Persecuted Dance Teacher’s Futile Petition to Puritan Governor Simon Bradstreet September 6 1681 to Remain in the Massachusetts Bay Colony

$7,500.00

Henry Sherlott was a Frenchman recently arrived from Ireland. His crime was  being a “meer Incendicat” and probably to have given dancing lessons to mixed couples. Henry Sherlott is believed to be the first dancing master to be prosecuted for teaching dance in America. Arguably the first instance in American History of the fine arts being suppressed by Puritanism’s war on culture.

Description

Manuscript, ink on heavy laid paper, with a fool’s cap watermark. Written in a fine unidentified professional hand,  29.5 cm x 20.5 cm, one folio sheet folded once, heavy laid paper, vertical chain lines, early ink annotations on the verso “Mr Sharlott’s [sic] petition.” Indications the document was folded, with browning only along two fold creases, as well as  a few pin holes in these horizontal stains. There are pinholes along the fold, which may be evidence of having once been sewn into a book.

Henry Sherlott was a Frenchman recently arrived from Ireland. His crime was  being a “meer Incendicat” and probably to have given dancing lessons to mixed sex couples. Henry Sherlott is believed to be the first dancing master and dance teacher to be prosecuted for teaching dance in America. Arguably the first instance in American History of the fine arts being suppressed by Puritanism’s war on culture.

Text of Henry Sherlott’s petition to Simond [sic] Bradstreet, Governor:

To the Right Hon[orable] Simond Bradstreet Gov[er]no[r]: & the Hon[ored] Magistrates now Assembled in the Court of Assistants in Boston the 6th of Sept[embe]r 1681. The Humble Petition of Henry Sherlott a poore distressed stranger & prisnor.

Humbly Sheweth

Whereas ye petitioner being lately arrived from the Kingdom of Ireland, to this ye Towne of Boston, and some small time after ye pet[itioner] abode here, he was sent for to appeare before severall Gent[lemen]. Which as ye pet[itioner] is since Informed was the Townsmen of Boston; Upon whome he did waite severall times, and they signified unto him, they would not suffer him to abide as an Inhabitant in ye Towne; although should procure Bond according to law to secure the Towne from any charge. And ye pet[itione]r findeing himself thus agreiv’d by the Gent[le] Townsmen afore[mentioned] did apply himselfe unto some friends in Boston, to make there application with ye pet[itio]n unto the Hon[or]d Gov[erno]r for his permitt to Inhabit in the Collony. Which upon there application was obtayned, and before ye pet[itione]r had opportunity to produce the same permit unto the Townsmen ye pet[itione]r was commanded in a very unhandsome man[n]er by the Consta[ble] Homes to appeare before the Commis[sioner]s of Boston: where he mett with very unkind language & threatenings unless that ye pet[itione]r did the next morning which was the  3rd Instant procure security to depart the towne within 3 Weekes they would Com[m]itt ye pet[itione]r to Prison. Which carriage of theirs as also the Townsmen who had com[m]anded that no person should Entertaine him under penalty of Twenty shillings p[er] night did greatly distress ye pet[itione]r and occasioned him to lye 2 Nights in ye Townhouse. And upon Fryday last the 2nd Instant the Comm[issioner]s affore[sai]d sent for ye pet[itione]r: in like man[n]er by a Consta[ble] & did in language greatly provoke & urge ye pet[itione]r to give Bond to Depart the Towne within 3 Weekes as afore[sai]d and did then not withstanding the offer of good security for ye pet[itione]r fidellity or what else the law requir[e]d Committ ye pet[itione]r unto close prison Refusing to grant any appeale though Bond tendered for that also. / Therefore ye poore pet[itione]r Humbly yo[u]r Hono[r]s serious considerat[i]o[n] of his miserable condition, Being a stranger a[nd] expecting to meet with Civill Entertainm[en]t, a Subject of His Maj[es]ties Kingdome haveing taken the oath of Allegience & lived in it many yeares in the Kingdome of Ireland a protestant and can produce good testimony of his Creditt & Civill deportment in the Citty of Dublin, and there Bore armes for His Maj[es]ty of England which he hopes will prevaile w[i]th y[ou]r Hon[o]r to Grant his Release & free admission into ye Towne of Boston. Oblidgeing himselfe to be of good behaviour and giving security for the same according to the law, which Y[ou]r Hon]o]r: granting shall oblidge ye pet[itione]r forever to pray y[ou]r Hon[or]s prosperity. /

[In another hand] And added to this petition The Court Appoints the Morrow after Dinner to heare the petitioner & also to understand from the Commissioner the back ground of it explained. 

[Signed] Hen[ry]: Sharlot  [Sherlott]  

Records of the Court of Assistants of the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay 1630 – 1692. “Commission & Selectmen’s Complaint Against Mr. Henry Sherlott,” Vol I, p. 197, [138].

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