The History of Punishment

Punishments of Authors and Books,
page 7 of 8

Here women were taken in a huge cage in which they were dragged on wheels from prison, and tied to the post with bare backs on which thirty or forty lashes were bestowed among the screams of the culprit and the uproar of the mob.”

The diary of a Boston school-girl of twelve, little Anna Green Winslow, written the same year as Mr. Breck’s account, gives a detailed account of the career of one Bet Smith, through workhouse and gaol to whipping-post, and thence to be “set on the gallows where she behaved with great impudence.”

Criminals were sentenced in lots. On September 9, 1787, in one Boston court one burglar was sentenced to be hanged, five thieves to be whipped, two greater thieves to be set on the gallows, and one counterfeiter set on the pillory.

Cowper’s account of the tender-hearted beadle is supplemented by a similiar peformance in Boston as shown in a Boston paper of August 11, 1789. Eleven culprits were to receive in one day the “discipline of the post.” Another criminal was obtained by the Sheriff to inflict the punishment, but he persisted in being “tender of strokes,” though ordered by the Sheriff to lay on. At last the Sheriff seized the whip and lashed the whipper, then turned to the row of ninepins and delivered the lashes. “The citizens who were assembled complimented the Sheriff with three cheers for the manly determined manner in which he executed his duty.”

So common were whippings in the southern colonies at the date of settlement of the country, that in Virginia even “launderers and launderesses” who “dare to wash any uncleane Linen, drive bucks, or throw out the water or suds of fowle clothes in the open streetes,” or who took pay for washing for a soldier or laborer, or who gave old torn linen for good linen, were severely whipped. Many other offenses were punished by whipping in Virginia, such as slitting the ears of hogs, or cutting off the ends of hogs’ ears - thereby removing ear-marks and destroying claim to perambulatory property - stealing tobacco, running away from home, drunkenness, destruction of land-marks; and in 1664 Major Robins brought suit against one Mary Powell for “scandalous speaches” against Rev. Mr. Teackle, for which she was ordered to receive twenty lashes on her bare shoulders and to be banished the country.


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