Kotikokura (kotikokura) wrote,

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"And if the Jury of Women shall find that the Prisoner is quick with Child of a quick Child then Execution of her shall be stayed until she shall not be quick with Child of a quick Child and shall be hanged presently for it will not availe her to be young with Child. And yet whether she be with Child or not, Judgment shall not be delayed, but shall be presently given against her, that she shall be hanged, only the Execution of the judgment shall be stayed untill the next Assizes.

"If after she is reprieved and delivered of her Child, and before the next Gaol deliver, she shall be with Child again, though she be quick with Child, Execution shall not be stayed, but shall be put to Execution presently; but the truth of the matter being enquired of, and found ; the Sheriff or Gaoler which had the custody of her shall be fined for keeping her so slackly that she had the company of a man."

- The Office of the Clerk of the Assize Containing the Form and Method of the Proceedings at the Assize, and General Gaol-Delivery as Also on the Crown and Nisi Prius Side (Second Edition, 1682)

There’s been a rather lively scholarly debate on the status of fetal personhood in the English Common Law going back at least as far as Cyril Means’ "The Law of New York Concerning Abortion and the Status of the Foetus, 1664-1968", with brilliant and learned partisans of various stripes spilling gallons of ink in attempt to prove that the Common Law had a consistent and discernable position on the issue.

In so far as I can determine, the preceding citation has never come up. It seems to stand for the propositions that:

1) Personhood vests in the fetus at quickening;
2) Quick fetuses are acceptable collateral damage in the Crown’s war on murderers, housebreakers, poisoners, arsonists, horse-thieves, coin-shavers and witches.
3) Sexually predatory jailors should be dealt with through the judicious deployment of fines and euphemism.
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