Legal Papers of John Adams, volume 2

Adams' Minutes of the Trial

Editorial Note

436 Rex v. Moyse and Reader: 1769 Rex v. Moyse and Reader: 1769
Rex v. Moyse and Reader
Editorial Note Editorial Note
Editorial Note

At the May 1769 Suffolk Sessions, Moyse and Reader were the only men tried among six soldiers who had been presented for breaking and entering, on 16 March 1769, the shop of John Carnes of Boston and stealing 40 shillings of silver and copper coin, 22 pairs of men's shoes (value 6s. each), 30 yards of ribbon (value 20s.), 20 watch seals (value 16s.), 25 yards of holland (value £6), unspecified amounts of printed linen (value 17s. 4d.) and calico (value 6s.), one yard of lawn (value 5s. 4d.), one yard of cambric (value 8s.), one piece of silk handkerchief (value 32s.), 3 pairs of black mitts (value 4s. 6d.), 3 dozen woolen stockings (value £6 3s. 4d.). After the defendants pleaded not guilty, the jury acquitted Reader but found Moyse guilty.

Adams' minutes reflect his interest, if not participation in the case. It should be noted that the minutes reflect no direct evidence of theft, only the circumstantial evidence of possession of the stolen goods. Moyse was sentenced “[to] be whipped 20 stripes on the naked back at the publick whipping post, that he pay to the said John Carnes the sum of £78 13s. 6d. being treble damages, the goods returned to be accounted part thereof according to their value, and that he pay costs of prosecution standing committed until the sentence be performed.”1

On 19 May 1769 Carnes petitioned the Sessions that Moyse was utterly unable to pay the sentence, that he had been found guilty of theft, and that Carnes “be impowered by an order from your Honors to sell him for such a term of time as you shall think reasonable and just.”2 The court responded with an order “that the said John Carnes be and he is hereby fully authorized and impowered to sell and dispose of said John Moyse to any of His Majesty's subjects for the space and term of three years.”3


Sess. Min. Bk., Suffolk, May 1769.


SF 89002.


Sess. Min. Bk., Suffolk, 1769. The petition and order were presumably pursuant to the Act of 1 Nov. 1692, c. 18, §3, 1 A&R 52, which, after providing that offenders should pay treble damages to the owners of goods stolen, went on:

“And if any such offender be unable to make restitution, or pay such threefold damages, such offender shall be enjoined to make satisfaction by service; and the prosecutor shall be, and hereby is impowred to dispose of said offender in service to any of their majesties' subjects, for such term as shall be assigned by the court or justices before whom the prosecution was.”

437 Adams’ Minutes of the Trial<a xmlns="" href="#LJA02d093n1" class="note" id="LJA02d093n1a">1</a>: Suffolk Court of General Sessions, Boston, May 1769 JA


Adams’ Minutes of the Trial: Suffolk Court of General Sessions, Boston, May 1769 Adams, John
Adams' Minutes of the Trial1
Suffolk Court of General Sessions, Boston, May 1769
Rex vs. John Moyse and George Reader.

Mr. Carnes.


Clark. Of Mrs. Thorntons, I bought them, one Pair.

Wm. Simpson. I bought another Pair of Mrs. Thornton.

Mrs. Hunt. I sold a Pair to William Clark. I had em of Reader. He told me he had em of Thos. Smith.

Mrs. Thornton. I sold a Pair to Simpson. I bo't em of Reader. He told me he had em from his friends in England. I gave 2 Pistareens, Pistoles and half a Pint of Rum.

Wm. Agnue. I saw a Pair of the Pattern sold to Mrs. Thornton by Reader. He said they were sent by Packett from his friends in England.

Another to the same.

Robinson— same.

Jno. Short. I imported em from Great Britain and Mr. Carnes had a Dozen. I cant swear to the Colour. I sold 11 dozen.

Miss Carns. I know em to be the same that were stole out of my fathers shop. By the different shades. I often spoke of em before they were found.

Carnes. I knew em when I first saw em. Had seen em often.

Mr. Symms. Found Combs in Moyse's Knapsack. Moyse said he had em from Hallifax. Reader has em from Moyse. Carnes says he heard Moise and Reader say the same.


In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185.