The Official Story
Chapter 10

Rebecca Foster accuses Judge North and two others of rape

The indictment includes the barest hint of what might have happened. Rebecca Foster charged Joseph North with the "intent to ravish" her on August 9. Other court records reveal that she also accused Elijah Davis with attempting to ravish her on August 3, and Joshua Burgess on August 6.

How did Martha hear about Rebecca's charges?

Note the wording of the indictment. It charges North with the "intent...to ravish and carnally know" Rebecca Foster. Since by law the punishment for rape was death, justices and grand juries frequently reduced the charge from rape to attempted rape in order to get a conviction.

Only ten men were tried for rape in Massachusetts (Maine was then a district of Massachusetts) in the entire eighteenth century, and none after 1780. Between 1780 and 1797, in all of Massachusetts (including Maine) there were only sixteen indictments and ten convictions for attempted rape.

We don't know much about Elijah Davis and Joshua Burgess, but the official records tell us quite a bit about Joseph North. The official town history, written in the 19th century, includes a summary of his life culled from various records in the archives. We learn about his military career in the American Revolution, his marriage to the cultivated daughter of a Boston man who owned extensive property in Maine, his "remarkable floral taste" (he introduced "almost every flower which would bloom in our climate" into his garden), and his appointment to the Court of Common Pleas in 1788.



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What happened to Foster's wife while he was away?
     
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In 1789, Rebecca Foster was accusing this same man, Judge North, of a capital crime.

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