How Much is Too Much? In order for any society to be successful there must be some kind of law and order. Without some established rules and regulations little would get done and there would be chaos and confusion. But in turn there is another side to the spectrum.
At what point are the rules too much? There comes a point in which enforcements are overbearing and hinder the people under them. This often seems to be the case in early American times. Though these early laws benefited the foundation of church and state into a more united community, the often caused many hardships to the citizens under them.
In studying laws in early American settlements it seems logical to look at Jamestown first. Jamestown had its problems from the beginning. One of the main ones was the colonists lack of desire to work. The work schedule of the day was considered easy even by modern day standards. Colonists were only required to work 6 hours a day, while the rest was reserved for personal leisure time. This from a colony that was practically starving to death.
This is one of the few examples in which the laws in early colonial America were actually not harsh enough. But this was all about to change. By 1611 things were not good in Jamestown. Many more people had died than had survived the harsh east coast winters. People were still frolicking in the streets instead of working hard to ensure their survival.
Then Sir Thomas Dale arrives in May of 1611. He was sent to bring discipline among the disorganized colonist, and discipline he brought. He published a set of rules now known as 'Dales Laws. ' Many of these rules called for harsh punishments for what today would be thought of as relatively minor wrong doings.
But where these rules too harsh? They did after all end up saving the colony. But at what price? Is it worth killing a man over petty theft of a hoe or axe if it leads to the eventual survival of his society? These are all hard questions with no definite anwsers. But one thing is for sure, had it not been for Dale and his strict enforcements the colony of Jamestown would have certainly perished.
Two other early colonies that deserve mention were the Pilgrim colony at Plymouth and the Puritan settlement in Massachusetts Bay. The colonists which resided here were unlike the early settlers of Jamestown in that order was always a primary concern of theirs. They were not off bowling in the streets and wasting away the days as did the Jamestown settlers. Yet they still had strenuous laws and regulations for everyday life in the colonies. The Puritans of New England had strict laws when it came to the family structure. As described in Puritan Order, 'New England Puritans would not even permit single persons to live as bachelors.
' Furthermore, 'All families had to live within a specified distance of the church, which was seen as the larger family to which all individual families were subordinate.'s o even though the harsh laws of early times often were often unfair, in the long run they were beneficial. Without such laws this great country of America might still not exist.