Bastardy in Queen Anne's Somerset County: Its Punishments and Consequences

by tallsunshine12

Three separate court cases occurring in a relatively short time frame involved three guilty women and the lover of one of these women, Elizabeth Logee (or Loge). In a case entitled, "The Queen vs. Elizabeth Logee, "Elizabeth," who was a servant to John Walston of Stepney Parish, "seduced by the instigation of the Devil hath committed fornication on or about the 12th day of September, 1713," and "on her body hath born a bastard child to the great dishonor of all mighty (sic) God." Elizabeth pleaded guilty to her indictment, having had a child out of wedlock with a certain William Beneton. Part of her sentence involved repayment of jail fees, but what was of perhaps more immediate consequence to Elizabeth herself was a public whipping. Addressing the Sheriff of Somerset County, Benjamin Wailes, the magistrate of the court is quoted to have said, "Greeting. You are to take Elizabeth Logee to the whipping post and to give her ten lashes on the bare back well laid on." Not exactly a rarity, these public whippings were hoped to bring shame to the adulterous women.

Besides suffering the public humiliation of the painful stripes, Elizabeth had been kept in jail awaiting trial and was now also indebted for 'jail' fees. As county sheriffs weren't paid a set salary, jail fees paid them for their time and trouble in keeping malefactors fed and housed. A 'security' contracted by the malefactor himself often paid these fees, forcing the convicted person to add extra time, if indentured, to work them off. In Elizabeth Logee's case, her master John Walston became her security and paid 5 pounds in 'common' or 'current' money, that is, in sterling, not tobacco, pounds. Elizabeth was ordered to serve Walston one and a half years. This was in addition to her current time of service, or indenture, "for the payment of all officers (sic) fees and the trouble of his house and to keep the child for so long as she (Elizabeth) is adjudged to serve."

Two other women suffered like sentences, excepting the lashes "well laid on." Using similar language as above, the judicial record relates the case of another Elizabeth, this one named Smith, a 'spinster.' She was judged to find security for 10 pounds current money. As in Logee's case, Smith's master Robert Wood became her security. The money was "levied on his goods and chattels, lands and tenements" for the use of the Queen and her successors. Also, as before, Elizabeth Smith served additional indentured time, two more years, to Robert Wood.

Margaret Jervice, spinster, had a baby with Casah, a Negro 'servant' of Capt. Arnold Elzey. The mulatto baby was named, "Money," of all things! "Money" the mulatto was judged, just for being born not white and not black, to serve 31 years from the day the court was in session. Margaret got a stiff enough sentence, having to serve an additional seven years. Both she and her child, Money, were reckoned each to be worth 3000 pounds of tobacco. However, not all servants were allowed to stay with their masters. Margaret was removed from her master's house, due to the fact the home was shared with Casah. She and Money were 'bought' by "Sam'll Worthington."

In the story of Elizabeth Logee, our first adulteress, there's a surprising addition. Her lover, William Beneton, of Somerset County, Planter, now on June 3, 1714, nearly a year after impregnating Elizabeth, had also to pay a fine and all officers' fees. His security was Adam Hitch, each fined 10 pounds. William was in addition ordered to keep the parish and county indemnified of any charge for "the bastard child," and to pay John Walton, Elizabeth's master, 800 pounds of tobacco. It's interesting to note that the man likewise involved in the child's appearance in this world didn't get off scot free.

Today, there are still jail fees helping to reduce the taxpayers' burden to house, feed, and care for convicts. These fees may cover an inmate's medical and dental visits, his or he studying for the GED if an adult, and even a per diem of up to $90 for everything else. According to a Baltimore Sun article, printed in 2004, and entitled, "Jail fees increase inmates' debt to society," about one-third of U.S. county jails now charge fees, though poorer inmates are often not expected to pay. Sometimes the fees are paid while an inmate is in jail, but they may also be paid back to society after the inmate's sentence is served, using wage garnishment or a payment plan such as $20 a month. Both the lash and indentures may have gone the way of the mastodon and the dire wolf, but jail fees remain and are one of the more controversial ideas of today.