Crimes and Punishments.
interdicted, and if the offenders chanced to be servants, negro or Indian slaves, they were whipped with fifteen lashes and imprisoned six days, while for the second offense the whipping was increased to twenty-one lashes and the imprisonment to ten days.
The humane penal laws prepared by Penn and enacted at his suggestion, were summarily repealed by the act of May 31, 1718. William Bradford, who had been attorney-general and a judge of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and died while discharging the office of Attorney-General of the United States, in an essay on the criminal law of this commonwealth, declares that the privilege which the act just alluded to conferred on Friends - that of testifying in court of justice on their solemn affirmations, instead of taking a corporal oath - was the inducement for adopting, in 1718, the sanguinary rigor of the English law, in violation of the humane policy which had previously influenced the Legislature of Pennsylvania on the subject of crimes and punishments. By the act mentioned high treason, petty treason, counterfeiting the currency, murder, robbery, burglary, rape, sodomy, manslaughter, witchcraft, and conjuration were punishable by death. Receiving stolen goods or concealing robbers, and murder where benefiting of clergy was craved, was punished by branding on the fleshy part of the left thumb the letter T for the first crime, and M for the latter, which branding was ordered to be done in open court by the jailer. By the act of Feb. 21, 1767, knowingly receiving stolen horses subjected the party convicted thereof to public whipping, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes, standing in the pillory one hour, and to be imprisoned at hard labor not exceeding three years, while by the same act counterfeiting gold and silver coins was punished by standing in the pillory one hour, to have both ears cut off and nailed to the pillory, to be publicly whipped not exceeding twenty-one lashes, and to forfeit a hundred pounds, which was divided equally between the government and the informer. The severity of the punishment, it seems, did not lessen the number of horses stolen. Therefore, March 10, 1780, the Legislature increased the penalty, providing that in the case of a second conviction, in addition to the foregoing punishment, the culprit should be branded on the forehead, "in a plain and visible manner, with the letters H T." That hardly over a century ago men were branded as a punishment we know, for at the special court for the trial of negroes, held at Chester, March 3, 1770, before William Parker and Richard Riley, justices, Negro Martin, the slave of Thomas Martin, was convicted of an attempted rape, and sentenced "to be whipped with thirty-nine lashes, well laid on his Bare Back, at the common whipping-post, between the Hours of one and three this afternoon, and be branded with the letter R on his forehead, and be exported out of this Province by his master within six months, never to return unto the same upon pain of death, and to be kept in Prison till exportation at his master's charge, and to pay the costs of Prosecution." And on Jan. 4, 1772, in the case of Negro Dick, the slave of mulatto Dinah, otherwise Dinah Jones, tried at a like special court, before John Morton and William Parker, Esqs., the defendant was convicted of a similar crime, and sentenced to a like punishment. On Sept. 15, 1786, the act was passed by the General Assembly which swept away many of the harsh features of our criminal code, substituting therefor in many cases a milder form of punishment.
In the early times public acknowledgment by the party accused of the wrong he had done, in many cases seemed to fill the measure of atonement demanded by the judges who dispensed justice among the first settlers of our county. Hence we find that at the court held at Chester, the 3d day of first week, Tenth month, 1689, Allen Robinett, Sr., who was arraigned "for writing scandalous and abusive papers against John Bristow, one of ye King's Justices and representatives in Council of ye People of this county, contrary to ye 29 law of this Province," having pleaded guilty, was sentenced that "he shall here in Publick acknowledge in particular his fault and crimes for which he stands Indicted, and pay all county charges," while at the same court Nicholas White and William Thomas, who were indicted for "Speaking words tending to sedition and breach of Peace, and persuading people (contrary to an order of court) not to pay ye Publicke Levies of this County, when thereunto lawfully required," who acknowledged the fact and prayed the mercy of "ye King and government," were acquitted, paying their fees. On the 14th day of the First month, 1693; Thomas Poe and Sarah Butler, convicted of fornication, were sentenced "to stand at the common whipping-post and for the offence to declare their offence to the People and also to pay a fine of twenty shillings and court charges." And at the same court John Clowes and Eleanor, then his wife, were also convicted of the like offense. They were sentenced to pay a fine of fifty shillings, and "Eleanor shall stand at the common whipping-post for one-quarter of an hour, with a paper upon her breast that I stand here for an example to all others for committing that most wicked and notorious sin of fornication." As late as February court, 1753, Owen Oberlacker, alias John Bradley, convicted "of speaking seditious words," was sentenced to stand in the pillory one hour, with the inscription, "I stand here for speaking seditious words against the best of Kings, wrote in a large hand, to be affixed to his back." Oberlacker was also subjected to the punishment of twenty-one lashes upon his bare back, well laid on.
This whipping of convicts, as is seen by the brief summary of the provincial criminal laws, heretofore given, was a favorite form of punishment in the early days, and continued to be inflicted until after the Revolutionary struggle had ended. One of the first cases I have found when this penalty was imposed is