On August 6, 1637, a Plymouth court pronounced its cruel judgement on John Allexander & Thomas Roberts for what seems to have been mutual jerk-off sessions.
The Puritan (Pilgrim) founders of Plymouth provide another example — as if we need more — of the cruelty, injustice and utter stupidity inherent in laws based on religion and superstition.
The Puritans emigrated to North America after first fleeing religious persecution in England for Holland. Proudly democratic, the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ nevertheless denied the vote to women and indentured servants. As the name suggests, the Puritans thought themselves very moral beings. So, they based their laws on the Christian Bible with an emphasis on the Old Testament. Hence, cruel punishments following trials riddled with superstitious mumbo-jumbo.
After initially operating on an unwritten code of moral conduct, the Puritan colony at Plymouth formalised written laws in 1636.
Sodomy, rape, and bestiality became ‘capital offences lyable to death’. Lesser sexual offences, ‘ffornication and other uncleane carriages’, attracted a range of punishments including whipping, banishment, and branding.
John Allexander & Thomas Roberts
John Allexander & Thomas Roberts found themselves before the magistrates within a year of the code’s introduction. As a ‘freeman’, John Allexander enjoyed voting rights and owned land. But indentured servants like Thomas Roberts worked for years for room and board on the promise of land at the end of their contract.
The magistrates noted in their judgement that John Allexander was notorious for soliciting other men for sex. Curious then that he never faced any prior censure. Perhaps, the colonists were unsure what to do about him before the advent of formal written laws.
And there was no evidence of anal sex. According to the evidence of a witness, and by their own confession, their sexual relationship consisted of ‘often spending their seed one upon another’.
The court nevertheless imposed a cruel punishment.
“The said John Allexander was therefore censured by the Court to be severely whipped, and burnt in the shoulder with a hot iron, and to be perpetually banished [from] Plymouth, and if he be at any time found within the same, to be whipped out again…
“Thomas Roberts was censured to be severely whipped, and to return to his master, Mr Atwood, and serve out his time with him, but to be disabled hereby to enjoy any lands within this government, except he manifest better desert.”
In addition to the whipping, the verdict condemned Thomas Roberts to years of work with no consequent reward.
Although cruelly punished, John Allexander got off lighter than Thomas Saddeler in 1681. Magistrates convicted Saddeler of trying to ride a horse bareback — no saddle — and yes, that means sex. Among other punishments, he was sentenced to branding on the forehead. While Allexander could cover his brand with a shirt, Saddeler either went through life forever marked as a horse-f_cker, or grew a fringe.
Thankfully, no one ever suffered execution for sodomy in Plymouth. The only person hanged for a sexual crime was 16-year-old Thomas Granger for bestiality. A lady excused from church on Sunday because of illness caught the lad buggering a horse. On the Sabbath, no less!
Under interrogation, Thomas admitted to bestial acts with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey.
As per Leviticus, the law required him to witness his sexual partners’ executions before following them onto the gallows.
But there was a problem.
“And whereas some of the sheep could not so well be known by his description of them, others with them were brought before him and he declared which were they and which were not.”
It’s so ridiculous as to be hysterically funny but for the deaths of the blameless animals and a silly kid. (Sorry, not the goats. By kid, I mean Thomas Granger.)
A line-up to identify adulterous ewes! It’s like a scene from Blackadder with Edmund making jokes about Thomas being well hung and Baldrick flirtatiously donning a sheep rug in hope of his master’s affection.
But it gets worse.
In New Haven, another Puritan township, magistrates imprisoned Thomas Hogg on suspicion of sex with a…
Thomas worked for a woman whose sow gave birth to a deformed fetus. And guess what? The fetus ‘had a faire & white skinne & head, as Thomas Hoggs is’.
Well, that settles that. Case closed. Guilty as charged.
But no. The magistrates decided to investigate further.
“[They] accompanied Hogg to the barnyard and ordered him to scratt (fondle) the sow in question. Immedyatly, there appeared a working of lust in the sow.”
During their investigation, the magistrates discovered that Hogg once stole a dumpling and some cheese. They ordered him imprisoned and whipped but the investigation into his supposed bestiality lapsed, and he was later released.
No wonder then that modern democratic states ideally feature the separation of church and state. Superstition and individual religious beliefs have no place in the laws of the land. Preachers should stick to their pulpits and stay out of parliaments. Who other consenting adults choose to f_ck, is none of their f_cking business.
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