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The Daily Agenda for Wednesday, December 5

Jim Burroway

December 5th, 2012

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Events This Weekend: Mad Bear, Madrid, Spain; Pride Manila, Manila, Philippines.

From a pamphlet printed in London in 1641 (Click to enlarge).

TODAY IN HISTORY:
Bishop John Atherton Hanged for Buggery: 1640. The delicious irony was that the good bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the Church of Ireland was one of the loudest proponents for a new law making homosexuality a capital crime. He then became the second person to be hanged under that statute. His his steward, tithe proctor and cohort, John Chidle, was also condemned to death.

The original trial records were destroyed in the civil wars that followed the downfall of King Charles I, so virtually everything we know about the case comes from public pamphlets which were the equivalent of our tabloid press. Historians harbor some doubt as to whether Atherton was really guilty. In addition to being a bishop, Atherton was also a lawyer who apparently had some success in winning back some of the church’s lands from Irish landlords, an act for which he undoubtedly collected a number of powerful enemies. Puritans, who were also active in trying to abolish the office of bishops in the Church of England, are also believed to have played a hand in his downfall.

We may never know the true story of Atherton’s sexuality. But his death remains a warning to all nations — I’m looking at you, Uganda — who would impose severe criminal sanctions on homosexual relationships. As long as draconian penalties exist, the temptation will be great for blackmailers and political opponents to lobb accusations against their targets. And under those circumstances, nobody will be safe regardless of their actual sexuality.

Massachusetts Bay Court Sentences Woman for “Unseemly Practices”: 1642. The Essex County Court in Salem recorded the following: “Elizabeth Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge, to be severely whipped and find 5 li. (pounds) for unseemly practices betwixt her and another maid; for stubbornness to her mistress answering rudely and unmannerly, and also for stopping her ears with her hands when the Word of God was read…” This brief mention is believed to be the first recorded legal prosecution of same-sex relations between women in North America.

If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Comments

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F Young
December 5th, 2012 | LINK

“Johnson, servant to Mr. Jos. Yonge…”

I wonder if “servant” was a euphemism for slave.

Anyway, thanks for all these history bits.

Ben in Oakland
December 5th, 2012 | LINK

I’ve long though that if this bill is passed, we will see a definite political use as people somewhat disingenuously use it to attack their enemies.

That would be hilariously ironic, were it not for the truly innocent victims of it– gay people.

Soren456
December 5th, 2012 | LINK

“SOMEWHAT disingenuously”?

Regan DuCasse
December 5th, 2012 | LINK

I spent a day with three friends in Salem, MA checking out the history that’s not so often reported. How many slaves were recorded in the Customs House, where they might be buried. The largest 478 year old cemetery there, doesn’t have any blacks in it.
When I asked a docent about burials of blacks, the question perplexed him.
And the witch trials history was riveting and certainly showed that women can be very vulnerable to accusations, and punishment.
Through history, until today, the abuses of females is remarkable to report, especially to those who insist that men and women are nature’s most compatible and the natural the guardians of procreation.
Procreation is one thing, survival after that is another.

Priya Lynn
December 5th, 2012 | LINK

Regan said “Through history, until today, the abuses of females is remarkable to report, especially to those who insist that men and women are nature’s most compatible and the natural the guardians of procreation.

What an astute observation. Now that you mention it, it shows that all this talk about men and women being uniquely “complementary” is really mostly B.S.

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