Massachusetts (Colony).

The colonial laws of Massachusetts. Reprinted from the edition of 1672, with the supplements through 1686 online

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Pui)ltsl)rl! l)u Ortirr of tljr (JTtty Couuril of Boston,

Record Commissioner.


B O S T O N :

I S87.





^''■'^' f- t'ALlHOKMA


The City Council of Boston hav'ing directed the Record
Conimissionei-s to prepare and puljlish an edition of the Colonial
]ja\vs in force prior to the Second Charter, the following' volume
is the result.

The various issues of Laws under the First or Colonial Char-
ter were as follows: In 1(541 the Body of Liberties was j)repared
by Rev. Xathaniel Ward, of IpsAvich, and, after I'cvision, was
adojjted for three years by order of the General Court. It was
probably never printed, but in 184.') Ihe late Francis C. Gray
announced that a manuscript copy had been discovered by him in
a volume preserved in the Boston Athenjenm. A careful tran-
script was ])ublished by him in the Collections of the IMassachu-
setts Historical Society, 3d Series, Vol. VIII.

In 1(548 the first edition of the Laws of the Colony was
printed; but that issue seems to be utterly lost and unattainable.

Supplements W'ere printed from time to time, and in K5G0 a
second Revision was put to i)ress. Copies of this second edition
are extant in various libraries. The third Revision was pub-
lished in 1G72, and is hereinafter reproduced. Supplements were
afterwards issued, consisting sometimes of a single act, until the
overthrow of the Colonial government and the termination of the
First Charter, May 20, 1(58(5. Under Andros the form of the laws
was entirely altered; but with the Second Charter, establishing the
Province of Massachusetts Bay, the old forms of legislation were
revived. As is well known, the Acts and Resolves of the Prov-
ince are in course of republication, under the able supervision of
Abner C. Goodell, the first volume bearing date in 18G1>. The
earliest act in that series is dated Xov. 10, 1(502.

IV Introduction.

The edition of 1GT2 was selected as the liasis for this repro-
duction because it afforded a certainty as to the legishition on and
after that date. Every revision is apt to contain not only the sub-
stance of previous statutes, but such changes as seem to the
editors to be imperatively demanded. The edition of KKiO, if re-
printed Avith all its Supplements, would not have rendered unneces-
sary the reprinting of the edition of 1072. Tl is hojied, however,
that hereafter orders may be given foi- a similar reproduction of
the edition of 1660, and for such a volume ai-e reserved all biblio-
graphical notes on the subject.

The jDresent volume is reproduced IVom an original, by the
photo-electrotype process. After a careful consideration of the
subject, it apj^eared that the slightly increased cost of the plates
over ordinary type-work was countei'balanced by the saving in
proof-reading, coi-i-ections, and si^ecial types. By this process
the reader has Ijcfore him what is, in theory, an exact reproduction
of the original piloted ])ages, ps-inted in regular foi'm with print-
ers' ink. Every i)eculiarity of the original is reproduced, even to
the errors of the text, the imperfections of the type, and the
quaint ornaments of the titles. T^o proof-i-eader can pretend to
greater accuracy than the camera; and, where an error in sense is
obvious, the student feels siu-e that the mistake was in the original.

But, as most human inventions fall short of perfection, it must
be added that photography is not quite infallible. The imperfec-
tions of the original are exaggerated, the shadows caused 1)}' the
deep impressions of the types cause a raggedness in the co])y, and
occasionally a blurred letter barely discernible in the old text be-
comes nothing but a l)lot in the new. Then the j)late requires the
touch of the graver's tool to correct the outline, or a letter has
to be cut out and i-e])laced by a type. Herein, alone, there is a
possibility of error, and that possibility is, doubtless, less than
that of an oversight on the pai-t of a prool-rcader in case the
entire volume has been set u[) with modci-u type. Every j^ossible
care has been taken by I'epcated collations of each page of the
new with its original, and it is confidently hoped that [\w. ei-rors,
at most, ai'e of single letters, not affecting the sense, and easily
corrected bv the context.

