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Folklore: Pregnancy and Psalms

Peter Timmerman 10 Jun 97 - 11:45 AM
Barry Finn 11 Jun 97 - 03:55 PM
Peter Timmerman 11 Jun 97 - 07:39 PM
Karen Jolley-Williams 13 Jun 97 - 01:50 PM
Bert Hansell 13 Jun 97 - 02:44 PM
Peter Timmerman 13 Jun 97 - 03:39 PM
Bert Hansell 16 Jun 97 - 10:32 AM
Peter Timmerman 16 Jun 97 - 11:22 AM
Susan of DT 16 Jun 97 - 06:17 PM
Tim Rossiter 20 Jun 97 - 08:45 AM
katlaughing 27 May 07 - 11:10 PM
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Subject: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 10 Jun 97 - 11:45 AM

While mulling over the "auctioning off wives" thread, I began wondering about other complicated public situations in the 18-19th century that might have made it into folk songs. Two that come to mind are the rule (British) that if a woman in court could prove she was pregnant she couldn't be condemned to death; and there was another that I am hazier on that if you could read a psalm the same was true. I think there was a specific psalm that everyone memorized and parroted off if they got into trouble, faking reading. Does anyone know of any folk songs picking up on these legal wrinkles, for example getting pregnant in a hurry to avoid the scaffold?

Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Barry Finn
Date: 11 Jun 97 - 03:55 PM

Anne Bonny & Mary Reed were captured in October 1720 with Anne's husband Capt. Jack "Calico" Rackman. As Anne & Mary fought with their British captors, yelling for the men to lend a hand, Jack & his crew were hiding below, drunk. As Calico Jack went to the gallows it's reported he said "If instead of these weaklings I only had had some more woman with me". Anne then expressing the feeling of both woman shouted to Jack "Had you fought like a man , you need not have been hanged like a dog". Both Mary & Anne did not oppose their death sentence. William Defoe wrote of Mary that the death sentence for piates would keep the sea free of cowards, which she thought would be over run with making it hard for brave freebotters to earn a living from. Both Mary & Anne "pleaded their bellies" & werespared the gallows, Mary died of fever before being freed, Anne went free with her child a year later. After all that, sorry Peter, I don't of any songs to go along with this. Barry


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 11 Jun 97 - 07:39 PM

Dear Barry, Good story though. Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Karen Jolley-Williams
Date: 13 Jun 97 - 01:50 PM

I think you're recalling the custom of a woman 'pleading her belly' to avoid hanging, commonly done by female felons. A woman who pleaded her belly upon receiving a death sentence was allowed a period of time from her sentence to the next Assizes in order to prove her plea. Daniel Defoe references this practice in "Moll Flanders"; Moll herself is a Newgate child, born of a female felon, who, incidentally, was transported to America sans child once the baby was born. Depending on the mercy of the judge, either the new mother was promptly hanged once the child was born (and the baby farmed out to raise), or the sentence was commuted to transportation, with or without the child.

The second question raised is the male 'out', so to speak; benefit of clergy. If an accused man could prove his status as clergy by reciting (if memory serves) Psalm 51, he was spared hanging. The verse was commonly called The Neck Verse, and those who could not read could certainly memorize the appropriate verse. Benefit of clergy was a legal practice at the roots of the conflict between Henry II and Thomas Becket-- nothing new by the 18th century!

Hope this helps!

Karen


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Bert Hansell
Date: 13 Jun 97 - 02:44 PM

This reminds me of a TV program I saw in England in the late fifties or early sixties

The story was about Jack Sheppard who was in Newgate prison and about to be hanged.
He had claimed that he would cheat death in the following way. If they would put his body in bed next to a young woman it would revive him
In the story the only woman who would consent to do this was herself condemned to death. They took his body from the gallows and put it into bed with her, but he did not revive.

However the woman got pregnant by this incident and was heself reprieved from the death sentence.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 13 Jun 97 - 03:39 PM

Thank you Karen, I had forgotten that it was benefit of clergy. Um, Bert, I seem to have missed something in the last sentence -- are we speaking of immaculate conception or Tibetan transmigration here? How did they do this on TV? Um, just asking, you know. Anyway, now that all that is sorted out, are there any songs??? Yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Bert Hansell
Date: 16 Jun 97 - 10:32 AM

Peter, Of course they didn't go into details on TV, especially in those prudish days just before the free love of the sixties. I know that it is far fetched, they just hauled the body into the jail put it in a bed, the girl climbed in and they faded the scene as they were being covered with the blankets.

They Implied that she got pregnant by sleeping with the body and finished with the question "Do the audience think that it was Jack Sheppard's child?" and the comment that Jack would have probably got a sentence of about nine months in modern times.

A lot stranger things have happened in folklore.
It was a good story even if it didn't quite jibe with the historical record.
I don't remember which channel it was on.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Peter Timmerman
Date: 16 Jun 97 - 11:22 AM

Maybe we need immaculate conception songs. yours, Peter


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Susan of DT
Date: 16 Jun 97 - 06:17 PM

Benefit of Clergy was from the middle ages, when few other than clerics (clerks, priests, monks) could read. Becket/Henry II were in the 1100s. If a person were a cleric, he would not be supject to civil court, which might hang him, but rather to the church court that did not usually hang (but they did burn at times.)


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: Tim Rossiter
Date: 20 Jun 97 - 08:45 AM

It is noteworthy that perpetrators of the Boston Massacre pleaded some type of "Clergy Privilege" and were released after being found guilty of manslaughter for killing protesters. I believe this could only be used once and only for manslaughter not first degree murder.


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Subject: RE: Query: Pregnancy and Psalms
From: katlaughing
Date: 27 May 07 - 11:10 PM

Barry, just watched a segment of "True Pirates of the Caribbean" on the History Channel. They said Ann Bonny disappeared from prison and life with no records of her after that. They also said some thought her father, the governor of one of the Carolinas had her spirited away.

You said she was let go with her child a year later. Do you have a source, please? I'd like to read more about her and know her fate.

Thanks a bunch,

kat


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