress 
applying to the District of Columbia. It pro 
vided that under the authority of the interstate 



CLOSED TO TRAVEL 177 

commerce clause of the Constitution of the 
United States no railroad should operate any 
train on the first day of the week in the carrying 
of interstate traffic, nor should any corporation 
engaged in interstate commerce or carrying on 
business under the laws of the United States en 
gage in any form of business on Sunday. Ap 
plication to the District of Columbia was regard 
ed as merely a first step, to be followed by 
endeavors in various States. In fact, in January, 
1921, a bill was introduced in the Tennessee Sen 
ate to bar the operation of all passenger and 
freight trains in that State on Sunday, and this 
was reported to be the forerunner of a series of 
bills aimed to prohibit Sunday newspapers, the 
opening of stores on Sunday, and all forms of 
Sunday amusement. 

The Lord s Day Alliance of the United States 
denies that it proposes a total abolition of Sun 
day transportation. It has not, it says, asked 
Congress to forbid Sunday railway trains. It 
has gone only so far, it appeasingly assures, as 
to favor reducing Sunday transportation to the 
point of what necessity requires. But to just 



178 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

what kind of Sunday travel it is opposed it makes 
plain in an official statement which says: 

Congress has ample interstate j3ower to forbid un 
necessary railroad traffic. We have, however, fre^- 
quently urged the illegality and injustice of the running 
of excursion trains upon the Lord s Day at a price 
lower than that of week days as unfair to Christians 
who have conscientious objections against using this 
holy day as a holiday, and also as contrary to public 
policy, because it interferes with the observance of a 
day on the preservation of which the morals and po 
litical permanency of our Nation are based. 

The Lord s Day Alliance thus evidences that 
it is especially against popular methods of travel 
ing. 

Although disavowing any present intention of 
restoring the Puritanical Sabbath, the alliance 
nevertheless " would recognize and seek to pre 
serve the true Puritan heritage." It therefore 
becomes of pressing interest to inquire further 
into the precise character of that heritage. 

It was not until many years after settlement 
that the Puritan theocracy ventured to forbid 
Sunday travel. The first Massachusetts Colony 
law was that of August 30, 1653, a sweeping pro- 



CLOSED TO TRAVEL 179 

hibition of romping, playing, walking the streets, 
and sporting on Sunday. It also forbade travel 
ing from town to town and going on shipboard. 
The obvious aim was to leave people no choice 
but to go to the established church. 

This law was at first evaded by means of noc 
turnal pilgrimages. On Saturday night youths, 
men, and sometimes women would make forced 
marches or quick rides, contrive to be back the 
same night, and next day would show themselves 
with sanctimonious promptitude at church serv 
ices. But when the Quaker creed began to take 
hold, its adherents simply ignored the law. Their 
minds were bent upon worshiping in their own 
way, and go they would whither they would. 

To stop them another law was passed. Open 
ing by forbidding servile work (except that of 
piety, charity, or necessity) on Sunday under 
heavy penalties, the law of October 14, 1668, 
specified: 

Any persons traveling upon the Lord s Day, either 
on horseback or on foot, or by boats in or out of their 
own town to any unlawful assembly or meeting not 
allowed by law, are hereby declared to be profaners of 



180 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

the Sabbath and shall be proceeded against as the 
persons that profane the Lord s Day by doing servile 
work. 



Yet the Quakers were not more resistant to 
such laws than were the Puritans themselves. 
Tradesmen chafed under them; lovers scorned 
them. What happened may be judged from the 
law of October 15, 1679. It recited how the Sab 
bath was profaned and "disorders" created on 
Saturday night by horses and carts passing late 
out of the town of Boston. To prevent this week 
ly exodus it was ordered that a corps of watch 
men should be kept at their posts from sunset to 
nine o clock. No footman, horseman, or cart 
driver was to be allowed to leave town without 
first giving a good account of the necessity of 
his business. Any one traveling after sunset on 
Saturday and not giving this satisfaction was 
to be arrested and proceeded against as a Sab 
bath breaker. All towns in Massachusetts Col 
ony were empowered to act likewise. 

Watchmen were of varied fiber. Some were 
grim and inapproachable, others easily thawed 
into congeniality by amicable tenders. There 



CLOSED TO TRAVEL 181 

were those sympathetic to the law and those se 
cretly unsympathetic. Other considerations came 
in. How could a watchman be severe on a trades 
man to whom he or some member of his family 
was in debt? Could he have the heart to turn 
back a traveler to whom he was under obligation 
or with whom he was friendly? Moreover, every 
traveler primed himself with plausible justifica 
tions for his journey. All that he need to do 
when held up and questioned was to tell a touch 
ing story of some commission of piety, charity, 
or necessity on which he was bent. Puritans are 
portrayed as a stiff, unimaginative people. But 
they were quick-witted enough when occasion 
demanded. 

In Plymouth Colony, too, avoidable travel on 
Sunday was a serious transgression. The effect 
here, also, was to breed fibbers. Often, however, 
good reasons existed which by their nature could 
not be disguised. Mariners Josias Hallett and 
Thomas Gage found one Sunday morning that 
the favorable wind they had been waiting for 
had come, and they sailed out of Sandwich Har 
bor. Upon their return they were arrested, and 



182 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

on March 7, 1654, fined for traveling on the 
Lord s Day. 

Vainly did the parsons fulminate against Sun 
day travelers. In 1658 they plied the legislative 
forge, and forth came a law which they were 
sanguine would terrify these Sabbath breakers. 

"Complaint," the law declared, "is made of 
great abuses in sundry places of this Government 
of profaning the Lord s Day by travelers, both 
horse and foot, by bearing of burdens, carrying 
of packages, etc., upon the Lord s Day to the 
great offense of the Godly welafected amongst 
us." All offenders, it was ordered, should be 
arrested on sight and fined twenty shillings or 
else be put in the stocks for four hours "unless 
they can give a sufficient reason." 

No Puritan joke has come down to us, but 
many a joke must have been cracked over this 
reservation. Who of ready wit and nimble 
tongue could not "give a sufficient reason"? 
There were, however, some who because of en 
mity incurred were not exempted even when they 
told the truth. Such a case was Elizabeth Eeddy, 
who seems to have had a propensity for getting 
into trouble with the authorities. She was ar- 



CLOSED TO TRAVEL 183 

rested on the charge of traveling on Sunday from 
Plymouth to Boston. Her reason, given in court 
on May 1, 1660, was that "she was necessitated 
to go on that day, in regard that Mistress Saffin 
was very weak and sent for her, with an earnest 
desire to see her in her weakness." The court 
told her that the excuse was not sufficient, but 
let her off with a lecture. 

Kanelme Winslow, junior, went on horseback 
to some place oil Sunday where is not stated. 
He did not conceal the fact that the errand was 
personal and that he had been disappointed. His 
futile ride cost him ten shillings fine in court on 
October 3, 1662. There were similar other cases. 

Lawmakers seem never to have been so happy 
as when making other people unhappy. This did 
not come from a cantankerous spirit or from a 
malicious desire to make life dismal. It was a 
cult with them, instilled by the theocracy, that 
their main business was to use the whole power 
of law to overcome Satan s machinations. Laws 
which favored the rich and pressed upon the poor 
were justified on the ground that persons of 
property and standing were responsible and 
therefore less in need of supervision. 



184 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Further laws enacted in 1662 and 1668 against 
Sunday traveling did not stop it. Convicted of 
"unnecessary traveling on the Sabbath," John 
Cooke was fined ten shillings on October 29, 
1670. For sailing from Yarmouth to Boston on 
Sunday, Samuel Matthews, on June 5, 1671, was 
fined thirty shillings. These are typical of other 
such cases. But continuously men and women, 
boys and girls, would manage to avoid detection 
by the use of bypaths and unfrequented trails. 

The Plymouth guardians pondered over what 
deterrent should next be tried. They finally hit 
upon the idea of allowing no one to travel on 
Sunday without a permit. A law to this effect 
was passed on July 7, 1682. 

All the laws of both Massachusetts and Ply 
mouth colonies against Sunday traveling failed 
of their purpose. When these colonies fused, a 
new law was enacted by the Massachusetts Gen 
eral Assembly, on October 22, 1692. It forbade 
all manner of traveling on Sunday except where 
the traveler was forced to lodge in the woods 
the night before, and even in such case he was 
permitted to travel no further than the next inn. 

Whatever else they lacked, Puritan legislators 



CLOSED TO TRAVEL 185 

certainly had persistence. Seemingly they never 
bethought themselves that people in general had 
as much ingenuity as they and much more. 
Every species of ruse and subterfuge was used 
to circumvent the law, and so successfully that 
the General Assembly, on November 26, 1717, 
enacted a new law with heavier penalties. All 
Sunday travelers were to be fined twenty shil 
lings for the first offense, and for the second of 
fense double that amount, and were also to be 
bound for good behavior. Failure to pay meant 
three hours in the cage or stocks. The results 
of this law were so unsatisfactory that still an 
other was enacted on December 27, 1728, increas 
ing the fines for Sunday travel to thirty shillings 
for the first offense and three pounds for the sec 
ond. Non-payment entailed five days in jail or 
four hours in the cage or stocks. 

We shall here interrupt the narrative of Mas 
sachusetts laws in order to give attention to sim 
ilar laws at the same time in other colonies. 



CHAPTER XII 

AN OPEN ROUTE FOUND 

Connecticut theocracy disapproved of 
-I Sunday travel, but as its church regulations 
were increasingly violated it caused the General 
Court to pass the law of May 20, 1668, forbid 
ding all unnecessary travel as well as prohibiting 
play on that day. The threat of five shillings fine 
or an hour in the stocks did somewhat deter the 
timid, but in the following years the habit of 
promenading on Sunday night became popular. 
The law of May 18, 1686, largely intended to 
put a stop to this illegal practice, ordered magis 
trates to use severe methods against "those that 
walk the night after the Sabbath." This law 
could be better enforced than that against travel, 
for promenaders could be easily detected in the 
streets of cities and towns, whereas the traveler 
might avoid espionage by using obscure roads 
and paths. 

186 



AN OPEN ROUTE FOUND 187 

By an odd oversight lawmakers had not legis 
lated specifically against captains plying ships 
on Sunday. The results of this omission were 
stated in the law of October, 1715: 

Whereas, in the printed law book, in the law entitled 
Sabbath, p. 104, no provision is made to prevent vessels 
sailing up and down the great river of Connecticut on 
the Sabbath day, which the masters of vessels taking 
advantage of, do frequently and without restraint pass 
up and down on said day, Be it enacted. 

That if any vessel shall sail or pass by any town 
of the parish lying on the river, where the publick wor 
ship of God is maintained, or shall weigh anchor within 
two miles of said place, unless to get nearer thereto on 
tine Sabbath day, any time betwixt the morning light 
and the sun setting, the master of such vessel shall be 
liable to the like penalty as if he had departed out of a 
harbor, any former usage or custom to the contrary 
notwithstanding. 

Ministerial demand for stricter laws against 
Sunday travel was so urgent that in May, 1721, 
a law was passed providing that no person should 
go from his or her abode, unless to and from the 
public worship of God, except on some indispen 
sable work; the penalty for violation was five 
shillings in money, for each offense. 



188 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Laws were proclaimed in New York and New 
Jersey, in 1675, forbidding unnecessary travel 
on Sunday, and making it punishable by fine, 
imprisonment or corporal punishment. The 
New York act of November 3, 1685, complaining 
of the Lord s Day being neglected "by unlawful 
journeying or traveling" and other practices, de 
creed that any one convicted should pay a fine of 
six shillings, eightpence for each offense, or fail 
ing to pay be set publicly in the stocks for two 
hours. The New York law of October 22, 1695, 
declared that traveling upon the Lord s Day was 
lawful only when it meant going to church or 
was required by necessity such as errands of phy 
sicians and midwives; and even then the journey 
was not to be more than twenty miles thence 
and return. The law, however, liberally ex 
plained that its provisions did not extend to any 
native or free Indian not professing the Christian 
religion. 

