Death by hanging
Beatings became imprisonment, tongues bored became banishment, then
hanging was imposed when these infuriating and unyielding ‘heretics’
and ‘blasphemers returned to try what they saw as unjust laws.
Four Quakers were hanged from 1659-61. The first hangings were in
1659, when Mary Dyer was sentenced with two Quaker men.
She was herself well-educated, wife to a well-respected public
official, though from another Colony, and mother to a large family.
Her eventual death by hanging had a dramatic influence in changing
attitudes in the Colony.
The Quaker men with her were hanged, but she was reprieved in front
of the hanging tree, with the rope around her neck, and banished. She
returned seven months later, this time to meet her death in 1660.
From the ‘orthodox’ Puritan point of view, the four were
responsible for their own deaths as, even after sentence, they were
offered their lives and free passage away if they promised to remain
out of the Colony. Each refused saying they were there obeying their
conscience and the leadings of the Spirit against unjust laws.
The Puritan leadership said the Quakers hanged were “heretics,
blasphemers and insurrectionists”.