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

Philip Ratcliff's Crime

The punishment of Thomas Morton saddened Susan and myself sorely; but not so much as when one Philip Ratcliff was punished.

He was such a wicked man that he went around the town saying he believed the devil was at the head of our church, and in every way casting reproach upon religion, despite the fact of his having been warned again and again that unless he put a bridle to his tongue, punishment would speedily follow.

He did not give heed to the warning, however, and after a time, which was during the third summer of our being in this land, he was brought before the court as one who had cast reproach upon God. For this he was sentenced to be whipped, to have his ears cut off, to be fined forty shillings, and afterward to be banished to England.


Because of this man's being so very, very wicked, Susan and I believed we should go to see him whipped, and gathered with the people at the pillory, where he stood with his neck and arms clutched by the heavy bars of wood; but when Samuel Morgan made ready the heavy whip, just as the man's back was bared to receive the lashes, we turned away in horror, not daring to look.

Father said, when he came home in the evening, that Ratcliff bore the whipping and the ear-cutting without a cry; but when it was over, he threatened vengeance against us, after he should be set free in England, and later we came to know what he meant by such threats.

He went everywhere about in the old country, telling that the New World was a hideous wilderness in which roamed the wildest savages thirsting for the blood of white people; that the land was rocky and barren, and not fit for farms, for no crops could be raised upon it; that the weather was cold, and that the climate caused deathly sickness.

All this, father said, worked to our harm among those godly people who were inclined to join us, for they feared to come into such a place, not understanding that these things were lies which had been told out of a spirit of revenge.

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