In the second quarter of the eighteenth cen 
tury there seems to have been a general disincli 
nation on the part of legislators to pass more 
laws against traveling on Sunday. Colonial 
commerce was rapidly growing; shipping was 



AN OPEN ROUTE FOUND 189 

increasing; new roads were constantly opened; 
and the number of vehicles was yearly being 
augmented. These facts gave a decided spur 
to travel at all times, Sunday not excepted. 
Many officials had mercantile connections of 
some kind and viewed with acquiescence Satur 
day and Sunday travel as often necessary. 

The ministerial forces became alarmed by the 
rising power of the commercial class which 
seemed likely to challenge their own. They be 
lieved that they should again aggressively assert 
themselves, and with great energy they cam 
paigned in various colonies for the enactment of 
new Sabbatarian laws, securing at different times 
the regulations they desired. 

In Connecticut a law of October, 1751, de 
clared that notwithstanding former laws, "yet 
unnecessary traveling on said day is a growing 
evil." It was ordered that when any justice of 
the peace or constable personally saw or knew 
of any one unnecessarily traveling on Sunday, 
arrest could be made with or without a warrant. 
If required, any person or persons could be com 
manded to give help in arresting the traveler or 
travelers, and if any one refused to give this 



190 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

assistance he was subject to punishment. In 
1762 the Philadelphia magistrates served notice 
that the Bordentown boats must no longer sail 
on Sunday, as had been usual, and at the same 
time prohibition was put on the Bordentown 
stage-coach; the proprietors inserted advertise 
ments in the newspapers changing their dates to 
week-days. 

The Georgia act of March, 1762, provided that 
no person was to travel on Sunday by land or 
water, except to some place of public worship or 
to visit the sick. 

The sweeping Massachusetts law of 1761 
against playing, sporting, and traveling on Sun 
day created a new inquisitorial commission. It 
gave the wardens in each town power to enter 
inns and houses of public entertainment on the 
Lord s Day, and also "to examine all persons 
suspected of unnecessarily traveling on the 
Lord s Day, and to demand of all such persons 
the cause thereof, together with their names and 
places of abode." And if such persons should "re 
fuse to make answer to such demands," or should 
not "give satisfaction to such warden or war- 



AN OPEN ROUTE FOUND 191 

dens," they were to be reported to a justice of 
the peace or the grand jury. 

Section eleven of this law required the war 
dens of Boston to go on Sunday through the 
streets, lanes, and other parts of the wards, and 
authorized them to demand the names and ad 
dresses of any persons whom they should "sup 
pose and suspect to be unnecessarily abroad, and 
the cause and reason thereof." In case of un 
satisfactory answers, or if the saunterers refused, 
when ordered, to go home by the most direct 
route, they were to be reported to the court the 
next day for fine or imprisonment. Likely 
enough, many of those not personally known to 
wardens gave fictitious names and addresses. 

In 1782 all prior laws against Sunday travel 
were repealed, and a new law enacted which, it 
was expected, would effectively overcome this 
obstacle. The section of the previous law relat 
ing to Boston was omitted, and wardens of any 
Massachusetts town were authorized not only to 
examine but forcibly to detain all persons not 
satisfactorily explaining their traveling on Sun 
day, and put them in jail until a regular trial 
could be held. 



192 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

The ministerial forces went a little too far in 
demanding this law. The arbitrary powers it 
gave the wardens made it generally obnoxious. 
Wardens were not always tactful or perceptive, 
and it happened that legislators bent on some 
mission on Sunday in quarters where they were 
not well known were sometimes held up and 
subjected to unpleasant examination, and their 
relatives and friends not infrequently had the 
same experience. 

The Massachusetts legislature, on March 8, 
1792, repealed the unpopular law, and passed a 
new act against Sunday travel. It gave to tithing- 
men instead of wardens the power of examining 
suspects, and eliminated provisions for forcible 
detention and arbitrary restraining of "unneces 
sary walking" in the streets or elsewhere. Sun 
day travel, except in cases of charity or necessity, 
was still forbidden ; even for walking on Sunday 
the fine was ten dollars. But violations had to 
be proceeded against by ordinary processes of 
law. For many decades the law of 1792 re 
mained in force. An amendment of March, 
1797, increased the fines, and ordered that the 
owner or driver of any hackney coach in Boston 



AN OPEN ROUTE FOUND 193 

who drove it on Sunday without first obtaining a 
certificate of permission from a justice of the 
peace "for himself and each and every passenger 
so carried" forfeited his license for three years. 

Ministerial bodies tried hard to have such 
statutes rigidly enforced, but by gradual con 
structions the courts made laws conform to the 
necessities and liberal sentiment of the age. 

In December, 1808, James Knox was indicted 
for violating the act of 1792 in driving a stage 
coach on Sunday through the town of Newbury- 
port. The prosecution charged that his act was 
not one of charity or necessity. When the case 
came before the Massachusetts Supreme Judi 
cial Court, a different set of facts was disclosed. 
The court found that Josiah Paine had made a 
contract with the Postmaster General to carry 
public mail between Portland and Boston on 
each day of the week, and that Knox was a 
driver for Paine. In his decision Chief Justice 
Parsons held that under the Federal Constitu 
tion the Postmaster General had the power to 
contract for mail transportation; that the Fed 
eral Constitution was binding on all States ; and 
that therefore it was not an indictable offense 



194 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

for any mail carrier under contract with the 
Postmaster General to carry mail on any day, 
Sunday included. 

In making this decision the court evidently 
did not wish to be considered as giving too much 
latitude, for it added: 

But let it be remembered, that our opinion does not 
protect travelers in the stage coach, or the carrier of 
the mail, in driving about any town to discharge or 
receive passengers ; and much less in blowing his horn, 
to the disturbance of serious people, either at public 
worship or in their own houses. The carrier may pro 
ceed on the Lord s Day to the post office ; he may go to 
any public house to refresh himself and his horses ; and 
he may take the mail from the post office, and proceed 
on his route. Any other liberties on the Lord s Day 
our opinion does not warrant. 

The important fact established in the decision 
was that mail could be transported on Sunday. 
As all classes of people, not excepting church 
goers, were interested in receiving the very 
latest mail on Monday morning, this decision 
gave satisfaction to all but the extreme clerics. 

The general revolt against ministerial attempts 
to fasten the old laws upon the people was shown 



AN OPEN ROUTE FOUND 195 

by an incident in New York City a little later. 

In July, 1821, clergymen of various denomina 
tions (except the Episcopal and Roman 
Catholic) formed an organization in New York 
City to attempt the restoration of the old blue 
laws. They demanded that every form of recrea 
tion be prohibited and urged the necessity for 
Sabbatarian laws. They also indirectly aimed 
at making church attendance compulsory. They 
declared that the people were, because of en 
grossment in worldly pleasures on Sunday, fast 
going to perdition, and that this not only affected 
them individually but equally threatened the 
welfare of the State and undermined law and 
order. 

But they did not get very far. The American 
people had only recently thrown off the yoke 
of the alliance of church and State after centuries 
of ecclesiastical bondage. The popular attitude 
was then one of extreme sensitiveness to any 
attempt at encroachments upon their dearly won 
liberties. 

A large protest meeting was held in the City 
Hall. It was attended by Protestants of cer 
tain denominations. There were then few 



196 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Roman Catholics and fewer Jews in New York 
City. The clergymen were denounced for their 
interference with the liberties and recreations 
of a free and enlightened people, and were vehe 
mently branded as "Puritan, persecuting, hyper 
critical and intolerant presumers." Even 
louder was the outcry against what was looked 
upon as a flagrant attempt to restore the old 
alliance of church and State with its clerical 
tyranny. 

Popular opposition was too strong. The pro 
ject for a blue-law Sunday had to be abandoned, 
and so great was the discredit attached to it 
that some of the very clergymen who had par 
ticipated hastened to give smooth explanations 
disclaiming any real share in the movement and 
declaring that they had been led into it through 
misunderstanding of its purpose. 

Further court decisions either directly or in 
directly validated Sunday travel. One of these 
was in Pennsylvania in 1855. An employe, one 
Murray, of the Schuylkill Navigation Company, 
had been summarily convicted for opening locks 
for the passage of boats on Sunday. Upon ap- 



AN OPEN ROUTE FOUND 197 

peal, the Supreme Court of that State reversed 
the verdict, holding 

The Schuylkill river is a public highway, and as 
people are not forbidden by law, and therefore have a 
right, for some purposes, to pass along it even on the 
Lord s Day, the Navigation Company must keep it 
open, and for this purpose must have lock keepers to 
act for them. There may, indeed, be unlawful travel 
on Sunday, and for such travel there can be no right 
to have the locks opened ; but the criminality of the lock 
keeper is not proved by the criminality of the travel, 
because as agent of the company he is bound to keep 
the navigation open for travel, and is not the judge of 
its Tightness. 

The Massachusetts law of 1792 against Sun 
day travel was curiously invoked as late as 1865. 
This gave the Supreme Judicial Court an op 
portunity to interpret it liberally. 

On Sunday, December 3, 1865, James A. 
Hamilton of Boston felt somewhat unwell. 
Early in the evening a young friend called at 
his home, and persuaded him to take a walk. 
While strolling, they met other friends; and in 
the course of the walk Hamilton slipped on a de 
fective part of the road and was injured. When 



198 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

he sued, the city of Boston advanced the defense 
that, under the law of 1792, Hamilton should 
prove that he was traveling from necessity or 
charity, and if he could not, his action had no 
standing. The judge refused to charge the jury 
that Hamilton s walk was unlawful, and the 
jury returned a verdict in Hamilton s favor. 
The city of Boston appealed. In giving the de 
cision of the Supreme Judicial Court in January, 
1867, Judge Gray ridiculed the contention that 
it was unlawful for any one to go a few steps 
on Sunday to visit a friend, or to take a short 
or long walk for recreation. It was no crime, he 
said, to walk for open air and gentle exercise. 

In another case, however, Judge Gray de 
cided that, under the law of 1792, it was un 
lawful to travel on Sunday from one city to 
another for the purpose of visiting a stranger 
if no occasion of necessity or charity existed. 
Because of this decision Patrick Stanton could 
recover no damages from the Metropolitan 
Railroad Company for injuries received while 
en route. 

Enumeration of successive court decisions 
would be tedious. Many of the judges after the 



AN OPEN ROUTE FOUNtf 199 

Civil War had been railroad attorneys and knew 
the necessities of that and other lines of trans 
portation. Judged by the needs of modern 
civilization, they regarded old laws as impedi 
ments and virtually so construed them. The in 
creasing system of electing judges by popular 
vote also brought the court into more intimate 
relations with the life of the people and made 
them more responsive to the popular will. 

Sabbatarian organizations are putting forth the 
argument that the fever of modern life must 
be moderated by one compulsory day of relaxa 
tion. Sunday amusements and diversions, news 
papers and journeys, they contend, distract the 
minds of the people from that meditative and 
religious calm which they hoW is essential to 
well-being. They declare also that the opera 
tion of transportation lines and other of our 
modern facilities deprives great numbers of 
workers of what should be a day of complete 
rest and is a tempting inducement to large num 
bers of other people to avail themselves of op 
portunities to leave the city and spend Sunday 
in restless wanderings. 

The emphasis of the blue-law movement is 



200 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

therefore upon the extraordinary character of 
modern life, which, it holds, demands extraor 
dinary remedies. And the remedies proposed 
demand the total cessation of every activity in 
consistent with the Puritan Sabbatarian idea. 

Yet it is to be noted that the same de 
mands were made a century and more ago, when 
there were, of course, no railways, interurban 
trolleys, or street cars. No Sunday newspaper 
existed. No theaters were open on Sunday, and, 
it is needless to say, the most extravagant 
imagination did not dream of automobiles or 
motion-picture shows. The only relaxations 
possible on Sunday were of the simplest kind. 



