1919 November 30

“Primitive” Delaware Still Has Whipping Post, Indenture


The state of Delaware, a New York Time story reported on this day, was “primitive” by modern standards. It was the only state that still maintained the whipping post as a form of criminal punishment. Delaware also continued the practice of indenture, by which children are “bound out” to “masters” until they reach the age of maturity. Indenture, it should be said, was the method by which a significant percentage of white Europeans came to America during the colonial era. But it was no longer practiced in the twentieth century –apart from Delaware, that is. And a year ago (1918), the state stipulated that white persons should not be taxed to pay for the education of “negroes.”

The revolution in civil liberties still lay in the future (the ACLU was not founded until January 19, 1920) and standards of cruel and unusual punishment (the whipping post), the rights of children (indenture), and equal protection of the law (equal funding of schools by race), still had no force of law. But on most of these issues, other states had at least abandoned as a matter of custom the “primitive” practices found in Delaware.

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