Friday, May 8, 2015

Sodomy Counts — How do 19 people vote 17 to 4?

Did math work differently in 1885?
An item in the Perrysburg Journal of May 8, 1885 covers the recent activity in the state senate. The bill in question, set the penalty for sodomy for twenty years. This bill was introduced in the Ohio Senate by George H. Ely. One online biography of Ely notes (approvingly) that his service as a state senator was largely expended the interest of the iron ore industry, which was not only a concern of his district, but also a personal concern, as his brother had made “large investments in iron ore lands.”

I’m a little late on this, because while the Journal didn’t pick up on this story until May 8, 1885, the Wellington Enterprise reported on the passage of the bill on May 6, and the bill itself was passed on April 27. (The Springfield Globe-Republic reported on May 5 that the House had also passed the bill.) There’s something odd about the reports of the Senate vote.

Can they count?
Senate, April 27.—The Senate met at four p. m. with only nineteen members present. About the only work done was the passage of Mr. Ely’s bill punishing sodomy with twenty years’ imprisonment, by a vote of 17 ayes to 4 nays.
Let me see here: 17 + 4 = 21. But there were only nineteen senators there. Were there votes by absent senators? Could senators register their votes and just not show?

The Eaton Democrat had written about the introduction of the bill in their April 30 edition. There was an odd bit to that too:

Legislative Proceedings.
Columbus, April 21.—The following bills were introduced in the Senate: Punishing sodomy by twenty years’ imprisonment in the penitentiary. Amending the act authorizing the appropriation of land for cemetery purposes. Bills introduced in the House: To protect the people from the extortions of sewing-machine agents.
It goes on with a few other bills, but “the extortions of sewing-machine agents”? Just what were sewing-machine salesmen up to in Ohio in 1885? Extortions? Were they threatening to break people’s fingers if they didn’t buy a machine. “Look, lady, if you want to still be able to thread a needle, you’ll do as I ask.”

No word though on how a gathering of nineteen senators can pass a bill 17 to 4.
You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...