Saturday, March 29, 2014

1660 warrant to bring Mary Dyer from prison to trial



GENERAL COURT ORDER APPOINTING A HEARING AND DIRECTING THAT MARY DYER BE BROUGHT FROM PRISON TO APPEAR BEFORE THE COURT.  

Image courtesy of Massachusetts Archive

The magistrates desire their brethren the deputies would plea[se]
give them a meeting about two hours hence & that mary dir[e]
be sent for out of prison to Appeare before the whole Court
Dated at Boston 31st of may 1660
p[er] Edward Rawson Secret[ary]
Consented to by the deputies
Wm Torrey Cleric 


[Thanks to Johan Winsser for the transcription]


© 2014 Christy K Robinson

The nearly illegible warrant was written by the court clerk, William Torrey. If the Secretary, Edward Rawson, had written more than just his flourishing signature, we would be able to decipher the words even now, 354 years later.

Mary Dyer had walked 44 miles from Providence, Rhode Island, and arrived in Boston on 21 May 1660, during the annual meeting of the General Court. She went to the prison to visit and encourage the captive Quakers, knowing she would be arrested. She intentionally provoked the members of the court, including Governor John Endecott, Deputy Gov. Richard Bellingham, Secretary Rawson, Rev. John Wilson, and many others, by arriving in Boston at a time when the colonial government met for annual elections, superior court, and regular business. The most important representatives and leaders had come from all around Massachusetts to attend to politics, make laws, punish lawbreakers, and appoint regulations and licenses for settlements.

Edward Rawson
Mary was arrested for violating her banishment-on-pain-of-death sentence. She was confined in the prison until the above warrant called her out to appear for her hearing and sentencing. She was one of many items on the court agenda that day: the organization of the town of Marlborough and another called Stony River, cutting back militia training days from six per year to four, and defining a freeman: the court declared that “no man whatsoever shall be admitted to the freedom of this body politic but such as are members of some church of Christ and in full communion, which they declare to be the true intent of the ancient law.” The latter is the blending of church and state, a major issue for anyone from Rhode Island, which formed the first democratic government in America, and separated ecclesiastic (church) and civil (state) functions.

At the hearing, Mary Dyer was sentenced to be hanged the next day, June 1, 1660.










Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This
is the second volume on the life of Mary and William Dyer. The book describes the events of their lives leading up to Mary's execution, using journals, court records, archived letters, and even British documents.


 

3 comments:

  1. The magistrates desire their brethren the deputies would plea[se]
    give them a meeting about two hours hence & that mary dir[e]
    be sent for out of prison to Appeare before the whole Court
    Dated at Boston 31st of may 1660
    p[er] Edward Rawson Secret[ary]
    Consented to by the deputies
    Wm Torrey Cleric

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for filling in the illegible words, Johan. :)

      Delete

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