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Sermon Illustrations: Punishment

The various enactments originating from the Black Act of 1732 were framed so broadly that the death penalty could be imposed for innumerable unspecified variations of the same offence, and it is impossible to compute precisely how many crimes there were which could be punished by death. Some say more than three hundred. Popularly known as the Bloody code, this legislation made it an offence punishable by death for a man, woman or child to steal turnips, shoot rabbit, pick a pocket, damage a fish-pond, cut down an ornamental tree, set fire to a haystack, consort with gypsies, write a threatening letter, impersonate a pensioner of Greenwich Hospital, or appear on a public highway with a sooty face. Such crimes were punished with a barbarism unparalleled in the history of England but of the whole civilised world. The records of children hanged during this period are numerous.1

1 Bailey, Brian Hangman pp 44,45