Mary Aggie and Benefit of Clergy in Virginia

Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam;
et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Psalmus 50. iii.

LAWS OF VIRGINIA, MAY 1732−−5th & 6th GEORGE II.

CHAP. VII.

An Act for settling some doubts and differences of opinion, in relation to the benefit of Clergy; for allowing the same to Women; and taking away of Reading; and to disable certain Persons, therein mentioned, to be Witnesses.

I. WHEREAS it has been held, That where, by an act of parliament, made in England before the settlement of this colony, the benefit of clergy, as it is called, hath been taken away from any offences, that persons committing the like offences in this colony, are excluded by virtue thereof; but this opinion, if it were nicely examined, might possibly be questioned: And for settling the law in that point,

II. Be it enacted, by the Lieutenant-Governor, Council and Burgesses, of this present General Assembly, and by the authority of the same, That where, by any act of the parliament of England, made before the fourth year of the reign of the late king James the first, the benefit of clergy is taken away from any offence, the same shall hereafter be adjudged to be taken away from the like offence, committed in this colony, in respect to principals, and accessories standing mute, and challenging a greater number of the jury than the law allows.

III. And whereas the old distinction, of allowing the benefit of clergy, to men only, and excluding women, and putting the offender, being a layman, to read, hath been taken away by the parliament of England: Be it enacted, That where a man, being convicted of any felony, may demand the benefit of his clergy, if a woman be convicted of the same, or the like offence, upon her prayer to have the benefit of this act, judgment of death shall not be given against her upon such conviction, nor execution awarded upon any outlawry, for such offence; but she shall suffer the same punishment as a man should suffer, that has the benefit of his clergy allowed him in the like case; That is to say, shall be burnt in the hand by the jailor in open court, and shall be afterwards dealt with, as a man in the like case might be. And if any person be convicted of a felony, for which he ought to have the benefit of clergy, and shall pray to have the benefit of this act, he shall not be required to read, but without any reading, shall be allowed, taken, and reputed to be, and punished as a clerk convict; which shall be as effectual, to all intents and purposes, and as advantageous to him, as if he had read as a clerk; any other law or statute, to the contrary hereof, in any wise, notwithstanding. Clergy allowed to women.

IV. And whereas a question hath lately arisen, touching the right of negros, to the benefit of clergy: for the determination thereof, Be it further enacted, That when any negro, mulatto, or Indian whatsoever, shall be convicted of any offence within the benefit of clergy, judgment of death shall not be given against him or her, upon such conviction; but he or she, shall be burnt in the hand in open court, by the jailor, and suffer such other corporal punishment, as the court shall think fit to inflict; except where such negro, mulatto, or Indian, shall be convicted of manslaughter, or the felonious breaking and entring any house in the night-time, or for breaking and entring in the day-time any house, and taking from thence any goods or chattels whatsoever, to the value of five shillings sterling; and where he or she hath once had the benefit of this act; and in those cases, such negro, mulatto, or Indian, shall suffer death, and be excluded from the benefit of this act.

V. And whereas negros, mulattos, and Indians, have lately been frequently allowed to give testimony as lawful witnesses in the general court, and other courts of this colony, when they have professed themselves to be christians, and been able to give some account of the principles of the christian religion: but forasmuch as they are people of such base and corrupt natures, that the credit of their testimony cannot be certainly depended upon, and some juries have altogether rejected their evidence, and others have given full credit thereto: For preventing the mischiefs that may possibly happen by admitting such precarious evidence,

VI. Be it further enacted, That no negro, mulatto, or indian, either a slave or free, shall hereafter be admitted in any court of this colony, to be sworn as a witness, or give evidence in any cause whatsoever, except upon the trial of a slave, for a capital offence; in which such case they shall be allowed to give evidence, in the manner directed by one act of assembly, made in the ninth year of the reign of the late king George, intituled, An Act directing the trial of Slaves committing Capital Crimes; and for the more effectual punishing Conspiracies and Insurrections of them; and for the better government of Negros, Mulattos, and Indians, bond or free.

