Saturday, April 26, 2014

LASCIVIOUS CARRIAGE IN VERMONT

Have you been shopping on Amazon.com lately? Although I love my local bookstores, there is nothing like the variety of books you can buy online. For example, I recently purchased a used copy of Safe Thus Far: A History of the Guilford Congregational Church, 1767-1997 by Larrimore C. Crockett. This book interests me because I have many ancestors from Guilford.

When it arrived the other day, I was astonished at the gem I had purchased.  The previous owner must have read it from cover to cover as there are many passages that are underlined. There also appears to be a signature by the author on the cover page. I quickly saw why the book was so closely read.



The Congregational Church of Guilford is one of the oldest churches in Vermont. (1) Using a number of sources, the author compiled a list of about twenty members of the original congregation. (2) Although a number of names on this list were of interest to me, one in particular caught my eye—Joel Cutler. Joel Cutler was my 5th great grandfather. In 1782, there occurred a church meeting at Hezekiah Stowell’s home concerning Joel Cutler and his wife, Sister Cutler. (3) Joel’s wife [my 5th great grandmother, Betsey Nichols] had charged David Joy, a town leader, with “lascivious carriage.” (4)

What the heck is “lascivious carriage”? I wondered. Here is what I found:

For a definition of “Lascivious Carriage,” see American Wiki Encyclopedia of Law Project (http://lawi.us/lascivious-carriage).

In Commentaries on the Criminal Law, I read that a Vermont court decided that “where a man indecently exposed his person to a woman, and solicits her to have sexual intercourse with him, and persists in this solicitation against her opposition and remonstrance, his conduct amounts to ‘open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior.’” (5)

According to the Vermont State Papers chapter entitled “Laws Passed, February, 1779,” courts were directed to punish persons guilty of “lascivious carriage” by fines, committing them to a house of correction or to corporal punishment depending on the nature of the offense. (6)

My understanding of the offense is that a man (not her husband) made some sort of improper gesture or behaved indecently toward my 5th great grandmother without her permission. She was offended, and the perpetrator was in trouble. Our concept of improper conduct is most likely different than that of Puritans in New England. However, certain behavior is outrageous despite the date on the calendar.

Because of David Joy’s behavior, Joel and Betsey (as well as their friends Mr. and Mrs. Ramsdell) stopped going to the Lord’s Supper, which was viewed as a breach of the church covenant. (7) So now we have the church angry at the Cutler and Ramsdell families. According to the Guilford Church Records, the lascivious carriage could not be proved, Brothers Cutler and Joy settled the matter and the church wanted Joel Cutler to forgive and forget and return to his duty to the church. (8) It is unknown if Joel ever returned to the church. (9)

Larrimore Crockett, the author of Safe Thus Far, notes that the behavior that motivated the church meeting on March 21, 1782 was the absence of the Cutlers and Ramsdells from Church, not the behavior of David Joy. (10)  He further states that “the records take pains to minimize” the charge of lascivious carriage. (11) He compares the charge to sexual harassment claims today. (12)



Somewhere between 1782 and the 1900s, my Cutler ancestors became Episcopalians. They also moved to New York.  I would love to know what really happened between Betsey Nichols Cutler and David Joy.

GOING FORWARD:
  • I plan to order the microfilm of the Guilford Congregational Church records from the FamilySearch Catalog.
  • Because of the gap in the Cutlers’ attendance at the Guilford Congregational Church and also certain periods of inactivity of the Church, I should research other churches in the area for references to Joel and his large family.
  • The bibliography of Safe Thus Far contains many fascinating publications that might be helpful in my research.



ILLUSTRATIONS BY:

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Old-Fashioned Silhouettes," 2001.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Historic Costume From the Renaissance through the Nineteenth Century," 2004.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Decorative Silhouettes," 2003.

CITATION SOURCES:

(1) Crockett, Larrimore. "The Beginnings: 1767-1773." In Safe Thus Far: A History of the Guilford Congregational Church: 1767-1997, p. 17. Dummerton, Vermont: Black Mountain Press, 1999.

(2) Ibid., p. 15.

(3) Ibid., p. 17.

(4) Ibid., p. 17.

(5) Bishop, Joel Prentiss. "Specific Offences." In Commentaries on the Criminal Law. Third Edition, Volume II, Chap. III, Section 27[13a], Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1865. (books.google.com: accessed 21 Apr 2014).

(6) Vermont Council of Safety, 1777-1778, Vermont General Assembly, Vermont Council of Censors, 1785-1786, Vermont Office of Secretary of State, Vermont Council of Censors, 1792, “Laws Passed, February, 1779." In Vermont state papers: being a collection of records and documents, connected…., p. 290, Middlebury: J.W. Copeland, Printer, 1823. (books.google.com: accessed 20 Apr 2014).

(7) Safe Thus Far, p. 17.

(8) Crockett, Larrimore. "The Beginnings: 1767-1773." In Safe Thus Far: A History of the Guilford Congregational Church: 1767-1997, p. 17. Dummerton, Vermont: Black Mountain Press, 1999. Citing Guilford Church Records, Vol. I, 8 (original lost, typed transcript exists, stored in the vault of the Guilford Town Clerk, Guilford Center, Vermont).

(9) Safe Thus Far, p. 17.

(10) Ibid., p. 47.

(11) Ibid., p. 47.

(12) Ibid., p. 47.



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