Sunday, January 5, 2014

Massachusetts Mandatory Church Attendance Law, Passed 1782

This is part of a very long and detailed Massachusetts law designed to keep the Sabbath holy, passed in 1782.

No surprise here; the 1780 state constitution directed the legislature to pass a mandatory church attendance law.  There is also a 1785 Massachusetts statute providing for punishment of adultery, polygamy, and lewdness.  (I think of this as the Hollywood law.)


SJ said...

Is this usage of the gallows intended to be capital punishment, or public humiliation?

Clayton Cramer said...

It is a reminder that this crime was formerly capital, and public humiliation. Connecticut's somewhat similar law required those convicted, along with the other punishments, to wear a "halter" (or noose) around the neck when appearing in public for life. A somewhat similar punishment was used in Massachusetts at one time for a guy who was convicted of molesting little girls -- but because there was no penetration, he was not actually guilty of rape.

SJ said...


I guess Nathanael Hawthorne didn't think the imagery of wearing a halter/noose for life was as shocking as a large red "A" for life.