Introduction. v

By tlie kindness of the Trustees of the Boston Athenfciun,
the editor has had the use of a copy of the edition of 1C72, with
the Supplements, now preserved in that Ubrary. It is a volume
unequalled by any other extant, and is as near a perfect collection
as can be imagined. It was the property of Elisha Hutchinson,
who died in 1717, and who was the grandfather of Gov. Thomas
Hutchinson. Mr. F. C. Gray has pointed out that this volume
contains the only known copy of the Body of Liberties of Kill; it
also contains the Laws of 1G72, and every printed Sujjplement
which has yet been found anywhere. I have sul)joined a particu-
lar account of these Supplements, and will only say that ample
space is left in my edition for the insertion of any new discoveries
or recoveries.

The great difficulty, in deciding upon the completeness of the
transcript lure given, is, that Secretary Kawson made serious
errors in the pagination of his successive issues. To estal^lish this
point the reader is referred to the pages numbered (in large
type) 211-210. He will see that even at that early stage of the
pagination there are two sets of pages numbered 11, 12, and 13,
in the original. Evidently Rawson discovered his mistake, and
corrected it, making his issue of October 7, 1674, begin with the
propel- page, 17. But he did not get his signatures (at the foot of
the page) correct again, until he reached page 2.5 (my page 225),
with signature G, as he put signature D on page 19.

In due order pages 17 and 18 should have been signature D;
pages 19, 20, and 21, signature E; page 223, signature F; and
jjage 25 (225), signature G, as it stands.

The fact that Hutchinson does not insert any oilier l)roadsides
from page 21 to 25, except the Council Order, which I number
page 223, makes it quite probable that no other laws were printed
and issued in that period. Still, I am not quite positive that no
broadside of Laws was issued, because there was a biief session of
the General Court on July 9, 1G75, and some matters were really
laws. But Hutchinson notes in writing on his copy, page 21, as
follows: —

"July 9, 1()75. I'hat part of y' Law, page 78, luipowei-ing

VT Introduction.

the Treasurer to license persons to sell Armes, etc., to the Indians
is hereby Repealed. Castle Sonld" not Exempt from Watches in
any Extraordinary Cases." It is an almost unavoidable inference
that, had these clauses been printed, Hutchinson would not have
written them down.

From page 25 to page 43, inclusive, everything in regu-
lar ordei-. Page 44 is doubtless the blank verso of page 43,
and is so marked by Hutchinson, who, however, inserts at
that point a Council Order, dated April 4, 1676, printed by
me in the Appendix, page 337. Although I have counted in
a Council Order as page 23, it seems as if that was the
sole exception to the rule of counting only the laws passed
by the General Court, and also of allowing in the pagina-
tion for blank versos.

Pages 45—48 inclusive are coi'rect, and then Rawson l^e-
gins the Laws of May 23, 1677, Avith page 49, in due regu-
lar course. But Hutchinson puts into his copy at this point
the Court Order of May 3, 1676, jorinted by me as page 248a;
and also a Coui't Order of May 3, 1676, printed by me in
the Appendix, page 337; three pages of Laws about Tything-
men (Appendix, pages 339-341) ; a Council Order of March 29,
1677 (see my Appendix, page 345) ; and a Council Order of April
9, 1677 (see my Appendix, page 347).

It will be noted that I have inserted in the text at this
point extra page 248a, with its blank verso. This I do be-
cause it seems to be an official publication, witli the Colony
seal to it, though I tail to find any such law recorded in
the otScial record, and although Hutchinson had written, at
the foot of his page 48, "There was no more laws made in
this year 1(576." Rawson makes page 49, in regular course, sig-
natui'e M, and evidently did not recognize this extra sheet. I
therefore insert it, but do not include it in my new pagination.

From this point, through l)age 72, the paging is regular, but
on page 63 the signature is G3, an eri-or for 03, and page 77 is
not numbered. But from ])ag(' 7.'> to page 87 there is a mani-
fest blunder again, or there are pages missing in Hutchinson's

Introduction. vii

Page 7o is doubtless the blank page of a four-page issue, of
which pages 74 and 75 are printed. It is so numbered in Hutch-
inson. Then there is a similar four-page sheet, with printing
on the two inside pages only (ray pages 277-280), dated ^lay
19, l(jS(), and not munbered. Then comes signature S, pages
77-79, dated Oct. L'{, 1G80; next a single page (Laws of March
4, 1G80, my page 2S5) ; and we then come to pages 87-92,
signatui-e W.

