"common night walker"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Sep 22 13:58:48 UTC 2009

At 9/21/2009 11:26 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>"common night walkers" - General Laws of  the Commonwealth of
>Massachusetts: A common night walker is anyone who is abroad at night,
>others to engage in unlawful sexual acts, such as prostitution

I too used to think that soliciting was an essential part of the
definition -- until I recently came across a 17th- or 18th-century
prosecution in Massachusetts of some men for being out late.  No,
they weren't soliciting -- for one thing, a characterization like
"behavior tending towards unclean acts" was absent.  See the OED,
"night-walker, n.", sense 1.a.:  "A person who walks around at night,
esp. with criminal intentions; a nocturnal thief or miscreant."  From
1422; the "prostitute" sense (1.b) is relatively recent -- 1670.

  Next time I'm down under Widener I'll try to find the wording of
the Mass. law(s).


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