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controlled the purse strings of the Colony, it was virtually invested with the political supremacy.
Such then, in outline, was the governing body of Pennsylvania. The first General Assembly of the Province was convened at Chester in 1682, at which time the Great Law was passed. The first formal, political body that ever assembled in the city of Philadelphia was held at the Friends' meetinghouse the succeeding year, that is, in 1683. The Government was now completely organized. It speedily commenced to busy itself in legislation, and as many of its chief peculiarities are to be sought in activity of this description, we may glance at some of the more striking and characteristic enactments.
The one notable measure passed by the first Assembly of Philadelphia was that referring disputes to arbitration. The law provided that three peacemakers, after the manner of common arbitrators, were to be selected by each county court, that they might hear and terminate all controversies and differences. Some very amusing sumptuary laws were also introduced during this session. For instance, it was proposed that no inhabitant should be permitted to have more than two suits of wearing apparel; one ostensibly intended for summer; the other for winter. Other members, possibly proceeding upon the principle that misery loves company, advocated the measure that young men be compelled to enter into matrimonial alliances upon the acquisition of a specified age. But the majority of the Quakers were not prepared for such drastic enactments as these; consequently, the propositions in question were dropped.
Other more important matters demanded attention. All through their history, the Quakers strenuously opposed all unlawful sensual indulgences ; consequently the authorities soon began to legislate for the suppression of irregularities of this description. It was, indeed, the very first Assembly convened in the metropolis (if the expression be allowed) which enacted the following law: “And to prevent Clandestine, Loose, and unseemly proceedings in this Province and territories thereof, about marriage, Be it, &c., That all marriages not forbidden by the law of God, shall be encouraged ; But the parents and guardians shall be, if possible, first Consulted; And the parties clearnes from all other engagements assured by a Certificate from some Crediable persons where they had lived; And by their affixing of their intentions of Marriage on the Court or Meeting-house Door of the County wherein they Dwell, one Month before the solemnizing thereof; And their said Marriage shall be solemnized by taking one another as husband and wife, before Sufficient Witnesses ; And a certificate of the whole under the hands of parties and witnesses (at least twelve) shall be brought to the Register of the County, where they are Marryed, and be Registered in his office. And if any person shall presume to marry or to join any in Marriage Contrary hereunto, such person so Marrying shall pay ten pounds, and such person so joining others in Marriage shall pay twenty pounds.” 2
* In 1683, a “Petition of Rich'd Wells” was read, and “Ordered that he be referred to ye Peacemakers, and in case of Refusal to ye County Court, according to Law.” Col. Rec. of Pa., Vol. I, p. 34.
By the authority of the Great Law of Pennsylvania, it was declared that “no person, be it either widower or widow, shall contract marriage, much less marry, under one year after the decease of his wife or her husband." In 1690, it was enacted that any one committing adultery should’ “for the first offense be publicly whipt and suffer one whole year's imprisonment in the house of Correction at hard labour, to the behoof of the publick.” For a second infraction of the law, the penalty was “imprisonment in manner aforesaid During Life.” 3
Ibid., p. 151. Re-enacted in 1690, and again in 1693. * November 20, 1703, the President made complaint “agst Andrew Bankson, one of ye Justices of Philada County, for irregularly marrying a couple lately according to law, but against ye Prohibitions of ye Parents.” When brought before the Council the Justice “declared that he was wholly ignorant of its being illegal, & was heartily sorry for what was done, promising that whether he should continue in Commission, or otherwise, this should be such a caution to him as to prevent him of committing the like for ye future, & being severely checked, was dismissed.” Col. Rec. of Pa., II, 115.