It will be seen that the simple jilan of counting the blank
versos and titles to four jiage-sheets will bring page 87 into its
right place as my i)age 287. It is also seen that signature
T is missing, but undoubtedly belongs to my page 285. But
I am not sure that there was not another broadside of one page
printed, because at this point Hutchinson inserts in manuscript
certain Laws ])assed at the General Court, 16 March, 1680-1.
These I have printed in my Apj^endix, page 351.

Pages 87-92 are all in order, as signature W. Pages 9;}-96
make signature X. But here Hutchinson inserts the Law of ^fay
24, 1682, concerning foreign coin, which I have numbered 202a,
so as to retain the old paging. This may be the missing signature
W, though it is not allowed for in the original paging.

After page 9(> Hutchinson inserts two pages of Laws of Oct.
11, 1682, Avhich I print as pages 29Ga and 296h. These ai"e
genuine, and there seems to be no reason for tliis omission in
Rawson's calculations.

But Kawson begins his Laws for February and March, 1682-.3,
with signature Y, pages 97-99 ; then prints the Laws of October 10,
168;}, as pages 98-99; signature Y also (thus duplicating pages
98-99), as the inside pages of a four-page issue; and again prints
pages 100-101, signature Z, as the inside pages of a sheet, being
the Laws ot May 7, 1684.

Then Kawson makes page 103 his signature Aa.

Now, it is evident that from page 97 onward the reckoning was
lost. Signatiu'cs Aa, Bb, and Cc, cover pages 103-111, but signa-
ture Dd is pages 121-123, and signature Ee is pages 12.1-126.
It is impossible to resist the surmise that 121 was a mistake for
112. Hutchinson has preserved several of the sheets, but not

viii Introduction.

enough to account for tlic gap from page 111 to 121, and yet he
may have collected all that there were.

In this state of aliairs I have prhited all the sheets in lluteh-
insou, allowing blank pages for versos, etc., and have kept my new
contiiHions ])aginalion at the toj), for convenience in reference.

In detail, I note that page 10(3 is evidently a blank verso ; but
signature Bb ends with a blank page, verso to 100, and signature
Cc (i)age 110-111) is a four-page sheet, with only the inside pages
in i)rint: yet the paging makes no account of the blanks.

After page 111 Hutchinson inserts a Law of January 28, ItJSl-
.') (my page 327), and a manuscript copy of the Law of March 18,
1681:-."> (printed in my A]ipendix. page 35o). He states that this
Law was engrossed and published by the order of the Court, and
left on file; hence a printed copy may yet be found. If that
Law covered the inside pages of a four-page sheet, and all
the blank versos were counted after page 109, we might make
out to begin signature Dd with page 121, as Rawson did. It
is to be noted, also, that there was a shoi't session of the
Genei'al Couit (m May 6, 1(385, and a Law was ])ass(>d amendatory
of the Law of March 18 pi-evious. This may have also been
printed, and have lu'lped to (ill out the a])pai-ent gaj) in the itagi-

Hutchinson also inserts a Council Oi'der of Ajjril 2, l(iS5,
concei-ning Goffe, the Pirate (see my Appendix, page 355).

It is to be noted that in this last sheet the Laws rcdating to
Imposts and to "Wills were ])assc'd May 27, 1G85, and thai iusi'vti'd
between them aiv the Laws relating to Fences, to Treasurers, and
to Attachments, ])assed Oct. 11, 1685. There were other meetings
of the General Court between these dates.

I desire to acknowledge the courtesy of Dr. George H.
Moore, of the Lenox Library, in examining the jiroof-sheets of
this issue. His collection of tin; Laws is undoubtedly better than
that in any other pi'i\ale collection, but I understand that he is
unable to add an\(hing to the text here given.

