"Blue laws", 1767; perhaps 1757?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Jan 10 23:23:48 UTC 2007

There appears to be "blue laws" from 1767, in an edition of William
Smith's _History of New York_.  If this is also in the 1757 first
edition of Smith, it will antedate the ADS-L 1762 (the best I can
find in the archives, snippet attached below).  If there is interest,
I can access a copy of the 1757 edition.

(I only have access to OED2; is there anything earlier in OED3?)

Percy A. Scholes, _The Puritans and Music in England and New
England_, Russell & Russell, 1962, page 373,. Scholes quotes from
William Smith, _History of New York_, for which he gives a date of
1767.  Scholes has two quotes; unfortunately he does not give the
page number(s).

The first is within Scholes' text, but seems to be quoted from Smith.
Scholes writes that Smith did research into "the first records of the
colony of New Haven, vulgarly called the Blue Laws".  The quotes are
in Scholes' text.

The second is a set-off quote from Smith, which begins "The Blue Laws
of Connecticut were not a printed code."

In passing, the Wikipedia article "Blue Laws" seems to be seriously
deficient (putting it mildly).  It seems to segue from the laws of
1650 and 1655 (presumably real) to Hugh Peter's falsities without any
discussion of what was real and what was his invention, and the
article strongly implies that all the items on Peters' list can be
found or are derived from laws in effect elsewhere.  Making minced pies indeed!


Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 11:15:31 -0500
From: Laurence Horn <[log in to unmask]>
At 4:01 PM -0500 1/13/03, Fred Shapiro wrote:
 >On Wed, 11 Dec 2002, Michael Quinion wrote:
 > >> The following appears on a web site devoted to the rebuttal of
 >> hoaxes (www.museumofhoaxes.com/bluelaws.html): "The term 'Blue
 >> Laws' describes laws that regulate public morality. The phrase was
 >> first used in an anonymous pamphlet published in 1762 titled 'The
 >> Real Advantages Which Ministers and People May Enjoy, Especially in
 >> the Colonies, by Conforming to the Church of England'". This - if
 >> correct - predates the usual first citation in the Reverend Samuel
 >> Peters' work of 1782 entitled "A General History of Connecticut".
 > >I looked at the book in question, and it does indeed antedate the OED's
 >1781 first use:
 > >1762 Noah Welles _The Real Advantages Which Ministers and People May Enjoy
 >Especially in the Colonies, by Conforming to the Church of England_ 29 I
 >have heard that some of them [polite gentlemen] begin to be ashamed
of >their blue laws at _New-Haven_.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list