CHAPTER XIII 

DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 

A CITATION of various organizations 
AM* against theatrical, operatic, motion-pic 
ture, and other performances is a distinct legacy 
of the conceptions, prejudices, and prohibitions 
of former centuries. This recrudescence has so 
far been limited to demands for the closing of 
all exhibitions on Sunday, and the extension of 
censorship over motion picture and theatrical 
productions. These two activities signify that 
the point has been reached where the opposition 
is not merely against Sunday amusements but 
is concerning itself with determining what the 
people should or should not be allowed to see. 
The grounds given are that certain exhibitions 
are corrupting and demoralizing. This was the 
very justification used indiscriminately at one 
time in America when all theatrical perform 
ances were at all times prohibited. 

201 



202 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Organizations assaulting Sunday amusements 
put forward what seems to them convincing 
arguments. One of these bodies says that five 
million persons in the United States now labor 
seven days a week, and that counting all who 
read newspapers, use trains, buy or sell, and go 
to amusements on Sunday, "there are, by reason 
able estimate, over one-half our people openly 
desecrating the holy Sabbath day." Where these 
figures were obtained, or upon what investigation 
they are based, is not explained; and the as 
sumption that follows is one that will not be 
kindly received by millions of people who do the 
very things mentioned and yet are good church 
goers. The statement of this organization, de 
scribing its efforts to stop Sunday trains, mails, 
and newspapers, goes on: 

Legislatures and city officials of all States are being 
asked to enact laws to stop all theaters, shows, baseball 
games and ordinary labor, trade and traffic on Sunday, 
excepting always instances of charity and necessity. 

We do not ask too much. God never asks too much. 
We are only obeying God. Our forefathers in nearly 
every colony enforced laws requiring all men to abstain 
from their labor on Sunday. They kept the Sabbath 



DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 203 

holy and God helped them establish our great nation. 
Curses will overtake us if we depart from this honored 
precedent ; yea, are overtaking us. We ask no radical 
step; nothing fanatical; only what God asks. 

We have laid great emphasis on not stealing, not 
killing, and not lying; and we anathematize the thief, 
the murderer, and the liar. But we are near the place 
where we will be accepting the Sabbath-breaker as good 
as the best. 

One hundred and twenty years ago ninety to ninety- 
five per cent, of our people kept the Sabbath strictly. 
Now it appears that scarcely fifty per cent, are strictly 
keeping the Sabbath. 

In that decline is dreadful danger. 

Let us get back to God and to the godly habits of 
our pioneer forefathers. 

We beg your endorsement of the laws we have pro 
posed, and your aid for public sentiment to enact and 
enforce these laws. 

In this case the emphasis is again upon the 
ways of the forefathers, just what "pioneer 
forefathers," whether the body of the colonists 
or particular groups is not elucidated. The refer 
ence is undoubtedly to the leaders and the stanch 
adherents of certain sects. What were their 
views and methods that some ministers of to- 



204 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

day would transpose, either partly or wholly, 
into modern life? 

One of their most violent prejudices was 
against actors and acting. This was not original 
with them. It was imported from England, 
where with few exceptions acting was long 
despised by the aristocracy as ignoble and de 
basing, and the actor as a vulgar, irresponsible 
person entitled to no respect or recognition. Act 
39 of the laws of Queen Elizabeth s reign treated 
unlicensed players or actors^ as vagrants. One 
probable purpose of this law was to suppress 
"common players of interludes" exhibiting 
throughout the country at wakes or in alehouses. 
Whatever the full reasons, the fact remained 
that English law long decreed that any man 
who was unlicensed, performing a play for gain 
or hire, should be dealt with as a vagrant. Nor 
was this ostracism confined to England : in some 
parts of Europe, down to about the nineteenth 
century, the remains of a player were refused 
burial in the churchyard, an ignominy not 
visited even upon the assassin. 

But while perpetuating this prejudice, some 
ministerial groups in America transformed it 



DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 205 

into an unrelenting opposition which they 
thought their creed demanded. 

Until the closing years of the seventeenth 
century they were not seriously confronted with 
the question; their implacable hostility to amuse 
ments, music, and other arts in general had de 
terred the development of native players, and 
had frightened away those abroad from ventur 
ing into such an inhospitable country. But just 
before the dawn of the next century, plays of 
one kind or another given in private made their 
appearance, perhaps encouraged by royal offi 
cials wishing to be amused and seconded by the 
rich, who closely followed fashionable tendencies. 

When city people in general began to show an 
interest in plays, the antagonism of the Puritan 
clergy was immediately manifested. They used 
English social proscriptions and reinforced them 
with their own bigoted ideas. In classing actors 
as vagabonds English law was but reflecting 
the aristocratic attitude which looked haughtily 
down upon those having no settled domicile as 
shiftless characters ; and strolling players seemed, 
by the circumstances of their life, to come within 
that definition. 



206 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Without tolerating the English idea of allow 
ing licenses to some actors, Puritan ministers 
unreservedly denounced all actors, good, bad, or 
indifferent, as a crew of rogues and vagabonds. 
To this condemnation they added other pro 
nouncements of their own invention. Anything, 
they believed, that contributed to amusement 
was unnecessary and therefore had no place in 
the economy of a people; by the same rules, 
stage performers were not industrious persons 
but sheer triflers and idlers who by some mode 
or other extracted money from people s pockets. 
That good acting_was_an art, a_born faculty 
cultivated by the most assiduous^application and 
untiring_industry, was a conception impossible 
to Puritan ministers; in their scheme of life 
art did noTexist. Nor could they secTin plays 
anythingTiFaTmight instruct, enlighten, or con 
vey a good_mpral. To them play severe without 
exception breeders of immorality (as if immo 
rality did not prevail before their coming!), pro 
moters of impiety, and inciters of contempt of 
religion. 

The Massachusetts law of June 29, 1700, pro 
hibiting actors and plays, was accordingly en- 



DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 207 

titled "An Act for the Suppressing and Punish 
ing of Rogues, Common Beggars and Other 
Lewd, Idle and Disorderly Persons." An 
elaborate law, it began by providing that, in 
every county, houses of correction be established 
to which it should be lawful to send 

all rogues, vagabonds and idle persons going about in 
any town or county begging, or persons using any 
subtle craft, juggling or unlawful games or plays, 01* 
feigning to have knowledge in physiognomy, palmistry, 
or pretending that they can tell destinies, fortunes or 
discover where lost or stolen goods may be found, com 
mon pipers, fiddlers, runaways, stubborn servants or 
children, common drunkards, common nightwalkers, 
pilferers, wanton or lascivious persons either in speech 
or behavior, common railers or brawlers, such as neg 
lect their callings, misspend what they earn, and do 
not provide for themselves or the support of their 
families. 

Not reflecting that this section perpetuated 
a self -indictment of conditions in a land where 
an accumulation of laws was supposed to insure 
piety and morality, the lawmakers went on to 
order severe penalties. Upon conviction the able- 
bodied were to be set to work in the houses of 
correction, and further punished by the putting 






208 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

of "fetters or shackles upon them, and by mod 
erate whipping, not exceeding ten stripes at 
once, which (unless the warrant of commitment 
shall otherwise direct) shall be inflicted upon 
their first coming in, and from time to time in 
case they be stubborn, disorderly or idle, and 
do not perform their task." The law further 
required that their food was to be "abridged." 

Pennsylvania took its cue from Massachu 
setts, and on November 27, 1700, its legislature 
passed a similar act, though with somewhat of 
a different justification. The Quaker view of 
plays was that, being energetically spoken, they 
were noisy and therefore riotous or likely to 
cause noisy demonstrations in their audiences. 
Philadelphia ministers could not endure loud 
speech ; among the many proofs of this were the 
regulations of Pastor Hassellius forbidding 
folk "singing" when calling cows, and ordering 
persons with harsh voices to "sing softly" or be 
mute. 

"An Act against Riots, Rioters and Riotous 
Sports, Plays and Games," was what the Penn 
sylvania law was entitled. It declared that who 
ever introduced into the province "any rude or 



DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 209 

riotous sports, as prizes, stage plays, masks, 
revels," and other such entertainments should, 
if convicted, pay for every offense twenty shil 
lings fine or undergo ten days imprisonment 
at hard labor in the house of correction. These 
provisions were repeated in a law of January 
12, 1706, which not only forbade shows of all 
kinds, but also cards, dice, billiards, quoits, nine 
pins, shovel-board, roly-poly, and other favorite 
games of the times. 

It was at this period that, considerably after 
their spread in Europe, tea, coffee, and chocolate 
houses were established in the colonies. As in 
England, they were the resort of men of different 
professions and lines of business. They had once 
been closed in England during the reign of 
Charles II, in 1675, on the ground of their 
being a rendezvous for politicians. When in 
1712 the Massachusetts legislature passed a law 
to regulate them, a different justification was 
used. Such places were popularly regarded in 
the nature of clubs, where folk could sit, talk, 
argue, read, and on occasion be entertained by 
recitation or music. To accommodate those desir 
ing strong beverages, supplies of liquors were 



210 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

kept on hand. Tea, coffee, and chocolate houses 
were an important factor in the social life of 
those who could afford to frequent them; and it 
was often in them that people found some of the 
amusement that was denied them in the pro 
hibition of theaters. But to Puritan clericals 
these houses were menaces to morals; and in 
enacting a further regulatory law, in 1716, the 
lawmakers entitled it, "An Act against Intem 
perance, Immorality, Profaneness, and for the 
Reformation of Manners." 

In forbidding acting and plays, Connecticut 
followed the lead of Massachusetts in classify 
ing actors as vagabonds. The opening para 
graph of the act of October, 1718, seemed to 
indicate that the law was aimed at idlers and 
roving beggars; but this was simply a way of 
fixing prejudicial onus at the outset to link act 
ing and vagabondage, which was done in the 
second paragraph. The composition of the law 
gives a clear idea of how legislatures could con 
trive to connect the two things: 

Whereas, idle persons, vagabonds and sturdy beg 
gars have been of late, and still are much increasing 



DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 211 

within this government, and likely more to increase if 
timely remedy be not provided; and for the more 
effectual punishment and prevention: 

That from the publication of this act if any idle 
person, vagabond or sturdy beggar shall be found 
wandering up and down in any town or parish in this 
colony begging, idling away his or her time, or that 
practice unlawful games, set up and practise common 
plays, interludes, or other crafty science, etc., such 
person or persons shall be taken, adjudged and deemed 
rogues and shall, 

Be stripped naked from the waist upward and shall 
be openly whipped upon the naked body not exceeding 
fifteen stripes, ordered to leave the place, and if found 
there more than twenty-four hours after orders to de 
part, to be whipped again. 

Toward the middle of the eighteenth century, 
Massachusetts clergymen were agitated over re 
ports that despite the severe law against them, 
plays of various kinds were clandestinely being 
given. In his chapter on "The Drama in Bos 
ton," in Winsor s "Memorial History of Bos 
ton," William W. Clapp, telling of occurrences 
at that time, wrote: "Plays were performed in 
private, and no doubt even the more austere 
citizens derived gratification from what appeared 



212 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

to be a harmless method of passing a weary 
hour." When, however, two Englishmen, aided 
by some Bostonians, gave a semi-public amateur 
performance of Otway s "Orphan, or The Un 
happy Marriage" in a State Street coffee-house, 
the news soon reached the ministers, and they 
took instant action. 

On April 11, 1750, they obtained from the 
legislature "An Act for Preventing Stage Plays 
and Other Theatrical Entertainments." The 
preamble explained that the law was passed 
"for preventing and avoiding the many and 
great mischiefs which arise from public stage 
plays, interludes and other theatrical entertain 
ments, which not only encourage great and un 
necessary expenses, and discourage industry 
and frugality, but likewise tend generally to in 
crease immorality, impiety and a contempt of 
religion." The law s provisions were drastic; 
a twenty-pound fine was exacted from any owner 
who let a house, place, or room for theatrical 
entertainments; and at all such exhibitions where 
more than twenty persons should be present, 
actors and spectators were each to be subjected 
to a fine of five pounds. The provision limiting 



DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 213 

the audience to twenty persons was intended to 
make the public production of plays altogether 
unprofitable. 

