Buggery case: Mingo; Massachusetts, January 29, 1712

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Execution for "forcible buggery"

The diary of Samuel Sewall for January 29, 1712, recorded that a grand jury, meeting at Charlestown, Massachusetts Colony, found reason to arraign "Mingo, alias Cocke Negro, for forcible Buggery."

The following day, January 30, Sewall's diary added tersely:

Try'd the Negro, GOD furnish'd the Court with such a series and Frame of evidence that he was brought in Guilty. Not one word spoken on his behalf. Condemn'd.[1]

On Friday, February 15, Sewall's diary included an entry seemingly referring to Mingo:

Went to Charlestown, and heard Mr. [Simon] Bradstreet [preach] from Provo 24:32 ["Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction"]. He brought it [the meaning of the proverb] down to the [unnamed] Condemned Malefactor then present; [Bradstreet?] had prayed excellently for him before: executed presently after Lecture. Mr. [William] Brattle Pray'd at the place of Execution.

Mingo, or Cocke Negro, a slave of Wait Winthrop, a chief justice of Massachusetts and major-general of the colony's militia, seems to have been executed under the Massachusetts law of 1697, which provided death for "buggery," meaning both bestiality and sodomy.

Sewall's statement that Mingo was guilty of "forcible Buggery" suggests that the crime in this case was non-consensual sodomy (the issue of force versus an implicit consent would probably not have been cited if the case involved bestiality). However, no additional information has been found concerning this charge in the Winthrop Papers, existing newspapers, or Cotton Mather's diary.

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A user of OutHistory.org sent the following data, which needs to be reconciled with the above data, and the full reference provided. There seems to have been more than one Mingo.

Mingo alias Cocho, was tried and convicted for forcible sodomy on a young woman at the sitting of the Superior Court of Judicature for Middlesex County, January 30, 1711/1712:

The jurors for Our Sovereign the Queen upon their Oath say that Mingo, als. Cocho Negro manservant to Captain Jonathan Dowse of Charlestown, mariner did on the 23 July last assault the body of Abigail Dowse, spinster and minor to wit between thirteen and fourteen years and did throw her down entered her body not after the natural use of a Woman, but in a detestable and abominable way of Sodomy, a sin among Christians not to be named.

Mingo pled not guilty but was found guilty. Chief Justice Wait Winthrop pronounced the sentence of death upon him.[2]


  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 127-128, citing Samuel Sewall, The Diary of . . . 1674-1729; Newly Edited from the Manuscript at the Massachusettes Historical Society by M. Halsey Thomas, 2 vols. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973), vol. 2, pp. 677, 678. Additional references to Mingo: vol. I, pp. 388, 446, vol. 2, p. 617. Though "Mingo" may have been a common name for Blacks, the fact that a "Mingo" was mentioned as a mourner at Wait Winthrop's funeral in 1717 suggests that that Mingo was different from the Mingo executed in 1712. Reference to the Massachusetts "buggery" law of 1697, vol. I, p. 380. Jonathan Ned Katz thanks Robert Joyce, Jr. for informing him of this document.
  2. Superior Court of Judicature and Goal Delivery, volume 1700-1714, page 269.
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