Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Murder, theft, and infanticide in eighteenth-century New England were all treated with the same punishment, public execution. The executions were not just public displays, but also a time for sermons and life lessons to teach those who witness the criminal's death to refrain from sinful behavior. At the core of every sermon was the Biblical passages used to warn the onlookers to be careful in life and a pea for the criminal to repent. In addition to the sermons, some of the criminals provided confessions to their crimes and even indicated their newfound salvation for their sins.

This thesis closely examines the Biblical passages used by both the sermon writers and criminals. People at this time related much of their lives to Christianity and Biblical teachings. They relied upon ministers to deliver messages to them based on scripture to help them with their lives. Though the sermons were usually useful for the congregations hearing them, the criminals gained little benefit to apply to their lives. In addition, some of the passages have no clear connection to what the sermon writers tried to convey. Careful examination of these passages yield information concerning the importance of the law, gender interpretations, and general life advice.

Included in

History Commons