The New International Encyclopædia/Fornication

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FORNICATION (fornicatio, from fornix, an arch-vault, and by metonymy a brothel, because brothels in Rome were in cellars and vaults under ground). The illicit carnal intercourse by an unmarried person with one of the opposite sex, whether married or unmarried. In most countries this offense 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 is now usually left to the restraints which public opinion imposes on it in every community which is guided by the principles of morality and religion. In England, in 1650, during the ascendency of the Puritan party, the repeated act of keeping a brothel, or committing fornication, was made felony without benefit of clergy on a second conviction. At the Restoration 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 fornication itself was abandoned ‘to the feeble coercion of the spiritual court.’ In a few of the United States the offense is made a misdemeanor by statute, punishable by fine and imprisonment, but in most of the States the common-law rule prevails. Consult the authorities referred to under Criminal Law.