Mary Aggie

In one of these Courts, in January last, a Negro woman Slave was tryed for stealing; and as I knew her to be a Christian (for not long before she had, upon some pretence, I forget what, sued for her Freedom in the General Court, where she was examined touching her Faith of which she gave a tolerable account) I desired a Lawyer to attend the Tryal, and in case she was found Guilty, to inform the Justices that notwithstanding she was a Slave, it was my opinion, as a christian, she was Intitled to the benefit of the Clergy; upon which after some little debate, for it was never Inquired into before, the Question was put, and the judges were divided, so it was agreed to be deferr’d until another and a fuller Court. When a report was made to me of their Proceedings, and fearing it might go against her if I left to be determined there, I advised with our ablest Lawyers, and from the county court had it Adjourned into the General Court, resolving to have this Matter argued in the most public manner by our best Lawyers, as a thing of great consequence, by which all the courts in the country for the future should govern themselves, and not doubting but it would be carried in favour of the Christian though a black one; But when the Day of hearing came, notwithstanding four out of five of the Gentlemen learned in the Law, of which number the King’s Attorney General was one, gave it as their opinion, supported by Proper Arguments, that she had a Right to plead the benefit of that statute, when put the Question, we were divided here too, six and six; and now it rests to be determined by the opinion of the Sollicitor & Attorney General in England, which I shall send for as soon as our Lawyers have drawn up a State of the Case as they have directions to do, with the sense of the Laws of this Country, and political reasons for and against it. But I can assure your Lordship that there is no Law against it, if there is, I think it ought to be repealed: and for political reasons, they are of equal force against white as black People being Christians. I shant trouble your Lordship with particulars, but thought it my Duty to acquaint your Lordship with it, not knowing whether Mr Commissary will do so or not, who was one of the judges.

— Extract from letter of Lt. Governor William Gooch to the Bishop of London, Williamsburg, 28 May 1731.

Bear and Serve

[Exeter Mills, April 2, 1865.]

Ah, my Sally, the triumphs of might are transient; but the sufferings and crucifixions for the right can never be forgotten. The sorrow and song of my glory-crowned division nears its doxology. May God pity those who wait at home for the soldier who has reported to the Great Commander! God pity them as the days go by and the sad nights follow.

The birds were hushed in the woods when I started to write, and now one calls to its mate “Cheer up—cheer up.” Let’s listen and obey the birds, my darling. Let’s try to cheer up—cheer up. I remember that Milton said: “Those who best bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best.” Let’s bear and serve Him best, my darling wife.

The Heart of a Soldier: As Revealed in the Intimate Letters of Genl. George E. Pickett, C.S.A., New York: Seth Moyle, 1913.

The Old Foundations of Life

Malvine, Dying in the Arms of Fingal, by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson.
Malvine, Dying in the Arms of Fingal, by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson.

Gaelic-speaking Ireland, because its art has been made, not only by the artist choosing his material from wherever he has a mind to, but by adding a little to something which it has taken generations to invent, has always had a popular literature. We cannot say how much that literature has done for the vigour of the race, for we cannot count the hands its praise of kings and high-hearted queens made hot upon the sword-hilt, or the amorous eyes it made lustful for strength and beauty. We remember indeed that when the farming people and the labourers of the towns made their last attempt to cast out England by force of arms they named themselves after the companions of Finn. Even when Gaelic has gone, and the poetry with it, something of the habit remains in ways of speech and thought and ‘come-all-ye’s’ and political sayings; nor is it only among the poor that the old thought has been for strength or weakness. Surely these old stories, whether of Finn or Cuchulain, helped to sing the old Irish and the old Norman-Irish aristocracy to their end. They heard their hereditary poets and story-tellers, and they took to horse and died fighting against Elizabeth or against Cromwell; and when an English-speaking aristocracy had their place, it listened to no poetry indeed, but it felt about it in the popular mind an exacting and ancient tribunal, and began a play that had for spectators men and women that loved the high wasteful virtues. I do not think that their own mixed blood or the habit of their time need take all, or nearly all, credit or discredit for the impulse that made our modern gentlemen fight duels over pocket-handkerchiefs, and set out to play ball against the gates of Jerusalem for a wager, and scatter money before the public eye; and at last, after an epoch of such eloquence the world has hardly seen its like, lose their public spirit and their high heart and grow querulous and selfish as men do who have played life out not heartily but with noise and tumult. Had they understood the people and the game a little better, they might have created an aristocracy in an age that has lost the meaning of the word. When we read of the Fianna, or of Cuchulain, or of some great hero, we remember that the fine life is always a part played finely before fine spectators. There also we notice the hot cup and the cold cup of intoxication; and when the fine spectators have ended, surely the fine players grow weary, and aristocratic life is ended. When O’Connell covered with a dark glove the hand that had killed a man in the duelling field, he played his part; and when Alexander stayed his army marching to the conquest of the world that he might contemplate the beauty of a plane-tree, he played his part. When Osgar complained, as he lay dying, of the keening of the women and the old fighting men, he too played his part: ‘No man ever knew any heart in me,’ he said, ‘but a heart of twisted horn, and it covered with iron; but the howling of the dogs beside me,’ he said, ‘and the keening of the old fighting men and the crying of the women one after another, those are the things that are vexing me’.

