Devil Made Me Do It!

Crime and Punishment in Early New England

Book Description

Tales of the country’s original criminals—and how the courts punished them for their misdeeds

 

Scarlet Letters, wanton dalliances, Sabbathbreaking, and debt: Colonial laws were easily broken and the malefactors who broke them, swiftly punished. How did our ancestors deal with murder and mayhem? How did seventeenth- and eighteenth-century New England communities handle deviants? How have definitions of criminal behavior and its punishment changed over the centuries? What were early prisons like? What were the duties of a turn-key? Find out all this and more in The Devil Made Me Do It.

 

Drawing on early court dockets, diaries, sermons, gaolers’ records, and other primary sources, Juliet Haines Mofford investigates historical cases from a time when accused felons often pleaded in their own defense: “The Devil made me do it!”

 

Among the questions that emerge in this fascinating book: Would spinster Sarah Booker be punished today for her 1769 theft of three skeins of linen yarn? Would Joan Andrews still get a T for Theft pinned upon her bodice for cheating a client by placing two stones in the firkin of butter she sold him?

About Mofford, Juliet Haines

Juliet Haines Mofford is a writer and historian. She has written feature articles for the Boston Globe’s Sunday Travel Section, and is a former educational board member of the American Association of Museums.