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‘Putt to Shame’
Capital Crimes and Punishments in 17th Century Maryland

Established by the Maryland Assembly in 1642

Capital Crimes










-willful destruction of property

-plucking out another person’s eyes [1]

-cutting out another person’s tongue [1]

-or being an accessory to any of the above

Capital Punishments

To be applied by the judge in accordance with the laws of England

-hanging, death by

-burning, death by

-drawing and quartering, death by [torn apart by four horses]

-boring [having a hole drilled through the tongue]


-branded in the hand [branding the face was reserved for runaway servants]

-stripped of all property

-tripped of office, dignity or title

-outlawed for life

-exiled for life

-imprisoned for life

-sold for 7 years service, unless he was a gentleman

-to be beaten like a servant

-to be shamed by some torture such as dunking or being locked in the stocks


1. These two crimes seem to have been decreed to prevent sadistic masters from maiming their servants. One man was ordered by a judge to remove the lock that he had used to pierce his boy servant's mouth, preventing eating and speaking. The spirit of the law was that individuals may not take the same liberties with inflicting punishments on their servants that the state does with its citizens.

Stillbirth of a Nation: Caucasian Slavery in Plantation America: Part One

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