Collapse of a Colonial Society

Education and Child-Life,
page 3 of 17

There are none of the pious and garrulous writings of ministers such as Cotton Mather, who in diary and various literary compositions give another side of their life. We have no such messages from the colonial Dutch. In whatever depended on the use of “a flourit pen,” posterity is neither richer nor wiser for the Dutch settlers having lived. Nor were their English successors much fonder of literary composition. Nothing but formal records of churches, of courts, of business life, offer to us any pages for study and drawing of inference. And from these records the next hint of the life of these colonial children, sad to relate, is to their discredit. The pragmatic magistrates kept up a steady prying and bullying over them. In New Orange, in 1673, “if any children be caught on the street playing, racing, and shouting previous to the termination of the last preaching, the officers of justice may take their hat or upper garment, which shall not be restored to the parents until they have paid a fine of two guilders,” which, we may be sure, would insure the miserable infants summary punishment on arriving home.

Matters were no better in New Amsterdam. One amusing complaint was brought up against “ye wretched boys” of that settlement, and by one high in authority, Schout De Sille. One of his duties was to patrol the town of New Amsterdam at night to see that all was peaceful as befitted a town which was the daughter of the Dutch government. But the poor schout did not find his evening stroll altogether a happy one. He complained that the dogs set upon him, and that tantalizing boys shouted out “The Indians!” at him from behind trees and fences, — which must have startled him sorely, and have been most unpleasantly suggestive in those days of Indian horrors; and his chief complaint was that there was “much cutting of hoekies” by the boys, — which means, I fancy, playing of tricks, of jokes, of hoaxes, such as were played on Hock-day in England, or perhaps “playing hookey,” as American boys of to-day have been known to do.

As years passed on, I fear some of these young Dutch-Americans were sad rogues. They sore roused the wrath of Albany legislators, as is hereby proven:—


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