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William Bradford (1588-1657), [Bradford's History] "Of Plimoth Plantation (Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., State Printers, 1900), 459-66, 473-75.

[*459] Anno Dom: 1642.

Marvilous it may be to see and consider how some kind of wickednes did grow & breake forth here, in a land wher the same was so much witnesed against, and so narrowly looked unto, & severly punished when it was knowne; as in no place more, or so much, that I have known or heard of; insomuch as they have been somewhat censured, even by moderate and good men, for their severitie in punishments. And yet all this could not suppress ye breaking out of sundrie notorious sins, (as this year, besids other, gives us too many sad presidents and instances,) espetially drunkennes and unclainnes; not only incontinencie betweene persons unmaried, for which many both men & women have been punished sharply enough, but some maried persons allso. But that which is worse, even sodomie and bugerie, (things fearfull to name,) have broak forth in this land, oftener then once. I say it may justly be marveled at, and cause us to fear & tremble at the consideration of our corrupte natures, which are so hardly bridled, subdued, & mortified; nay, cannot by any other means but ye powerfull worke & grace of Gods spirite. But (besids this) one reason may be, that ye Divell may carrie a greater spite against the churches of Christ and ye gospell hear, by how much ye more they indeaour to preserve holynes and puritie amongst them, and strictly punisheth the contrary when it ariseth either in church or comone wealth; that he might cast a [242] blemishe & staine upon them in ye eyes of [ye] world, who use to be rash in judgmente. I would rather thinke thus, then that Satane hath more power in these heathen lands, as som have thought, then in more Christian nations, espetially over Gods servants in them.

2. An other reason may be, that it may be in this case as it is with waters when their streames are stopped or damed up, when they gett passage they flow with more violence, and make more noys and disturbance, then when they are suffered to rune quietly in their owne chanels. So wikednes being here more stopped by strict laws, and ye same more nerly looked unto, so as it cannot [*460] rune in a comone road of liberty as it would, and is inclined, it searches every wher, and at last breaks out wher it getts vente.

3. A third reason may be, hear (as I am verily perswaded) is not more evills in this kind, nor nothing nere so many by proportion, as in other places; but they are here more discoverd and seen, and made publick by due serch, inquisition, and due punishment; for ye churches looke narrowly to their members, and ye magistrats over all, more strictly then in other places. Besids, here the people are but few in comparison of other places, which are full & populous, and lye hid, as it were, in a wood or thickett, and many horrible evills by yt means are never seen nor knowne; wheras hear, they are, as it were, brought into ye light, and set in ye plaine feeld, or rather on a hill, made conspicuous to ye veiw of all.

But to proceede; there came a letter from ye Govr in ye Bay to them here, touching matters of ye fore-mentioned nature which because it may be usefull I shall hear relate it, and ye passages ther aboute.

Sr: Having an opportunitie to signifie ye desires of our Generall Court in toow things of spetiall importance, I willingly take this occasion to imparte them to you, yt you may imparte them to ye rest of your magistrats, and also to your Elders, for counsell; and give us your advise in them. The first is concerning heinous offences in point of uncleannes; the perticuler cases, with ye circomstances, and ye questions ther upon, you have hear inclosed. The 2. thing is concerning ye Ilanders at Aquidnett; yt seeing the cheefest of them are gone from us, in offences, either to churches, or comone welth, or both; others are dependants on them, and ye best sorte are such as close with them in all their rejections of us. Neither is it only in a faction yt they are devided from us,but in very deed they rend them selves from all ye true churches of Christ, and, many of them, from all ye powers of majestracie. We have had some [*461] experience hereof by some of their underworkers, or emissaries, who have latly come amongst us, and have made publick defiance against magistracie, ministrie, churches, & church covenants, &c. As antichristian; secretly also sowing ye seeds of Familisme, and Anabaptistrie, to ye infection of some, and danger of others; so that we are not willing to joyne with them in any league or confederacie at all, but rather that you would consider & advise with us how we may avoyd them, and keep ours from being infected by them. Another thing I should mention to you, for ye maintenance of ye trad of beaver; if ther be not a company to order it in every jurisdition among ye English, which companies should agree in generall of their way in trade, I supose that ye trade will be overthrowne, and ye Indeans will abuse us. For this cause we have latly put it into order amongst us, hoping of incouragmente from you (as we have had) yt we may continue ye same. Thus not further to trouble you, I rest, with my loving remembrance to your selfe, &c.

Your loving friend,

Ri: Bellingham.

Boston, 28. (1.) 1642.

The note inclosed follows on ye other side.

