Sodomy Law: The Duke of York's Laws, March 1, 1665

death for sodomy

In 1664 the English conquered the Dutch New Netherland Colony and it became a proprietary colony of the Duke of York.(1)

On March 1, 1665, at Hempstead, Long Island, representatives from several towns approved the code of laws drawn up by the duke's agent. These laws, which closely followed New England precedent in their wording, went into effect in what became the New York and New Jersey colonies, and in the Pennsylvania Colony in 1676.

Eleven capital crimes were listed in the Duke of York's laws of 1665. These included: (1) blasphemy, (2) remeditated murder, (3) murder of a defenseless victim, (4) conspiracy to murder, (5) bestiality, (6) sodomy, (7) man-stealing, (8) perjury to take a life, (9) treason, (10) insurrection, and (11) children over sixteen smiting their parents.

The sodomy provision read:

If any man lyeth with mankind as he lyeth with a woman, they shall be put to Death, unless the one party were Forced or be under fourteen Years of age, in which Case he shall be punished at the Discretion of the Court of Assizes.

This law was next revised when New York became a royal province in 1711.




  1. Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay/Lesbian Almanac (NY: Harper & Row, 1983), p.105-6, George Straughton and others, eds., Charter to William Penn, and Laws of the Province of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pa.: Lane S. Hart, 1879), p. 14. Also see Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History (New Haven: 1934-38), vol. 3, pp. 106-07, 116-17.