Sexual Misconduct in Puritan America Introduction: When one thinks of sex, the last thing that comes to mind were Puritans. Our assumptions about Puritan sexual habits would suggest a very repressed sexual appetite, which is correct. However, a combination of suppression of sexuality through religion, no outlet for sexual satisfaction and the demographics of the Puritan colonies led to deviance from the proscribed social norms. Today, our society seems plagued by social immorality, rising divorce rates, unwed mothers, adultery, and sex crimes. However, these things are not just products of our own times. We must remember that the Puritans were also normal people with desires and weakness. Instructions In this assignment you will examine the aspects of gender relationships and sexual deviance in Puritan New England. You are required to write a short essay examining your choice of potential questions, derived from the sources provided. Minimum Requirements • 750 word minimum length (you are encouraged to exceed this) • Your essay needs a thesis • You must provide citations and footnotes • Please keep your writing formal Questions: Please choose one of the questions below to base your essay on. • Analyze the relationship between what the law states and what the actual punishments were? In your assessment, were the Puritans lenient in their criminal sentencing? • What crimes were worse in Puritan society? What are the most common and why? • Under the law, what were the Puritan’s view on gender, in regards to marriage and sexual deviance. Were the punishments for fornication and adultery different for women and men? • In regards to sexual deviance, what protections if any, existed to protect people of lower social status. (i.e. servants, Natives, women, etc. ) Sources: I have selected some primary and secondary sources for this assignment. They are located on the Eagle Online Course, under the assignment submission area.Ps: citations in chicago please
Sexual Misconduct in Puritan America Introduction: When one thinks of sex, the last thing that comes to mind were Puritans. Our assumptions about Puritan sexual habits would suggest a very represse
Sexual Misconduct in Pur itan America Introduction: When one thinks of sex, the last thing that comes to mind wer e Puritans . Our assumptions about Puritan sexual habits would suggest a very repressed sexual appetite, which is correct. However, a combination of suppression of sexuality through religion, no outlet for sexual satisfaction and the demographics of the Puritan colonies led to deviance from the proscribed social norms . Today, our society seems plagued by social immorality, rising divorc e rates, unwed mothers, adultery, and sex crimes . However, these things are not just products of our own times. We must remember that the Puritans were also normal people with desires and weakness . Instructions In this assignment you will examine the aspects of gender relationships and sexual devi ance in Puritan New England. You are required to write a short essay examin ing your choice of potential questions, derived from the sources provided. Minimum Requirements • 750 word mi nimum len gth (you are enco uraged to exceed this) • You r essay needs a thesis • You must provide citations and footnotes • Please keep your writing formal Questions: Please choose one of the que stions below to base your essay on. • Analyze the relationship between what the law states and what the actual punishments were? In your ass essment , were the Puritans lenient in their criminal sentencing ? • What crimes were wor se in Puritan society? What are the most common and why? • Under the law, what were th e Puritan ’s view on gender , in regards to marriage and sexual deviance . Were the punishments for fornication and adultery different for women and men ? • In regards to sexual devi ance , what pro tections if any , existed to protect pe ople of lower so cial status. (i. e. servants , Natives, women, etc. ) Sources: I have selected som e primary and secondary sources for this assignment. They are locat ed on the Eagle Online Course, under the assignment submission area.