Incest and bigamy, being transgressions of a similar character, were likewise severely punished. In 1705, the punishment of these offences was somewhat modified. In order that imprisonment provided for by the penal law might be
ded, in 1682 a bill had been passed to the effect that "all prisons will be work-houses for felons, Thiefs, Vagrants, and Loose, abusive and Idle persons whereof one shall be in every
Next to impurity in point of heinousness to the Quakers, came profanity, and at an early date measures were adopted for its suppression. In 1682, the organic law of the Colony upon this subject was, “That whosoever Shall Swear in their Common Conversation, by the name of God, or Christ, or Jesus, being Legally Convicted thereof, shall pay for every such offence five shillings, or suffer five days' imprisonment in the house of Correction, at hard labour, to the behoof of the publick, and be fed with bread and water only, During that time. . . . Whosoever Shall Swear by any other thing or name, and is Legally convicted thereof, shall for every such offence, pay half a Crown or suffer three days' imprisonment in the house of Correction, at hard labour, having only bread and water for their sustenance." I
This regulation as regards the females is found in the ancient Saxon law, which prohibited a widow from intermarrying within twelve months after the decease of her consort. Vide Ll. Ethel, A. D., 1008. Ll. Canut, c. 71. The purpose of this provision was to establish, with certainty, the paternity of the progeny. If the widow were permitted to enter into new matrimonial alliances, within the ordinary period of gestation, after the determination of the coverture, the issue would have two putative fathers, thus making the real parent impossible of ascertainment. Trivial as this matter may appear to the uninitiated layman, those acquainted with the laws of inheritance need not be reminded that the subject is one of considerable importance. · Constantine made adultery a capital crime.
* Linn, 194. * Great Law of Pa. Chap. LIX. Re-enacted in 1690. • Great Law of Pa., Chap. LIV. Re-enacted in 1690.
This law was substantially re-enacted in 1690. It was then declared "that whosoever shall, in their Conversation at any time curse himself or another or any other thing belonging to himself or any other, and is Legally convicted thereof, Shall pay for every such offence five shillings, or suffer five days' imprisonment as aforesaid.” 3 Speaking obscenely was also punishable by a fine.
In the year 1700, legislative activity produced a new law against cursing. An act was then introduced and approved “to prevent the grievous Sins of cursing and Swearing within this Province and Territories.” The wording of the statute was as follows: “Be it Further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That whosoever shall willfully, premeditatedly and despitefully, blaspheme or speak loosely and profanely of Almighty God, Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or the Scriptures of Truth, and is legally convicted thereof, shall forfeit and pay the sum of Ten Pounds, for the Use of the Poor of the County, where such offence shall be committed, or suffer three months' Imprisonment at hard Labour as aforesaid, for the Use of the said Poor." 4 From the records we glean that a butcher was indicted in 1702 as a common swearer for swearing three oaths in the market place, and for uttering two very bad curses." 5 Although this language can scarcely fail to provoke a smile on the part of the reader, it bears sufficient evidence to the fact that the Quakers did not intend their laws to be mere ornaments on their statute books. Even the best intentioned human efforts, however, are not always successful, and notwithstanding the earnest endeavors of the Friends to the contrary, the “cursing and swearing " did not completely disappear. . Even as late as 1746, we discover that still another measure was approved, entitled “ An Act for the more effectual suppression of profane cursing and swearing.”
* Ibid., Chaps. III and IV.
* And again in 1697. Linn, 193.
* Laws of Pa., Vol. I, p. 6. SIn 1690, President Lloyd, on the basis of a letter received from "a very Credible person,” endeavored to exclude Thomas Clifton from the Council, alleging "that he was not for Yea and Nay, but for God Damm You.” The charge was denied by the said Clifton, and the Board “having only paper Evidence, Resolved that He be admitted at present, but upon further proof made of ye ffact, Immediately dismissed.” Col. Rec. of Pa., I, 282.
Any one in Pennsylvania who was rash enough to offer, or to accept a challenge to fight a duel paid dearly for the luxury. The law of 1682 took especial care to provide “that whosoever shall Challenge another person to fight, hee that Challengeth and hee that accepted the Challenge, shall for every such offence, pay five pounds, or suffer three months' imprisonment in the House of Correction at hard Labour." 2 A similar enactment was passed in 1690, and this was followed by an act adopted ten years later, " to prevent all Duelling and fighting of Duells within this Province and Territories."
In supposed harmony with the regulations of the Scriptures, capital offences were punished by execution. In 1683, the law was framed and passed providing “ that if any person within this Province, or territories thereof, Shall wilfully or premeditately kill another person, or wilfully or premeditately be the cause of, or accessory to the Death of any person, Such person Shall, according to the law of God, Suffer Death: And one half of his Estate shall go to his wife and Children; And if no Wife nor Children, then to the next of his kindred, not Descending Lower than the third Degree; to be Claimed within three years after his Death ; And the other half of his estate to be Disposed of, as the Governor shall see meet.” 4
But other transgressions were not forgotten, especially was this true of the “unruly member.” As early as 1683, a law
Ibid., Vol. I, p. 212.
? Great Law of Pa. See XXV.