As the law stood, however, it allowed a small 
group of rich to derive pleasure from plays given 
in their own houses, while totally denying the 
right to all others. This led to considerable 
popular indignation, which, however, was in 
effective, for the law was reenacted in 1756 and 
1761. 

Thereafter there were frequent attempts to 
secure its repeal. The growing travel to New 
York enlightened many a Boston resident. 
Although clergymen in New York made the 
same objections to plays as did those of Boston, 
nevertheless the theater was an established in 
stitution of the former city, and many a Boston 
churchgoer when in New York found delight 
in seeing theatrical performances. The out 
spoken and liberal of the visitors returned to 
Boston to urge the founding there of a theater 
which, they said, could be conducted in a manner 
that would obviate objections. But the extreme 
Puritan element in control refused permission, 
holding that stage plays were the means "of 



214 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

disseminating licentious maxims and tending to 
immorality of conduct." For many decades the 
law of 1750 remained in full force. 

After the enactment of the Pennsylvania law 
of 1700, no theatrical performances were known 
in that province for a long time, but enterpris 
ing managers supplied Philadelphia with such 
amusements as tight-rope walking, lion shows, 
and exhibitions of marionettes in "Joseph s 
Dream" and other representations having a re 
ligious savor. In 1749, Murray and Kean s 
company of players did venture into Phila 
delphia. But the ministerial group, who had 
long successfully prevented the "frivolous amuse 
ment" of dancing, was even more opposed to 
the drama; and they soon caused the city offi 
cials to order the company out of the city. 
Murray and Kean went to New York, where 
they were welcomed; and for five years no play 
was produced in Philadelphia. A narrative of 
that day says: 

During this time, however, the population had in 
creased, and the ruling influence was divided. A very 
large proportion of the citizens, among whom were not 



Laying by 
the heels 
in 




Courtesy of Duffield & Co. 



DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 215 

a few men of wealth and position, advocated more lib 
eral ideas as regarded public amusements. They could 
not admit that it was sinful to laugh at a good farce, 
or even to weep over the tragic fate of the virtuous hero 
or heroine. 

After performing for a year in various places 
in Virginia and Maryland, Lewis Hallam s able 
"Company of Comedians from London" went, 
in 1753, to New York, where they opened a 
theater. Philadelphians who saw them there 
brought back enthusiastic reports of their great 
success, and the demand spread that the com 
pany play in Philadelphia. Governor Hamil 
ton of Pennsylvania was liberal-minded, and 
upon application from a number of influential 
Philadelphians granted Hallam s company a 
license for twenty-four nights. Ministers vigor 
ously protested, but the governor would not 
cancel it. 

The opening performance, in a large brick 
warehouse temporarily fitted as a theater, was 
the tragedy of "The Fair Penitent," followed 
by the farce "Miss in Her Teens." A pro 
logue was delivered by Mr. Rigby, one of the 



216 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

actors, to a crowded house. An account of the 
performance says: 

The audience was in the best of spirits, but an un 
pleasant disturbance occurred when it was discovered 
that one of the unfriendly opponents [sic] occupied a 
seat in the pit. Instead of being allowed to sit the play 
through, with the chance of being converted to a more 
liberal course, he was summarily ejected. 

In an epilogue Mrs. Hallam with great spirit 
defended the stage, showing that there was no 
basis for the charge that it was sinful. Then 
referring to the tragedy s touching effect upon 
the audience, she asked: 

If then the soul in Virtue s cause we move 
Why should the friends of Virtue disapprove? 

The company s performances made such a hit 
that Governor Hamilton extended the license for 
another week. 

In 1759, Governor Denny granted permission 
to Hallam s company to build a permanent 
theater in Philadelphia; the site chosen was in 
Southwark, just outside the city limits. While 
construction work was going on, the combined 



DARK TIMES FOR THE STAGE 217 

ministerial groups raised a great outcry, and 
went to the legislature with a petition for a law 
prohibiting the building of the theater. There 
upon an act was passed to suppress plays and 
lotteries, and under great clerical pressure the 
governor signed it. Whether he or an influential 
committee of citizens privately sent remon 
strances to England against the law being sanc 
tioned is not known; but the king and council 
vetoed it. 

Ministerial opposition then concentrated its 
efforts upon ferociously attacking theater sup 
porters, trying in every possible way to discredit 
them. Hallam s theater, opened on June 25, 
1759, had a poor season, and he and his com 
pany left Philadelphia, not to return until 
November, 1766, when they built a larger house 
and named themselves "The American Com 
pany." It is related that it was at this South- 
wark Theater and by this company that the first 
play by an American author acted on any regu 
lar stage was presented on April 24, 1767; it 
was "The Prince of Parthia," by Thomas God 
frey, junior, of Philadelphia. Various plays 
were performed here until 1772. 



218 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

During the Revolution, Hallam s company 
went to the West Indies. Now that there was 
a government independent of Great Britain, 
the ministers again pressed the legislature for 
a law prohibiting theaters, and obtained it on 
March 30, 1779. It was entitled "An Act for 
the Suppression of Vice and Immorality." Sec 
tion ten read : 

That every person or persons whatsoever, that shall 
from and after the publication of this act, build or 
cause to be erected or built any play house, theater, 
stage or scaffold for acting, showing or exhibiting any 
tragedy, comedy, farce, interlude or other play or any 
part of a play whatsoever, or that shall act, show or 
exhibit them or any of them, or be in any wise concerned 
therein, or in selling any tickets for that purpose in 
any city, town or place in this commonwealth, and be 
thereof legally convicted in any court of quarter ses 
sions in this commonwealth, shall forfeit and pay the 
sum of 500. 

This law was reenacted on September 25, 
1786, but the penalty was reduced to two hun 
dred pounds. The clerical and other opponents 
of theaters were now sure that they had the situ 
ation under complete control. 



CHAPTER XIV 

FOOTLIGHTS ABLAZE 

HALLAM soon demonstrated his ability 
to outwit opponents of the theater. In 
genious and persevering, he was rich in expedi 
ents, and he showed a sense of ironical humor in 
using them. 

When, after performing in New York, he and 
his company returned to Philadelphia, his first 
move was to take the curse out of his South- 
wark Theater on South Street by styling it 
the "Opera House, Southwark." This seemed to 
indicate that he had abandoned all ideas of giv 
ing plays, and that he would confine himself to 
concerts. Music and singing had always been 
objectionable to Quaker leaders, but those of 
other denominations favoring sacred music were 
tolerant of music in general. On the whole, the 
clergy were satisfied at what they thought their 
success in at least banishing plays. 

219 



220 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Next announcing that he would give a 
charitable performance, Hallam advertised that 
the opera house would open with a "Concert, 
Vocal and Instrumental," in which would be in 
troduced "The Grateful Ward, or the Pupil 
in Love," and the musical entertainment "The 
Poor Soldier." These were really plays accom 
panied by music, but care was taken to present 
them in a way not bringing them within the 
specific prohibitions of the law. 

For a time Hallam s tactics deceived most of 
the opposition. By constantly petitioning the 
legislature for a repeal of the law against 
theaters, he and John Henry, now his partner, 
succeeded in spreading the impression that the 
law was an effectual bar to presenting plays. 
Their main object in asking for the repeal was, 
of course, a genuine desire to have effected, but 
they also knew that by making many indignant 
complaints they could lull the opposing forces 
into a belief that a law arousing such outcries 
must perforce be succeeding. Meanwhile, how 
ever, Hallam and Henry produced opera and 
musical selections, skilfully interspersing them 
with plays billed under the sober guise of "Lee- 



FOOTLIGHTS ABLAZE 221 

tures," the true nature of which advertisements 
was readily enough understood by the initiated. 
A Philadelphia historian says: 

Thus the "Gamester" was announced as a serious 
and moral lecture in five parts, on the vice of gaming, 
while "Hamlet" was introduced as a moral and in 
structive tale called "Filial Piety Exemplified in the 
History of the Prince of Denmark." 

These subterfuges at first appealed to the 
humor of many Philadelphians, and Hallam s 
notices were enjoyed as the richest of jokes. 
But when certain ministers awoke to what was 
going on, and threatened to invoke the law, 
Philadelphia liberals determined to make a 
strong effort to do away with a statute that made 
such evasions necessary. 

In 1789 a petition signed by nineteen hundred 
citizens asked the legislature to repeal the law. 
That so considerable a number of persons (com 
pared with the city s population) should put 
themselves on record as favoring the theater, 
was an alarming revelation to the generality of 
the clergy. Forming an alliance, the latter 
busied themselves with a counter petition. They 



222 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

thundered from the pulpit against theaters, pre 
dicting a reign of iniquity and dire calamities if 
playhouses were allowed. They exhorted people 
individually to make a firm stand against the 
powers of sin that were seeking to destroy the 
moral supports of the community. In obtain 
ing nearly four thousand names for their petition 
the ministerial groups were exultant, feeling 
certain that the victory was theirs. 

But theater supporters set about appealing 
to intelligence instead of prejudice. Organizing 
"The Dramatic Association/ they carried on a 
spirited campaign, holding meetings, publishing 
letters and articles in newspapers, and interview 
ing all classes of people. There was great 
anxiety to know what the result would be, and 
greater excitement when it was announced. 
Nearly six thousand names were on the petition 
for a repeal of the law, whereat there was much 
jubilation among those favoring the theater. 

The legislature had no longer any valid ex 
cuse for not repealing the law, and it passed 
the repealing act on March 2, 1789. The tone 
of the act showed the effects of the educational 
propaganda. Like a proclamation of emancipa- 



FOOTLIGHTS ABLAZE 223 

tion from long-prevailing bigoted notions the 
preamble read: 

WHEREAS, a great number of the citizens of Philadel 
phia and the neighborhood thereof have petitioned this 
house for a repeal of so much of a certain law of this 
commonwealth as prohibits theatrical exhibitions, and 
this assembly being desirous of promoting the interests 
of genius and literature by permitting such theatrical 
exhibitions as are capable of advancing morality and 
virtue and polishing the manners and habits of society, 
and it being contrary to the principles of a free govern 
ment to deprive any of its citizens of a rational and 
innocent entertainment, which at the same time that it 
affords a necessary relaxation from the fatigues of 
business is calculated to inform the mind and improve 
the heart. 

To conciliate opponents of the theater a modi 
fying clause was added. It provided for licenses 
on the ground that "many respectable citizens" 
were "apprehensive that theatrical representa 
tions" might be "abused by indecent, vicious and 
immoral performances being exhibited on the 
stage, to the scandal of religion and virtue, and 
the destruction of good order and decency in 
society, and the corruption of morals." The 






224 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

president of the Supreme Executive Council, 
the chief justice of the Supreme Court, or the 
president of the Court of Common Pleas of 
Philadelphia was authorized within three years 
after the passing of the act to license such per 
formances as, in their opinion, were * "unexcep 
tionable." Any one without a license exhibit 
ing a play was to be fined two hundred pounds 
and imprisoned. 

With the adoption of this law the proscrip 
tion of plays and acting ceased in Philadelphia; 
in later years all remaining legal restrictions 
were removed, and freedom to establish theaters 
extended throughout the State. In 1790 Hal- 
lam and Henry produced "The Rivals," "The 
Critic," and other plays. They could now 
proudly point to the fact that the foremost man 
of the age, the head of the nation, the great 
George Washington himself, was a patron of 
the theater. As Philadelphia was then the 
capital of the nation, many members of Con 
gress also regularly went to the theater. In his 
"History of the Philadelphia Stage," Charles 
Durang wrote : 



FOOTLIGHTS ABLAZE 225 

The east stage box in the South Street Theater was 
fitted up expressly for the reception of General Wash 
ington. Over the front of the box was the United 
States coat of arms. Red drapery was gracefully fes 
tooned in the interior and about the exterior. The 
seats and front were cushioned. Mr. Wignell [a mem 
ber of the company] in a full dress of black, hair pow 
dered and adjusted to the formal fashion of the day, 
with two silver and wax candles, would thus await the 
general s arrival at the box door entrance, and, with 
great refinement of address and courtly manners, con 
duct the best of public men and suite to his box. A 
soldier was generally posted at each stage door, and 
four were posted in the gallery, assisted by the high 
constable of the city and other police officers, to pre 
serve something like decorum among the sons of social 
liberty, who, as Lingo says in speaking of American 
notions of independence, "The very babes musing on 
their mothers laps are fed with liberty and pap." 

