Crime And Punishment In The 1650's

1179 words - 5 pages

Crime and Punishment During the 1650'sDuring the 1650's if a person broke a law, it was considered a sin and the punishment was very severe in most cases, but now criminal law has developed largely due to increase of education. For example, in the Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne was charged for adultery, and her punishment was to wear an A on her shirt for the rest of her life. She also had to stand on the scaffold for three hours, and she also served prison time. Now adultery, like many other wrongdoings, is treated very different and as though it isn't a crime.During the colonial period the definition of a crime was based on English standards. Many colonies had different crimes or wrongdoings that were punishable because of their differences in structures and values. The English law included common law, statutes, decrees of commissions, and Star Chamber rulings; these parts of the English law were very important in defining criminality. Magistrates or the local justice of peace were people who were allowed to examine the suspected criminal and the accused lawbreakers. Although magistrates had their own opinions about law, they could conduct trials and sentence the criminals (Papke 2074). Meaning, that each magistrate had their own definition of crime or their own unique idea of criminal law.There are certain crimes a person can commit now that they could never get away with in the colonial period. For example, religion and government were not officially linked together during the time of the Puritans, but people could still be punished for blasphemy, which was entirely a religious crime (Slavicek 33). Certain crimes resulted in execution as their punishments and other crimes had other punishments that seemed to be more severe for a person's emotions to handle than execution. For example people were taken to the center of the town, otherwise known as the marketplace to be strung on a pillory, placed in the stocks, or dunked in water. Criminals would also be punished by being branded, whipped, forced to wear signifying letters, like Hester Prynne in the Scarlet Letter. They were also forced to wear halters, papers or emblems that stood for the crime they committed. These punishments were chosen to persuade the criminal to change their evil ways (Papke 2074). Puritan magistrates believed that convicted criminals needed to feel shame for their acts, and hopefully the public humiliation would help influence that (Slavicek 21).Furthermore the stocks and pillories were wooden objects that had openings for putting a criminal's legs, arms, or head in them (Slavicek 21). When a person was put to the stocks, it was uncomfortable and humiliating, mostly because the people of the colony would throw rotten fruit and dirt at the criminal and the criminal couldn't do anything about it because they were forced to remain motionless (Slavicek 22). For example, a criminal who was put to the stocks or put to the pillory was very humiliated, due to the fact that the...

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