Added: September 5, 2015 – Last updated: September 5, 2015


Author: Kelly Alisa Ryan

Title: Regulating Passion

Subtitle: Sexual Behavior and Citizenship in Massachusetts, 1740-1820

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Maryland at College Park

Year: 2006

Pages: vii + 478pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 18th Century, 19th Century | U.S. History


Link: DRUM: Digital Repository at the University of Maryland (Free Access)


Author: Kelly A. Ryan, History Program, Indiana University Southeast


“Regulating Passion” explores how sexual behavior affected the construction of citizenship and the body politic in Massachusetts between 1740 and 1820. Patriarchal regulation of the sexual behavior of Massachusetts residents facilitated the “sexual management of citizenship,” a term used in this dissertation to describe how sexual regulation reinforced subordinate statuses and created a debasing sexual rhetoric regarding Native Indians, African Americans, poor whites, young whites, and white women, and, in turn, denied each group access to citizenship. Elite white men’s regulation of sexual behavior constructed their subordinates as dependent, lustful, irrational, and immoral, which limited their ability to make claims to citizenship. Massachusetts residents also used sexual behavior and rhetoric as acts of resistance against and as a tool to enter the hierarchical body politic. This dissertation is based on my analysis of the court records of the General Sessions of the Peace and the Supreme Judicial Court, personal manuscripts, charitable organization records, government records, and church records from Massachusetts. Tracts and newspapers emanating from Massachusetts were also extensively researched.
Part One focuses on the late colonial era and demonstrates how patriarchal sexual regulation assisted in constituting gender, race, and class. Elite white men’s prosecution of illicit sexual behavior illustrated their subordinates’ inability to fit within the patriarchal New England ideal of marriage and family. The identities created by sexual regulation were linked to the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, which in late colonial America was limited to propertied white men. Part Two explores the role of sexual behavior in the transformation to the republic. Colonists used sexual rhetoric and sexual behavior to distinguish between “virtuous” Americans and the “luxurious” and “debauched” British. White women cleansed their overly sexual reputations by blaming illicit sexual behavior on licentious white men. American Indians, African Americans, and poor whites continued to be hierarchically ordered in the body politic by derisive sexual rhetoric that defined them as dependant and sexually corrupt.« (Source: Thesis)


  Acknowledgements (p. ii)
  List of Tables and Graphs (p. vi)
  Abbreviations (p. vii)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  Part One: Sexual Behavior and Citizenship in the Late Colonial Era
  Chapter 1: Fornication, Marriage, and the Changing Context of Women’s Sexual Sins, 1740–1780 (p. 14)
    Why Prosecute Fornication in Massachusetts between 1650 and 1750? (p. 16)
    The Gendered Evolution of Fornication, 1650-1760 (p. 24)
    The Racial Evolution of Fornication Prosecutions, 1740-1785 (p. 37)
    Fornication and White Women as the Sexual Sinners, 1740-1769 (p. 50)
    Excessive Sexuality and the Limited Citizenship of White Women in the Revolutionary Era (p. 65)
  Chapter 2: The Regulation of White Men’s Sexual Behavior and Its Relationship to Citizenship, 1740-1785 (p. 81)
    De-Criminalization of White Men's Sexual Behavior, 1740-1760 (p. 83)
    The Offensive Sexual Behavior of Young and Lower Class White Men, 1760-1785 (p. 103)
  Chapter 3: Patriarchy and the Denial of Citizenship to Africans and Indians, 1740-1774 (p. 135)
    Guardianship, Indentured Servitude, and Slavery in the Patriarchal Ideal (p. 137)
    Sexual Regulation and White Patriarchs Among Africans and Indians (p. 155)
  Chapter 4: The Crisis and Rhetoric in the Sexual Management of Race, 1746-1783 (p. 172)
    Sexual Values and Citizenship, 1746-1775 (p. 173)
    The Crises in the Sexual Management of Race (p. 190)
  Part Two: Sexual Behavior and Citizenship During and After the Revolution
  Chapter 5: The Sexual Rhetoric of War: Sexuality and National Identity during the Imperial Conflict (p. 219)
    Prologue: The Transatlantic Logic of Sexual Immorality As Total Corruption (p. 221)
    Sexualized Politics During the Stamp Act and the Perversion of "Marriage" and "Mother" England (p. 229)
    Sexual Vice, Sexual Assaults, and the Luxury of the English (p. 240)
    Sexual Violence and the Making of Virtuous Americans (p. 257)
  Chapter 6: Making Chaste Citizens, 1783-1820 (p. 270)
  Chapter 7: Re-Fashioning the Sexual Self: White Women and White Men, 1785-1820 (p. 318)
    White Women's Refashioning of their Sexual Selves, 1780-1820 (p. 320)
    Post-War Re-fashioning of the White Male Sexual Self, 1785-1820 (p. 345)
  Chapter 8: Interracial Marriage, Racial Thought, and Power, 1785-1820 (p. 361)
  Chapter 9: Bound and Marginalized: The Sexual Management of Poor Whites, African Americans, and Indians, 1785-1820 (p. 395)
    The Management of Sexual Histories by Overseers of the Poor (p. 396)
    The Un-Charitable Distribution of Sexual Rhetoric (p. 412)
  Conclusion (p. 442)
  Appendix A: Occupations of Men Accused of Paternity in Middlesex County (p. 445)
  Appendix B: Occupations of Men in Paternity Suits in Suffolk County (p. 448)
  Appendix C: Occupations of Men in Paternity Suits in Worcester County (p. 450)
  Appendix D: Number of Men Charged with Fornication From Townships in Worcester and Middlesex County, 1740-1749 (p. 451)
  Bibliography (p. 452)
    Abbreviations (p. 452)
    Church Records (p. 452)
    Court Records (p. 453)
    State and Town Documents (p. 454)
    Periodicals (p. 454)
    Other Manuscripts (p. 455)
    Tracts (p. 456)
    Published Primary Sources (p. 461)
    Secondary Literature (p. 466)