The 1700s were the revolutionary years that drove America onto the path to freedom through some of the toughest times of both religious and legal oppression. The 18th century in a single word was explosive. It was a decade of the first global world war, multiple changes in national power and territorial boundaries, and a nefarious and harrowing international slave trade that would come to dominate economics, law and politics. The 1700s gave birth to the Founding Fathers of our country, and gave birth to our freedom. It was in the 1700s that the Founding Fathers went through their adolescent years and grew up to create the legal legacies that bind our everyday lives today.
The religious domination of the 1600s in law and politics still pervaded the legal system of 18th century America, but a new period of religious and political enlightment was dawning, and the industrial revolution was creating a new society in England. During this time, many wars were fought. War was (and still is) expensive. The ruling British needed a way to fund these wars and recoup expenses, so they mastered the slave trade and increased the taxes on the American colonists. In fact, the British taxed the colonies to the point of bloody rebellion which ended up in the creation of the United States of America.
Colorado and the House of Bourbon
Colorado was under Spanish domain during most of the 18th century, ruled by King Philip the V of the House of Bourbon. The Ute Indians, native to Colorado,were invaded by other Native Indian tribes and European explorers during the 1700s. The House of Bourbon had its share of turmoil during this time, but Mexico was far more affected by this turmoil than Colorado. In 1793, the Rocky Mountains were crossed by the first European, Sir Alexander Mackenzie. By the next century, settlers would start driving their wagons over the mountains and into Colorado. Brewing outside the wilderness and the jagged edges of the Rocky Mountains were European and Revolutionary wars that would eventually lead to the purchase of the land that now makes up the State of Colorado.
Are We Driving Yet?
Cars are not on the road in America in the 1700s. Foot power, horseback riding, and horse drawn carriages are the modes of transportation aside from the boats and ships empowering the fast-growing international trade. Western wagons didn’t head west as part of the Colorado Gold Rush until the 1800s, but in 1775 George Washington, along with 21 year old Daniel Boone, attempted to move the army west in a Conestoga wagon train. It didn’t go well, but colonists were making an effort to create trails through the Appalachian Mountains to head west. By the end of the 1700s, the first ambulance and bicycle were invented.
There’s still another century before Mr. Ford introduces the Model T for transportation, so there wasn’t a drunk driving law as we know it today. Depending on what colony you resided in (or were drinking in), you could get arrested for drunkenness, and you might even get whipped for it. A police force was not yet established, and it was up to the victims to bring up charges.
Alcohol Was Healthy, Water Was Not
Though drunkenness was frowned up, alcohol in the 1700s was viewed as healthy and beneficial. It was water that could make you sick. The main difference being that water was free, and alcohol was not. Thus, alcohol was associated with class distinctions.
“…only “‘sloathful and careless [sic]’” housewives failed to produce enough alcoholic drinks for guests. -The First Frontier: Life in Colonial America (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc, 1996), 184
It wasn’t easy for everyone to get alcohol. Water was for the poor, the frontiersmen, and the slaves and alcohol was primarily for the upper class.
Liquor Laws, Discrimination and Religion
In 1733, a Georgia colony attempted a prohibition law (the first colony to do so), but bootleggers made it tough to enforce. In 1742 the Georgia prohibition law ended. In 1742, Massachusetts passed a law forbidding rum and wine at funerals, but colonial laws often provided a budget for “keeping ministers,” which included monies for alcohol at ordinations and other events.
The revolutionary era was also an era of slavery and discrimination. Early statutes made it illegal for public stores (shops and inns) to sell liquor to Negroes and Indians.
“…[slaves found] tippling or drinking in or near any House or shop where strong Liquors are sold” without permission would be whipped.” –The Charters and Acts of Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania Philadelphia: Peter Miller and Comp, 1762
Though the century is marked by the freedom of our country from British rule, it’s also stained with a trail ofworsening slave codes that declare Africans as property and not people. The 1705 Virginia Slave Code was enacted and stated that slaves would be whipped, branded or maimed for associating with whites.
Changes in Felony Sentencing in London Under English Law
While the fatal fervor of slavery spread throughout the New and Old Worlds, England was busy revising felony law. In the 1600s, a felony crime conviction meant punishment by hanging. Felonies included larceny, burglary, robbery, arson, rape, assisting a felon, and homicide. To avoid having a criminal hung for a lesser offense, such as stealing a sheep, jurors were given the option to grant a partial verdict.
