Blue Laws (Connecticut)

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This article is about early colonial Connecticut laws. For laws created to enforce moral standards, see Blue laws.

The Blue Laws of the Colony of Connecticut, as distinct from the generic term "blue laws" that refers to any laws regulating activities on Sunday, were the initial statutes set up by the Gov. Theophilus Eaton with the assistance of the Rev. John Cotton in 1655 for the Colony of New Haven, now part of Connecticut. After the laws were approved, they were printed in London, England, in 1656 and distributed to households in New Haven.

These New Haven codes, though they were not of Connecticut per se, were almost entirely copied from the existing Code of 1650 that the Colony of Connecticut had already drafted, and subsequent historians and authors tend not to distinguish the difference.

Although there has been much commotion made about the harshness of the Blue Laws of Connecticut, it seems that they are the perpetuation of an incredible hoax,[1] by the Reverend Samuel Peters, an Anglican forced to leave America during the Revolution. He made up examples of "Blue Laws" in a booklet in order to make America appear backwards and fanatical. Below are the supposed laws that once existed:

  1. The Governor and Magistrates convened in general Assembly, are the supreme power under God of this independent Dominion.
  2. From the determination of the Assembly no appeal shall be made.
  3. The Governor is amenable to the voice of the people.
  4. The Governor shall have only a single vote in determining any question; except a casting vote, when the Assembly may be equally divided.
  5. The Assembly of the People shall not be dismissed by the Governor, but shall dismiss itself.
  6. Conspiracy against this Dominion shall be punished with death.
  7. Whoever says there is power and jurisdiction above and over this Dominion, shall suffer death and loss of property.
  8. Whoever attempts to change or overturn this Dominion, shall suffer death.
  9. The judges shall determine controversies without a jury.
  10. No one shall be a freeman, or give a vote, unless he be converted, and a member in full communion of one of the Churches allowed in this Dominion.
  11. No man shall hold any office, who is not sound in the faith, and faithful to this Dominion; and whoever gives a vote to such a person, shall pay a fine of £1; for a second offence, he shall be disfranchised.
  12. Each freeman shall swear by the blessed God to bear true allegiance to this Dominion, and that Jesus Christ is the only King.
  13. No quaker or dissenter from the established worship of this Dominion shall be allowed to give a vote for the election of Magistrates, or any officer.
  14. No food or lodging shall be afforded to a Quaker, Adamite, or other Heretic.
  15. If any person turns Quaker, he shall be banished, and not suffered to return but upon pain of death.
  16. No Priest shall abide in this Dominion: he shall be banished, and suffer death on his return. Priests may be seized by any one without a warrant.
  17. No one to cross a river, but with an authorized ferryman.
  18. No one shall run on the Sabbath day, or walk in his garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting.
  19. No one shall travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep house, cut hair, or shave, on the Sabbath day.
  20. No woman shall kiss her child on the Sabbath or fasting day.
  21. The Sabbath shall begin at sunset on Saturday.
  22. To pick an ear of corn growing in a neighbor's garden, shall be deemed theft.
  23. A person accused of trespass in the night shall be judged guilty, unless he clear himself by his oath.
  24. When it appears that an accused has confederates, and he refuses to discover them, he may be racked.
  25. No one shall buy or sell lands without permission of the selectmen.
  26. A drunkard shall have a master appointed by the selectmen, who are to debar him from the liberty of buying and selling.
  27. Whoever publishes a lie to the prejudice of his neighbor, shall sit in the stocks, or be whipped fifteen stripes.
  28. No minister shall keep a school.
  29. Every rateable person, who refuses to pay his proportion to the support of the Minister of the town or parish, shall be fined by the Court £2, and £4 every quarter, until he or she pay the rate to the Minister.
  30. Men-stealers shall suffer death.
  31. Whoever wears clothes trimmed with gold, silver, or bone lace, above two shillings by the yard, shall be presented by the grand jurors, and the selectmen shall tax the offender at £300 estate.
  32. A debtor in prison, swearing he has no estate, shall be let out and sold, to make satisfaction.
  33. Whoever sets a fire in the woods, and it burns a house, shall suffer death; and persons suspected of this crime shall be imprisoned, without benefit of bail.
  34. Whoever brings cards or dice into this dominion shall pay a fine of £5.
  35. No one shall read Common-Prayer, keep Christmas or saints-days, make minced pies, dance, play cards, or play on any instrument of music, except the drum, trumpet, and the jaw harp.
  36. No gospel Minister shall join people in marriage; the magistrates only shall join in marriage, as they may do it with less scandal to Christ's Church.
  37. When parents refuse their children convenient marriages, the Magistrates shall determine the point.
  38. The selectmen, on finding children ignorant, may take them away from their parents, and put them into better hands, at the expense of their parents.
  39. Fornication shall be punished by compelling the marriage, or as the Court may think proper.
  40. Adultery shall be punished by death.
  41. A man that strikes his wife shall pay a fine of £10; a woman that strikes her husband shall be punished as the Court directs.
  42. A wife shall be deemed good evidence against her husband.
  43. No man shall court a maid in person, or by letter, without first obtaining consent of her parents: £5 penalty for the first offence; £10 for the second; and, for the third, imprisonment during the pleasure of the Court.
  44. Married persons must live together, or be imprisoned.
  45. Every male shall have his hair cut round according to a cap.

References[edit]

  • Gov. Theophilus Eaton, et al. Nevv-Haven's Settling in New-England and Some Lawes for Government published for the use of that colony (1656, 1858 edition) [one of 20 copies reprinted at Hartford, Connecticut on 05-01-1858]
  • Silas Andrus, The Code of 1650 [of Conn.] to which is added some Extracts from the Laws and Judicial Proceedings of New-Haven Colony. Commonly called Blue Laws (1822)
  • John Warner Barber, History and Antiquities of New Haven (Conn.) (1831, 1832 edition) p. 45–47
  • James Hammond Trumbull, The True-Blue Laws of Connecticut and New Haven and the False Blue-Laws (1876)
  • John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England or the Puritan Theocracy in its Relations to Civil and Religious Liberty (1889, 1898 edition) picture facing page 146, and page 148

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "The Blue Laws of Connecticut". The Museum of Hoaxes.