Hallam and Henry had theaters in New York 
and Providence as well as in Philadelphia. 
Hitherto ministers and church elders had suc 
ceeded in excluding all theatrical entertainments 
from Massachusetts. But with Hallam and 
Henry s arrival in Boston, in 1790, matters be 
gan to change. On June 5th of that year they 
petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for 



226 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

leave "to open a theater under proper regula 
tions," making a strong point of the fact that 
other cities allowed theaters. A meeting of 
citizens in the Town Hall in 1791 approved the 
petition, and instructed Boston members of the 
legislature to obtain a repeal of the anti-theater 
law. The resolutions urged: 

... a theater where actions of great and virtuous men 
are represented, under every possible embellishment 
which genius and eloquence can give, will not only 
afford a rational amusement, but essentially advance 
the interests of private and political virtue ; will have a 
tendency to polish the manners and habits of society, to 
disseminate the social affections, and to improve and 
refine the literary taste of our rising Republic. 

When in 1792, a repealing bill was intro 
duced, the legislature appointed a committee to 
consider it. Appearing before this committee, 
John Gardiner denounced the law, saying: 

The illiberal, unmanly and despotic act which pro 
hibits theatrical exhibitions appears to me to be the 
brutal, monstrous spawn of a sour, envious, morose, 
malignant and truly benighted superstition which, with 
her impenetrable fogs, hath too long disgraced this ris 
ing country. 



FOOTLIGHTS ABLAZE 227 

But delegations of ministers and leading church 
members argued against a repeal, insisting that 
the theater was a breeder of licentiousness and 
irreligion, and, if allowed, would be a legalized 
disgrace to the city. They lobbied among legis 
lators individually, using every possible influence, 
especially upon rural members, most of whom 
were indisposed to favor cities. The legislative 
committee rejected the petition. When a re 
consideration was carried, the ministers again 
marshaled their forces, and on final vote the 
repealing bill was defeated by a vote of ninety- 
nine to forty- four. 

Thereupon Hallam and Henry resorted to 
the same evasive tactics they had so success 
fully used in Philadelphia. They hired premises 
said to have been a stable in Broad Alley, built 
a stage, and on August 1, 1792, opened what 
they christened a "New Exhibition Room." It 
was put under the direction of Joseph Harper, 
a prominent member of their company. 

In order to test the law and prepare the way 
for other productions, they opened with what 
would now be called vaudeville; it consisted of 
such features as tight-rope dancing, singing, 



228 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

recitations, and ballet. Inasmuch as a consid 
erable number of Boston s inhabitants approved 
of entertainments, as did most of the local offi 
cials, there was no interference. Clapp says: 

The drama was after this introduced to the expectant 
Bostonians in the disguise of a moral lecture. Gar- 
rick s farce of "Lethe" was produced as a satirical lec 
ture called "Lethe, or Esop in the Shades," by Mr. 
Watts and Mr. and Mrs. Solomon. Otway s "Venice 
Preserved" was announced as a moral lecture in five 
parts, "in which the dreadful effects of conspiracy will 
be exemplified"; and "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet," 
etc., were masked under the same catching and hypo 
critical phraseology. On October 5 was produced a 
moral lecture in five parts, "wherein the pernicious 
tendency of libertinism will be exemplified in the tragical 
history of George Barnwell, or the London Merchant." 

An attempt was made at ministerial instiga 
tion to have the grand jury indict Harper, but 
it failed. A warrant, however, was obtained for 
his arrest, and served after the first act on the 
night of December 5, 1792. This caused great 
excitement among the audience, composed 
chiefly of young men. They hooted, stamped, 
shouted protests, and tore down the portrait 



FOOTLIGHTS ABLAZE 229 

of Governor Hancock, who was supposed to be 
a strong opponent of the theater. Obtaining 
bail, Harper returned, and asked the audience 
to withdraw quietly. The court later discharged 
him on the ground "of a legal defect in issuing 
the warrant." The law became a dead letter; 
and the "New Exhibition Room" was super 
seded in 1794 by the Federal Street Theater. 

It was not until March 13, 1806, that the 
Massachusetts legislature could be induced to 
repeal the law forbidding theaters. The title of 
the repealing act was so curiously wooded as to 
make it appear that the lawmakers were still 
forbidding instead of allowing plays. It read: 

"An Act fnr_Prgyeyiting Pnbljfl ..tSt^tgC-JP^y-^j 

Interludes and other Theatrical Entertainments 
in Certain Cases"! The law provided that to 
build a theater for plays, the approval of the 
town selectmen had to be obtained, and then a 
license, good for a year, from the court of gen 
eral sessions ; the penalty for not obtaining these 
was two thousand dollars. Any person not hav 
ing such a license who rented a house or other 
building for theatrical performances, was to pay 
a fine of five hundred dollars for every time he 






230 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

did it. Any one who, without a license, assisted 
in acting or carrying on any stage play, inter 
lude or other theatrical performance for profit 
was to be fined four hundred dollars. 

Progressive Bostonians took the adoption of 
this law calmly; it was but a belated recognition 
of an institution that they had already succeeded 
in establishing. 



CHAPTER XV 

THE TRAIL OF PREJUDICE 

LEGAL restrictions of the theater were now 
ended, but not prejudice against actors 
and actresses. Two sections of society did their 
utmost to keep this virulently alive fashionable 
society and the clergy. 

Goaded by sneers and bitter criticism, John 
Fullerton, an actor, committed suicide. There 
upon Matthew Carey, a Philadelphia author of 
some distinction, wrote and published, in 1802, 
a pamphlet entitled: "Desultory Reflections 
Excited by the Recent Calamitous Fate of John 
Fullerton, Addressed to Those Who Frequent 
the Theater and to the Dramatic Critics." 

The attempt, Carey began, to plead the cause 
of the actors, that villified class of men, might 
by the illiberal be highly reprobated. True, 
Fullerton was not a first-rate player, but he was 
always correct and eager to give satisfaction. 

231 



232 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

The pit or boxes were often filled with ferocious 
critics who were personal enemies of the per 
former. Men who united in such combinations 
as sacrificed Fullerton would revolt at the idea 
of doing injustice to or outraging the feelings 
of any class of men but players. These they 
considered fair game, out of the protection of 
those rules of justice, humanity, and decency 
which were universally understood to regulate 
the intercourse between man and man. 

Why this extraordinary inconsistency? Carey 
went on to ask. He pointed out that in times 
of deplorable ignorance the profession of a 
player fell into a most unfounded degree of dis 
repute. "Many of us in our early days imbibed 
these illiberal prejudices, and they retain over 
us an unreasonable and lasting influence." 

But, Carey continued, it required but a very 
moderate exercise of the reasoning faculties to 
see that there was nothing disreputable or dis 
honorable in the profession of a player. 
Properly conducted, it was not only harmless 
but laudable. Its objects were, by an exhibition 
of natural and probable events, to create abhor 
rence of vice and love of virtue. The making of 



THE TRAIL OF PREJUDICE 233 

a perfect player required a rare combination of 
talents, which fell to the lot of so very few that 
there were not many more first-rate poets, 
painters, or historians. This view of the subject 
ought to rescue the profession from the unde 
served obloquy under which it had labored. 
Carey then gave this conclusion: 

The chief part of the censure due in this case, lies 
at the door of the people of fashion, who loll away 
their time in the boxes. They think it would be derog 
atory to their state and dignity to join with the vulgar 
herd in the pit and gallery in clapping a performer. 
With the most disgusting affectation many of them sit 
with the most composed countenance during the most 
ludicrous as well as the most affecting scenes. They 
appear to think it requisite for them to be superior 
to the feelings which influence and move the ignoble 
vulgus. Has not this contemptible and absurd folly 
been carried so far as to induce fine ladies in the front 
boxes, by their indecorous behavior, to attract the eyes 
of the spectators away from the players? Have we 
not beheld them laughing and chattering aloud, during 
the exquisite scene in which Mrs. Marshall, in "Every 
One Has His Fault," hesitates in choosing between 
Lady Eleanor Irwin and Lord Norland . . . and dur 
ing other scenes as sublime and grand? . . . 

To no profession whatever is there less justice or 



234 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

impartiality observed than to players. A few of them 
have by accident or by the advantage of particular 
patronage, as often perhaps as by real talents, crept 
into public favor . . . while the remainder, be their 
exertions, industry or judicious performance what they 
may, are treated with chilling neglect, or even grossly 
abused. . . . 

The old aristocratic prejudice against actors 
and actresses weakened when the landholding 
families in America were disintegrated by laws 
abolishing entail and primogeniture. A new 
upper set, composed of the commercial class, 
gradually became dominant, and although some 
parts of it adhered to old social ideas, other por 
tions were receptive to new views. But min 
isterial opposition to theaters and prejudice 
against players remained, and was preached and 
otherwise disseminated. 

One of many illustrations of this clerical in 
fluence is found in a book written in 1836 by 
William A. Brewer, of Philadelphia, and en 
titled "Recreations of a Merchant, or the Chris 
tian Sketch Book." After fervently saying that 
he would never induce his kind reader to enter 



THE TRAIL OF PREJUDICE 235 

the polluted walls of the theater, he thus ex 
pressed himself: 

No no. As soon would I urge him to enter one of 
those revolting pits in the cemetery at Naples, where 
the fastidious devotee of fashion and luxury who has 
not lived half his days, and the poor, filthy habitant of 
the lazaretto are, without distinction of rank or sex, 
thrown into one common heap to moulder into one 
common mass of putrefaction. But I would have him 
[the reader] view it [the theater] through the testi 
mony of those who have been unfortunately lured 
within its doors during a night scene, and who have as 
fortunately been rescued from its enchantments, like 
birds that have been extricated from the snare of the 
fowler. I have been there I have friends who have 
been there. Will you take our testimony? 

He went on to describe how "on the critical 
night" of their "invitation," lie and his friends 
hurried away from the hearth of their fathers 
to be introduced "to the feverish novelties of the 
theater." Just when this visit was made he 
did not tell; evidently it was some years before 
the book was written. 

We arrived at the theater. There was the same beauty 
manifest upon the exterior that I have described; for 



236 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

there was a profuse glare of artificial light that beamed 
from a row of lamps that stood like sentinels in front 
of the doors, to designate far away the spot of its 
location, when the beams of Heaven had refused to 
shine upon it. We alighted among a motley crowd, 
and hesitated for a moment which door we would en^er 
at, as we had been told that a boa: ticket would admit 
us to any part of the house. Quite young as we were 
and inexperienced in theater etiquette, we followed a 
train of young men (some of whom we recognized as 
children of respectable and genteel families), to a nar 
row side-door. Fatal entrance! How my heart beats 
with indignation, when I reflect upon the conduct of 
men, who, for the paltry consideration of dollars and 
cents, will contrive and execute such diabolical plans 
as were developed by our accidental entree at that door. 

What did the explorers find when they en 
tered? They were surprised to find "a large 
number of females, apparently without protec 
tion." Also, "a multitude of young men flowed 
through the passages, and took their seats very 
familiarly among the females already men 
tioned." And who were the "females"? They 
were "daughters of the devil." 

