The Official Story
Chapter 15

The verdict of the Supreme Judicial Court

The Supreme Judicial Court justices heard the case of Joseph North vs. the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on July 10, 1790. The all-male jury's verdict two days later was "not guilty." (The cases against the other two men were continued to the next session and then dropped.)

(Why was there an all-male jury? According to 18th century American law, only male property owners could vote, and only those who voted could serve on juries.)

The official record tells us nothing about what was said in court.

Most probably it came down to a case of his word versus her word. Since Judge North was a prominent member of the community and Rebecca Foster was the wife of a discredited minister, one could argue that the verdict was predictable, no matter what evidence was presented.

What was Martha's reaction to the verdict?

The Supreme Judicial Court hears the case in Pownalboro
How did this case get recorded in the official town history?

Table of Contents

The Perpetual Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Massachusetts General Court
May 1789
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votes for any district, the deficiency shall be supplied in the following manner, viz. The members of the House of Representatives, and such Senators as shall be declared elected, shall take the names of such persons as shall be found to have the highest number of votes in such district, and not elected, amounting to twice the number of Senators wanting, if there be so many voted for; and out of these, shall elect by ballot a number of Senators sufficient to fill up the vacancies in such district; and in this manner all such vacancies shall be filled up in every district of the Commonwealth; and in like manner all vacancies in the Senate, arising by death, removal out of the State, or otherwise, shall be supplied as soon as may be after such vacancies shall happen.

  1. Provided nevertheless, That no person shall be capable of being elected as a Senator, who is not seized in his own right, of a freehold within this Commonwealth, of the value of three hundred pounds, at least, or possessed of personal estate to the value of six hundred pounds at least, or of both to the amount of the same sum, and who has not been an inhabitant of this Commonwealth for the space of five years immediately preceding his election; and at the time of his election, he shall be an inhabitant in the district for which he shall be chosen.
  2. The Senate shall have power to adjourn themselves, provided such adjournments do not exceed two days at a time.
  3. The Senate shall choose its own President, appoint its own officers, and determine its own rules of proceedings.
  4. The Senate shall be a court with full authority to hear and determine all impeachments made by the House of Representatives, against any officer or officers of the Commonwealth, for misconduct and mal-administration in their offices. But previous to the trial of every impeachment, the members of the Senate shall respectively be sworn, truly and impartially to try and determine the charge in question, according to evidence. Their judgement, however, shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold or enjoy any place of honour, trust, or profit, under this Commonwealth : But the party so convicted, shall be nevertheless, liable to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to the laws of the land.
  5. Not less than sixteen members of the Senate shall constitute a quorum for doing business.

C H A P T E R 1



  1. THERE shall be in the Legislature of this Commonwealth, a representation of the people, annually elected, and founded upon the principle of equality.
  2. And in order to provide for a representation of the citizens of this Commonwealth, founded upon the principle of equality, every corporate town containing one hundred and fifty rateable polls, may elect one Representative : Every corporate town, containing three hundred and seventy five rateable polls, may elect two Representatives : Every corporate town, containing six hundred rateable polls, may elect three Representatives; and proceeding in that manner, making two hundred and twenty five rateable polls the mean increasing number for every additional Representative.

    Provided nevertheless, that each town now incorporated, not having one hundred and fifty rateable polls, may elect one Representative : But no place shall hereafter be incorporated with the privilege of electing a Representative, unless there are within the same one hundred and fifty rateable polls.