Discipline & Punish

The Pillory,
page 5 of 6

Mr. Channing wrote an interesting account of the Newport of the early years of this century. He says of crimes and criminals in that town at that time:

“The public modes of punishment established by law were four, viz.: executions by hanging, whipping of men at the cart-tail, whipping of women in the jail-yard, and the elevation of counterfeiters and the like to a movable pillory, which turned on its base so as to front north, south, east and west in succession, remaining at each point a quarter of an hour. During this execution of the majesty of the law the neck of the culprit was bent to a most uncomfortable curve, presenting a facial mark for those salutations of stale eggs which seemed to have been preserved for the occasion. The place selected for the infliction of this punishment was in front of the State House.”

A conviction and sentence in Newport in 1771 was thus reported in the daily newspapers, among others the Essex Gazette of April 23:

“William Carlisle was convicted of passing Counterfeit Dollars, and sentenced to stand One Hour in the Pillory on Little-Rest Hill, next Friday, to have both Ears cropped, to be branded on both Cheeks with the Letter R, to pay a fine of One Hundred Dollars and Cost of Prosecution, and to stand committed till Sentence performed.”

Severe everywhere were the punishments awarded to counterfeiters. The Continental bills bore this line: “To counterfeit this bill is Death.” In 1762 Jeremiah Dexter of Walpole, for passing on two counterfeit dollars, “knowing them to be such,” stood in the pillory for an hour; another rogue, for the same offense, had his ears cropped.

Mr. Samuel Breck, speaking of methods of punishment in his boyhood in Boston, in 1771, said:

“A little further up State Street was to be seen the pillory with three or four fellows fastened by the head and hands, and standing for an hour in that helpless posture, exposed to gross and cruel jeers from the multitude, who pelted them constantly with rotten eggs and every repulsive kind of garbage that could be collected.”

Instances of punishment in Boston by the pillory of both men and women are many. In the Boston Post-Boy of February, 1763, I read:


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