The Official Story
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.
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And the House of Representatives shall have power, from time to time,
to impose fines upon such towns as shall neglect to choose and return
members to the same, agreeably to this Constitution.
The expences of travelling to the General Assembly, and returning home,
once every session and no more, shall be paid by the government, out
of the publick treasury, to every member who shall attend as seasonably
as he can, in the judgment of the House, and does not depart without
- Every member of the House of Representatives shall be chosen by written
votes ; and for one year at least next preceding his election, shall
have been an inhabitant of, and have been seized in his own right of
a freehold of the value of one hundred pounds within the town he shall
be chosen to represent, or any rateable estate to the value of two hundred
pounds; and he shall cease to represent the said town immediately on
his ceasing to be qualified as aforesaid.
- Every male person, being twenty one years of
ago, and resident in any particular town in this Commonwealth for the
space of one year next preceding, having a freehold estate within the
same town, of the annual income of three pounds, or any estate of the
value of sixty pounds, shall have a right to vote in the choice of a
Representative, or Representatives for the said town.
- The members of the House of Representatives shall be chose annually
in the month of May, ten days at least before the last Wednsday
of that month.
- The House of Representatives shall be the Grand Inquest of this Commonwealth;
and all impeachments made by them, shall be heard and tried by the Senate.
- All money bills shall originate in the House of Representatives;
but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments, as on other bills.
- The House of Representatives shall have power to adjourn themselves,
provided such adjournment shall not exceed two days at a time.
- Not less than sixty members of the House of Representatives, shall
constitute a quorum for doing business.
- The House of Representatives shall be the judge of the returns, elections
and qualifications of its own members as pointed out in the Constitution;
shall chuse their own Speaker, appoint their own officers, and settle
the rules and orders of proceeding in their own House: They shall have
authority to punish by imprisonment, every person, not a member, who
shall be guilty of disrespect to the House, by any disorderly or contemptuous
behavior in its presence; or who, in the town where the General Court
is sitting, and during the time of it sitting, shall threaten harm to
to the body or estate of any of its members, for anything said or done
in the House; or who shall assualt any of them therefor; or who shall
assualt, or arrest any witness, or other person, ordered to attend the
House, in his way in going or returning; or who shall rescue any person
arrested by the order of the House.
- And no member of the House of Representatives shall be arrested or
held to bail on mean process, during his going unto, returning from,
or his attending the General Assembly.
- The Senate shall have the same powers in the like cases; and the
Governour and Council shall have the same authority to punish in like
cases. Provided, that no imprisonment on the warrant or order
of the Governor, Council, Senate, or House of Representatives, for either
of the above described offences be for a term exceeding thirty days.
And the Senate and House of Representatives may try and determine all
cases where their rights and privileges are concerned, and which, by
the Contstitiution, they have authority to try and determine, by committees
of their own members, or in such other way as they may respectively