Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

The Passing of New Laws

When we had been in this village two years, there was much vexation because of the greater portion of the gold and silver money, which our people had brought with them, having been sent back to England in order to purchase goods there, and the result was that even those who were well off in the things of this world, found themselves unable to pay their debts.

Therefore it was that the court ordered corn to be taken in the stead of gold and silver, unless money, or beaver skins, were set down in the writing as the method of payment agreed upon.

At the same time another law was passed, part of which seemed to bear heavily upon those who were homesick to the point of going back to England, and yet may have offended the officers of the law in some way. It was declared that no person should be allowed to depart out of the town of Boston, either by sea or by land, or to buy goods out of any vessel or of the Indians, without permission from the magistrates.

I know it is not seemly for a girl to question that which her elders have done, and yet there were many times when it seemed to me as if such a law worked injury to us of Boston.

I might not have given so much heed to matters which do not concern girls, but for the fact that Susan's father had crossed the Neck on his way in search of wild animals, and having come some four miles into the forest, he met an Indian who had on his back a half-bushel of corn in a basket.

The savage took a fancy to the girdle he wore, offered to give him the corn, and bring as much more on the following day, if the belt were given to him then.


Susan's father, believing that the law against buying provisions of an Indian would not be carried so far as to prevent a bargain like the one which the savage had offered, stripped off his belt and took the corn.

On coming back to the town, Samuel Goodlove, one of the tithing-men, met him, and asked how it chanced he had set forth in search of wild fowl and brought back corn.

Thinking no harm, Susan's father told all that had been done in the forest, and straightway he was brought before Governor Winthrop, who fined him ten shillings and the corn he had brought on his back four miles, for having offended the law. In addition, he was sentenced to give back to the Indian as much corn as he had taken, but without demanding from him the girdle that had been given over.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: Stealing from the Indians  |  Next: Master Pormont's School
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.