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

In the Pillory

Another wicked person who had come to Boston was Henry Linn, who was no sooner living among us than he wrote letters to England by every vessel, full of slander against the churches, and of those who took part in the government.

He was forced to stand in the pillory from sunrise to sunset, and was then sent back to England with the warning that if he ever returned, worse punishment would follow.

It has come to my mind that possibly some who read these words may not have seen a pillory, for I am told that there are places in this world where the people so fear God and love their neighbors that there is no need they be punished, therefore will I set down as best I may, a description of that instrument of shame that stands near to where lives Master Wilson.

First a platform of logs is made of such height that he who stands upon it can be seen of all the people, and from the center of this rises a stout log to the height of four feet or more. On the top of the upright timber, and fastened immovable, is a puncheon plank on the upper edge of which are cut three grooves, the middle one large enough to contain a man's neck and the other two his wrists. Now a second plank is fashioned to fit down over the first one, with other grooves in it to match.

Whosoever must be punished is forced to stand upon this platform with his head and arms fastened securely in the holes of the planks, exposed to the view of all the people during so long a time as the sentence demands.

In addition to being a most shameful punishment, it must be exceeding painful, for one may not stand very long in the same position without becoming cramped, and he who is in the pillory cannot move hands or head.

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