Legal case: boys; Massachusetts Bay, June 29, 1629

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"5 beastly Sodomitical boys"

The Reverend Francis Higgeson' s journal of his trip to New England on board the ship Talbot reported : "This day we examined 5 beastly Sodomitical boys, which confessed their wickedness not to be named." "The fact was so foul," said Higgeson, "we reserved them to be punished by the governor when we came to new England." The governor, he said, afterwards sent the boys "back to the company to be punished in old England as the crime deserved."[1]


On September 29 the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony assigned two members to acquaint a director of the Massachusetts Bay Company in England with the boys' misdemeanor,

and advise what punishment may be inflicted upon them, and how the Company may be legally discharged of them.

In England, sodomy was at this time a crime for which males over fourteen could be hanged. The boys' fate is unknown.


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References

  1. "Francis Higgeson' s Journal, . . ." in The Founding of Massachusetts (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1930), p. 71. On the General Court: Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, ed. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (Boston: Wm. White, 1853-54), vol. I, pp. 52, 54 (courts of Sept. 19 and 29, 1629). On hanging: Edwin Powers, Crime and Punishment in Early Massachusetts: 1620-1692 (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966 ), p. 43.


This entry is part of the featured exhibit Colonial America: The Age of Sodomitical Sin curated by Jonathan Ned Katz. As it is content created by a named author, editor, or curator, it is not open to editing by the general public. But we strongly encourage you to discuss the content or propose edits on the discussion page, and the author, editor, or curator will make any changes that improve the entry or its content. Thanks.


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