Petty Crime Family in Early Virginia

Dateline Virginia, March 1661/2: A husband and wife with their two servants get lashes for striking the High Sheriff. It’s one symptom of a dysfunctional family.

The excerpt speaks for itself.

Modernized transcription begins:

Upon the complaint of Col. Edmund Scarburgh, late High Sheriff of Northampton County on his Majesty’s behalf against John Alford and Elizabeth his wife, Teige Miskell and William Jump for rebellion and disobedience which this committee examining, and after a full hearing of all parties do report that we kind the said John Alford and Elizabeth his wife, both by full testimony, their own confession, and ill behavior before us, to be rebellious and insolent persons and guilty of wounding the said Col. Scarburgh, late High Sheriff, on the head and Teige Miskell  and William Jump disobedients [those who disobey]:

It is therefore ordered by this Grand Assembly for reforming the like disorders that the said Alford and Elizabeth his wife, with Teige Miskell and William Jump be returned by the same conduct that brought them to the County of Northampton and there to be delivered to the High Sheriff who is to take security of them for good behavior;

And at the next court held for the same county that the said John Alford shall receive thirty lashes on his bare back and Elizabeth  his wife twenty lashes and Teige Miskell and William Jump ten apiece, and the said John Alford pay all costs and charges for himself, wife and servants.

Transcription ends.

The Bible recommends a judge to sentence a criminal with lashes at the discretion of the judge (Deut. 25:2-3).

Do you favor this kind of punishment for certain crimes? If not, what punishment would you recommend?


Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1659/60-1693, ed. H. R. McIlwaine (Richmond: 1914), p. 123

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