This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by professional essay writers.

A History of Capital Punishment in America

downloadDownload printPrint

Remember! This is just a sample.

You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.

Get custom essay

121 writers online


The recorded history of capital punishment on American soil dates back more than 400 years. The first execution of an Englishman, in what is now the United States, was that of Captain George Kendall, which took place in Virginia’s Jamestown colony in 1608. The colony’s blacksmith at the time, James Reed, was condemned to death for treason. But he managed to save himself by pointing the finger at Captain Kendall. He argued that Captain Kendall was a dangerous conspirator. Kendall was tried and condemned to death. And he was executed by firing squad. There was a wide array of capital offensive in colonial America. And the laws varied from colony to colony. Most were based on the British Bloody Codes, which codified more than 200 offenses as capital crimes, including lower level offenses, such as petty theft, cutting down trees in an orchid, and disturbing a fish pond.

In America capital statutes included murder, rape, and robbery, along with other crimes tied to religion or morality, such as witchcraft, blasphemy, working on the Sabbath, adultery, and worshipping false idols. Most of the individuals executed in colonial America, however, were executed for murder, witchcraft, and being a pirate. 40% of those executed were executed for murder, 25% executed for witchcraft, and 15% of the executions in colonial America were for pirates. Early death penalty laws were often accompanied by a scripture passage justifying the laws. This is because executions in colonial America were strongly tied to religion. Given the strong ties to religion, early executions were public, often hanging at the gallows. This provided a larger audience for clergy to preach to, and was intended to be a deterrent for other would be offenders. T

he execution was a ritual lasting several hours, that included a public procession to the gallows, accompanied by sermons, singing of hymns, and the condemns last words. The last words were supposed to be the defendants final opportunity to declare a renewed faith, and ask for forgiveness. It was his or her opportunity to receive Atonement before dying. Public executions in colonial America were generally solemn events, and considered wholesome and educational for children. Behavior of the spectators was that of a restrained celebration. There were generally few executions in colonial America, because the newly founded country needed The vast majority of those executed were men. Only 35 for women.

Women were much more likely to be executed for witchcraft. And the most women executed in any one year was 1692, the year of the Salem Witch Trials. Most of the people executed in colonial America were black. In part, this is because blacks were often considered outsiders. And the execution of outsiders was less disruptive to the community. And yet, it still provided the opportunity to deter other offenders, and for clergy to preach. The average age at execution was 30. But known executions in colonial America were up to the age of 83, and as young as 12. Though only about 2% of those executed were juveniles. Methods of executions in the US also originated in Europe. The following short video will introduce you to some of the historical execution methods upon which executions in colonial America where based. After centuries of brutal executions, the quest for the most humane method of ending human life continues.

Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student.

Your time is important. Let us write you an essay from scratch

experts 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help you just now

delivery Starting from 3 hours delivery

Find Free Essays

We provide you with original essay samples, perfect formatting and styling

Cite this Essay

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

A History of Capital Punishment in America. (2018, April 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from
“A History of Capital Punishment in America.” GradesFixer, 17 Apr. 2018,
A History of Capital Punishment in America. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2022].
A History of Capital Punishment in America [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Apr 17 [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from:
copy to clipboard

Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    Hi there!

    Are you interested in getting a customized paper?

    Check it out!
    Don't use plagiarized sources. Get your custom essay. Get custom paper

    Get expert help for your assignment!

    We can help you get a better grade and deliver your task on time!

    • Instructions Followed To The Letter
    • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
    • Unique And Plagiarism Free
    Get your paper order now