Tuesday, May 6, 2014

At Hening's Laws of Virginia 12:531, a 1787 statute:

Yes, execution for kidnapping and selling free persons as slaves.

5 comments:

David-2 said...

"... death without benefit of clergy" is kind of interesting - was it common to distinguish "death with benefit of clergy" from "death without benefit of clergy"? Or was there only "without"? If both punishments existed what distinguished crimes punished by "death without" from those punished by "death with"?

Clayton Cramer said...

The distinction of "benefit of clergy" meant that if you could prove that could read and write, you would enjoy the "benefit of clergy," avoiding execution. This is obsolete by this time, although I understand as late as the 1790s, there is a case in Kentucky or Tennessee where the "benefit of clergy" was used by someone who was not, but demonstrated an ability to read. Bizarre leftovers.

David-2 said...

Avoiding execution!?!

Boy, was I on the wrong track! I thought it might have meant that some crimes were so heinous they wouldn't even allow you to be comforted by a priest at the end!

Minicapt said...

The 'benefit of clergy' was the presumption that, if you could read and write, you must be a member of the clergy and therefore subject to Church law, not common law. I would understand this use in the law to be a traditional boiler-place phrase to prohibit such use of the 'clergy test' to to void the charges.

Cheers

Clayton Cramer said...

The literacy provision disappears about 1706, replaced with a "first time offender get branding in the thumb" but usually this was not available for the most serious crimes, such as murder or rape.