Sexual Misconduct in Puritan America Introduction: When one thinks of sex, the last thing that comes to mind were Puritans. Our assumptions about Puritan sexual habits would suggest a very represse
The Puritans and Sex Author(syf ( G P X Q G 6 0 R U J D n Source: The New England Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Dec., 1942yf S S 7 Published by: The New England Quarterly, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/361501 Accessed: 03-12-2017 16:21 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://about.jstor.org/terms The New England Quarterly, Inc. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The New England Quarterly This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms THE NEW ENGLAND Q ARTERLY DECEMBER, 1942 THE PURITANS AND SEX EDMUND S. MORGAN T ENRY ADAMS once observed that Americans have I “ostentatiously ignored” sex. He could think of only two American writers who touched upon the subject with any degree of boldness-Walt Whitman and Bret Harte. Since the time when Adams made this penetrating observa- tion, American writers have been making up for lost time in a way that would make Bret Harte, if not Whitman, blush. And yet there is still more truth than falsehood in Adams’s statement. Americans, by comparison with Europeans or Asiatics, are squeamish when confronted with the facts of life. My purpose is not to account for this squeamishness, but simply to point out that the Puritans, those bogeymen of the modern intellectual, are not responsible for it. At the outset, consider the Puritans’ attitude toward mar- riage and the role of sex in marriage. The popular assumption might be that the Puritans frowned on marriage and tried to hush up the physical aspect of it as much as possible, but listen to what they themselves had to say. Samuel Willard, minister of the Old South Church in the latter part of the seventeenth century and author of the most complete text- 591 This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 592 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY book of Puritan divinity, more than once expressed his horror at “that Popish conceit of the Excellency of Virginity.” Another minister, John Cotton, wrote that Women are Creatures without which there is no comfortable Living for man: it is true of them what is wont to be said of Governments, That bad ones are better than none: They are a sort of Blasphemers then who dispise and decry them, and call them a necessary Evil, for they are a necessary Good.2 These sentiments did not arise from an interpretation of marriage as a spiritual partnership, in which sexual inter- course was a minor or incidental matter. Cotton gave his opinion of “Platonic love” when he recalled the case of one who immediately upon marriage, without ever approaching the Nuptial Bed, indented with the Bride, that by mutual con- sent they might both live such a life, and according did sequestr- ing themselves according to the custom of those times, from the rest of mankind, and afterwards from one another too, in their retired Cells, giving themselves up to a Contemplative life; and this is recorded as an instance of no little or ordinary Vertue; but I must be pardoned in it, if I can account it no other than an effort of blind zeal, for they are the dictates of a blind mind they follow therein, and not of that Holy Spirit, which saith It is not good that man should be alone.3 Here is as healthy an attitude as one could hope to find anywhere. Cotton certainly cannot be accused of ignoring human nature. Nor was he an isolated example among the Puritans. Another minister stated plainly that “the Use of the Marriage Bed” is “founded in mans Nature,” and that consequently any withdrawal from sexual intercourse upon the part of husband or wife “Denies all reliefe in Wedlock 1 Samuel Willard, A Compleat Body of Divinity (Boston, 1726yf D Q d 608-613. 2 John Cotton, A Meet Help (Boston, 1699yf . 3 A Meet Help, 16. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms PURITANS AND SEX 593 vnto Human necessity: and sends it for supply vnto Beastial- ity when God gives not the gift of Continency.”4 In other words, sexual intercourse was a human necessity and mar- riage the only proper supply for it. These were the views of the New England clergy, the acknowledged leaders of the community, the most Puritanical of the Puritans. As proof that their congregations concurred with them, one may cite the case in which the members of the First Church of Boston expelled James Mattock because, among other offenses, “he denyed Coniugall fellowship vnto his wife for the space of 2 years together vpon pretense of taking Revenge upon him- self for his abusing of her before marryage.” 