Primary Resource

"Concerning secret Marriages" (1658)

In this law, "Concerning secret Marriages," passed in its 1658 session, the General Assembly addressed the problem of indentured servants having children and marrying. For masters, this resulted in a loss of the women servants' labor, for which the law attempted to provide compensation. The act revises one passed during the 1643 session. Some spelling has been modernized.

Transcription from Original

— page 438 —

WHEREAS many greate abuses and much detriment have been found to arise both against the lawe of God and likewise to the service of many masters of ffamilies in the collonie, occasioned through secret marriages of servants, their masters and mistresses not any waies made privie thereunto, As also by comitting of ffornication; for the prevention of the like abuses hereafter, Be it enacted, and confirmed by this Grand Assembly that what servant soever hath since January, 1656, or hereafter shall secretly marrie with any maid or woman servant without the consent of her master or mistresse, (if she be a widowe) hee or they soe offending shall in the first place serve out his or their times with his or their master or mistresse, and after shall serve his or their master or mistresse one complete yeare more for such offence comited, And the maid or woman servant so marrying without consent as aforesaid shall for such her offence to her master or mistresse serve one year after her freedom by indenture, And a freeman so offending shall give satisfaction to the master or mistresse by doubling the valew of the service.

And it is also further enacted and confirmed by the authoritie of this Grand Assembly that if any mans' servant shall hereafter comit the act of ffornication with any maid [text worn out]

appointed in like cases give satisfaction for the loss of her service to her said master or mistresse by his service of one compleat yeare, or pay fifteen hundred pounds of tobacco and give securitie to save harmeless the parish and her said master or mistresse, and defraye all charge of keeping the child, And a freeman so offending shall for his offence pay fifteen hundred pounds of tobacco or one year's service to the master or mistresse of the woman or maid servant of whom hee

— page 43 —

shall gett a bastard, As also give securitie to save the parish and her said master and mistresse harmelesse & defray all charge about keeping the child, And the woman servant so offending to suffer according to lawe, Also be it enacted that every person comitting ffornication shall pay five hundred pounds of tobacco to the use of the parish where the said act is committed or be whipt.