[244] Worthy & beloved Sr:

Your letter (with ye questions inclosed) I have comunicated with our Assistants, and we have refered ye answer of them to such Reved Elders as are amongst us, some of whose answers thertoo we have here sent you inclosed, under their owne hands; from ye rest we have not received any. Our farr distance hath bene ye reason of this long delay, as also yt they could not conferr their counsells togeather. [*462]

For our selves, (you know our breedings & abillities,) we rather desire light from your selves, & others, whom God hath better inabled, then to presume to give our judgments in cases so difficulte and of so high a nature. Yet under correction, and submission to better judgments, we propose this one thing to your prudent considerations. As it seems to us, in ye case even of willfull murder, that though a man did smite or wound an other, with a full pourpose or desire to kill him, (wch is murder in a high degree, before God,) yet if he did not dye, the magistrate was not to take away ye others life. So by proportion in other grosse & foule sines, though high attempts & nere approaches to ye same be made, and such as in the sight & account of God may be as ill as ye accomplishmente of ye foulest acts of yt sine, yet we doute whether it may be safe for ye magistrate to proceed to death; we thinke, upon ye former grounds, rather he may not. As, for instance, in ye case of adultrie, (if it be admitted yt it is to be punished wth death, which to some of us is not cleare,) if ye body be not actually defiled, then death is not to be inflicted. So in sodomie, & beastialitie, if ther be not penetration. Yet we confess foulnes of circomstances, and frequencie in ye same, doth make us remaine in ye darke, and desire further light from you, or any, as God shall give.

As for ye 2. thing, concerning ye Ilanders? we have no conversing with them, nor desire to have, furder then necessitie or humanity may require.

And as for trade? we have as farr as we could ever therin held an orderly course, & have been sory to see ye spoyle therof by others, and fear it will hardly be recovered. But in these, or any other things which may concerne ye comone good, we shall be willing to advise & concure with you in what we may. Thus wth [*463] my love remembered to your selfe, and ye rest of our worthy friends, your Assistants, I take leave, & rest,

Your loving friend,


Plim: 17. 3. Month, 1642.

Now follows ye ministers answers. And first Mr. Reynors.

Qest: What sodmiticall acts are to be punished with death, & what very facte (ipso facto) is worthy of death, or, if ye fact it selfe be not capitall, what circomstances concurring may make it capitall?

Ans: In ye judiciall law (ye moralitie wherof concerneth us) it is manyfest yt carnall knowledg of man, or lying wth man, as with woman, cum penetratione corporis, was sodomie, to be punished with death; what els can be understood by Levit: 18. 22. & 20. 13. & Gen: 19. 5? 2ly. It seems allso yt this foule sine might be capitall, though ther was not penitratio corporis, but only contactus & fricatio usq ad effusionem seminis, for these reasons: [245] 1. Because it was sin to be punished with death, Levit. 20. 13. In ye man who was lyen withall, as well as in him yt lyeth with him; now his sin is not mitigated wher ther is not penitration, nor augmented wher it is; wheras its charged upon ye women, yt they were guilty of this unnaturall sine, as well as men, Rom. 1. 26. 27. Ye same thing doth furder apeare, 2. Because of yt proportion betwexte this sin & beastialitie, wherin if a woman did stand before, or aproach to, a beast, for yt end, to lye downe therto, (whether penetration was or not,) it was capitall, Levit: 18. 23. & 20. 16. 3ly. Because something els might be equivalent to penetration wher it had not been, viz. ye fore mentioned acts with frequencie and long continuance with a high hand, utterly extinguishing all light of nature; besids, full intention and bould attempting of ye foulest acts may seeme to have been capitall here, as well as coming presumptuously to slay with guile was capitall. Exod: 21. 14. [*464]

Yet it is not so manyfest yt ye same acts were to be punished with death in some other sines of uncleannes, wth yet by ye law of God were capitall crimes; besids other reasons, (1.) because sodomie, & also beastialitie, is more against ye light of nature then some other capitall crimes of unclainnes, which reason is to be attended unto, as yt which most of all made this sin capitall; (2.) because it might be comited with more secrecie & less suspition, & therfore needed ye more to be restrained & suppresed by ye law; (3ly) because ther was not ye like reason & degree of sining against family & posteritie in this sin as in some other capitall sines of uncleannes.

2. Quest: How farr a magistrate may extracte a confession from a delinquente, to acuse him selfe of a capitall crime, seeing Nemo tenetur prodere seipsum.

Ans: A majestrate cannot without sin neglecte diligente inquision into ye cause brought before him. Job 29. 16. Pro: 24. 11. 12. & 25. 2. (2ly.) If it be manifest yt a capitall crime is committed, & yt comone reporte, or probabilitie, suspition, or some complainte, (or ye like,) be of this or yt person, a magistrate ought to require, and by all due means to procure from ye person (so farr allready bewrayed) a naked confession of ye fact, as apears by yt which is morall & of perpetuall equitie, both in ye case of uncertaine murder, Deut: 21. 1. 9. And slander, Deut: 22. 13. 21; for though nemo tenetur prodere seipsum, yet by that wch may be known to ye magistrat by ye forenamed means, he is bound thus to doe, or els he may betray his countrie & people to ye heavie displeasure of God, Levit: 18. 24. 25. Jos: 22. 18. Psa: 106. 30; such as are inocente to ye sinfull, base, cruell lusts of ye profane, & such as are delinquents, and others with them, into ye hands of ye stronger temptations, & more bouldness, & hardnes of harte, to comite more & worse villany, besids all ye guilt & hurt he will bring upon him selfe. (3ly.) To inflicte some punishmente meerly for this reason, to extracte a conffession of a capitall crime, is contrary to ye nature of vindictive justice, which always hath [*465] respecte to a know crime comitited by ye person punished; and it will therfore, for any thing which can before be knowne, be ye

provocking and forcing of wrath, compared to ye wringing of ye nose, Pro: 30. 33. which is as well forbiden ye fathers of ye countrie as of ye family, Ephe. 6. 4. as produsing many sad & dangerous effects. That an oath (ex officio) for such a purpose is no due means, hath been abundantly proved by ye godly learned, & is well known.

