Antedating of "Chain Gang"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Jan 18 22:32:37 UTC 2005

On Tue, 18 Jan 2005 17:20:58 -0500, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU> wrote:

>On Tue, 18 Jan 2005 16:57:03 -0500, Fred Shapiro <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
>>chain gang (OED 1834)
>>1833 [copyright 1831] Henry St. Clair _The United States Criminal
>>Calendar_ 350 (Making of Modern Law)  He was then taken out and lodged in
>>the same room with the chain gang convicts, who are permitted to work
>>abroad in the city every day.
>>1833 James Ross _An Essay on Prison Discipline_ (ed. 2) 16 (Making of
>>Modern Law)  It is a matter of daily observation that the men sentenced to
>>the chain-gang from the service probably of a settler ... at first fall of
>>considerably and are much wasted.
>>From APS via Proquest:
>1831 _Atkinson's Saturday Evening Post_ 19 Feb. 3/4 At New Orleans, on the
>26th ult. a sailor, named Borden, was stabbed to the heart by a man called
>the Jack of Clubs, who was attempting to rob him of a handkerchief. The
>murderer had just been discharged from the chain gang.

1830 _Times_ (London) 18 June 4/2 In the month of November, 1826, General
Darling altered the sentence of two soldiers who had been convicted at the
quarter-sessions there of a felony, and sentenced to seven years'
transportation, and instead of allowing them to undergo that punishment,
he issued a regimental order, directing that they should be worked in
chains in the public roads for the period of seven years; that they should
be stripped of their uniforms, and dressed in felons' clothes; and that
they should be worked in chain gangs, after being drummed publicly on
parade out of the garrison, as rogues.

--Ben Zimmer

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