Anne Orthwood's Bastard Analysis

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Anne Orthwood’s Bastard: Sex and Law in Early Virginia by John Ruston Pagan highlights the paradoxical nature of life in the colonial times and how it aided the creation of American law. The four cases that resulted from the fornication between Anne Orthwood and John Kendall gave present historians a vivid image of how English settlers modified English traditions and began to create customs of their own. Furthermore, it was able to reveal some of the cultural, economical and political values in the colony of Virginia such as tobacco and unfree labor. They helped reveal the reasons why legal systems were created in the first place by documenting the prolongation of social order as well as the preservation of self interest. Anne Orthwood’s Bastard…show more content…
Many of the traditional practices in Virginia were thanks to the structure applied by the England country courts. Because the Church of England was the established church in the colony, it legally required colonists to attend its services and, through taxes, to financially support its ministers. Furthermore, it made the church a place where people could make political, social and economic networks. They “came together not only to worship but to exchange business documents, discuss tobacco prices, argue over the quality of horses, catch up on local gossip, and share news of the wider world." (Pagan. Pg. 98) Those members of the church like Colonial William Kendall received social welfare in return for their duty as Peacemakers in the community. They were expected to regulate the community and provide moral leadership as well as the dependents in their families, which justifies the reason why so much pressure was put on William Kendall. His duty to regulate such acts like fornication was greater than others in the communities because he was in the post of churchwardens. Similar to England, the early colonies depended heavily on the inner workings of family life as well as maintaining social order at whatever cost. “Patriarchs had a particular obligation to deter fornication, a “very brutish” practice that caused “many foul and filthy, besides painful diseases” and amounted to “a kind of sacriledge, a…show more content…
From its earliest days, religion played a vital role in the colony of Virginia like it did in England. Its first charters enforced social and religious norms by threatening settlers with imprisonment if they disobeyed. A great example is the sin of fornication. One of the main themes in Anne Orthwood’s Bastard, Fornication was seen as a big crime in the eyes of the church. The church taught that all acts of fornication was sinful and as a response, the public would humiliate people challenging the sexual norms. Under Virginia law, fornicators were subject to a fine or whipping. Early Virginians were accustomed to the traditional religious concept of fornication, viewing it as an “egregious form of sinful behavior that required atonement by men and women.” (Pagan. Pg. 128) However, many Virginian officials were more concerned in the economic issues that would arise due to bastardly and in protecting the rights of men than worrying about all sinners. The legislature tweaked English Laws against sexual immorality in order to make the laws more effective and have more legitimacy. This is the reason why an act was later passed in 1658 that stated “every person,” male or female, who committed fornication had to pay a fine of 500 pounds of tobacco to the parish where the act occurred or be whipped.” (Pagan. Pg.121) In addition, due to the growth of slavery in
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