In the spring of April, 1826, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts concluded court proceedings against Elder John Warner and others of Harvard’s Shakers. The trial took place in Worcester and had been continued from the previous fall. According to a local newspaper, the head men of the Society were indicted and charged with "having falsely imprisoned one Seth Babbit, from the year 1823 to the finding of the indictment, and with having, at sundry times during that period, violently assaulted and beaten him."
Testimony at the trial made it clear that the Shakers were taking care of one of their own in the manner generally accepted at the time. This being the case the question arises, why did the Commonwealth, at Harvard’s instigation, bring suit? There was a hidden agenda. Witness after witness, some of whom were disillusioned former Shakers, insinuated into their testimony “evidence” concerning violations of property rights and personal freedoms.
American Communal Societies Quarterly
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