Showing posts with label Puritan law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Puritan law. Show all posts

Thursday, August 7, 2014

John Greenleaf Whittier Letter to decline Endicott celebraton 1878

John Greenleaf Whittier dodges Gov John Endicott ceremony in Salem Massachusetts. His letter to George M Whipple is posted below From September 22 1878 New York Times Archives

Thomas Macy court dealings with Puritans and Edward Wharton Source This year several persons were prosecuted and fined for violating the law of 1657, which prohibited ‘entertaining quakers.’ Among them was Thomas Macy, one of the first settlers of Newbury, but at this time a resident in Salisbury. Complaint having been made against him, he was summoned to appear before the general court, to answer the charges preferred against him. Instead of complying with the requisition, he sent a letter, of which the following is a copy. More on Quaker Persecutions
‘This is to entreat the honored court not to be offended because of my non-appearance. It is not from any slighting the authority of this honored court, nor from feare to answer the case, but I have bin for some weeks past very ill, and am so at present, and notwithstanding my illness, yet I, desirous to appear, have done my utmost endeavour to hire a horse, but cannot procure one at present. I being at present destitute have endeavoured to purchase, but at present cannot attaine it, but I shall relate the truth of the case as my answer should be to ye honored court, and more cannot be proved, nor so much. On a rainy morning there came to my house Edward Wharton and three men more; the said Wharton spoke to me saying that they were traveling eastward, and desire me to direct them in the way to Hampton, and asked me how far it was to Casco bay. I never saw any of ye men afore except Wharton, neither did I require their names, or who they were, byt by their carriage I thought they might b e quakers and told them so, and therefore desired them to passe on their way, saying to them I might possibly give offence in entertaining them, and as soone as the violence of the rain ceased (for it rained very hard) they went away, and I never saw them since. The time that they stayed int he house was about three quarters of an hour, but I can safely affirme it was not an houre. They spake not many word in the time, neither was I at leisure to talke with them for I came home wet to ye skin immediately afore they came to the house, and I found my wife sick in bed. If this satisfie not the honored court, I shall subject to their sentence: I have not willingly offended. I am ready to serve and obey you in the Lord,’
Tho. Macy [Essex County Court files]
Notwithstanding this explanation and apology, he was fined thirty shillings, and was ordered to be admonished by the governor, for ‘entertaining quakers,’ two of whom, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson, were hung in Boston, December twenty-seventh, 1659. Tradition informs us, that Thomas Macy immediately after his sentence, took an open boat, and with his wife and children, went to Nantucket, was one of the first English settlers in that island, and there resided the remainder of his life. An amusing ballad, founded on the above-mentioned incidents, was written by the poet J.G. Whittier, and published some years ago in a Philadelphia annual.
A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers: For the Testimony of a Good Conscience from the Time of Their Being First Distinguished by that Name in the Year 1650 to the Time of the Act Commonly Called the Act of Toleration Granted to Protestant Dissenters in the First Year of the Reign of King William the Third and Queen Mary in the Year 1689, Volume 2 
From  The history of the rise, increase, and progress, of the Christian people called Quakers

                                                   George M Whipple House in Salem
From [Gov. Endicott; Massachusetts; G. Whittier; Salem; Mass.,] Monday, September 23, 1878 Cincinnati Daily Gazette (Cincinnati, OH)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A fashion war in the Colonies

From my Newburyport Daily News article A fashion war in the Colonies

Our Puritan ancestors’ actions reveal that human nature is no different today. In the Bay Colony, leaders and church officials forged a campaign of rigid scrutiny, censoring the lifestyle and habits of everyday citizens. Simplicity in dress was the law, but like any other infringement on personal liberties carried out in the name of God, these sanctions would not go down without a struggle. A fashion war raged, and it seems that the Legislature could no more ban fashion plates than it could heretics or tipplers.

