Miscellaneous Court Records and Laws:

The following is just a brief taste of colonial town records and colony laws regarding illicit sex.]


Capital Lawes of New-England, as they stand now in force in the Common-Wealth. By the Court, in the Years 1641, 1642.

Capital Lawes, Established within the Jurisdiction of Massachusetts.

  1. If any man after legall conviction, shall have or worship any other God, but the Lord God, he shall be put to death. Deut. 13:6, &c and 17:2, &c. Exodus 22:30.
  2. If any man or woman be a Witch, that is, hath consulteth with a familiar spirit, they shall be put to death.
  3. If any persons shall blaspheme the Name of God the Father, Sonne, or Holy Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous, or high-handed blasphemy, or shall curse God in the like manner, he shall be put to death.
  4. [Murder by premeditated hatred]
  5. [Murder by anger or passion]
  6. [Murder by guile or poisoning]
  7. If man or woman shall lye with any beast, or bruit creature, by carnall copulation, they shall surely be put to death; and the beast shall be slaine, and buried. Lev. 20:15, 16.
  8. If a man lyeth with mankinde, as he lyeth with a woman, both of them have committed abomination, they both shall surely be put to death. Lev. 20:13.
  9. If any person committeth adultery with a married, or espoused wife, the Adulterer and the Adulteresse, shall surely be put to death. Lev. 20:10, 18, 20; Deut. 22:23, 24.
  10. If any man shall unlawfully have carnall copulation with any woman childe under ten years old, either with, or without consent, he shall be put to death.
  11. If any man shall forcibly, and without consent, ravish any maid or woman that is lawfully married or contracted, he shall be put to death. Deut. 22:25, &c.
  12. If any man shall ravish any maid or single woman (committing carnall copulation with her by force, against her will) that is above the age of ten yeares; he shall be either punished with death, or with some other grievous punishment, according to the circumstances, at the discretion of the Judges: . . .

Source: Broadside. Published in New England, 1643.


Pennsylvania Law, 1706:

. . . if any person or persons shall be convicted of sodomy and buggery, provided he or they be at the age of discretion, and consenting thereunto [he or they] shall suffer imprisonment at hard labor during life, and shall be whipped at the discretion of the magistrates (not exceeding thrity-nine lashes at one time) every three months during the first year after conviction.

Source: James T. Mitchell and Hnery Flanders, eds., The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801 (Harrisburg, 1896), vol. 2, p. 184.



A Meeting of the Court Extraordinary, March 23th, 1652. (New Haven)

Upon a complaint made to the Governor of sundrie youthes in the Towne that had committed much wickedness in a filthy corrupting way one with another, they were called before the Governor & Magistrates, vizd: Benjamin Bunill, Joshua Bradly, Joseph Benham, William Trobridg, Thomas Tuttill & Thomas Kimberly; they were examined in a private way, and their examinations taken in wrighting, which were of such a filthy nature as is not fitt to be made known in a publique way; after which the Court were called together, and the youthes before them; their examinations were read and upon their severall confessions the Court, being mett at the meeting house upon the day above written, sentenced the youthes above named to bee whipt publicly; and whereas John Clarke, servant to Jeremiah Whitnell, was questioned and charged by one of them. for some filthy carriage, he denyed it, and another of the company in some measure cleared him from that the other charged him with, whereupon he was not sentenced to be corrected publicly, but the Court left it with his master to give him that correction in the family which he should see meete, warning John Clarke that if ever any such carriage came forth against him hereafter, the Court would call these miscarriages charged upon him to minde againe.

Source: Franklin B. Dexter, ed., Ancient Town Records, vol. 1, New Haven Town Records, 1649-1662 (New Haven, 1917), 178-9. *Some spelling has been modernized.

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