Having become disgusted with the company that 
surrounded us (which fact we attribute to the blessing 



THE TRAIL OF PREJUDICE 237 

of a kind providence upon the education we had re 
ceived) we retired from the house soon after the play 
commenced, and entered there no more, nor shall we 
we trust forever. It was enough for us that the 
theater embraced such a diabolical trap wherein to 
ensnare the unwary who might chance to enter there. 
And we trust we shall ever thank God that we were 
not overcome by the seductive speeches that were di 
rected to ourselves. 



We have not the heart to close this citation 
without recounting the great discovery that this 
pious inquirer made. He told how he began to 
study the theater and kept it up for years. "I 
have questioned and cross-questioned that I 
might learn the truth. The result is a settled 
conviction that the theater is a money-making 
establishment" 

His fine indignation against the theater 
needed only one thing to supplement it ; and that 
was a description of the practices of many com 
mercial concerns which, as official reports of the 
period show, used the most unscrupulous 
methods in reaping fortunes. 

The chapter on the theater concluded with 
this illuminative observation: 



238 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Ay, it requires no prophetic vision to see that the 
gain in such a case would be the abolition of scenic 
exhibitions, and the substitution of the lyceum and the 
scientific lecture for the blandishments of the drama 
within the walls of the theater. 

It might be supposed that these were the 
aberrations of an isolated bigot. Not so. Such 
ideas were spread in sermons and lectures by 
many a minister, and contained in many an 
exhortatory pamphlet or book. A typical ex 
ample was that of the Rev. Henry Ward 
Beecher, who later rose to great distinction in 
ministerial ranks. He gave a series of talks at 
Indianapolis which, in 1846, were published in 
a hook entitled "Lectures to Young Men on 
Various Important Subjects." It contained a 
long philippic against the theater, actors, and 
actresses. 

"Desperate efforts," he said of the theater, 
"are made, year by year, to resuscitate this ex 
piring evil. Its claims are put forth with 
vehemence." He denied that the drama culti 
vated taste and that it was a school of morals, 
and declared that "it is not congenial to our 
age or necessities." He went on to assert that: 



THE TRAIL OF PREJUDICE 239 

"Those who defend theaters would scorn to ad 
mit actors into society. It is within the knowl 
edge of all that men who thus cater for public 
pleasure are excluded from respectable society." 
He admitted that there were exceptions; the 
purposes of his diatribe safely allowed him to 
do this, for most of the very few he cited, such 
as Garrick and Sheridan, were dead, and he 
could not dispute the fame that posterity had 
given them. Then, referring to the respectable 
ranks, he proceeded: 

How many hundred actresses are there who dare not 
venture within this modest society? How many thou 
sand wretches are there whose acting is but a means 
of sensual indulgence? In the support of gamblers, 
circus-riders, actors and racing jockeys, a Christian 
and industrious people are guilty of supporting mere 
mischief makers men whose very heart is diseased, and 
whose sores exhale contagion to all around them. We 
pay moral assassins to stab the purity of our chil 
dren. ... If to this strong language you answer that 
these men are generous and jovial, that their very busi 
ness is to please, that they do not mean to do harm 
I reply that I do not charge them with trying to pro 
duce immorality, but with pursuing a course which pro 
duces it, whether they try or not. 



240 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

After describing those who entertained and 
gave pleasure to people as "corrupters of youth," 
who belonged to * demoralizing professions," 
Beecher went on: 

To the theater, the ball, the circus, the race course, 
the gaming table, resort all the idle, the dissipated, the 
rogues, the licentious, the epicures, the gluttons, the 
artful jades, the immodest prudes, the joyous, the 
worthless, the refuse. 

Putting together in one class all gamblers, circus 
riders, actors and racing jockeys, I pronounce them 
to be men who live off society without returning any 
useful equivalent for their support. At the most leni 
ent sentence they are a band of gay idlers. They do 
not throw one cent into the stock of public good. They 
do not make shoes or hats or houses or harness or any 
thing else that is useful. 

It is unnecessary to make any comments upon 
such invective. But some elucidating remarks 
may pertinently be added. 

If there was any one outstanding character 
istic of the American people it was that they 
were essentially imaginative. In her travels 
here in 1834-38 Harriet Martineau was greatly 
impressed by this. "The Americans," she wrote 



THE TRAIL OF PREJUDICE 241 

in her "Retrospect of Western Travel," "appear 
to me to be an eminently imaginative people. 
The unprejudiced traveler can hardly spend a 
week among them without being struck by this 
every day." She predicted that when Ameri 
cans got over their imitativeness in the arts they 
would develop great originality. 

One of the strongest obstacles to the free de 
velopment of this imaginative faculty was the 
surviving influence of Puritan bigotry opposing 
the decorative, musical, jdramatic, __jand other 
arts. . _In denouncing actors _as immoral^ idlers, 
Beecher was but repeating what, Puritan min- 
isters had long_preached ; and a host of his suc 
cessors to-da rivatela 



Beecher s tirade againstjactors as moral assassins 
stabbing the purity of children is now being re 
peated in the declamations of ministers of cer 
tain sects against motion-picture producers. 

Few ministers of Beecher s time understood 
the ardent love of large numbers of the Ameri 
can people for entertainment. Not only amuse 
ments and novels were denounced but also 
sports. The colleges and schools of that day 
were filled with anemic, narrow-chested students 



242 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

many of whom became -early victims to tubercu 
losis. Architecture was injts ugliest stage. A 
KTSeous utilitarian atmosphere enveloped so 
ciety.. The commercial class was occupied solely 
with money^making. Just as ministers (with 
some notable exceptions) had been subservient 
to the interests of the monarchy and aristocracy 
when they were in power, so now they became 
spokesmen for the utilitarian standards of the 
commercial class. Unlike the rich of to-day, 
who so often have given lavishly to encourage 
the arts and who demand artistic surroundings 
for themselves, the rich of that time scorned the 
arts and instinctively resented the incoming of 
a new order based exclusively upon talent. 

Although the standards of the wealthy have 
so greatly changed, those of certain schools of 
ministers do not seem to have been affected in 
a like degree. Long before the middle of the 
nineteenth century, theaters were so widely 
established that ministerial efforts against them 
proved powerless. But ministers did succeed in 
keeping alive in statutory law the idea that they 
were immoral resorts. This was exemplified in 
the New Jersey law of 1846, "An Act for Sup- 



THE TRAIL OF PREJUDICE 243 

pressing Vice and Immorality," forbidding 
plays, shows, and other exhibitions and amuse 
ments on Sunday. Laws more or less similarly 
entitled were passed elsewhere. 

When legislatures did the ministerial bidding 
they were acclaimed as the moral safeguards of 
the community. Now that, however, legisla 
tures are showing increasing disposition to con 
sult popular wishes, they are denounced. Under 
the heading "Watch Your Legislators" an 
article in a recent number of the "Lord s Day 
Leader" said in part : 

The elections indeed are over, our legislators are 
chosen, and within a month or two they will begin their 
duties as the lawmakers of our States and Nation. A 
few of these senators and representatives in the State 
or National legislatures are thoroughly good and 
trustworthy; a few others are as thoroughly bad and 
vicious in their purposes and actions; but the great 
majority are neither very good nor very bad. They 
are simply weak in morals and incapable in mind, the 
easily led followers of whoever seems to them at the 
moment* to promise that which will be for their per 
sonal or political advantage. 

The present efforts of ministerial organiza 
tions to censor amusements began several years 



244 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

ago with the enactment of laws in some places 
establishing censorship of motion pictures. In 
at least one State the board of censors under 
stood the wishes of its sponsors so well that it 
refused pictures of a coal miners strike, no doubt 
fearing that the pictures would have an immoral 
effect in creating a public opinion favorable to 
a body of workers that had the presumption to 
strike. 

Much as certain phases of moving picture ex 
hibitions may need improvement, there can be no 
guarantee that any set of political appointees 
acting as censors will bring about the results ex 
pected. Since motion pictures were started pub 
lic taste has demanded better and better produc 
tions, and an increasing number of newspapers 
have in recent years made a feature of criticism, 
warning the public against poor or otherwise un 
worthy motion pictures. 

More recently bills to censor moving pictures 
have been introduced in other States, and in a 
number of cities the solicitous activity of min 
isterial groups has extended to the point of de 
manding a censorship over theaters. 



CHAPTER XVI 

REAPERS OF WRATH 

ONE of the most significant but little-known 
facts in the annals of the American people 
was the decisive way in which they disposed of 
ministerial hierarchies and put an end to clerical 
pretensions and dominance. 

Of this event, so instructive in view of present 
tendencies, either nothing is said in the usual 
histories, or if any reference is made it is so 
scant as to convey no sense of its importance. 
Yet in its time the relegation of ministers to 
political impotence was considered a notable 
triumph of progress by the mass of Americans, 
including most of the founders of our republic, 
and was hailed as one of the greatest steps toward 
liberty. 

The ministerial heads of organizations now 
calling for repressive laws either do not know 
of the happenings of that epoch, or if they do, 

245 



246 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

choose to ignore its lessons. Judging from their 
declarations, it is a blank to them. Their view 
entirely skips the intervening period from that 
time to this, and fixes itself upon the antique era 
when the Puritan regime was in its somber glory. 

Oblivious of the factors that deposed their 
predecessors, they are openly, vociferously 
reaching out for political power. They have not 
come to the point of demanding it on the same 
direct grounds as did ministers of old, that of 
divine decree. Their justification is more in the 
nature of a suggestion that they are being forced 
into the arena of active politics. Who, it may be 
asked, is forcing them? This question brings 
unpleasantly to the surface a thing generally 
accepted as having no place in American life 
and wholly foreign to its spirit. 

To incite religious animosities for any pur 
pose, especially a political one, has long met 
with the severe condemnation of most Ameri 
cans. Several movements in the last century 
tried it, and after brief careers were buried in 
obloquy. One of the most prominent of the 
blue-law organizations does not hesitate to face 
the charge of reviving it by attacking two speci- 



REAPERS OF WRATH 247 

fied religious bodies as well as what it styles 
non-believers. These, it says, are working to 
obtain legislation for an open Sunday. "And," 
explains the circular (which is headed by the 
names of thirty-two ministers), "this carries us 
into the realm of political activity, where the 
Church, as such, cannot and will not enter." 
That is to say, organizations controlled by 
groups of ministers can ambitiously set out to 
acquire a dominating political power which the 
church, as an institution, cannot well afford to 
attempt and is prohibited by organic law from 
exercising. 

Between the basic ideas held by such organ 
izations and those of Puritans there is a marked 
similarity. Creeds like the Puritan persecuted 
because those who followed them held theirs to 
be the only true faith and claimed the right to 
preempt an area as exclusively their own in 
which dissenters were trespassers. The pro 
fessional Sabbatarian movements hold that 
theirs is the only true conception of the Sab 
bath; that it is their right to fix it in law; and 
that all opposing it are enemies of true religion 
and morality. They insist that their formula 



248 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

for Sabbath observance is incontestable, and 
even go so far as to brand as non-believers and 
infidels large numbers of their own faith who 
prefer to spend Sunday in their own way. The 
Puritan ministers and those of some other sects 
believed that to preserve their faith from inroads, 
have their church well supported, and enforce 
their tenets, political power was necessary. 
Movements of to-day reviving Puritan ideas 
contend that they must have political power 
to write their demands into law and enforce 
them, and as a result of _ this 



the authority and pow:er-^f-their church will be 
correspondingly increased. 

How did this theory work out in former 
times? Having from the outset intrenched 
themselves in political power, Puritan ministers 
quickly set about forcing intolerance to its con 
clusion. 

With their many other repressions came the 
most unrelenting religious persecution. By a 
Massachusetts Colony law of Mjiy^26, 1647, no 
Jesuit or any other Roman Catholic priest or 
missionary was henceforth to be allowed in ter 
ritory under Puritan jurisdiction; if any who 



REAPERS OF WRATH 249 

was suspected could not clear himself he was 
to be banished, and if taken the second time he 
was to be tried and, upon conviction, put to 
death. 

