History of Punishment & Torture

Branding and Maiming,
page 2 of 6

Quaker women were punished with equal ferocity. Bishop says of Mary Clark:

“Her tender Body ye unmercifully tore with twenty stripes of a three-fold-corded-knotted whip; as near as the Hangman could all in one place, fetching his Stroaks with the greatest Strength & Advantage.”

The constables of twelve Massachusetts and New Hampshire towns were notified of four “rougue and vagabond Quakers “named Anna Coleman, Mary Tompkins, Alice Andrews and Alice Ambrose.

“You are enjoined to make them fast to the cart-tail & draw them through your several towns, and whip them on their naked backs not exceeding ten stripes in each town, and so convey them from Constable to Constable on your Perill?”

These women were whipped until the blood ran down their shoulders and breasts, and the men of the town of Salisbury rose in righteous wrath and tore them away from the cart and the constables. Quakers were ordered never to return after being banished from any town. In the “Massachusetts Colonial Records” of the year 1657 read the penalty for disobediently returning:

“A Quaker if male for the first offense shall have one of his eares cutt off; for the second offense have his other eare cutt off; a woman shalbe severely whipt; for the third offense they, he or she, shall have their tongues bored through with a hot iron.”

They were also to be branded with the letter R on the right shoulder. They were called “blasphemous hereticks” by the magistrates, and any who read books of their “devilish opinions” were to be punished with severity. New York and Virginia were likewise intolerant and cruel to the Quakers, but were less visited by them than Massachusetts.

In the despotism of early Virginia, under the Code of Martial Law established by Sir Thomas Dale, the fierceness of punishment was appalling; possibly the arbitrariness was necessary to control the turbulent community, but the cruelty shocked Dale’s successor, Governor Yeardly, who proclaimed that the “cruel laws by which the Ancient Planters had been governed” should be abolished.


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