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Mayflower, Day by Day - Saturday, 16 October 1621

16 Oct 2021 3:37 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Faith in Practise

Except in Rhode Island, people were prosecuted for disagreeing publicly with official theological dogmas. Thus, the Plymouth Colony made it a crime to “deny the scriptures to be a rule of life.” Pursuant to this and other legislation, one man was indicted in Plymouth for objecting that the churches in Massachusetts and Plymouth did not baptize infants and for criticizing the magistrates for failing to take the oath of supremacy, while a decade later a group was prosecuted for “continuing of a meeting upon the Lord's Day from house to house.” Likewise, a woman guilty of “faulty” speeches during public worship had her whipping respited in the hope that she would “be warned by the present sentence and admonition to offend no more,” but when she committed the same offense a second time, the whipping was administered.  Pursuant to statute, innumerable individuals were fined for failing to fulfil religious duties, such as not attending church on Sunday, otherwise violating the Sabbath, or using profane language. A New Haven man was whipped for “a rash & sinful oath.” Perhaps, the most infamous example after the 1630s of judicial activism to protect dominant religious beliefs was that of William Ledra, a Quaker who on pain of death was banished from Massachusetts Bay in 1660 after being banished earlier from Plymouth. Except in Rhode Island, Quakers were banished for “divers horrid errors,” whipped, or fined. Viewing them as “subversi[ve] of the fundamentals of Christian religion, church, order, and the civil peace,” the Plymouth Colony banished them, and the General Court set aside a day of fasting and humiliation to seek God's blessing in saving the colony from the “infection and disturbance” of those “fretting gangrenelike doctrines and persons commonly called Quakers.”

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