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Colonial Cases

Seventeeth Century decisions, Bermuda

Source: J.H. Lefroy, Memorials of the discovery and early settlement of the Bermudas or Somers Islands, 1515-1685, Vol. 2,  (Longmans Green, London, 1877)


12. Extract from the record of the Assizes, 8-9-10 June 1652
(1) William Worth of Sandys tribe was tried and convicted of an unnatural offence, and suffered death on the 14th July.  The charges and fees paid in  ...

(2) The Jury  for the keepers of the commonwealth of England do present Black Moll a negro woman servant to Mr. Leikcroft of Southton tribe in the South islands for that she in the month of April or March last past in Anno 165 ½ did enter into the dwelling house of Nicholas Howe of the tribe aforesd.  And being there did ffeloniously take steale and carry awaie 2 holland aprons one wastcoat one peticoat one purse one pincushion 2 needle cases 2 Rings, on knife, one quoife 3 sheddews 2 papers of pins price together 7s. of the goods and chattells of the said Nicholas Howe contrary to the peace of the commonwealth of England and the dignity thereof.

   The which indictment she pleaded not Guilty but being by the grand Inquest found a true Bill for her further trial put herself upon God and the country wch being a Jury of 12 men sworne found her guilty.  But she acknowledging the fact was condemned to death.  Yet the country being then destitute if an executioner the Governor thought fitt to make her executioner upon the body of Worth abovesd & sue reprieved her.

(3) Another indictment follows of the same Black Moll for robbery in a certain House or cabbin upon the Governor's land - for which she was found guilty.

And was dealt with accordingly, as is abovesd.

(3) A few days later a warrant was issued to Black Moll to perform this office.

  To wch warrant the said Black Moll was obedient, and performed execution upon the body of Worth accordingly the 14th day of Junky `652.

(5)  A woman servant of Mr. John Miller for theft is condemned to be burnt in the hand with the letter T (thief),

(6) Robert White presented for theft.  Bill ignored.

(7) Henry was presented for witchcraft. 

(8) Alice How presented for stealing various articles of apparrell, coning in the ship called the King of Poland from England.  To which she pleaded not guilty, but the grand inquest found it a true Bill, but because it was not cleare by Law that being  done at sea, she was now punishable on land yt was suspended, and for former misdeameour words to Mr. Wiklkinson and others she was adjudged to be duckt, wch was performed accordingly by the Sheriff.

(11) Presents one Francis Wolman of pagetts tribe for a most horrid and impious #speech at our Blessed redeemer the lord Jesus Christ such words as is scarcely knowne to be heard in an age, that one should curse his god. ...

(13) One Henry Gaunt is suspected of being unnecessarily conversant with negro woman - that he hath given them gifts and if he hath not left his familiarity with such creatures, it is desired that such abominations be enquired into, least the land mournes for them.

(19) Three couples are presented for immorality, one of them sentenced to 31 lashes apiece upon the naked back.

(22) Francis Welman, presented ante No. 11, is brought up for judgment, and sentenced to stand in the pillory with his offence written on a piece of paper with capital letters, and to be bound to be good behaviour.  Some of the 'censures' of members of the Court are exceedingly barbarous.  It was proposed that he should be branded in the forehead with the letter B for blasphemer; should have his tongue slit; should have his tongue cut, and finally should have a 2-lb weight hung by a hole through his tongue!


16. Extract from the Record of the Assizes, December 7, 1652


  1. Criminal assault on a child, verdict of Guilty.
  2.  A negro man, servant unto John Young for stealing a piece of red cotton value 3s. from the dwelling house of John Smith found guilty, and for his fact the Governor did pronounce sentence of death upon him.  But yet by the Advice of the Council and consent thereof his life was prolonged, and the said covenant made common executioner upon his amendment of life and not otherwise.
  3. Elizabeth Middleton is presented for witchcraft.

(21) At a Court held the 3rd May 1653 at Georges Town John Middleton of sandis tribe is indicted on a charge of witchcraft.


27. Assizes, 24th Decem. 1653

(1) Anne the woman Indian servant unto Symon Harding of the parish of George Presented for theft.  Bill ignored: cleered by proclamation and discharged.

(2) Severen Vicars presented to be a deceiptful and dishonest man, the Grand Inquest being informed upon oath by John Yates that the said Vicars hath subtuilly and cunningly insinuated himselfe into the affections of a child of John Yates, and hath caused him to purloyne and to take from his father severell goodes, that is to say, a know of sea line price 4s. and five Rudder Pins price 5s. and six fathomes of new rope 6s. which is a practice of such concernment not to be tolerated or winked att.  Bound over to appear at the Assizes.

(5) Edward Bickerton and the wife of George Esmond are presented upon suspicion of incontinency.  The charge is supported by attestation.  Sentence that unless they severally provide two compurgators, they shall receive 31 lashes each at the post.

(6) Richard Jones is sentenced to pay 900 lbs of tobacco for support of an illegitimate child.  Both parents to acknowledge their offence in the parish Church of the tribe.

(7) John a Skotman and servant to Jonathan Stokes, and an Indian woman of Edward Sherlocke's.  Sentenced to be whipt.


39. At the Assizes, held 20 November, 1655

(1) Grace the wife of John Bedwell is presented for witchcraft but acquitted.

(11) Walter Abbott is charged with a gross and illegal proceeding who went into the docke in the sight of several persons and did even creep and stoopp down to Bedwell's wife and whisper to her, wch is a thing not lawfukll or allowd in any court, but that any one should prompte a prisoner at the barr Therein to plead against the Lord Protector in the Prisoners behalfe, ...

Appearance by cognisance.

William Haynes, for falsely reporting Mrs. Millor to be a witch.

Mr. Berkley on charge of rape.  Discharged with admonition, the parties having gone to New England and none left to prosecute.


88. Assizes June 15-17, 1658

(10) John Perkins and Grace Hammond for bastardy sentenced to be imprisoned 3 months and bound to their behaviour for one whole year(91) There follows the indictment of Thomas Moore and his wife for witchcraft.


Chapter Xii

28. Presentment at the Assizes, December 1, 1660.

(4) John Davis a mariner is permitted to marry Penelope Strange one of the company's mulatto women upon condition that every other child born of the marriage shall be the property of the company - reserving to the said Davis the right to put in a negro child in lieu of any one of those so falling to the company; and also to use any means he may to the company for the procuring of Penelope's freedom: but in the interim he is to pay 40s. per annum for her wages.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School