Don’t Solemnize Unlawful Marriages in Colonial Philadelphia

Dateline: Philadelphia, 29 and 31 January 1704: What was to be done when the couple were already married?

Here is a related post:

Law against Improper Marriage Contracts in Early Virginia

Uh-oh. Andrew Bankson, a justice of the peace, finalized a wedding against the parents’ wishes. What’s to be done with the happy couple, Thomas Murray and Rebecca Richardson?

Since the story is not complicated, let’s get right to it.

29 Jan 1704


John Guest, Samuel Carpenter, Thomas Story, Griffith Owen

The transcriptions have been modernized.

The president [Edward Shippen] complaining against Andrews Bankson, one of the justices of the peace of Philadelphia County, for irregularly marrying a couple lately [recently] according to law, but against the prohibitions of the parents:

It is ordered that the said Andrew be sent for by messenger to appear before this board 2nd day next at two in the afternoon also, [and] that Capt. Finney be present at the said time in Council.

31 Jan 1704


Edward Shippen, President

John Guest, Samuel Carpenter, Thomas Story, Griffith Owen

Andrew Bankson, according to the order of the last Council, appearing before this board, was questioned concerning his being present at a late [recent] marriage of Thomas Murray and Rebecca Richardson, contrary to law, and countenancing it as a justice of the peace,

Upon which he declared that he was wholly ignorant of its being illegal and was heartily sorry for what was done, promising that whether he should continue in commission, or otherwise this should be such a caution to him as to prevent him of committing the like for the future and being severely checked, was dismissed.

He was dismissed from the board, not his judgeship. So what was to be done about the happy couple? Nothing, apparently. Divorce was out of the question, and it did not appear to be a “shotgun” wedding—the youngsters loved each other, so it seems. Rebecca Richardson may be related to one of the most dysfunctional families at that time in colonial Pennsylvania—the Richardsons.

Let’s trust they lived happily ever after, and the parents got used to their new in-laws.


Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania from the Organization to the Termination of the Proprietary Government, containing the Proceedings of Council from December 18 1700 to May 16 1717, vol. II, (Harrisburg Theophilus Fenn, 1838), p. 115.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s