That’s important because as the Brooke case was being decided, a middle-aged jack-of-all-trades arrived in Mary-Land. During the next decade Jacob (sometimes called John) Lumbrozo was a doctor, lawyer, planter, innkeeper, wolf-hunter, and somewhat of a wolf himself, according to court cases, of which there were many. He had been financially successful in Portugal and Amsterdam. He was also Jewish.
When Lumbrozo gave legal help to neighbor John Hammond, Hammond refused to pay what he owed and said (according to Lumbrozo), Let’s make a deal: You can have sex with my wife. Hammond denied that, sued Lumbrozo for defamation, and won the case against “ye Jew doctor.” Lumbrozo had to pay 5,000 pounds of tobacco, worth about $10,000.
It wasn’t unusual for landowners to have sex with servants. In 1663 Lumbrozo employed Elizabeth Wieles, 22, a recently arrived immigrant from England. If her situation was typical, she headed across the Atlantic because few things had gone right for her at home. She was probably destitute and without parents or siblings who wanted her around.
Until abortion became common, the general prohibition on murder seemed sufficient.
In one sense Mary-Land was a patriarchy, but Monica Witkowski threw new light on social relationships in her 2010 Marquette University dissertation, “‘Justice Without Partiality’: Women and the Law in Colonial Maryland, 1648-1715.” Witkowski wrote that the women she studied exhibited “a sophisticated understanding of the legal workings of the colony. Many colonial women also understood how to manipulate the legal system to procure a more favorable outcome.”
IN THAT LIGHT I STUDIED Maryland archival records about what a neighbor of Wieles, George Harris, told a Charles County jury on June 29, 1663: He said Wieles had told him two weeks earlier that Lumbrozo “tooke her to bed and had layne with her whether shee woold or no, whearof before shee coold Consent to ly with him hee tooke a booke in his hand and swor many bitter oaths that hee woold marry me.” The book he allegedly swore on was probably a Bible.
Premarital sex was not unusual in many of the colonies. One advice manual for young women did not say “no sex before marriage.” It said do so if you wish, but only if you have a signed statement from the man pledging marriage. Wieles gave in before getting Lumbrozo’s word in writing. Then he backed away. The dispute may not have ended up well for Wieles—but, having probably learned about the Brooke precedent, she played an ace, telling fellow servants and others she had become pregnant and Lumbrozo had pushed her to abort.
Wieles supplied no evidence of that. While purportedly pregnant she told no one about it. No one ever saw an aborted child. In any event the child had not quickened: She told several people that after Lumbrozo gave her an abortifacient she expelled a blood clot. On June 27, even though no law specifically declared abortion to be an offense, Charles County jurors indicted Lumbrozo for a felony based on his servant’s “publick Confession tht she was with Child by Lumbrozo and that hee did give her phisick to destroy it.”
So much for the Justice Blackmun supposition that common law allowed abortion and that, at least before quickening, it was not an indictable offense. But let’s also bury the notion that the law was inhumane toward women. Wieles still wanted what Lumbrozo had promised, marriage. She wanted it so badly that she apparently made a deal with her employer: She would say she had lied, and he would marry her.