"the theocratic death penalty" [was Biblical]

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Oct 16 13:06:15 UTC 2011

At 10/15/2011 11:34 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>"The aura of the theocratic death penalty for adultery still clings
>to America, even outside New England, and multiple divorce, which
>looks to the European like serial polygamy, is the moral solution to
>the problem of the itch.

(Although only the itch can afford multiple divorce.)

As someone who is living in colonial New England, I must
protest.  There was wide opposition to the death penalty from its
enactment (including Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth, on the
Biblical ground that no life was taken in adultery, but not generally
from the ministers).  There were just 3 executions ever  for adultery
in all of New England.

In Massachusetts two people, one man and one woman, were executed
(1644).   Since there was only one witness, whereas two were required
by law, there was disagreement among the judges; finally, their
confessions were accepted as a second "witness" and they were
convicted.  There was such repugnance that few cases of adultery were
brought thereafter, and both grand and petit juries refused to bring
in indictments or convictions.

In Connecticut one man was executed (1650), but the woman was
reprieved.  It may be that the man was not because there was
suspicion about the timely death of the woman's husband.


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

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