5 So strongly did the Puritans insist upon the sexual character of marriage that one New Englander considered himself slandered when it was reported, “that he Brock his deceased wife’s hart with Greife, that he wold be absent from her 3 weeks together when he was at home, and wold never come nere her, and such Like.” 6 There was just one limitation which the Puritans placed upon sexual relations in marriage: sex must not interfere with religion. Man’s chief end was to glorify God, and all earthly delights must promote that end, not hinder it. Love for a wife was carried too far when it led a man to neglect his God: … sometimes a man hath a good affection to Religion, but the love of his wife carries him away, a man may bee so transported to his wife, that hee dare not bee forward in Religion, lest hee dis- please his wife, and so the wife, lest shee displease her husband, and this is an inordinate love, when it exceeds measure.7 4 Edward Taylor, Commonplace Book (manuscript in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Societyyf . 5 Records of the First Church in Boston (manuscript copy in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Societyyf . 6 Middlesex County Court Files, folder 42. 7 John Cotton, A Practical Commentary … upon the First Epistle Gen- erall of John (London, 1656yf . This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 594 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY Sexual pleasures, in this respect, were treated like other kinds of pleasure. On a day of fast, when all comforts were supposed to be foregone in behalf of religious contemplation, not only were tasty food and drink to be abandoned but sexual intercourse, too. On other occasions, when food, drink, and recreation were allowable, sexual intercourse was allow- able too, though of course only between persons who were married to each other. The Puritans were not ascetics; they never wished to prevent the enjoyment of earthly delights. They merely demanded that the pleasures of the flesh be subordinated to the greater glory of God: husband and wife must not become “so transported with affection, that they look at no higher end than marriage it self.” “Let such as have wives,” said the ministers, “look at them not for their own ends, but to be fitted for Gods service, and bring them nearer to God.” 8 Toward sexual intercourse outside marriage the Puritans were as frankly hostile as they were favorable to it in mar- riage. They passed laws to punish adultery with death, and fornication with whipping. Yet they had no misconceptions as to the capacity of human beings to obey such laws. Al- though the laws were commands of God, it was only natural- since the fall of Adam-for human beings to break them. Breaches must be punished lest the community suffer the wrath of God, but no offense, sexual or otherwise, could be occasion for surprise or for hushed tones of voice. How calmly the inhabitants of seventeenth-century New England could contemplate rape or attempted rape is evident in the following testimony offered before the Middlesex County Court of Massachusetts: The examination of Edward Wire taken the 7th of october and alsoe Zachery Johnson. who sayeth that Edward Wires mayd be- ing sent into the towne about busenes meeting with a man that dogd hir from about Joseph Kettles house to goody marches. 8 A Practical Commentary, 126. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms PURITANS AND SEX 595 She came into William Johnsones and desired Zachery Johnson to goe home with her for that the man dogd hir. accordingly he went with her and being then as far as Samuell Phips his house the man over tooke them. which man caled himselfe by the name of peter grant would have led the mayd but she oposed itt three times: and coming to Edward Wires house the said grant would have kist hir but she refused itt: wire being at prayer grant dragd the mayd between the said wiers and Nathanill frothinghams house. hee then flung the mayd downe in the streete and got atop hir; Johnson seeing it hee caled vppon the fellow to be sivill and not abuse the mayd then Edward wire came forth and ran to the said grant and took hold of him asking him what he did to his mayd, the said grant asked whether she was his wife for he did nothing to his wife: the said grant swearing he would be the death of the said wire. when he came of the mayd; he swore he would bring ten men to pul down his house and soe ran away and they followed him as far as good[y] phipses house where they mett with John Terry and George Chin with clubs in there hands and soe they went away together. Zachy Johnson going to Constable Heamans, and wire going home. there came John Terry to his house to ask for beer and grant was in the streete but afterward departed into the towne, both Johnson and Wire both aferme that when grant was vppon the mayd she cryed out severall times. Deborah hadlocke being examined sayth that she mett with the man that cals himselfe peeter grant about good prichards that he dogd hir and followed hir to hir masters and there threw hir downe and lay vppon hir but had not the use of hir body but swore several othes that he would ly with hir and gett hir with child before she got home. Grant being present denys all saying he was drunk and did not know what he did.