FORNICATION (fornicatio, from fornix, an arch-vault, and by metonymy, a brothel, because brothels at Rome were in cellars and vaults under ground). In most countries this crime has been brought within the pale of positive law at some period of their history, and prohibited by the imposition of penalties more or less severe; but it has always been found ultimately to be more expedient to trust to the restraints which public opinion impose on it in every community which is guided by the principles of morality and religion. Id England, in 1630, during the ascendenCy of the Puritan party, the repeated act of keeping a brothel, or committing F., was made felony without benefit of clergy on a second conviction. At the restoration, when the crime of hypoc risy seemed for a time to be the only one which, under the influences of a very natural reaction, men were willing to recognize, this enactment was not renewed; and though notorious and open lewdness, when carried to the extent of exciting public scandal, continued, as it had been before, an indictable offense at common law, the mere act of F. itself was abandoned "to the feeble coercion of the spiritual court, according to the rules of the canon law, a law which has treated the offense of incontinence with a great deal of tenderness and lenity, owing perhaps, to the constrained celibacy of its first compilers."óBlackstone. The proceedings of the spiritual court were regulated by 27 Geo. III. c. 44, which enacts that the suit must be instituted within eight months,
and that it cannot be maintained at all after the marriage of the parties ofending. But proceedings in the ecclesiastical courts for this offense have now fallen into entire desuetude. (Stephen's Corn. iv. 347.) In Scotland, shortly after.the reformation, F. was prohibited by what baron Hume calls "an anxious statute of James VI." (1567 c. 13), entitled "Anent the filthie vice of fornication, and punishment of the samin." This act, which was passed in the same parliament by which incest and adultery are punished with death, provides that the offender, whether male or female, shall pay for the first offense a fine of £40 Scots, and shall stand bareheaded, and fastened at the market place for the space of two hours; for the second, shall pay a fine of 100 merks, have the head shaven, and shall be exposed in the same public manner; and for the third, pay a fine of £100, be thrice ducked in the foulest pool of the parish, and be banished the town or parish for ever. There is but one instance of this statute having been enforced by the court of justiciary, which occurs, as might be supposed, during the government of the protector in Scotland. The offense of keeping a house of notorious ill-fame and scandalizing the neighborhood, is punishable in Scotland as a police offense, though it is greatly condoned. See NUISANCE and PROSTITUTION.