Sow Case

views updated


SOW CASE, a lawsuit adjudicated in 1643–44 that became famous because it resulted in the division of the Massachusetts General Court into a bicameral legislature. The case arose out of a controversy in which a poor woman, Goody Sherman, accused a well-to-do merchant, Robert Keayne, of stealing her sow. Lower courts decided in favor of Keayne, but Sherman, encouraged by popular sympathy, appealed to the General Court, where the assistants (or magistrates) supported Keayne and the deputies supported Sherman. The two parties clashed over the magistrates' claims to a negative voice (veto power) over the deputies, who held the majority of seats. This disagreement resulted in the division of the two groups into separate legislative houses.


Bailyn, Bernard. "The Apologia of Robert Keayne." William and Mary Quarterly 7 (1950): 568–587.

McManus, Edgar J. Law and Liberty in Early New England: Criminal Justice and Due Process, 1620–1692. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993.

Wall, Robert E. The Membership of the Massachusetts Bay General Court, 1636–1686. New York: Garland, 1990.

Viola F.Barnes/s. b.

See alsoColonial Assemblies ; General Court, Colonial .