Blasphemy . An offence against God and religion is that
of blasphemy against the Almighty, by denying His being or providence,
or by contumelious reproaches of Christ. Also all profane scoffing at the
holy scriptures, or exposing them to comtempt and ridicule. This is punished
by fine and imprisonment, or infamous corporal punishment.
Cursing. This is somewhat allied to blasphemy. By statute of
George II, which repeals all former acts, every laborer, sailor, or soldier
profanely swearing, shall forfeit one shilling for every offence, and every
other person under the degree of a gentleman, two shillings; and every
gentleman or person of rank, five shillings, for the poor of the parish,
and on the second offence, double, and the third offence, treble. In default
of payment, the offender shall be sent to the house of correction for ten
days. Profanity was expressly forbidden in stage plays...
Profanation of the Lordís Day. This offence is vulgarly called
Sabbath-Breaking, and is punished by municipal law. Beside the indecency
and scandal of permitting any regular business to be publicly transacted
on that day in a country professing christianity, and the corruption of
morals which usually follows its profanation, the keeping this day holy,
as a time of relaxation, as well as for public worship, is of admirable
service to a state, considered merely as a civil institution. It humanizes,
by the help of conversation and society, the manners of the lower classes,
which would otherwise degenerate into a wild ferocity and savage
selfishness of spirit; it enables the industrious workman to pursue his
occupation during the ensuing week with health and cheerfulness; it imprints
upon the minds of the people that sense of their duty to their God, so
necessary to make them good citizens, but which would be defaced
by an unremitted continuance of labor, without any stated time to recall
them to the worship of their Maker...
Drunkenness. By statute of James I, this vice was punished by
a fine of five shillings, or by sitting six hours in the stocks, by which
time it was presumed that the culprit would become sobered, and not liable
to do the mischief.
Open Lewdness. This is either by frequenting houses of ill-fame,
which is an indictable offence, or by some grossly scandalous and public
indecency, for which the punishment is fine and imprisonment. In the year
1650, not only were incest and adultery capital crimes, but also the repeated
acts of keeping a brothel or committing fornication, were upon a second
conviction, made felony, without benefit of clergy.