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 It was the custom in Medford for the selectmen to appoint a thanksgiving day on hearing of any victory gained by British arms in any quarter of the world. They ordered a town-fast if a case of smallpox was reported among them, or if the weather was unfavorable, or if sickness prevailed, or if Quakers threatened to come to their plantation. But there were some physical and social evils which they did not go to God either to prevent or remedy: they took the administration into their own hands. A Commissioner's Court, composed in part of the selectmen of Medford, had jurisdiction within the town, and could issue warrants and enforce judgments. This easy terror proved effective in restraining lawless conduct. The agency of this judicial and executive power may be seen in our account of crimes and punishments. We turn to more agreeable customs. Marriages.--Whether it was from jealousy of ministerial rights, or hatred of Episcopal forms, or from considering the nuptial tie as a mere civil bond, or from any other cause, we know not; but the General Court early deprived clergymen of the power of solemnizing marriages, and bestowed it on magistrates. This legislation was in direct hostility to English usage. May 29, 1686, the General Court made proclamation, authorizing clergymen to solemnize marriages; but it was a long time before it became common to apply to them. If a man made “a motion of marriage” to his chosen one, without first gaining the permission of her parents, he was fined severely. Before they could be legally married, they must be “cried” three times in some public place, each announcement being seven days apart. Weddings were occasions of exuberant jollity. Pent — up nature leaped forth with an hilarious spring, proportioned to the social duress in which it had been held. To show how much was thought of these red-letter days in Medford, there were instances where provisions for them were made in wills. The entire day was devoted to one; and every form of youthful frolic and maturer joy came in turn. The house of the bride was open for all the invited guests of both parties; and rural games were all the fashion. The cake and wine, though abundant, did not prevent the offer of more substantial viands. A custom like this would be apt to run into extremes; and this became so apparent as to call forth from the ministers of Boston a “testimony against evil customs” in 1719. They called them “riotous irregularities.”
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