* The Puritans became inured to sexual offenses, because there were so many. The impression which one gets from reading the records of seventeenth-century New England 9 Middlesex Files, folder 48. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 596 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY courts is that illicit sexual intercourse was fairly common. The testimony given in cases of fornication and adultery- by far the most numerous class of criminal cases in the rec- ords-suggests that many of the early New Englanders pos- sessed a high degree of virility and very few inhibitions. Be- sides the case of Peter Grant, take the testimony of Elizabeth Knight about the manner of Richard Nevars’s advances toward her: The last publique day of Thanksgiving (in the year 1674yf L n the evening as I was milking Richard Nevars came to me, and offered me abuse in putting his hand, under my coates, but I turning aside with much adoe, saved my self, and when I was settled to milking he agen took me by the shoulder and pulled me backward almost, but I clapped one hand on the Ground and held fast the Cows teatt with the other hand, and cryed out, and then came to mee Jonathan Abbot one of my Masters Servants, whome the said Never asked wherefore he came, the said Abbot said to look after you, what you doe unto the Maid, but the said Never bid Abbot goe about his businesse but I bade the lad to stay.10 One reason for the abundance of sexual offenses was the number of men in the colonies who were unable to gratify their sexual desires in marriage.”1 Many of the first settlers had wives in England. They had come to the new world to make a fortune, expecting either to bring their families after them or to return to England with some of the riches of America. Although these men left their wives behind, they brought their sexual appetites with them; and in spite of laws which required them to return to their families, they continued to stay, and more continued to arrive, as indictments against them throughout the seventeenth century clearly indicate. 10 Middlesex Files, folder 71. 11 Another reason was suggested by Charles Francis Adams in his scholarly article, “Some Phases of Sexual Morality and Church Discipline in Colonial New England,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, xxvi, 477-516. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms PURITANS AND SEX 597 Servants formed another group of men, and of women too, who could not ordinarily find supply for human necessity within the bounds of marriage. Most servants lived in the homes of their masters and could not marry without their consent, a consent which was not likely to be given unless the prospective husband or wife also belonged to the master’s household. This situation will be better understood if it is recalled that most servants at this time were engaged by con- tract for a stated period. They were, in the language of the time, “covenant servants,” who had agreed to stay with their masters for a number of years in return for a specified rec- ompense, such as transportation to New England or education in some trade (the latter, of course, were known more specifi- cally as apprenticesyf ( Y H Q K L U H G V H U Y D Q W V Z K R Z R U N H G I R r wages were usually single, for as soon as a man had enough money to buy or build a house of his own and to get married, he would set up in farming or trade for himself. It must be emphasized, however, that anyone who was not in business for himself was necessarily a servant. The economic organiza- tion of seventeenth-century New England had no place for the independent proletarian workman with a family of his own. All production was carried on in the household by the master of the family and his servants, so that most men were either servants or masters of servants; and the former, of course, were more numerous than the latter. Probably most of the inhabitants of Puritan New England could remember a time when they had been servants. Theoretically no servant had a right to a private life. His time, day or night, belonged to his master, and both religion and law required that he obey his master scrupulously.12 But neither religion nor law could restrain the sexual im- pulses of youth, and if those impulses could not be expressed in marriage, they had to be given vent outside marriage. Servants had little difficulty in finding the occasions. Though 12 On the position of servants in early New England see More Books, xvlI (September, 1942yf . This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 598 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY they might be kept at work all day, it was easy enough to slip away at night. Once out of the house, there were several ways of meeting with a maid. The simplest way was to go to her bedchamber, if she was so fortunate as to have a private one of her own. Thus Jock, Mr. Solomon Phipps’s Negro man, confessed in court that on the sixteenth day of May 1682, in the morning, betweene 12 and one of the clock, he did force open the back doores of the House of Laurence Hammond in Charlestowne, and came in to the