Criminals also had the option of to take the “benefit of clergy,” which meant they would be sentenced according to church officials. In order to do so, they first had to prove they were affiliated with the church by reading a passage from the bible. In 1706, the benefit of the clergy option became automatic, and the reading test was no longer required. Receiving the benefit of clergy wasn’t without punishment. It was only allowed once, and criminals had a hand or cheek branded with a letter representing the felony crime. In 1779, branding was replaced with fines through the Penitentiary Act.
The Transportation Act
Although criminals could be and were sentenced to prison, imprisonment was not considered a complete punishment, and it was given in addition to a punishment such as whipping, branding, or hard labor. In 1718, the First Transportation Act allowed “Transportation” to be a punishment for a crime. If convicted, criminals were put on a ship and sent from England to New England, where they were to be forever banished and sentenced to perform hard labor for seven to fourteen years upon arrival.
England had previously tried a Transportation Act but it proved unsuccessful because funds were not provided to transport the criminals. In the 1718 Act, England paid a stipend for transporting the criminals, and a record number of convicts were banished from England. Historians believe as many as 50,000 people were banished under the 1718 Transportation Act. Once America declared its freedom, England began shipping convicts to Australia. This was considered a more serious punishment than imprisonment.
Prison Reform at England’s First Prison
Bridewell Prison was England’s first House of Correction, meant to punish and correct the criminals, not imprison them for the sake of imprisonment. Hard Labor in Bridewell often meant beating hemp. The prison’s purpose was to punish the poor who committed minor offenses such as disorderly crimes, but it also housed homeless children and was considered a “hospital” as well as a prison. It operated as a charity, and apprentices were taught a trade and were ensured freedom. at the end of their sentence. In the 1770s, a prison reform movement started, believing the prison did more harm than good. As a result of changes, solitary confinement was introduced and female prisoners were no longer allowed to be whipped.
Soft on Crime
Although changes in 18th century English Law reduced capital offenses, England worried about being too soft on crime, and laws started being passed to make certain crimes non-clergyable. Hanging once again became mandatory for lesser offenses such as shoplifting and sheep and cattle stealing, but a property value was added to the felony offense that could be reduced through a partial verdict. Half of all criminals facing the death penalty received a pardon.
Dismembered While Alive a Deterrent to Treason
Treason was a capital offense, and the most serious. Women found guilty were burned alive at the stake and men were to be hung, cut down while still alive, then dismembered, castrated and beheaded in front of a crowd to increase terror and deter future crime. The American colonists were familiar with the severity of treason, yet they still moved forward and managed to set America free.
Ships, Smuggling, Slavery and Rum
Though America gained freedom from England, it would be a long time before all slaves gained freedom. Ships were transporting slaves at new levels, and it’s estimated that six million slaves were transported in the 1700s. Since the British won the Spanish Succession war, they could now sell slaves in the Spanish Empire based on the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. (The Spanish Empire included many islands, South America, Central America, and most of the United States to the west of the Appalachian Mountains.)
The slave trade skyrocketed, and more and more ships were sailing. Ships in the 1700s rarely sailed without rum, whiskey, wine, or some other type of alcohol. Rum was used not only for the ship’s crew, but also as currency for slave trade. Molasses was used as an ingredient to make rum.
Smuggling was common. Under Spanish law, smugglers were subject to two-hundred lashes. John Hancock was accused of smuggling under English Law.
Smuggling with the Johns and a Cool Sam Adams
Attorney John Adams, a Founding Father that started his day with hard cider, lost his first case as a lawyer. When John Hancock was charged with smuggling, John Adams represented him and won. Without that win, John Hancock’s signature may have never been seen on the Declaration of Independence. John Adams and John Hancock both contributed to establishing our nation’s constitutional laws and independence, and they were aided by a cousin of John’s, Sam Adams. Though the three rebels had beliefs that sometimes differed, they discussed political theories and concepts and worked together to break free from British Rule and its imposing tax laws.
Famous Acts Involving Rum, Wine and Spirits that Led to the Revolution
The Molasses Act of 1773
Rum was a lucrative business. If the new Americans were producing their own, then the value of British Caribbean rum went down. Molasses was a type of sugar needed to produce rum, so as a strategic marketing and revenue move, the British government established The Molasses Act of 1773. This created a six-pence per gallon tax on molasses, aimed to deter American colonists from purchasing molasses from the French and a nine-pence tax on rum and spirits. The Molasses Act wasn’t as successful as the British would have preferred, as bribery and smuggling drove a continued supply of rum, spirits and French molasses to North America.
