Legal Case: Michell and Preston, Plymouth, March 1, 1642

"Lewd & sodomitical practices"

The Plymouth court cited Edward Michell and Edward Preston for "lewd & sodomitical practices tending to sodomy" with each other.(1)

Conviction under the Plymouth sodomy law of 1636 meant death, but these guilty parties were only whipped. The court, then, made a major distinction between "sodomy" proper, punished by death, and "sodomitical" (or sodomy-like) practices-those "tending toward sodomy"-- punished by a whipping. The record states:

Edward Michell, for his lewd & sodomitical practices tending to sodomy with Edward Preston, and other lewd carriages with Lydia Hatch, is censured to be presently whipped at Plymouth, at the public place, and once more at Barnestable, in convenient time, in the presence of Mr. Freeman and the committees of the said town.
Edward Preston, for his lewd practices tending to sodomy with Edward Michell, and pressing John Keene thereunto (if he would have yielded), is also censured [sentenced] to be forthwith whipped at Plymouth, and once more at Barnestable (when Edward Michell is whipped), in the presence of Mr. Freeman & the committees of the same town.
John Keene, because he resisted the temptation, & used means to discover it, is appointed to stand by whilst Michell and Preston are whipped, though in some thing he was faulty.

The same court proceeding also cited

Lydia Hatch, for suffering Edward Michell to attempt to abuse her body by uncleanness, & did not discover [report] it, & [for] lying in the same bed with her brother, Jonathan, is censured to be publicly whipped; was accordingly done.



  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), pp. 84-85, citing Shurtleff, Plymouth, vol 2, pp. 35-36. These records also report that Jonathan Hatch was arrested as a "vagrant" and for his "misdemeanors" with his sister, sentenced to be whipped and sent to Salem. The proceedings of the same date also cite "Tristam Hull, of Yarmouth, for unclean practices" (unspecified). Hull's citation did not prevent him from being elected constable of Yarmouth six years later, in 1647 (vol. 2, p. 115).