COLONIAL LAWS OF MASSACHUSETTS, 1736-1755, COPY BELONGING TO WEYMOUTH MINISTER WILLIAM SMITH AND FAMOUS COLONIAL PHYSICIAN COTTON TUFTS
(MASSACHUSETTS). Temporary Acts and Laws of His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Boston: Sold by S. Kneeland, 1755. Small folio, modern full brown calf gilt, green morocco spine label. $4200.
First edition of the laws of the province of Massachusetts-Bay from May 26, 1736 to March 31, 1755. With signature of colonial physician Cotton Tufts.
“Here in Massachusetts the civil law laid its hand upon the citizen in his business and social relations; it regulated his religious affairs, it dictated his dress, and even invaded the home circle and directed his family relations. The length and width of a lady’s sleeve was solemnly decided by law. It was a penal offense for a man to wear long hair, or to smoke in the street, or for a youth to court a maid without the consent of her parents. A man was not permitted to kiss his wife in public. Captain Kimble, returning from a three-years’ ocean voyage, kissed his wife on his own doorstep and spent two hours in the stocks for his ‘lewed and unseemly behavior” (Henry William Elson). This collection of laws from 1736 to 1755 provides fascinating insights into colonial America, regarding the punishment of criminals (the penalty for counterfeiting, for example, was the loss of one ear, mock hanging, and 20 lashes), provision for the poor (children who could not be “maintained” by their parents could be apprenticed), property damage (beaches were to be protected from becoming “damnified by cattle”), preservation of timber (“young wood”) and wild-life (especially deer, fish and fowl), public health (the fine for concealing cases of small pox was £100), and rules for inn-keepers (Indians, slaves and servants were not to be served “strong drink”). Tower 401. Evans 7467. Harvard Law Catalogue II, 75. Contemporary signatures, including those of Weymouth Congregationalist minister, Reverend William Smith (father of Abigail Smith Adams, the second first-lady) and colonial physician Cotton Tufts, also of Weymouth, an original member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, one of the founders of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, author of the first article on animal diseases published in the United States, and active member of the State Senate and Constitutional Convention.
Light scattered foxing. Attractive binding fine. An excellent copy with distinguished provenance.