The Sugar Act of 1764
Attempting to control colonial trade to benefit Great Britain, the Sugar Act of 1764 changed the molasses tax and imposed new taxes. The Sugar Act lowered tax on molasses to three pence, but increased the tax on sugar one pound and two shillings in addition to what was already being charged. Coffee, herbs and silk are all taxed in the 1764 Sugar Act, which doubled many taxes, and the import of certain foreign wines and rum were forbidden. To disable the colonial economy, the British also passed the Currency Act of 1764. This law disallowed colonists from using paper money.
The ruling British continued to impose taxes to increase revenue. Since smuggling kept the rum, wine and spirit trades alive, the British imposed the 1765 Stamp Act, which taxed paper and documents (including playing cards), and they passed the infamous Tea Act of 1773, which inspired the Boston Tea Party led by Sam Adams and other members of the Sons of Liberty.
It took three months for news of the 1765 Stamp Act to reach the colonies. – University of Groningen, Biography of John Adams
Though many colonists were loyalists, the spirit of rebellion and independence prevailed. After the rebellion of the Boston Tea Party and ongoing revolts and mobs, the English Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, which put a legal end to colonial independence.
Developing Laws for Independence to the First Supreme Court
The spirit of independence brewed in colonies and in early colonial law. There was a hint of independence in North Carolina’s Biennial Act of 1715 which set forth the argument that independent legislative action was needed, and devised rules for a colonial general legislative assembly. In 1772, a year before the Tea Act, Virginia established a Committee of Correspondence. The committee’s purpose was to provide a “communication of sentiments” from Colonial America to Great Britain. It created formal procedures to complain to the English Parliament about colonial dissatisfaction with current British laws. In 1774, the first Continental Congress was formed.
In 1775, the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired. Though the shots from Massachusetts couldn’t be heard in Colorado, Colorado would later reap the rewards. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, while at the same time a path through western Colorado was being made by Franciscan Friars, Friars Escalante and Dominguez. In 1783, England declares an end to the war, Massachusetts abolishes slavery, and slaves that served in the Revolutionary war were set free. The Treaty of Paris for British-American diplomacy was signed and it was now time to start setting independent laws for America.
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson’s Act for Establishing Religious Freedom sparked heated debate, but it was a predecessor to the religious freedom in the U.S. Constitution today. In 1787, the United States Constitution was written, and in 1788, the announcement was made that the laws of the United States Constitution were officially in effect over the nation. In 1789, George Washington was elected the first President of the United States, and the Supreme Court of the United States was established in the Judiciary Act of 1789.
Amendments to the Constitution Imperative to Felony and DUI Charges
The Constitutional Amendments of the United State Constitution still protects the people of America today. The Fourth Amendment protects against search and seizure, and the Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination and double jeopardy. It also provides for due process of the law.
Amendment Six of the United States Constitution grants the right to an impartial jury, a speedy trial, and a right to counsel. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution addresses excessive bail and fines, and cruel and unusual punishment.
If You Have Received a DUI or Risk Felony Charges, Assert Your Rights
The United States Constitution was written in the 1700s, but it still protects you today. Men and women fought to give you the right to an attorney, and a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and excessive fines. If you’ve been arrested for DUI, call the Tiftickjian Law Firm in Denver at (303) DUI-5280 to assert your Constitutional rights today.
Tiftickjian Law Firm Felony DUI History Collection
History of Colorado Felony DUI – “A Short History of Colorado’s Felony DUI Bills and Laws”
History of Colorado Felony DUI – Part 1 “Which Came First? The Felony or the DUI?”
History of Colorado Felony DUI – Part 2 “The Rough Road to Freedom” (Laws and Independence, the 1700’s)
History of Colorado Felony DUI – Part 3 “Colorado, Felonies and The First DUI”
A MADD Idea: Eliminating Drunk Driving
Eliminating Drunk Driving: MADD 2015 Report Examines State Progress – Colorado Shines with Exemplary DUI Laws that Reduce Drunk Driving
Felony DUI in the Press
KOA Radio Show – Is a Felony DUI a Good Idea? “Jay Tiftickjian Guest on Radio Show Topic: Colorado Felony DUI
Colorado Felony DUI Bill Debate – Jay Tiftickjian and Mark Waller Agree Is Treatment the Answer? Yes – both agree.