IfUroducdon, IX

The old Index of 1()72 wjis reprinted as an integral part of
the book, but a new Index, comprising the whole volume, has been
prepared by Mr. Frederick E. Goodrich of this city.

A few Errata are to be noticed in the present limited edition,
to be corrected hereafter.

On ]). 41 add the signature II.
" " J;>7 correct the signature to li.
" " 140 add the catch-word " To."
" " 168 amend the signature Kr.
Also note that in the original tlie impression of the Colony
Seal faces the title-page, but in this issue it is put on tlic verso of
the title.

Lastly I would give tlie unnecessary caution that all the sur-
mises and explanations made in this preface do not affect the
integrity of the text. I have reprinted every known supplement,
and have left enough blank jiagcs for corrections. Wiiether or
not a few more pages will ever be found, I believe the reader has
an exact transcript of a unique text, the very best one obtainable.

I would earnestly retpiest any one who may note any errors
in this edition, or any additions to the text, to conununicate with
me, the plates are preserved for future issues.


Record Commissioner.

ClTV liAl.l,, HoslnN, .Illl,V l.")tll, 1»87.






of the


C L ^H^ %

By Ofdcc of {h^ General Court Holden at Bo^orn
M(^ I' j6qi.

Edvpard ^J^wjon Sea

Wbofocvcr therefore rejijleth the Pojvfr, refjleththe Jrdinameof Cod and
thty that rcjiji receive to themfslva Damnuttcn. Rom. J 3- 2.


Trinted by Samuel (jreen.forfohn VJJjer cfBo/lon.

J 6 7 2,







m OciobcY i6jS.

FOrafmuch as the free frmuon offuch Liberties, hnmuftities, Prtvi'
ledges^ as Humanity, CivilHty and Chrifiiamty call for, as due to The cwapnoi-
every Man m hts Place and 1'ro^ortion, vcuhcut Imteachmcm and {,'i'|f„';,'"„'j-^^";
Infrjngement, hath eve,- been, and ever wtll he, the Tran/^whty and colony.
Stability of Churches and Common-veealtb^ and the denyall or de-
f rival thereof , the d>fturb::nce,if not mine of both.

It is therefore Ordered by this Court and the Authority thereof. That no
mans life fhall be taken away, no mans Honour or good Name fliall be ftained,
no mans perCon lliall be arrefted, rcftrained, banifhed, difmembred, nor any
wayes punifhcd; no man (hall be deprived of his wife or children, no mans
goods or eftate fliall be taken away from him, nor any wayes indamagcd,
under colour of Law, or countenance of Authorir\', unlefs it be by virtue or
equity of fome exprefs Law of the Country warranting the fame, cftaMifhcd
by a General Court, and fufficicntlypublinied; or in cafe of the defctfl of a
Law, in any particular cafe, by the word of God. And in Capital Cafes, or in
Cafes concerning dil'nitmbring, or banifhmcntj according to that word, to be
judged by the General! Court. [ 1641.}

u^bUity. yfge.
rr 13 Ordered by this Court and the Authority thereof; That the age for ■^f_^f d.fcrr-
1 paffing away Lands, or fuch kinde of Hereditaments, or for giving of Votes,
Verdidls or Sentences in any avil Courts or caufcSjihall be one and twenty' ^^ ^^
years, but in chufing Guardians, fourteen years. And all perfons of the age pofc '
of one and twenty years, as aforefaid, and of underftanding and mcmory,whc-
ther excommunicate, condemned, or other, (hall have full power and hbcrty,
to niake their Wills and Teftament<:, and other lawful! Alienations of their
lands and Eftatcs. [/tJ^/. 4 7-3

Age for Plaint iff. ty^ (lions.

ayige for Tkntifs and Defendants.

