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

Punishment for Evil-Doers

Now, when we go out to mingle with the people, it is impossible not to stop here or there when one of the constables is whipping an idle fellow through the streets, laying the lashes on his bare back with such force that the blood follows nearly every blow.

Then again, it is not often that one can pass the post at the corner of Prison Lane, without seeing some wrong-doer chained there as punishment for striking one of the people, and the cage wherein are kept men and women who have offended against the laws is seldom empty on a Thursday.

The prison itself is a dreary looking place, although it is not quite so very different from the church, but somehow its barred windows make the shivers run up and down my back and I always hurry past it with as much speed as possible.


Most likely there are as many bad people in the other towns of this New World, as in Boston; but it surely seems to Susan and me as if we had among us all those in America who delight in breaking the laws.

Of all the punishments which are inflicted here, I think the most cruel is that of sentencing a man to wear, so long as he may live, a halter around his neck so that every one may see it, for thus is the wrong-doer forced to shame himself during every hour of the day, and especially on Thursdays, when he must stand not less than two hours during the forenoon on the steps of the church.

It is on lecture day that one may sec the latest notices put up on the church, together with the announcements of those who intend to be married, and Susan and I have great pleasure in reading these, for then are we aware of anything important about to take place.

Of course there are times when we are not so well pleased at being forced to sit still five or six long hours, listening to this preacher or that who feels a call to speak during the lecture time; but if we failed to do so, we should not be allowed to go on the street wheresoever we please, therefore I hope that mother will not be able to have the lecture hour changed to the morning.

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