House, and went up into the garret to Marie the Negro. He doth likewise acknowledge that one night the last week he forced into the House the same way, and went up to the Negro Woman Marie and that the like he hath done at severall other times before.l3 Joshua Fletcher took a more romantic way of visiting his lady: Joshua Fletcher… doth confesse and acknowledge that three severall nights, after bedtime, he went into Mr Fiskes Dwelling house at Chelmsford, at an open window by a ladder that he brought with him. the said windo opening into a chamber, whose was the lodging place of Gresill Juell servant to mr. Fiske. and there he kept company with the said mayd. she sometimes hav- ing her cloathes on, and one time he found her in her bed.14 Sometimes a maidservant might entertain callers in the parlor while the family were sleeping upstairs. John Knight de- scribed what was perhaps a common experience for masters. The crying of his child awakened him in the middle of the night, and he called to his maid, one Sarah Crouch, who was supposed to be sleeping with the child. Receiving no answer, he arose and went downe the stayres, and at the stair foot, the latch of doore was pulled in. I called severall times and at the last said if shee 13 Middlesex Files, folder 99. 14 Middlesex Files, folder 47. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms PURITANS AND SEX 599 would not open the dore, I would breake it open, and when she opened the doore shee was all undressed and Sarah Largin with her undressed, also the said Sarah went out of doores and Dropped some of her clothes as shee went out. I enquired of Sarah Crouch what men they were, which was with them. Shee made mee no answer for some space of time, but at last shee told me Peeter Brigs was with them, I asked her whether Thomas Jones was not there, but shee would give mee no answer.15 In the temperate climate of New England it was not always necessary to seek out a maid at her home. Rachel Smith was seduced in an open field “about nine of the clock at night, being darke, neither moone nor starrs shineing.” She was walking through the field when she met a man who asked her where shee lived, and what her name was and shee told him. and then shee asked his name, and he told her Saijing that he was old Good-man Shepards man. Also shee saith he gave her strong liquors, and told her that it was not the first time he had been with maydes after his master was in bed.16 Sometimes, of course, it was not necessary for a servant to go outside his master’s house in order to satisfy his sexual urges. Many cases of fornication are on record between ser- vants living in the same house. Even where servants had no private bedroom, even where the whole family slept in a single room, it was not impossible to make love. In fact many love affairs must have had their consummation upon a bed in which other people were sleeping. Take for example the case of Sarah Lepingwell. When Sarah was brought into court for having an illegitimate child, she related that one night when her master’s brother, Thomas Hawes, was visiting the family, she went to bed early. Later, after Hawes had gone to bed, he called to her to get him a pipe of tobacco. After refusing for some time, 15 Middlesex Files, folder 52. 16 Middlesex Files, folder 44- This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 600 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY at the last I arose and did lite his pipe and cam and lay doune one my one bead and smoaked about half the pip and siting vp in my bead to giue him his pip my bead being a trundell bead at the sid of his bead he reached beyond the pip and Cauth me by the wrist and pulled me on the side of his bead but I biding him let me goe he bid me hold my peas the folks wold here me and if it be replyed come why did you not call out I Ansar I was posesed with fear of my mastar least my master shold think I did it only to bring a scandall on his brothar and thinking thay wold all beare witnes agaynst me but the thing is true that he did then begete me with child at that tim and the Child is Thomas Hauses and noe mans but his. In his defense Hawes offered the testimony of another man who was sleeping “on the same side of the bed,” but the jury nevertheless accepted Sarah’s story.17 The fact that Sarah was intimidated by her master’s brother suggests that maidservants may have been subject to sexual abuse by their masters. The records show that sometimes masters did take advantage of their position to force unwanted attentions upon their female servants. The case of Elizabeth Dickerman is a good example. She complained to the Middle- sex County Court, against her master John Harris senior for profiring abus to her by way of forsing her to be naught with him: … he has tould her that if she tould her dame: what cariag he did show to her shee had as good be hanged and shee replyed then shee would run away and he sayd run the way is befor you: ..she says if she should liwe ther shee shall be in fear of her lif.1s The court accepted Elizabeth’s complaint and ordered her master to be whipped twenty stripes. So numerous did cases of fornication and adultery become in seventeenth-century New England that the problem of 17 Middlesex Files, folder 47. 