IT is Ordered by this Court and the Authority hereof, that the age for
».,>.^v.v„u-.,.. Plantifs and Defendants in civii Cafes, before any Magiftrate, Commif-
fioner or Court of Judicaturc,-{halJ be twenty one years of age, and for all
perfons under that age, their i'rt;reKti,Afrty?fw, and Guardians as they fliall
fee meetfliall plead and defend their right and interefl, as the matter may
require j and in all Criminal cafes, every pcrlbn younger as well at. elder,
fhall be liable to anfwerin their own perfons, forfuch mifdemeanours as ihey
fhall be accufed of, andmay alfo infoim and prefent any mil'demeanour to
any Magiflrate, Grand-jury man, or Court, any Law, Cuflome or lifage to
the contrary notwiihftanding. \_ i66s.']


tT is Ordered by this Court and the Authority thereof; That all Anions
(V!i'm''c *'^"^ ■* of Debt, Accounts, Slander, and Ad^ions of the Cafe concerning Debts
and Accounts, fhall henceforth be tryed, where the PlaintifFe pleafeth, fo it be
in the Jiirifdicflion of that Court, where the PlaintifFe or defendant dwcUeth,
unlefs by confent, under both their hands it doth appear, they would have the
cafe try ed in any other Court. All other Anions fhall be tryed, within that
Jurifdi(f\ion where the caufe of the A(flion doth arife.

i.Whereas fundry Inconvemences do arife, by reafon that Plaintiff's in
Civil Cafes do delay to Pvttr ihen Aiitons, to the great ex^encc of much
pccious time, and damage to the TuUickj-
ot\i\\'o\\^.'^ This Court doth therefore Order, That henceforth no Ad^ion fhall be
Entred after the firft day of the Court is ended. And in cafe any Plaintiff
Ihall delay his Entry longer then the firft Forenoon of the Courts fitting,
every fucb perfon or perfons fhall pay double Entry-money. And all per-
fons, whether Parties or Witnelfes, arc cnjoyned to attend their refpe<^ive
Concerns in every Court of Juftice, as well the firft Forenoon of the Court,
as afterwards ^ and fhall prefent the whole Plea and Evidence before the
Cafe be committed to the Jury, and no after-Plea or evidence fhall be admitted
to any perfon. Any Lav/, Ufagc or Cuftome to the contrary notwithflanding.
And for that end ,all Marihalls and Conftables are enjoyned to make their
Returns of Attachments by them ferved,fometime the firfi; Forenoon of the
Court that is to take cognizance of the Cafe concerned therein. Provided,
That the double E.ntry- money be paid by him that fonegieds his Entry, and
not put die Defendant to unneceflary charge through his default. [ / tf tf /. J

Aftion^of trt-f- 3. in all Adions of Trefpafs, where Damage fhall be pretended, a-

pi' ""<*'■' f"f bovc Forty jhilliiigs, and yet on the hearing thereof, it fhall appear to the
tj ii Courttocomeunder that value, in all fuch Cafes, the Plaintiffc fhall lofe his
A(f\ion, and pay the Defendant coft,

Vcct for.iintry ^. Every Perfon impleading another, in any Court of Affiflants or

of Mhsx's. County CoDi-t, fhall pay the Cum of taf_/J)(//««/j, before his Cafe be Entred ^
and for every Adion of aho\e forty fnl/mgs va.lue, tr^'able before the Com-
mifConers of Bojlon, ten ptihngs -^ and (or all Anions undcv forty jhillmgi^
A. 5; p. 7. tryabic before the faid Commifhoners. one Magifhate, or the three Commif-
fioncrs, for ending fniallCaufes, /e« Crortti, unlefs the Court fee caufe to ad-
mit any to Sue >w/o/'Wi3]'rt«fer». [_t6i2. J2.J

J. And

A8ioyit. ylfpeal.

5. And where the Debt or Damage recovered, ftiall amount to Ten

founds, in every fuch cafe to p2y five pi limis morcj and where Jt fhall amount ^'' Aa°ec°/f"'
to Twenty pounds or upward, there to piy ten flji/hn^s more then the firft ten
J},ilhnp, -which faid additions, together with the charge of the Entry of the
i\(ftjon, (hall be put to the judgement and execution, to be leavied by the
Marfliall, and accounted to the refpedive Treafurers to whom ir appertaineth,

6. Whtrras the Country is put to great Ckirge,byihis Courts attnidm^
Suits Comnunced or Renewed by Petition or '}{fvierv.

