Much is rightly made of America’s historical emphasis on egalitarianism and liberty for all. There were, however, stark examples to the contrary in 17th century Massachusetts for instance. What were some of these?

Answer: Massachusetts Bay’s courts had no compunction about emphasising class distinctions. Convicted of theft, a gentleman was merely fined and deprived of the title ‘Master’; his servants convicted as accessories, were heavily flogged. As late as 1759, Boston considered that a man’s grandfather having been a bricklayer disqualified him from sitting as a Justice of the Peace.

Source: The Americans – A Social History of the United States 1587-1914 by J CF Furnas.

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