18 Middlesex Files, folder 94. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms PURITANS AND SEX 6o01 caring for the children of extra-marital unions was a serious one. The Puritans solved it, but in such a way as to increase rather than decrease the temptation to sin. In 1668 the Gen- eral Court of Massachusetts ordered: that where any man is legally convicted to be the Father of a Bastard childe, he shall be at the care and charge to maintain and bring up the same, by such assistance of the Mother as nature re- quireth, and as the Court from time to time (according to cir- cumstancesyf V K D O O V H H P H H W W R 2 U G H U D Q G L Q F D V H W K H ) D W K H U R I a Bastard, by confession or other manifest proof, upon trial of the case, do not appear to the Courts satisfaction, then the Man charged by the Woman to be the Father, shee holding constant in it, (especially being put upon the real discovery of the truth of it in the time of her Travailyf V K D O O E H W K H U H S X W H G ) D W K H U D Q d accordingly be liable to the charge of maintenance as aforesaid (though not to other punishmentyf Q R W Z L W K V W D Q G L Q J K L V G H Q L D O , unless the circumstances of the case and pleas be such, on the behalf of the man charged, as that the Court that have the cog- nizance thereon shall see reason to acquit him, and otherwise dispose of the Childe and education thereof.19 As a result of this law a girl could give way to temptation without the fear of having to care for an illegitimate child by herself. Furthermore, she could, by a little simple lying, spare her lover the expense of supporting the child. When Elizabeth Wells bore a child, less than a year after this statute was passed, she laid it to James Tufts, her master’s son. Goodman Tufts affirmed that Andrew Robinson, servant to Goodman Dexter, was the real father, and he brought the following testimony as evidence: Wee Elizabeth Jefts aged 15 ears and Mary tufts aged 14 ears doe testyfie that their being one at our hous sumtime the last winter who sayed that thear was a new law made concerning bastards that If aney man wear aqused with a bastard and the 19 William H. Whitmore, editor, The Colonial Laws of Massachusetts. Reprinted from the Edition of i66o (Boston, 1889yf . This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 60o THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY woman which had aqused him did stand vnto it in her labor that he should bee the reputed father of it and should mayntaine it Elizabeth Wells hearing of the sayd law she sayed vnto vs that If shee should bee with Child shee would bee sure to lay it vn to won who was rich enough abell to mayntayne it wheather it wear his or no and shee farder sayed Elizabeth Jefts would not you doe so likewise If it weare your case and I sayed no by no means for right must tacke place: and the sayd Elizabeth wells sayed If it wear my Caus I think I should doe so.20 A tragic unsigned letter that somehow found its way into the files of the Middlesex County Court gives more direct evi- dence of the practice which Elizabeth Wells professed: der loue i remember my loue to you hoping your welfar and i hop to imbras the but now i rit to you to let you nowe that i am a child by you and i wil ether kil it or lay it to an other and you shal have no blame at al for I haue had many children and none have none of them…. [i.e., none of their fathers is supporting any of them.]21 In face of the wholesale violation of the sexual codes to which all these cases give testimony, the Puritans could not maintain the severe penalties which their laws provided. Although cases of adultery occurred every year, the death penalty is not known to have been applied more than three times. The usual punishment was a whipping or a fine, or both, and perhaps a branding, combined with a symbolical execution in the form of standing on the gallows for an hour with a rope about the neck. Fornication met with a lighter whipping or a lighter fine, while rape was treated in the same way as adultery. Though the Puritans established a code of laws which demanded perfection-which demanded, in other words, strict obedience to the will of God, they nevertheless knew that frail human beings could never live up to the 20 Middlesex Files, folder 52. 21 Middlesex Files, folder 30o. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms PURITANS AND SEX 603 code. When fornication, adultery, rape, or even buggery and sodomy appeared, they were not surprised, nor were they so severe with the offenders as their codes of law would lead one to believe. Sodomy, to be sure, they usually pun- ished with death; but rape, adultery, and fornication they regarded as pardonable human weaknesses, all the more likely to appear in a religious community, where the normal course of sin was stopped by wholesome laws. Governor Bradford, in recounting the details of an epidemic of sexual misdemeanors in Plymouth, wrote resignedly: it may be in this case as it is with waters when their streames are stopped or damned up, when they gett passage they flow with more violence, and make more noys and disturbance, then when they are suffered to rune quietly in their owne chanels. So wick- ednes being here more stopped by strict laws, and the same more nerly looked unto, so as it cannot rune in a comone road of liber- ty as it would, and is inclined, it searches every wher, and at last breaks out wher it getts vente.22 The estimate of human capacities here expressed led the Puritans not only to deal leniently with sexual offenses but also to take every precaution to prevent such offenses, rather than wait for the necessity of punishment. One precaution was to see that children got married as soon as possible. The wrong way to promote virtue, the Puritans thought, was to “ensnare” children in vows of virginity, as the Catholics did. As a result of such vows, children, “not being able to con- tain,” would be guilty of “unnatural pollutions, and other filthy practices in secret: and too oft of horrid Murthers of the fruit of their bodies,” said Thomas Cobbett.23 The way to avoid fornication and perversion was for parents to pro- vide suitable husbands and wives for their children: 22 William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation (Boston, 1912yf , , , 309. 23 Thomas Cobbett, A Fruitfull and Usefull Discourse touching the Hon- our due from Children to Parents and the Duty of Parents towards their Children (London, 1656yf . This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 604 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY Lot was to blame that looked not out seasonably for some fit matches for his two daughters, which had formerly minded mar- riage (witness the contract between them and two men in Sodom, called therfore for his Sons in Law, which had married his daughters, Gen. 19. 14.yf I R U W K H V H H L Q J Q R P D Q O L N H W R F R P H L Q W o them in a conjugall way… then they plotted that incestuous course, whereby their Father was so highly dishonoured…. 24 As marriage was the way to prevent fornication, success- ful marriage was the way to prevent adultery. The Puritans did not wait for adultery to appear; instead, they took every means possible to make husbands and wives live together and respect each other. If a husband deserted his wife and remained within the jurisdiction of a Puritan government, he was promptly sent back to her. Where the wife had been left in England, the offense did not always come to light until the wayward husband had committed fornication or bigamy, and of course there must have been many offenses which never came to light. But where both husband and wife lived in New England, neither had much chance of leaving the other without being returned by order of the county court at its next sitting. When John Smith of Med- field left his wife and went to live with Patience Rawlins, he was sent home poorer by ten pounds and richer by thirty stripes. Similarly Mary Drury, who deserted her husband on the pretense that he was impotent, failed to convince the court that he actually was so, and had to return to him as well as to pay a fine of five pounds. The wife of Phillip Point- ing received lighter treatment: when the court thought that she had overstayed her leave in Boston, they simply ordered her “to depart the Towne and goe to Tanton to her hus- band.” The courts, moreover, were not satisfied with mere cohabitation; they insisted that it be peaceful cohabitation. Husbands and wives were forbidden by law to strike one another, and the law was enforced on numerous occasions. 24 Cobbett, 177. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms PURITANS AND SEX 605 But the courts did not stop there. Henry Flood was required to give bond for good behavior because he had abused his wife simply by “ill words calling her whore and cursing of her.” The wife of Christopher Collins was presented for railing at her husband and calling him “Gurley gutted divill.” Apparently in this case the court thought that Mistress Col- lins was right, for although the fact was proved by two wit- nesses, she was discharged. On another occasion the court favored the husband: Jacob Pudeator, fined for striking and kicking his wife, had the sentence moderated when the court was informed that she was a woman “of great provo- cation.” 