Q. 3. In what cases of capitall crimes one witnes with other circomstances shall be sufficiente to convince? or is ther no conviction without 2. witneses?

Ans: In taking away ye life of man, one witnes alone will not suffice, ther must be tow, or yt which is instar; ye texts are manifest, Numb: 35. 30 Deut: 17. 6. & 19. 15. 2ly. Ther may be conviction by one witnes, & some thing yt hath ye force of another, as ye evidencie of ye fact done by such an one, & not an other; unforced confession when ther was no fear or danger of suffering for ye fact, hand writings acknowledged & confessed.

John Reynor. *** [*473]

Besids ye occation before mentioned in these writings (concerning the abuse of those 2. children,) they had aboute ye same time a case of buggerie fell out amongst them, which occasioned these questions, to which these answers have been made.

And after ye time of ye writig of these things befell a very sadd accidente of the like foule nature in this govermente, this very year, which I shall now relate. Ther was a youth whose name was Thomas Granger; he was servant to an honest man of Duxbery, being aboute 16. Or 17. years of age. (His father & mother lived at the same time at Sityate.) He was this year detected of buggery (and indicted for ye same) with a mare, a cowe, tow goats, five sheep, 2. calves and a turkey. Horrible [249] it is to mention, but ye truth of ye historie requires it. He was first discovered by one yt accidentally saw his lewd practise towards the mare. (I forbear perticulers.) Being upon it examined and comitted, in ye end he not only confest ye fact with the beast at that time, but sundrie times before, and at severall times with all ye rest of ye forenamed in his indictmente; and this his free-confession was not only in private to ye magistrats, [*474] (though at first he strived to deney it,) but to sundrie, both ministers & others, and afterwards, upon his indictmente, to ye whole court & jury; and confirmed it at his execution. And wheras some of ye sheep could not so well be knowne by his description of them, others with them were brought before him, and he declared which were they, and which were not.

And accordingly he was cast by ye jury, and condemned, and after executed about ye 8. Of Septr, 1642. A very sade spectakle it was; for first the mare, and the yecowe, and ye rest of ye lesser catle, were kild before his face, according to ye law, Levit: 20. 15. and then he him selfe was executed. The catle were all cast into a great & large pitte that was digged of purposs for them, and no use made of any part of them.

Upon ye examenation of this person, and also of a former that had made some sodomiticall attempts upon another, it being demanded of them how they came first to ye knowledge and practice of such wickednes, the one confessed he had long used it in old England; and this youth last spoaken of said he was taught it by an other that had heard of such things from some in England when he was ther, and they kept catle togeather. By which it appears how one wicked person may infecte many; and what care all ought to have what servants they bring into their families.

But it may be demanded how came it to pass that so many wicked persons and profane people should so quickly come over into this land, & mixe them selves amongst them? seeing it was religious men yt begane ye work, and they came for religious sake. I confess this may be marveilled at, at least in time to come, when the reasons therof should not be knowne; and ye more because here was so many hardships and wants mett withall. I shall therfore indeavor to give some answer hereunto. And first, according to yt in ye gospell, it is ever to be remembred that wher ye [*475] Lord begins to sow good seed, ther ye envious man will endeavore to sow tares. 2. Men being to come over into a wildernes, in which much labour & servise was to be done aboute building & planting, &c., such as wanted help in yt respecte, when they could not have such as yey would, were glad to take such as they could; and so, many untoward servants, sundry of them proved, that were thus brought over, both men & women kind; who, when their times were expired, became families of them selves, which gave increase hereunto. 3. An other and a maine reason hearof was, that men, finding so many godly disposed persons willing to come into these parts, some begane to make a trade of it, to transeport passengers & their goods, and hired ships for that end; and then, then, to make up their fraight and advance their profite, cared not who ye persons were, so they had money to pay them. And by this means the cuntrie became pestered with many unworthy persons, who, being come over, crept into one place or other. 4. Againe, the Lords blesing usually following his people, as well in outward as spirituall things, (though afflictions be mixed with-all,) doe make many to adhear to ye people of God, as many followed Christ, for ye loaves sake, Iohn 6. 26. And a mixed multitud came into ye willdernes with ye people of God out of Eagipte of old, Exod. 12. 38; so allso ther were sente by their freinds some under hope yt they would be made better; others that they might be easd of such burthens, and they kept from shame at home yt would necessarily follow their dissolute courses. And thus, by one means or other, in 20. years time, it is a question whether ye greater part be not growne ye worser.



Of Plimouth Plantation
2009.  Thomas D. Russell
Last modified:  18 November 2009