Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Sep 24 17:44:21 UTC 2009

At 9/24/2009 11:24 AM, George Thompson wrote:
>Warning:  an offering from an English major here.
>This is what Dogberry and the other nightwatchmen are supposed to
>do, in Much Ado About Nothing.
>Dogberry: This is your charge, you shall comprehend all vagrom men,

Thanks, George, I had forgotten this scene and "vagrom" (not in the
OED again until 1863).  I think I have a place to use it myself!

>you are to bid any man stand, in the prince's name.
>Seacoal: How if a will not stand?
>Dogberry: Why then take no note of him. but let him go, . . . and
>thank God you are rid of a knave.

Additional evidence that the law was more carefully enforced in New
England than in old.  (The colonists liked to read about the highway
robberies and (executed) highway robbers of unsafe old
England.  There were no executions for robbery on the highways or
common streets in New England until after the Revolution, by which
time returning colonial soldiers would have observed the poor model
of  the British soldier for obedience to the law.)


>Verger:  If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the
>prince's subjects.
>Act 3, scene 3, from the New Cambridge edition
>George A. Thompson
>Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre",
>Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2009 4:34 pm
>Subject: nightwalking
> > The earliest law in Massachusetts against "nightwalking" that I've
> > found is from 1652, an addition to an act governing the
> > watch.  Records of the Governor and Company, vol. 3 (I believe!), page
> > 282:
> >
> > The constables are ordered to direct their watches that "they duely
> > examine all nightwalkers after ten of the clocke in the night, unles
> > they be knowne to be peaceable inhabitants, to inquire whither they
> > are goeinge,& what theire busines is; & in case of not giving
> > rationall satisfaction to the watchmen or constable, then the
> > constable forthwith to secure them till the morninge, & then the
> > constable to carry such person or persons before the next magistrate
> > or commissionere, or three men, who shall in this case have power, as
> > the commissionors have, to give satisfaction for theire being abroade
> > at that tyme of night; & if the said watchmen shall find any
> > inhabitant or straunger after ten of the clocke at night behaveing
> > themselves in any way *deboyst, or that giveth not a reasonable
> > ground to the cunstable or watchmen, or shalbe in drinke, to secure
> > them by committment, or otherwise, till the law be
> > satisfyed."  [Abbreviations expanded and u -> v.]
> >
> > [* "deboyst" from "deboise, v." = "2. trans. To corrupt morally; to
> > deprave by sensuality; = DEBAUCH v."]
> >
> > Under the second charter, in 1700 a similar law was enacted; it says
> > about behavior, giving up on "deboise"  (Acts and Resolves, vol. 1,
> > page 382):
> >
> > "... or are persons of ill behavior or justly suspected to have any
> > unlawful intention or design".
> >
> >   In Boston -- In some court cases, when breaking and entering could
> > not be proved the defendant was convicted of nightwalking instead
> > (e.g., a case in 1673).  In a 1679 case, the charge was being abroad
> > at unreasonable hours at night and drinking at a house after nine
> > o"clock.  In another case, two men were outdoors in the company of
> > two women at night; they were convicted for refusing to identify the
> > women.  (One can speculate what the four were doing, but there is
> > nothing in the court record.)
> >
> > Joel
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list