Exorbitancy of the Tongue

I’ve been reading through the early laws of Massachusetts Bay, the 17th century colonial laws, excerpting those that are most-relevant to genealogists, such as those pertaining to qualifications for marriage, processing of estates, land transactions and such.  I think this could make a useful pamphlet or e-book.

In order to find these nuggets, however, I need to read through it all, the minutia of administration, from oaths for fish inspectors to procedures for the apprehension of stray swine.  Then, last night, my eyes lit on this law, from 1671, describing a punishment I had never heard of before, and thought this was worth sharing:

Whereas there is no express punishment (by any Law hitherto established) affixed to the evil practise of sundry persons by Exorbitancy of the Tongue, in Railing and Scolding;

It is therefore Ordered; That all such persons convicted before any Court or Magistrate, that hath proper cognizance of the case, shall be Gagged, or set in a Ducking stool, and dipt over Head and Ears three times in some convenient place of fresh or salt water, as the Court or Magistrate shall Judge meet.

— “Several Laws and Orders made the General Court Holden at Boston the 15th of May 1671”

Image of a dunking stool from John Ashton, Chap-Books of the Eighteenth Century (London : Chatto and Windus, 1882), 273.

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