Crimes and Punishments.
The penal laws of the early English settlers partook in a large degree, so far as the punishment prescribed for their infraction was concerned, of the fierceness which characterized the criminal code of the mother-country at that period, while many of the legislative enactments were intended to correct, by severe penalties, those matters which are now regarded as subjects purely of personal concern and in no wise coming under public police regulation. The rigor of the law was then so extended that servants tipling at inns or houses of public entertainment were punished by being put in the stocks for at least an hour; unruly children and servants, on complaint of their parents or masters, if the offender was sixteen years old, were whipped not exceeding ten stripes, while a servant who was convicted of assaulting his master, dame, or overseer, was to receive corporal punishment, in the discretion of the court, "saving life and member." The denial of God or his attributes was punishable with death, as was also the kidnapping of any person within the province. He that bore false witness against his neighbor in a capital case was to be put to death, as was also the child that smote his natural parent. The publisher of false news from the mother-country was subject to fines, and for the third offense was whipped not exceeding forty lashes. No marriage could be solemnized unless both parties swore that they were single and legally qualified to enter into that relationship, while, in case of perjury, the party offending was ordered to "be bored through the tongue with a red-hot iron," besides incurring the penalties for adultery, which inflicted whipping, as well as fine and imprisonment. Fornication between single persons was punishable by enforced marriage, or whipping, in the discretion of the court. Laborers and servants were compelled to work the whole day, and " Sundays are not to be prophaned by Travellers, Laborers, or Vicious Persons."
The Duke of York's laws, however, announced full freedom of religious opinion to all Christian sects, as follows:
"No congregation shall be disturbed in their private meetings in the time of prayer, preaching, or other divine services, nor shall any person be molested, fined, or imprisoned for differing in judgment in matters of religion who profess Christianity."
After Penn acquired the title to the province of Pennsylvania, and the great body of laws was enacted at the Assembly convened at Chester, Dec. 4, 1682, much of the severity of the criminal code was done away with. Profanity was made punishable by fine or five days' imprisonment; adultery subjected the party convicted to public whipping and one year's imprisonment, while for a second offense the term of incarceration was for life. Under the act of 1705 adultery was punished by whipping with twenty-one lashes and imprisonment for one year, or a fine of fifty pounds; a second conviction increased the imprisonment to seven years, and on the third conviction, in addition to the foregoing penalty, the culprit was directed to be branded on the forehead with the letter "A." For the crime of rape the convict forfeited half his estate to the party aggrieved, was publicly whipped, and underwent one year's imprisonment, while for the second offense he was incarcerated for life. Drunkenness was punished by a fine, "or five days in the house of correction at hard labor, and being fed only with bread and water." A conviction of arson made the criminal liable to pay double damages, undergo incarceration for one year, and be subjected to such corporal punishment as the court thought proper to impose. Bigamy made the party convicted liable to imprisonment for life, while burglary was punished by imprisonment at hard labor for three months; the prisoner was compelled to make fourfold satisfaction, and failing to do so, was imprisoned for seven years. The child who should assault his parent was committed to the house of correction at hard labor during the pleasure of the parent. Forgery was punished by three months' detention at hard labor. If the crime was forging the seal of any county, the prisoner should undergo twelve months' imprisonment and be fined, while, if the offense was forging the seal of this province, he should suffer seven years' imprisonment and be fined at the discretion of the Governor and Provincial Council. The theft of hogs or other cattle was punished, for the second offense, by a fine threefold the value of the articles taken and imprisonment for six months, while for a third offense the convict should be whipped with twenty-nine lashes and banished never to return again. Persons convicted of premeditated murder, "according to the law of God, suffer death." This punishment did not work an entire forfeiture of his estate, but one-half of his possessions was "to be disposed of as the Governor shall see meet." The robbery of orchards, or the theft of any linen, woolen, or other articles left without doors, rendered the party convicted of any of these offenses liable to pay threefold the costs of the articles taken, or to be publicly whipped by the constable not exceeding twenty-one stripes; while the forcible robbery from any person of money or other articles was punishable by restoring fourfold the value of the goods stolen and being whipped not exceeding twenty-one stripes.
The minor regulation interdicted all persons from taking part in stage plays, revels, masques, or offering of prizes, under a penalty of five shillings or ten days imprisonment, while card-playing, dicing, lottery, and evil sports and games were punishable by a like fine, or five days' detention in the workhouse at hard labor. The drinking of healths was punishable by a fine of five shillings or five days' imprisonment, while railers and scolders were incarcerated at hard labor for three days, which, at the next General Assembly, was made punishable by gagging, and in that condition to stand one hour in a public place. Subsequently horse-racing, shooting-matches, and such idle sports were