"to wear, to eat, and to drink what they please"]. "As early as the year 1639 we have the prototype of that curious law enacted a few years ago in the State of Iowa, which prohibits one person from inviting another to take a drink, or treating, as it is called."
A citation is then made from the records of the colony of Massachusetts of a statute for which four reasons are alleged, one of them being "much waste to the good creatures." This, and this alone, is a sumptuary reason. But the law cited—if it be one—is not simply and distinctively sumptuary, though such laws were passed by that and other colonies. For example, Virginia, in 1662, enacted the following:
"An Act prohibiting the importation of unnecessary Commodities. Whereas, the low price of tobacco will hardly supply the urging and pressing necessities of the country, etc., . . . Be it enacted that no strong drink of what sort soever, nor silke stuffe in garments or in peeces (except for whoods and scarf es), nor silver or gold lace, nor bone lace of silk or thread, nor ribbands wrought with silver or gold in them, shall be brought into this country to sell, after the first of February next; under penalty of confiscation," etc.
So Massachusetts enacted in 1634 as follows:
"The Court, taking into consideration the greate, superfluous, and unnecessary expences occasioned by reason of some newe and immodest fashions, as also the ordinary weareing of silver, golde, and silke laces, girdles, hatbands, etc., hath therefore ordered that noe person, either man or woman, shall hereafter make or buy any apparell, either woollen, silke, or linnen, with any lace on it, silver, golde, silke or threed, under the penalty of forfeiture," etc. Subsequent provisions forbid any one to make "slashed cloathes," but allowed men and women "to weare out such apparell as they are nowe provided of (except the immoderate greate sleeves, rayles, longe-wings, etc.)." In 1636 a law was passed against making or selling any bone lace. In 1641 the General Court, noting excesses prevailing against enactment, ordered the constables of every town to see to its enforcement.
Upon the face of them these are characteristically, simply, and only sumptuary prohibitions. Their one, immediate, and sole object is the prevention of private waste and expense. So Dr. Johnson, a century and a half ago, defined this class of statutes: "Sumptuary [sumptuarius, Lat.]: Relating to expense; regulating the cost of life." He quotes Bacon, a century
- Dr. J. Hammond Trumbull says: "This law is crossed with a pen on the MS. record: Jefferson ' conjectured it was negatived by the Governor.'"
- That notorious liar, Rev. Samuel Peters, in his Blue Laws declares the penalty in Connecticut for wearing lace was "at £300 estate"—about as true history as the rest of his writings.