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Pillory - Public Ridicule

Pillory - Public Ridicule Tragedies and Triumphs Government Social Studies

When Puritans arrived in America, they implemented the types of punishments they had known in Britain.  One of those punishments was the pillory.

This image depicts the pillory as it was used by Puritans in Colonial America.  Nathaniel Hawthorne describes it in The Scarlet Letter:

This scaffold constituted a portion of a penal machine which now, for two or three generations past, has been merely historical or traditionary among us, but was held in the old time to be as effectual in the promotion of good citizenship as ever was the guillotine among the terrorists of France.

It was, in short, the platform of the pillory; and above it rose the framework of that instrument of discipline, so fashioned as to confine the human head in its tight grasp, and thus hold it up to the public gaze.  The very ideal of ignominy was embodied and made manifest in this contrivance of wood and iron.  There can be no outrage, methinks - against our common nature - whatever be the delinquencies of the individual - no outrage more flagrant than to forbid the culprit to hid his face for shame.


Media Credits

This image of a Colonial pillory, which appears in many places, is also included in Curious Punishments of Bygone Days, by Alice Morse Earle, at page 44.

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