If we would create a great community–and what other game is so worth the labour?–we must recreate the old foundations of life, not as they existed in that splendid misunderstanding of the eighteenth century, but as they must always exist when the finest minds and Ned the beggar and Sean the fool think about the same thing, although they may not think the same thought about it.

— W. B. Yeats’s Preface to Lady Gregory’s Gods and Fighting Men, 1904.

30 November 1554

Arms of Reginald Cardinal Pole.
Arms of Reginald Cardinal Pole.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Which with His most precious blood hath redeemed and washed us from all our sins and iniquities, that He might purchase unto Himself a glorious spouse without spot or wrinkle, and the Father hath appointed Head over all His Church, He by His mercy absolve you. And we, by apostolic authority given unto us by the most holy lord Pope Julius III., His vicegerent here on earth, do absolve and deliver you, and every of you, with the whole realm and dominions thereof, from all heresy and schism, and from all and every judgment, censures, and pains, for that cause incurred; and, also, we do restore you again unto the unity of our mother the holy Church, as in our letters more plainly it shall appear: in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Absolution restoring the Realm of England to Catholic unity, proclaimed 30 November 1554, the Queen, the King, and the Papal Legate being all present in the House of Lords.

Colin Campbell, 8th Laird of Glenorchy

Sir Colin Campbell, 2nd Baronet, 8th Laird of Glenorchy, from the Black Book of Taymouth.
Sir Colin Campbell, 2nd Baronet, 8th Laird of Glenorchy, from the Black Book of Taymouth.

Item, the said Sir Coline Campbell of Glenurchay Knycht barronett of gude memorie depairt this lyfe in Balloch the sext day of September the yeir of God 1640 yeiris, being laird of Glenurchay nyne yeiris, and thriescore thrie yeiris of age.

And wes honourablie buried in the chappell of Finlarg be his nixt brother Sir Robert Campbell nynt laird of Glenurchay, being accompanyit with diveris of his honourabill freinds and neighbouris, his brethreen, and the rest of his freendis of the name Campbell come of his hous.

Black Book of Taymouth.

Sir Colin and Lady Juliana Campbell

“Scotland of Old”

Cover of Bartholomew's Map of Scotland of Old, John Bartholomew & Son, Edinburgh, c. 1956.
Cover of Bartholomew’s Map of Scotland of Old, John Bartholomew & Son, Edinburgh, c. 1956.
Bartholomew's Map of Scotland of Old, John Bartholomew & Son, Edinburgh, c. 1956; clan map by Sir Iain Moncreiffe, Albany Herald, and Don Pottinger, Unicorn Pursuivant of Arms.
Bartholomew’s Map of Scotland of Old, John Bartholomew & Son, Edinburgh, c. 1956; clan map by Sir Iain Moncreiffe, Albany Herald, and Don Pottinger, Unicorn Pursuivant of Arms.