Popular Justice : A History of American Criminal Justice by Samuel Walker

The Pillory,
page 3 of 6

Lecture-day, as affording in New England, in the pious community, the largest gathering of reproving spectators, was the day chosen in preference for the performance of public punishment by the pillory. Hawthorne says of the Thursday Lecture: “The tokens of its observance are of a questionable cast. It is in one sense a day of public shame; the day on which transgressors who have made themselves liable to the minor severities of the Puritan law receive their reward of ignominy.” Thus Nicholas Olmstead, in Connecticut, is to “stand on the pillory at Hartford the next lecture-day.” He was to be “sett on a lytle before the beginning and to stay thereon a lytle after the end.”

The disgrace of the pillory clung, though the offence punished was not disgraceful. Thus in the year 1697 a citizen of Braintree, William Veasey, was set in the pillory for ploughing on a Thanksgiving day, which had been appointed in gratitude for the escape of King William from assassination. The stiff old Braintree rebel declared that James II was his rightful king. Five years later Veasey was elected a member of the General Court, but was not permitted to serve as he had been in the pillory.

Throughout the Massachusetts jurisdiction the pillory was in use. In 1671 one Mr. Thomas Withers for “surriptisiously endeavoring to prevent the Providence of God by putting in several votes for himself as an officer at a town meeting” was ordered to stand two hours in the pillory at York, Maine. Shortly after (for he was an ingenious rogue) he was similarly punished for “an irregular way of contribution,” for putting large sums of money into the contribution box in meeting to induce others to give largely, and then again “surriptisiously” taking his gift back again.

There was no offense in the southern colonies more deplored, more reprobated, more legislated against than what was known as “ingrossing, forestalling, or regrating.”

This was what would to-day be termed a brokerage or speculative sale, such as buying a cargo about to arrive, and selling at retail, buying a large quantity of any goods in a market to re-sell, or any form of huckstering.


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