Ir is Ordered that in all fuch cafes; if it appear to the Court, that the fo^lhrc^cfei
PlaintifFe had no juA caufe of any fuch proccc^iing, the faid Plaintifie ihall court to bear
bear the whole charges of the Court, both for time and expenccs, which they xb'c^'lV "^
fhall judge to be expended by his occafioni and may further impofe a fine
upon him, as the merit of the caufe fhall require; but if they findc the defen-
dant in fault, they ihaU impofe the juft charges upon fuch defendant.

7. And in all A<f\ions brought to any Court, the PlaintifTc fliall have Th-^^i.^ r.berty
liberty to withdraw his Adion or to be non luitcd, before the Jury have given •f' "'•'"*'*" '••'
in their verdidt; in which cale, he fhallalwayes pay full cofts and charges to *"'"''

the defendant, and may afterward rcnicw bis Suit at another Court. [ ' <^-* /. ]

L .,?-./\"'' '^'^ Ordered, that no man in any Suit or A Oion ag^nft another, r,-Dii4o
thallfalfely pretend great Damages or Debts, to vex his Advcrfary; and in '^^

all cafes where It appears to the Court, that the Plaintiffe hath willingly and v<»'"">" S"'''

wittingly done wrong to the Defendants uicommenong and profecuting any dVg'»'>V',-!

Aaion, Suit, Complaint or Inditcment, in his own name, or ,n the name of ^'^'^ ^°'^'^'-
others, he Ihall pay treble damages to the party grieved, and be fined forty
Jfc*//;«gj to the common Trcafury. [/^^/. ^rf.j


titc/fy te fip-

before E«eui-

1 ''Pli^'^^ ^l »^'S Court and the Authority thereof: That it ffiall be
J mthehberty of every man caft, condemned or Sentenced in any Infe our ''^l
Court, to make his Appeal to the Court of A/Tiftants : as alfo "o aopea f om
thefentenceof oneMag.iVrate,or other perfons deputed to caTddete^
mine fmallcaufes, unto the fhf>e Court of each Junfdidion, whae he caufe
J^asdctermined Provided they tender their Appeal, and put in fecuntv be
forethe Judges of the Court, to profecute it to eVt, and^a fo to at fie a 1
damages, before execution granted ; fhall not be till twdve hours after

Judgement, except by fpecial order of the Court AnA flu r , I r ■■ ,
criminal mti,,-,. ,uJ„ h- v. ai v.uli ui me i^ourt. And it the caufe be of a i" ctimtml ntn

criminal nature then alfo to put in fecuntv for the pooH h,.K,... ,„ j "■ *" '"'«°'' ">

^ It

A^palt. yJp^earartce,

1. It is further Ordered ; That all Appeals with the fecunty as aforcfaid,
L. ^. p. /. fliall be recorded at the charge of the party Appealing, and certified unto the

Court, to which they zn made. And the party Appealing, fhall briefly m
AppMi.int_ to writing ( without reflecting on Court or Parties, by provoking Language)
Ixday'csbefi,""' iindcr his own or his Atturnies hand, give in to the Clerk of the Court

from which he did Appeal, the Grounds and Rcafons of his Appeal, fix dayes

A. //.p./. before the beginning of the Court, to v/hich he did Appeal: to which Court

ufm ^^^ ^^^'^ Clerk fhall return the faid writing, and give copies thereof to the De-

"° A'ppe3"''fon fendant if he defire the fame. And wbofoever fhalf Appeal from the Scn-

fcii forty (hiji tcnce of any Court, and not profecutc the fame to effecft, according to Law,

Ihalibefides his Bond to the party, forfeit to the Country, the lum'' of Forty

filings for every fuch negled.

3 . j4ndfor a more dear and equal hearing and determ'm'mg all Cafes of
n-4s-?-'P- appeal; ItisOrdered, That no perfon that hath fate as Judge, or voted in

Online LibraryMassachusetts (Colony)The colonial laws of Massachusetts. Reprinted from the edition of 1672, with the supplements through 1686 → online text (page 1 of 43)