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Taming Lust

Crimes Against Nature in the Early Republic

By Doron S. Ben-Atar and Richard D. Brown

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Early American Studies

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Crimes Against Nature

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pp. 1-9

This book treats a most unusual offense—one that evokes laughter for some and disgust in others.1 Our account of John Farrell and Gideon Washburn, two elderly New England men tried separately for bestiality in the 1790s, runs counter to the instinctual sense of what it means to be human, while...

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Chapter 1. The Sisyphean Battle Against Bestiality

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pp. 10-40

Interspecies intercourse is part of the foundational mythologies of Western civilization. Cave paintings depicted men mounting animals. Cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world frequently depicted half-human–half-animal creatures, and in Greek and Roman mythologies animals and...

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Chapter 2. The Unlikely Prosecutions of John Farrell and Gideon Washburn

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pp. 41-70

The story of John Farrell begins in the hardscrabble farming town of Leverett, located about 105 miles west of Boston in the eastern hills of Hampshire County, the countryside that had so recently supplied foot soldiers for Daniel Shays’s army of insurgents. First settled around 1750 and incorporated...

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Chapter 3. Sexual Crisis in the Age of Revolution

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pp. 71-95

Within the space of three years New England courts just seventy miles apart sentenced two octogenarians to hang for a rare and bizarre crime. John Farrell had, so far as we can discover, no criminal record, and although Gideon Washburn had been convicted for counterfeiting some fifty years...

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Chapter 4. Fearful Rulers in Anxious Times

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pp. 96-128

In the late 1790s Massachusetts and Connecticut bore little resemblance to either revolutionary Paris or Georgian London; but developments in those trendsetting capitals—political, religious, social, and sexual—ignited alarm and even panic in the minds of the region’s self-styled guardians. Vices,...

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Chapter 5. Puritan Twilight in the New England Republics

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pp. 129-150

In second half of the 1790s highly placed New Englanders believed that forces beyond their grasp had launched a broad assault on their world. They watched the resurrection of the old Gallic peril, and this time it was even more menacing than it had been in papist garb; for now it was spreading...


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pp. 151-198


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pp. 199-206

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pp. 207-209

Many generous colleagues and friends helped our research in spite of the subject. Historians properly begin by thanking the custodians of primary sources: archivists. Linda Hocking of the Litchfield Historical Society has helped this research since Doron first showed up at the society’s offices a decade ago. Linda found documents, solved transcription puzzles, and was...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812209259
E-ISBN-10: 0812209257
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245813

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 21 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Early American Studies