Thomas Kemble: The Kissing Puritan

Captain Thomas Kemble was a prominent ship’s captain in the 1650s in Massachusetts, but it was a public display of affection that got him into trouble. At the time, Massachusetts Puritans had laws that controlled social behavior. They punished adultery with death — though they rarely executed anyone — and banned gambling, fancy clothing, and smoking in public. Missing Sunday services would land you in the stocks, and celebrating Christmas would result in a fine. In 1653, Capt. Kemble set sail on business, leaving New England for 3 years. Upon his return, his wife greeted him at the door to their home, and there he kissed her. With that one act, Kemble broke 2 Puritan laws. His kiss was judged to be “lewd and unseemly behavior,” and to make matters worse, it happened on a Sunday, so he failed to keep the Sabbath. For his “crime,” Capt. Kemble spent 2 hours in the stocks.