25 Wherever there was strong suspicion that an illicit relation might arise between two persons, the authorities removed the temptation by forbidding the two to come together. As early as November, 1630, the Court of Assistants of Massa- chusetts prohibited a Mr. Clark from “cohabitacion and fre- quent keepeing company with Mrs. Freeman, vnder paine of such punishment as the Court shall thinke meete to inflict.” Mr. Clark and Mr. Freeman were both bound “in XX apeece that Mr. Clearke shall make his personall appearance att the nexte Court to be holden in March nexte, and in the meane tyme to carry himselfe in good behaviour towards all people and espetially towards Mrs. Freeman, concerneing whome there is stronge suspicion of incontinency.” Forty-five years later the Suffolk County Court took the same kind of measure to protect the husbands of Dorchester from the temptations offered by the daughter of Robert Spurr. Spurr was presented by the grand jury for entertaining persons at his house at unseasonable times both by day and night to the greife of theire wives and Relations 8ec 25 Samuel E. Morison and Zechariah Chafee, editors, Records of the Suffolk County Court, z67z-z68o, Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, xxix and xxx, 121, 410, 524, 837-841, and 1158; George F. Dow, editor, Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts (Salem, 1911-1921yf , D Q G Y – This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms 606 THE NEW ENGLAND QUARTERLY The Court having heard what was alleaged and testified against him do Sentence him to bee admonish’t and to pay Fees of Court and charge him upon his perill not to entertain any married men to keepe company with his daughter especially James Minott and Joseph Belcher. In like manner Walter Hickson was forbidden to keep com- pany with Mary Bedwell, “And if at any time hereafter hee bee taken in company of the saide Mary Bedwell without other company to bee forthwith apprehended by the Con- stable and to be whip’t with ten stripes.” Elizabeth Wheeler and Joanna Peirce were admonished “for theire disorderly carriage in the house of Thomas Watts being married women and founde sitting in other mens Laps with theire Armes about theire Necks.” How little confidence the Puritans had in human nature is even more clearly displayed by another case, in which Edmond Maddock and his wife were brought to court “to answere to all such matters as shalbe objected against them concerning Haarkwoody and Ezekiell Euerells being at their house at unseasonable tyme of the night and her being up with them after her husband was gone to bed.” Haarkwoody and Everell had been found “by the Constable Henry Bridghame about tenn of the Clock at night sitting by the fyre at the house of Edmond Maddocks with his wyfe a suspicious weoman her husband being on sleepe [sic] on the bedd.” A similar distrust of human ability to resist temp- tation is evident in the following order of the Connecticut Particular Court: James Hallett is to returne from the Correction house to his master Barclyt, who is to keepe him to hard labor, and course dyet during the pleasure of the Court provided that Barclet is first to remove his daughter from his family, before the sayd James enter therein. These precautions, as we have already seen, did not eliminate fornication, adultery, or other sexual offenses, but they doubt- This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms PURITANS AND SEX 607 less reduced the number from what it would otherwise have been.26 In sum, the Puritan attitude toward sex, though directed by a belief in absolute, God-given moral values, never neg- lected human nature. The rules of conduct which the Puri- tans regarded as divinely ordained had been formulated for men, not for angels and not for beasts. God had created man- kind in two sexes; He had ordained marriage as desirable for all, and sexual intercourse as essential to marriage. On the other hand, He had forbidden sexual intercourse outside of marriage. These were the moral principles which the Puritans sought to enforce in New England. But in their enforcement they took cognizance of human nature. They knew well enough that human beings since the fall of Adam were in- capable of obeying perfectly the laws of God. Consequently, in the endeavor to enforce those laws they treated offenders with patience and understanding, and concentrated their efforts on prevention more than on punishment. The result was not a society in which most of us would care to live, for the methods of prevention often caused serious interference with personal liberty. It must nevertheless be admitted that in matters of sex the Puritans showed none of the blind zeal or narrow-minded bigotry which is too often supposed to have been characteristic of them. The more one learns about these people, the less do they appear to have resembled the sad and sour portraits which their modern critics have drawn of them. 26 Records of the Suffolk County Court, 442-443 and 676; John Noble, editor, Records of the Court of Assistants of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay (Boston, 1901-1928yf 5 H F R U G V R I W K H 3 D U W L F X O D U & R X U W R I & R Q Q H F W L F X W , Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, xxII, 2o; and a photostat in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, dated March 29, 1653. This content downloaded from 104.198.4.142 on Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:21:21 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms




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