Beginning in 1656, law after law was passed 
against the Quakers. They were branded "a 
cursed set of heretics," imprisoned, whipped 
and banished. A law of October 14, 1657, 
ordered that any one bringing in directly or 
indirectly, a known Quaker "or other blas 
phemous heretics" was to be fined one hundred 
pounds, and put in prison until the fine was 
paid. Any one entertaining a known Quaker 
was to be fined forty shillings for every hour that 
he or she entertained or concealed such outlaws, 
and be imprisoned until the fine was paid. The 
law further ordered, 

that if any Quaker or Quakers shall presume, after 
they have once suffered what the law require th, to come 
into this jurisdiction, every such male Quaker shall for 
the first offense have one of his ears cut off, and be kept 
at work in the house of correction till he can be sent 
away at his own charge, and for the second offense 
shall have his other ear cut off, and kept at the house 
of correction as aforesaid. Every woman Quaker pre- 



250 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

suming, etc., shall be severely whipped, and kept at the 
house of correction at work till she shall be sent away 
at her own charge. If she comes again she is to be 
like used. And for every Quaker he or she that shall a 
third time herein again offend, they shall have their 
tongues bored through with a hot iron, and kept at the 
house of correction, close to work, till they be sent 
away at their own charge. And it is further ordered 
that all and every Quaker arising from amongst our 
selves shall be dealt with and suffer the like punishment, 
as the law provides against foreign Quakers. 

On May 19, 1658, another law was passed 
against Puritan converts to Quaker doctrines 
that they might be "dealt with according to their 
deserts," and that "their pestilent errors and 
practices" might "speedily be prevented." The 
law ordered that any one professing the Quaker 
"diabolical doctrine" by speaking, by writing, 
or by meeting was to pay various specified fines, 
and was also to be scourged and whipped as pro 
vided by previous laws. 

Five months later on October 19th still 
another law was passed, denouncing Quakers 
as "stirrers of mutiny, sedition and rebellion" 
and as people whose actions tended "to under- 



REAPERS OF WRATH 251 

mine the authority of civil government, as also 
to destroy the order of the churches by denying 
all established forms of worship." Any Quaker 
not an inhabitant was to be arrested and, if 
convicted, sentenced to banishment upon pain 
of death. The law further condemned "the 
tenets and practices of the Quakers" that were 
"opposite to the orthodox received opinions and 
practices of the godly," and charged them with 
"the design to overthrow the order established 
in church and commonwealth." Every inhabi 
tant belonging to the Quakers or assisting them 
was to be kept in solitary imprisonment for a 
month, unless he or she voluntarily left the 
colony; those, however, who persisted in Quaker 
ism were to be sentenced to banishment upon 
pain of death. 

This persecution of Quakers caused a great 
outcry in England, and King Charles II com 
manded an inquiry. The Puritan defense was 
that Quakers were open enemies to government, 
"malignant and assiduous promoters of doc 
trines directly tending to subvert both our 
churches and State," and that they were guilty 
of "dangerous, impetuous and desperate turbu- 



252 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

lency." For a time Puritan ministers did relax 
in their persecution so far as to allow Quakers to 
be released from prison on condition that they 
solemnly engaged to go to England or elsewhere. 
But on May 22, 1661, they resumed the pass 
ing of laws against Quakers. By the act of that 
date incoming Quakers were classed as vaga 
bonds, and ordered arrested. 

If found guilty of being a wandering Quaker, he or 
she is to be stripped naked from the middle upwards, 
and tied to a cart s tail, and whipped through the 
town, and from thence immediately conveyed from town 
constable to town constable until out of our jurisdic 
tion. Any returning Quaker is to be like treated. If 
three times convicted, he or she shall be sent to the 
house of correction. If the county judge does not re 
lease them they shall be branded with the letter R on 
the left shoulder and be severely whipped and sent 
away as before. If he or she again return, they shall 
be proceeded against as incorrigible rogues and enemies 
to the common peace, and brought to trial for their 
banishment on pain of death. In the case of Quakers 
arising from among ourselves they shall be proceeded 
against according to the law of 1658 and banished, and 
if they return to be treated as vagabond Quakers. 



REAPERS OF WRATH 253 

On May 28, 1661, a law ordered that Quakers 
in prison be discharged and sent from town con 
stable to town constable. Some were taken out 
of prison, and for "standing mute" were stripped 
from the girdle upward, tied to a cart s tail, 
and whipped through three towns, twenty stripes 
each time. 

An order from King Charles, on Novem 
ber 27, 1661, suspended execution of laws 
against the Quakers. But the Puritan law 
makers suspended only those laws regarding 
death; laws providing for the whipping of 
Quakers through three towns were declared still 
in force, and the next year it was proclaimed 
that all laws against Quakers were in full force. 
A law of October 21, 1663, disfranchised 
Quakers. 

Persecution of Quakers continued unabated. 
In their report of 1666 the king s commissioners 
related how the Puritan officials had banished 
many Quakers, and then executed them for re 
turning. "They have beaten some to jelly, and 
been (in other ways) exceeding cruel to others. 
. . . They yet pray constantly for their perse 
cuted brethren in England." 



254 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Further severe laws against Quakers were 
passed by the Massachusetts General Court in 
1675 and other years. By a law of May 28, 
1679, no church was to be built without formal 
official consent; "these new churches," said the 
law, "lay a foundation (if not for schism and 
seduction to error and heresies) for perpetuating 
divisions and weakening the ability of towns 
for the comfortable support of the established 
ministry." 

Anabaptists and other sects were long and 
bitterly persecuted by the Puritan theocracy; 
time after time they were fined, imprisoned, or 
exiled. 

The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were not 
nearly so intolerant as the Puritans, and al 
though they repeatedly passed laws against 
Quakers they did so only after Puritan urging, 
and were not so harsh in executing them. 

But both colonies, when consolidated, enacted 
drastic laws against Roman Catholic priests and 
missionaries. The Massachusetts act of June 
17, 1700, gave them less than three months to 
quit the province; any of that faith remaining 
after that time was to "be deemed and accounted 



REAPERS OF WRATH 255 

an incendiary and disturber of the public peace 
and safety and an enemy to the true Christian 
religion." He was to be adjudged to suffer per 
petual imprisonment, and if he escaped after 
conviction he was to be put to death. Further 
more, any one knowingly harboring or conceal 
ing a Roman Catholic priest or missionary was 
to be fined two hundred pounds, one-half to 
go to the informer, and the harborer was also 
to be set in the pillory on three days and to be 
put under bonds for good behavior. Justices 
of the peace were empowered to arrest any one 
suspected of being a Roman Catholic priest 
or missionary, and any person was given 
the right to arrest the proscribed without a war 
rant. Only those of the "Romish clergy" who 
were shipwrecked were excepted. 

As for Episcopalians, it was not until the 
eighteenth century that they were able to estab 
lish their churches, and it was not until 1755 that 
the law allowed the wardens of the Episcopal 
Church to take grants or donations. 

The Connecticut theocracy virtually copied the 
Puritan laws against Quakers. No one could 
take a seat in the Connecticut legislature until 



256 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

he made "a declaration against popery." The 
Connecticut act of May, 1725, prohibited all 
independent ministers or churches; any minister 
not of the established church who should "pre 
sume to profane the holy sacraments by making 
a show of administering them" should "incur 
penalty of ten pounds or whipping not exceed 
ing thirty stripes for each offense." By the law 
of October, 1742, only graduates of Yale, Har 
vard, "or some other allowed foreign protestant 
college or university," were allowed the benefits 
of ministry. On June 3, 1766, Joseph Meachem, 
a Baptist minister, was tried and found guilty 
"of solemnizing a marriage contract contrary to 
statute law," and was fined twenty-six pounds; 
he memorialized the legislature for a remission 
of his fine and his petition was granted. Epis 
copalians were allowed in Connecticut after 
1708, but they were long barred from voting at 
elections; it was not until 1752 that the legis 
lature began to grant them the privilege in cer 
tain towns. 

Rhode Island was always noted for its liber 
ality in religious matters. New York was less 
so, although far more tolerant generally than 



REAPERS OF WRATH 257 

the Puritans. A curious fact, in the light of 
present affairs, is that when, in 1655, three 
Spanish Jews arrived at New Amsterdam (now 
New York City) with permission from the 
Lords Directors of the West India Company 
to trade, Director-General Peter Stuyvesant 
and two other members of the council voted 
against their permanent settlement, but Stuyve 
sant and his council were overruled by the Dutch 
West India Company. To-day there are more 
than 1,500,000 Jews in New York City. 

In New York there was a brief period of 
persecution of Baptists and Quakers, but it 
ceased upon orders in 1663 from the Dutch 
West India Company to allow full religious 
liberty. After the English conquest of New 
York Roman Catholic priests only were ex 
cluded; the act of August 9, 1700, banished such 
as were in the province, and prohibited all others, 
under severe penalties, from coming in. 
Quakers obtained the right to vote in 1735, but 
until the Revolution Roman Catholics were dis 
franchised in New York. In New Jersey, 
Quakers secured the franchise in 1713. In 
Pennsylvania Roman Catholics were completely 



258 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

enfranchised by the act of 1682, but later, upon 
orders from William and Mary, they were de 
prived of the right to the vote, and they were not 
allowed it until the Revolution. 

Maryland laws against Roman Catholics were 
severe; its lawmakers, at ministerial instigation, 
even went to the point by a law of December 5, 
1704, of putting an immigrant tax of twenty 
shillings per head on Irish servants "to prevent 
the importing too great a number of Irish 
Papists into this Province"; this law was con 
tinued in force by act of December 15, 1708, 
for three years more. Maryland laws against 
Roman Catholics having the right to vote in gen 
eral elections continued until the Revolution, al 
though members of that faith met with no 
opposition when, in 1763, they built their first 
church in Baltimore. Virginia ecclesiastics, 
until the Revolution, persecuted Baptists and 
persistently discriminated against Presbyterians. 

Early in the Revolution the long-smoldering 
antagonism of the people in general to the clergy 
burst into action. The causes of this intense 
popular feeling were various. 

First, by their incessant religious persecutions 



REAPERS OF WRATH 259 

ministers had discredited themselves and their 
professions of a religion teaching kindness and 
charity. 

Secondly, they had long irritated and op 
pressed the people by their domination of 
politics and by forcing laws regardless of popu 
lar wishes or welfare. Not only had ministers 
employed law to compel obedience to church 
dictation, but time after time they had shame 
lessly used it to aggrandize themselves and their 
institutions. One of a number of instances was 
the way in which a Connecticut law of 1733 was 
manipulated. As originally passed, this law 
provided for the distribution of money received 
from the sale to parishes and towns of public 
lands, in the western part of the province, to 
be used for school purposes. The ministers in 
1737 obtained an amendment allowing towns 
and parishes to turn over the money to the sup 
port of the established gospel ministry. This 
act, which in our day would be called "a grab," 
caused such an uproar among the people that 
the legislature in October, 1740 had to repeal 
it. Such was the power of the church offices 
that candidates would not scruple at using cor- 



260 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

rupt methods to win elections; in Virginia these 
practices became so scandalous that Virginia 
lawmakers were finally driven to enacting a law 
in 1772 forbidding any candidate for the office 
of vestryman from "directly or indirectly giv 
ing money, presents or gifts, or to treat or enter 
tain for election purposes." 

The third cause of popular hostility to min 
isters in general was the fact that many clergy 
men were subservient to the aristocracy and 
sneered at the idea that the ordinary man was 
fit to be entrusted with political power. A 
fourth cause was the open or secret adherence 
of many clergymen to the British monarchy. 
Ministers true to the Revolution were not 
molested, but those who were not loyal were 
harshly handled. In Virginia, where three 
fourths of the population were said to have been 
outside of the established church, a law was 
passed prohibiting prayers for the king. A few 
ministers complied; others fled; still others at 
first resisted but later reluctantly obeyed. Patri 
otic feeling was inflamed. Some churches were 
converted into barracks, stables, or internment 



REAPERS OF WRATH 261 

places for prisoners of war; others were dis 
mantled by enraged patriots. 

