Paternity Claim, 1803
Taunton, MA, 1803. The handwritten court documents for a paternity/child support case in Massachusetts in 1803, filed on behalf of a girl who (as best as we can tell) would have been 11 years-old at the time of "begetting," against a man of (we believe) 19. Two pages: the first is the complaint made by Attorney [Nicholas] Tillinghast on behalf of Sally White, in part: "Complains Sally White of Taunton aforesaid Singlewoman that at about the last of May or the first of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and two, she was begotten with child by Charles Baylies of Dighton is a County Labourer and the same child has since been born alive and is a Bastard, wherefore she prays This Hon. Court to examine this complaint and to adjudge the said Charles to be the reputed father...." The Court's examination of Sarah White, taken under Oath, follows, recording White's answers to five questions: 1. Are you with Child of a Bastard? Yes. 2. Who is the Father of the Child? Charles Baylies of Dighton. 3. Where did he beget you with child? At my father's house. 4. About what time did he beget you with child? About the last of last May, or some time in the beginning of June. 5. Upon the Oath you are about to take, have you any Doubt about Charles Baylies being the Father of the Child. No. The document is then signed by Sally White. Bastardy Law in Massachusetts at the time was designed only to relieve the State of the burden of the child, rather than as an arm of punishment for acts of fornication (or of rape, although age of consent in Massachusetts at the time was 10 years old). If we are correct about the participants, both Baylies and White would marry others: she would bear seven additional children, and die at the age of 32. Two pages, approximately 6" x 8", previously folded together as a docket and labeled with White's name and complaint on the outside. The attorney's statement is edge-torn at two folds; else both papers are near fine. [#033602] $750

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