U.S. History/Puritan Laws


I've found information on Puritan laws and the punishments for breaking them, but who had the authority to enforce the laws?

Some sources seem to suggest the clergy, but this is not clearly stated.  

I very much appreciate your consideration of my question.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony had a legal charter that gave authority for enforcement of its laws.  The Council of Assistants sat as a court to try dispute.  It also appointed local magistrates to hear cases.  Pretty much anyone could appear before the courts to accuse someone of a crime.  Sometimes ministers did this, but it could be anyone.  At that point, the accused was brought before the magistrate to answer the accusation.  The Magistrates would question the accused and determine innocence or guilt.  Often, there were no prosecutors or defense attorneys participating in the process.

I hope this helps!
- Mike  

U.S. History

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Michael Troy


I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.


I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.


J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.