Education and Child-Life,
page 2 of 17
Children were respectful, almost cowed, in their bearing to their parents, and were enjoined by ministers and magistrates to filial obedience. When the government left the Dutch control and became English, the Calvinistic sternness of laws as to obedience to parents in maturer years which was seen in New England was also found in New York.
“If any Child or Children, above sixteen years of age, and of Sufficient understanding, shall smite their Natural Father or Mother, unless provoked and forct for their selfe preservation from Death or Mayming, at the Complaint of the said Father or Mother, and not otherwise, they being Sufficient witness thereof, that Child, or those Children so offending shall be put to Death.”
A few prim little letters of English children have survived the wear and tear of years, and still show us in their pretty wording the formal and respectful language of the times. Martha Bockée Flint, in that interesting and valuable book, “Early Long Island,” gives this letter written to Major Ephenetus Platt “at Huntting-town” by a little girl eleven years old:—
EVER HONORED GRANDFATHER;
SIR: My long absence from you and my dear Grandmother has been not a little tedious to me. But what renders me a Vast Deal of pleasure is Being intensely happy with a Dear and Tender Mother-in-Law and frequent oppertunities of hearing of your Health and Welfair which I pray God may long Continue. What I have more to add is to acquaint you that I have already made a Considerable Progress in Learning. I have already gone through some Rules of Arithmetic, and in a little Time shall be able of giving you a Better acct of my Learning, and in mean time I am Duty Bound to subscribe myself
Your most obedient and
Duty full Granddaughter
In the Lloyd Collections is a charming little letter from another Long Island miss, ten years of age. The penmanship is elegant and finished, as was that of her elders at that date.
We have, however, scant sources from which to learn of the life of children in colonial New York. No diarist of Pepysian minuteness tells of the children of New Netherland as does the faithful Samuel Sewall of those of New England; no collections of letters such as the Winthrop Papers and others recount the various items of domestic life.