Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jeremy Bangs on Geoffrey Stone

Friend-of-the-blog Dr. Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, author of the new Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners---Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation, sends along an objection to Prof. Geoffrey R. Stone's reading of history:

Professor Stone wrote, "In 1636, for example, only sixteen years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, they adopted the 'judicials of Moses,' which provided that any person 'shall be put to death' who 'shall have or worship any other God, but the Lord God.'

The 1636 constitution of Plymouth Colony is published in:
David Pulsifer (ed.), Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, Printed by Order of the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Laws, 1623-1682.
Boston: William White, 1861.
constitution of 1636, pp. 6-26.

Nowhere in it is found the text or sentiment given by Professor Stone. Instead, the following general statement (spelling modernized):

p. 12: "That all trials whether Capital or between man & man be tried by Juries according to the precedents of the law of England as near as may be."
...

Capital offences liable to death.
Treason or rebellion against the person of the King State or Common wealth either of England or these Colonies.
Willful Murder.
Solemn Compaction or conversing with the devil by way of witchcraft conjuration or the like.
Willful & purposed burning of ships houses.
Sodomy, rapes, buggery."

Religious disagreement was not a capital offense.

p. 57-8:
6 June 1651
"It is ordered
That Whatsoever person or persons shall neglect the frequenting the public worship of God that is according to God in the places where they live or do assemble themselves upon any pretence whatsoever in any way contrary to God and the allowance of the government tending to the subversion of Religion and churches or palpable profanation of Gods holy ordinances being duly convicted; videlecet every one that is a master or dame of a family or any other person at their own disposing to pay ten shillings for every such default.

It is ordered That if any in any lazy slothful or profane way doth neglect to come to the public worship of God shall forfeit for every such default ten shillings or be publicly whipped."

[repealed also in 1651, p. 99-100]

p. 64
5 June 1655
"It was Enacted That such as shall deny the Scriptures to be a rule of life shall receive Corporal punishment according to the discretion of the Magistrate so as it shall not extend to life or Limb."


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Late add---To several objections in the comments section, Dr. Bangs replies:



There is an important difference between Plymouth Colony (Pilgrims, "Mayflower," and the mythical Plymouth Rock landing) and that colony's laws of 1636 mentioned by Stone, on the one hand, and, on the other, Massachusetts Bay Colony (Puritans, Winthrop, et al.) and laws there in 1641 or in the colony of New Haven. To conflate the three may result in a convenient and usable narrative leading up to an admirable Enlightenment, but such oversimplification of colonial attitudes remains historically inaccurate.

7 comments:

Jonathan Rowe said...

I'm going to go work out. So I have time to touch this a little.

But THIS is no doubt, what Stone is referring to. He may have gotten the dates wrong (this was from 1641) but not the rule of law.

http://history.hanover.edu/texts/masslib.html

94. Capitall Laws.

1.

(Deut. 13. 6, 10. Deut. 17. 2, 6. Ex. 22.20)
If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.

2.

(Ex. 22. 18. Lev. 20. 27. Dut. 18. 10.)
If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit,) They shall be put to death.

3.

(Lev. 24. 15,16.)
If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death.

Pinky said...

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John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts Bay, assumed that he could transfer the principles of nationhood found in ancient Israel to the Massachusetts Bay Company with no need for explanation. This led the Puritans to interpret Scripture in an ultimately pretentious way that gave their own state and society the exalted status of a New Israel. Old Testament law was directly, if not exclusively, incorporated into the legal systems of New England. The Massachusetts "Body of Liberties" of 1641 stated that "if any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death." Death was also prescribed for witchcraft, blasphemy, murder, sodomy, homosexuality, adultery, and kidnapping. Old Testament texts were copied directly into the New England law books. The most notorious cases of major miscarriage of justice in New England were the Salem witchcraft executions. (See: The Search for Christian America, pp. 34-35.)
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Go to this link for more information: http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/amr/puritan.htm
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the fact that certainly in our Founding era, there was to be a Christian bias, as Christians or those influenced by Christianity were the ones who came to this country in the first place. Not so, today.

Today, what used to be religious freedom within the confines of Chrsitianity, is now open to any faith tradition. And this is where things get "hairy", practically.

Christians use their religious liberty to demand accomodation in the public sphere to their particular way of worshipping God. The problem today though, as anyone knows, that this opens the door to such diversity that it dilutes the public square to chaos.

The public square is to be formed by the civil sphere, where each person had a voice, which was heard and represented by their governing official. But, it has become the group with the most muscle which strong-arms our politicians and political process such that is distorts our liberal democracy...or representative Republic.

Leaders cannot remain distant and disconnected to the monied and the powerful IF leaders need that money and power to maintain their seat of power, OR even to "get at the table". Corruption abounds when money plays with our policy making that protects special priviledge and interests at the costs of limited government which provides the environment for individuals to make a difference and have a voice.

Immigration policy is one that is "hot" this very moment. And those that want to globalize our nation to equalize its stature amongst other nations think that this is the way to "be moral". But, at what costs? Illegal immigrants who have not valued our civil society by respecting our laws and upholding our standards are now considered the 'minority'. And minorities have "rights" which undermine or take priority over other issues. The Democrats have found it useful to leaglize such immigrants before to pad their coffers with "legal voters", and they will do so again.

The costs will be on the AMerican taxpayer, our civil society, and protection of our nation state...

Pinky said...

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Hi, Angie.
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You might like watching this cspan book tv program featuring Irene Tavis Thomson. It's about culture wars and it seems appropriate to your questions.

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/222762

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Hope you can see it on your computer.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thanks, Pinky. I started listening to it, but will have to finish it tomorrow. The next two weeks will leave me some room to read. So I am planning on doing some investigative work.

Just one thought, though. Culture is a matter of tradition, yes, but the understanding of that tradition has changed over the centuries, unlike fundamentalists' type religious tradition.And today's culture wars, are not just divided between believer and unbeliever, but between differences within Christendom itself.

So, it seems that this prof from Dickenson is presupposing culture as the epitome of human existence, (which is defined by religious tradition) not democratically liberal government. Isn't this a "multicultural framing" of the question? But, then, I guess sociology would lend itself to such understandings.....

Pinky said...

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Thomson covers those points. I'm sure you'll be impressed.
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Dr. Bangs replies:

There is an important difference between Plymouth Colony (Pilgrims, "Mayflower," and the mythical Plymouth Rock landing) and that colony's laws of 1636 mentioned by Stone, on the one hand, and, on the other, Massachusetts Bay Colony (Puritans, Winthrop, et al.) and laws there in 1641 or in the colony of New Haven. To conflate the three may result in a convenient and usable narrative leading up to an admirable Enlightenment, but such oversimplification of colonial attitudes remains historically inaccurate.