in tar and feather, 1769. A mob action in U.S. in Revolutionary times and several decades thereafter. Originally it had been imposed by an ordinance of Richard I (1189) as punishment in the navy for theft. Among other applications over the years was its use in 1623 by a bishop on "a party of incontinent friars and nuns" [OED], but not until 1769 was the verbal phrase attested. Related: Tarred; tarring.