Monday, June 13, 2011

Justice in Colonial Virginia

Genealogical research is possibly the most fun when one comes across snippets such as this one. Sheds some light on the era, the lives and times of the ancestors.
These paragraphs appear in Twelve Virginia Counties.1

At a court held for Louisa County on Monday the XIII day of June in the XII year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the 2nd, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., Ann. Dom. 1743 before his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the county, to wit: Robert Davis,2 Abraham Veneble,3 Charles Barret, John Poindexter and Ambrose Joshua Smith.

Whereas at a court held for this county on Monday the 11th of April last the Reverend Richard Hartswell, being then drunk, came into court and then and there in the presence of the Justices of the said court then sitting prophanely swore one Oath, therefore it is considered and accordingly ordered that the said Richard pay to the Church Wardens of the Parish of Fredericksville, wherein the offenses were committed, the sum of ten shillings or one hundred pounds of tobacco, that is to say five shillings or fifty pounds of tobacco for being drunk and five shillings or fifty pounds of tobacco for prophanely swearing each, for which execution may issue.

1p. 271
2My seven greats grandfather, agnate.
3Son-in-law of Davis, and my six greats grandfather, agnate.


Anonymous said...


My family's from West Virginia. It gets pretty snarled two or three greats back. I quit digging; I didn't want to know.

Vee said...

Interesting how the court document is written. Wonder how many non-legal types understood.

Anonymous said...

Ah, you old time immigrants have it newer immigrants might just as well give it up...I've come to the conclusion that my mother's family just teleported here...and that my paternal grandmother was smuggled in her brothers luggage.

Secondary Roads said...

And for those who delve into their family history and genealogy, may all their surprises be happy. Perhaps jimgrey is right and it is better not to know . . .

Sharkbytes said...

How awesome to find a document like that. I have quite a bit of my genealogy, and hope to do more with it when I get "old."

Lin said...

Hahaha! I like jimgrey's comment!

Rebecca Mecomber said...

It is HILARIOUS (well, maybe not so much) that the penalty was paying tobacco for the crimes of drunkenness and swearing! Today, smoking is an absolute sin while people get stoned and swear like satan. Wow, the world is turned upside down.

vanilla said...

Jim, I have to sometimes ponder the question, "How many first-cousins couples can one have in his 'tree' and still be sort of normal?" Sometimes not many available mates in them hills!

Vee, I bet the good reverend got it.

Grace, your 'conclusion' certainly makes a good family story!

Chuck, my dad certainly took the position that not knowing was preferable to finding out what he didn't want to know.

Shark, as much fun as it is to do family research, I scarcely see you laying down your walking stick long enough to do it. No, not any time soon!

Lin, too right. I think Jim may be on the right track.

Rebecca, too true. How times have changed. I don't suppose fining people for it would be appropriate, but we could do with a lot less nasty talk. Drinking, too. imho