The men of the cloth pleaded to Governor Winthrop to repress “men of leisure and power” who emulated London fashions, saturating the pure terrain. These “horrids of vanity” caused “alarm and disgust among the pious families.” To remedy this, “The Simple Cobler of Aggawam” (Rev. Ward) targeted the colony’s ladies, stating they had “no true grace or valuable virtue” if they “disfigure themselves with such exotic garbs” and are no better than “French flirts.”

The holy rollers used sermons to blame these so-called “haughty women” for wars and bad harvest. The magistrates began enforcing sumptuary laws that prevented extravagance by limiting clothing expenditures. “Immodest fashions” with lace, silver and gold thread and other “items of adornment” that had “little use or benefit, but to the nourishment of pride,” were strictly forbidden, as were “slashed apparel, great sleeves, great boots, ribbon, and double ruffs.” Despite a fashion boycott, garments of splendor and other wearable loot poured in — historical records show that our ancestors in and around the Port were quite stylish.

The most notorious of the Vanity Fair, Madame Rebecka Symonds, widow of Deputy Governor Samuel Symonds, was always starving for the newest trends, and she had the means and the connections to stock her trunks. Family letters indicate her appetite for finery. Her son, John Hall, a wealthy London merchant, dutifully supplied her with the latest and most glamorous garb. Apparently, Madame was more worried about catching the plague than tweaking the noses of local lawmen. Her luxury booty arrived with correspondence from Hall assuring her that he purchased the “finery himself, in safe shops, from reliable dealers, and kept all for a month in his own home where none had been infected.” Though her garments carried no contagious germs, Madame was surely dressed to kill that season.

Judge Samuel Sewall, on the prowl for a wife, set his sights on Martha Ruggles and wrote to her brother Thomas Woodbridge, noting fond memories of her great style: I remember when I was going from school at Newbury, I sometimes met Mary, at the end of Mrs. Noyes’s Lane, coming from their School at Chandler’s Lane, in Hanging Sleeves ... “ Martha was not impressed — this fellow was never going to get under her sleeves. After she rejected his two proposals, he moved on to woo Widow Gibbs.

While the genteel usually got a minor shunning for their extravagance, for Colonists with a yearly income of less than 200 pounds, wearing the style of polite society was criminal. To give falsehood of your station in the Puritan Republic was against God’s law. The General Court announced their “utter detestation and dislike” that “over-proud commoners” of “mean condition, education and callings should take upon them the garb of gentlemen.”

Infractions resulted in punishment and fines. Tailors were forbidden from making garments “contrary to the mind and order of the Governors,” and if the grand jurors failed to bring indictments against guilty persons, the courts would impose fines on them. In 1652, Jonas Fairbanks and Robert Edwards were charged for wearing “great boots,” a cavalier fashion of excessive leather. John Chubb was admonished for “excess in apparel, beyond that of a man of his degree.” Additional records from the Quarterly Courts of 1653 regarding Newbury residents include:

Wife(s) of John Hutchings, Thomas Harris, Thomas Wayte and Edward Browne, presented for wearing a silk hood, all discharged testimony being brought up above the ordinary rank and upon proof of education.

Wife(s) of Nicholas Noyes and Hugh March, John Whipple presented for silk hood and scarves, but discharged for being worth 200 pounds.

Wife(s) of William Chandlour and Joseph Swett’s fined ten shillings for wearing a silk hood. Agnes, wife of Deacon Knight, presented for wearing a silk hood, discharged, her husband being worth above 200. (This troubled the good deacon exceedingly, and induced him to solicit Mr. Rawson to send a letter to one of the magistrates at Salem.)

Bridget Bishop, who was the first of the accused to be executed as a witch in Salem, may be the last infamous mention of illicit fashion in Puritan New England. Her famous “scarlet paragon bodice” did not directly cause her death, but it certainly helped lure the judgmental Puritan hordes to her doorstep. Many like Bishop just would not conform, nor be controlled — it is simply not New England’s style!

A big thank-you to historian Richard Trask for outfitting the material on the way we wore!