In many of the States a strong popular de 
mand insisted that the era of political domina 
tion by ministers be done away with by pro 
hibiting them from holding office. The demand 
was further for abolition of all ecclesiastical 
privileges and the complete separation of church 
and State. 

One of Virginia s first acts was a provision 
in the constitution of 1777 excluding all min 
isters from membership in the legislature and 
privy council. On motion of Patrick Henry 
the Virginia Bill of Rights, in 1776, declared 
that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration 
in the exercise of religion. When, in 1779, cer 
tain ministers, unmindful of the signs of the 
times, appealed to the Virginia legislature for 
a law making a general assessment for the sup 
port of religion, their request was voted down. 

Further Virginia legislative acts in 1779 and 
1780 repealed all laws guaranteeing ministers 
salaries; abolished vestrymen s powers; allowed 
all ministers, no matter of what creed, to per 
form marriages without license or publication 



262 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

of the banns; and permitted Methodist, Bap 
tist, and men of other creeds to serve in the army 
under officers of like faith. A bill for estab 
lishing and assuring complete religious freedom, 
prepared by Thomas Jefferson some years be 
fore, was enacted in 1785. It denounced pre 
sumptuous ecclesiastical and other legislators 
who had "assumed dominion over the faith of 
others, setting up their own opinions and modes 
of thinking as the only true and infallible, and 
as such endeavoring to impose them on others." 
Determined to efface ecclesiastical tyranny, 
the people of other States acted likewise. 
Article XXI of the North Carolina constitution 
of 1776 declared: 

That no Clergyman or Preacher of the Gospel, of 
any denomination, shall be capable of being a member 
either of the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of 
State, while he continues in the Exercise of the Pastoral 
Function. 

This provision was repeated in the North 
Carolina Constitution of 1778. 

When Georgia, in its constitution of 1777, 
decreed the separation of church from State, 



REAPERS OF WRATH 263 

abolished tithes and taxes for church support, 
and otherwise gave complete religious liberty, 
it also prohibited clergymen of any denomina 
tion from being allowed a seat in the legislature, 
and these provisions were reaffirmed in the 
Georgia constitution of 1789. The Maryland 
and South Carolina constitutions had similar 
provisions excluding clergymen from holding 
public office. 

Likewise New York, the constitution of 
which, in 1777, gave full religious freedom and 
prohibited clergymen from holding public office. 
A section of the Delaware constitution of 1792 
read: 

No clergyman of any denomination shall be capable 
of holding a civil office in this State while he continues 
to exercise pastoral or clerical functions. 

It was not until subsequent years when it was 
generally felt that the danger of ministerial ag 
gression was over that various States omitted 
in later constitutions provisions barring clergy 
men from public office. 

In New England dying ecclesiasticism fought 
hardest in resisting the sweep of progress. 



264 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

Tithes were not finally abolished in Vermont 
until 1807. New Hampshire, in 1819, arrived 
at a point of formally recognizing the freedom 
of all religious sects, and although its constitu 
tion allowed only Protestants to hold office, that 
provision increasingly lost public support. In 
Connecticut it was not until 1818, and in Massa 
chusetts not until 1833, that the legalized hold 
of ecclesiasticism could at last be overcome. In 
those years the final vestiges of the tithe system 
were abolished. 

The feeling of large parts of the American 
people toward ministers was extremely bitter. 
Although ministers still exercised an indirect 
moral influence upon legislators and laws, yet 
the popular attitude was one of vigilance against 
clerical encroachments. Even after the Revolu 
tion ministers were still declaiming against de 
mocracy. A characteristic sermon was that of 
the Rev. Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, 
on May 8, 1783, before Governor Jonathan 
Trumbull and the Connecticut legislature. He 
argued for a government by aristocracy, declar 
ing: "An unsystematical democracy and an 
absolute monarchy are equally detestable. An 



REAPERS OF WRATH 265 

elective aristocracy is preferable for America." 
When the Middle West was being settled a 
prominent New England clergyman represented 
these regions "as a grand reservoir for the 
scum of the Atlantic States." It was such a 
continuing attitude, coupled with the ministerial 
insistence upon repressive laws, that made 
clergymen odious to many of a people that were 
glowing with youth and energy. 

Ministers knew of this public hostility, but 
made no attempt to inquire into its causes. 
Year after year at church conventions they be 
wailed the cold public bearing toward them per 
sonally and "the low estate" to which church and 
clergy had fallen. Such was the intensity of 
popular feeling in Virginia that when, in 1802, 
a legislative act ordered the sale of all vacant 
glebe lands for the benefit of the poor, not only 
were these lands sold but also church buildings 
and even the communion plate. Blind to the 
public temper, the Virginia clergy resisted the 
sale of glebe lands, going from one court to an 
other, until finally defeated by a court of appeals 
decision in 1840. 



266 YE OLDEN BLUE LAWS 

In opposing laws abolishing their power min 
isters dolefully predicted that religion would 
be irretrievably injured. The contrary was the 
result. With ministers held to their proper 
place, that of purely spiritual functions, public 
interest in religion increased. This was com 
mented upon by many observers in the second 
quarter of the nineteenth century. Side by side 
with this religious feeling there was also noticed 
the strong characteristic of the American people 
for the full and free expression of normal im 
pulses. This impressed European investigators 
as a love of excitement. One of the most per 
ceptive and sympathetic of these visitors, Adam 
G. DeGurowski, in his book "America and 
Europe," published in 1857, thus explained its 
probable cause: 

The uniformity of the ancient colonial life, the rigid 
ity of the Puritans and of their imitators, might have 
contributed to form it. Human imaginative nature re 
volts against uniformity, compression, against turning 
in one and the same circle. In the gloom of colonial 
times isolation was cheered only by arrivals from Eu 
rope. And for the honor of human nature, below the 



REAPERS OF WRATH 267 

froth and excitement, lies in the American breast the 
deepest enthusiasm for all that is grand, generous and 
noble. Enthusiasm generated their history, enthusiasm 
inaugurated their political existence ; and among all the 
nations they alone emerged from such a sacred source. 



REFERENCES 

The facts in the foregoing 1 chapters were obtained 
from the following sources : 

The Records of the Governor and Company of the 
Massachusetts Bay m New England. These comprise 
six volumes compiled from the MMS. volumes, and 
were edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, Member of the 
Massachusetts Historical Society, and published by 
order of the Massachusetts legislature in 18531854. 

The Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in 
New England* These comprise seven volumes com 
piled from the MMS. volumes, and were edited by Mr. 
Shurtleff, and published by order of the Massachusetts 
legislature in 1855. Also three volumes of Acts and 
Deeds taken from the same records, prepared by David 
Pulsifer, Member of the New England Historic-Genea 
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Massachusetts legislature in 1859 and 1861. 

Massachusetts Statutes. Thomas and Andrews. 
Edition of 1801. 

Ancient Charters and Laws of Massachusetts Bay, 
etc. Published by order of the General Assembly, 1814. 

The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the 
Province of Massachusetts. Three volumes. 



270 REFERENCES 

The Laws of the Commonwealth of Mass, from Nov. 
28, 1780, to Feb. 28, 1807. Published by order of the 
legislature, 1807. 

The Emancipation of Massachusetts. Brooks 
Adams. 

Ecclesiastical History of New England. Felt. 

Economic and Social History of New England. 
Weeden. 

History of the City of Boston. Drake. 

History of East Boston. Sumner. 

The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut. 
Fifteen volumes, published by order of the Connecticut 
legislature. The first three volumes were edited by J. 
Hammond Trumbull, corresponding secretary of the 
Connecticut Historical Society, etc., and were pub 
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were edited by Charles J. Hoadly, State Librarian of 
Connecticut, and were published from 1868 to 1890. 

Acts and Laws of the State of Connecticut. Edition 
of 1786. 

Documents and Records Relating to the Province of 
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Constitution and Laws of the State of New Hamp 
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New England Courant y 1721-24. 

New England Weekly Journal, 1728. 



REFERENCES 271 

Boston Weekly Rehearsal, 1731. 

Boston Independent Advertiser, 1748. 

New Hampshire Gazette, 1756. 

The Records of the Colony of Rhode Island m New 
England. Ten volumes published from 1856 to 1865 
by order of the Rhode Island legislature. 

Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the 
State of New York. Fifteen volumes prepared under 
legislative order by E. B. O Callaghan, and published 
in 1849-56. 

The Documentary History of the State of New York. 
Four volumes edited by Mr. O Callaghan, and published 
by order of the New York legislature in 1850. 

Laws of the Colony of New York. Published by the 
State of New York. 

Ecclesiastical Law of the State of New York. 
Hoffman. 

Contributions to the Ecclesiastical History of the 
United States of America. Francis L. Hawks. 1836. 

Men, Women and Manners m Colonial Times. 
Fisher. 

Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the 
State of New Jersey. Thirty volumes of the first 
series, and five of the second, prepared by order of 
the New Jersey legislature, edited by William A. White- 
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ceeding years. 



272 REFERENCES 

New York Gazette or Weekly Post Boy, 1766. 

Grants and Concessions of New Jersey, 1664-1702. 
Learning and Spicer. 

Nixon s Digest, Laws of New Jersey, 1709-1861. 

Pennsylvania Archives. Comprising many volumes 
prepared and published under the direction of the 
legislature. 

Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania, 1682-1801. 

Pennsylvania Laws, 1700-1770. Carey and Bioren. 

History of Philadelphia. Scharf and Westcott. 

Pennsylvania Evening Post, 1776. 

Pennsylvania Reports, Vol. 12, etc. Harris. 

Laws of the State of Delaware. Edition of 1797. 

Archives of Maryland* Thirty-nine volumes pub 
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1919. 

Laws of Maryland. Edition of 1799. 

History of Maryland. John Leeds Bozman. 

Early Maryland, Civil, Social and Ecclesiastical. 
Rev. Theodore C. Gambrall, D.D. 

History of Maryland. McSherry. 

Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser, 1773. 

History of the Virginia Company of London. Neil. 

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Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other MMS. 
Edited and arranged under the authority of the Vir 
ginia legislature. 1884. 



REFERENCES 273 

Gleanings of Virginia History. William Fletcher 
Boogher. 

Laws of Virgmia. Hening. 

Virginia Laws. Edition of 1759. 

History and Colony of the Ancient Dominion of 
Virgmia. Campbell. 

Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virgmia. 
Bishop Meade. 

A History of Bristol Parish. Rev. Philip Slaugh 
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Revised Code Laws of Virginia. Edition of 1819. 

Life of Thomas Jefferson. Tucker. 

The Colonial Records of North Carolina. Twenty- 
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Public Acts of the General Assembly of North Caro 
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Statutes of South Carolina. Cooper. 

The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia. 
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Georgia Laws. Edition of 1802. 

The Pulpit of the American Revolution. John Win- 
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Annals of the American Pulpit. Sprague. 

The Rise of Religious Liberty in America. Sanford 
H. Cobb. 



274 REFERENCES 

Massachusetts Reports. Vol. 97. 

Massachusetts Reports. Vol. 14. Allen. 

Loyalists of the American Revolution. Sabine. 

The Loyalists of America and Their Times. Ry- 
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Thoughts on the Anglican and American- Anglo 
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The Drama m Boston. William W. Clapp, in Win- 
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History of the Stage in Philadelphia. Durang. 

Memories of Youth and Manhood. Sidney Willard. 

Desultory Reflections Excited by the Recent Calam 
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Who Frequent the Theater and to the Dramatic Critics 
(Pamphlet). Matthew Carey. 1802. 

Recreations of a Merchant, or the Christian Sketch 
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Lectures to Young Men on Various Important Sub 
jects. Henry Ward Beecher. 1846. 

Retrospect of Western Travel. Harriet Martineau. 

Knickerbocker Magazine, 1833, etc. 

America amd Europe. Adam G. De Gurowski. 



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YB 36640 



GENERAL LIBRARY - U.C. BERKELEY 



BDDD75 c l3aS 






THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY