Tuesday, May 21, 2013


My ancestor John Barnes must have really perplexed the leaders of Plymouth
Colony. He apparently drank to excess often and in such a way that it was
impossible for the authorities to just ignore it. Yet he was also too important
a member of the Colony to be punished by exile or imprisonment. Finally, in
March of 1657, some limit must have been reached because they tried a
new tactic:

 2March 1657
John Barnes, for his frequent abusing himselfe in drunkeness, after former
punishment and admonition, is fined fiue pounds ; and in case any shall
entertaine him in theire house in a way of drinking, shallbee fined the sume
of twenty shillings ; and if any of the towne of Plymouth shallbee found
drinking in his companie, eury such to pay two shillings & sixpence.
 Plymouth Court Records v3 p128

I think they were trying to use the modern bar tactic of "shutting him off "
but there was a very large hole in it: John Barnes was a merchant, and there
must have been things like wine and rum among the goods he stocked.  He
would also have been traveling to Boston for business where he could find
someone to drink with him. The attempt to curb his drinking problem

Next the Colony government turned to a different method:

6Oct 1659
Att this court, John Barnes, William Newland, and Henry Howland appeered,
being sumoned, and were convicted by law, and sentanced by the Court to bee
disfranchised of their freedome of this corporation ; the said John Barnes, for
his frequent and abominable drunkenes,  and William Newland and Henry Howland
for theire being abettors and entertainers of Quakers, contrary to the aforesaid
order ; likewise Richare beare of Marshfeild, for being a grossly scandalouse pson,
debaughed having bine formerly convicted of filthy, obseane practises, and for the
same by the Court sentanced ;  as alsoe faling vnder the breach of the aforsaid law,
was summoned by the Court psonally to appeer to receiue the said sentance of being
disfranchised as aforesaid, but he appeered not. Notwithstanding his facts and
course of life being pspecuouse and mannifest, hee was likewise sentanced to bee
disfranchised of his freedome of this corporation. V3 pp176-177

This time, John and the others named were now denied the right to vote in Colony
affairs. Even this did nothing to keep John away from drink, because two years later
a new stricter version of the first Court order was issued:

10Jun 1661
The  ordinary keepers of the towne of Plymouth are heerby prohibited to lett John
Barnes haue any liquors, wine, or strong drinke, att any time, within dores or without,
on the penaltie of being fined fifty shillings if they shallbee found to doe, to bee
to the vse of the collonie. V3 p219

Up until now it looks like there was a pattern: the Colony's leaders would try something
to deal with Barnes' public drunkenness and it would seem to work for about two years. But
either this last time was more successful than the other times, or John finally learned
how to be a discrete drinker. Whatever the case, this time it was four years before the
next appearance in Court for John: 

3Oct 1665
John Barnes, being lately detected of being twise drunke, is fined twenty shillings.

Gyles Rickard, Senr, for suffering John Barnes to bee drunke in his house, is fined
five shillings. V4 p106

This was the next to last mention in the Plymouth Court Records of John Barnes'
drunkenness. The last one came six years later and that was on the occasion of his death.

But John had other affairs that needed to be brought up in Court, and we'll discuss those

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