The Puritan Court System Essay

1211 words - 5 pages

The court system in Puritan New England was an unfair and unjust system, stemming from the general court of Massachusetts. Many of the trials and procedures were ludicrous. General life in the Puritan communities was centered around religion and the judicial system reflected this. Religion crept into laws and the courts until they were practically combined. Puritan's valued their religion zealously and it became part of everyday life in the colony.
Religion was a huge part of law, the court, and the state in Puritan New England. The Puritan church was mixed with the state and often they seemed to almost combine. Laws were a combination of the state and religion (Yale 9). Referring to church and state, David Yale wrote, “The distinction is far from clear” (Yale 9). This was in contrast to the Puritan founders who origionally wanted church and state to be separate, but able to work together (Yale 9). The Church had so much power in the state, it ultimately organized the civil government (Yale 9). If a person would rebel against the government and criticize or defy the Puritan rule, it would be considered a sin against God. Religion also had a association with questioning in the courts and religion was part of the prosecution. An example of this is during the examination of Sarah Good by John Hathorne. The examination starts off with this text. “(Hathorne) Sarah Good what evil spirit have you fimiliarity with. (Sarah Good) None. (H) Have you made no contact with the devil. (S G) Good answered no. (H) WHy doe you hurt these children. (S G) I doe not hurt them. I scorn it. (H) Who doe you imploy then to doe it. (S G) No creature but I am falsely accused” (Linder umck.edu). This shows a trait in Hawthorne's prosecution style where he always started his examination with assume guilt, as opposed to innocence. He also seemed to be on the accuser’s side (Salem Witch Trials 1).
In Puritan New England, judicial and normal practices were centered around religion. Laws were extreme and often would relate to religion. Many examples of this are present in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties which was a set of laws that governed New England. One law states, “If any man or woeman be a witch, (that is hath or consulteth with a familiar spirit). They shall be put to death” (Mass. Body of Lib. 10). Another law states that if a man worships any other god, but the lord god, after legal conviction, he would be put to death (Mass. Body of Lib. 10). Even if a man did something as small as damage or ridicule the name of God, he would be put to death (Mass. Body of Lib. 10). Laws were severe and there are plenty of examples of these laws put into practice. Baptists who did not believe in infant baptism would cover their ears and turn around during the process. This could be changed in courts, the person could be banished, or the person could be imprisoned (Yale 9). Also, people who would protest against the General Court or the Puritan rule would be banished (Breen 1)....

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