An Albany Girlhood

Wooing and Wedding,
page 4 of 12

Daniel Denton was divorced from his wife in Jamaica, and she was permitted to marry again, by the new provincial law of divorce of 1672. These few examples break the felicitous calm of colonial matrimony, and have a few companions during the years 1670-72; but Chancellor Kent says “for more than one hundred years preceding the Revolution no divorce took place in the colony of New York; “and there was no way of dissolving a marriage save by special act of Legislature.

Occasionally breach-of-promise suits were brought. In 1654 Greetje Waemans produced a marriage ring and two letters, promissory of marriage, and requested that on that evidence Daniel de Silla be “condemned to legally marry her.” He vainly pleaded his unfortunate habit of some days drinking too much, and that on those days he did much which he regretted; among other things, his bacchanalian love-making of Greetje. Francois Soleil, the New Amsterdam gunsmith, another recreant lover, swore he would rather go away and live with the Indians (a terrible threat) than marry the fair Rose whom he had left to droop neglected — and unmarried.

One curious law-case is shown by the injunction to Pieter Kock and Anna van Voorst. They had entered into an agreement of marriage, and then had been unwilling to be wedded. The burgomasters and schepens decided that the promise should remain in force, and that neither should marry any other person without the permission of the other and the Court; but Anna did marry very calmly (when she got ready) another more desirable and desired man without asking any one’s permission.

It certainly gives us a great sense of the simplicity of living in those days to read the account of the suit of the patroon of Staten Island in 1642 against the parents of a fair young Elsje for loss of services through her marriage. She had been bound out to him as a servant, and had married secretly before her time of service had expired. The bride told the worshipful magistrates that she did not know the young man when her mother and another fetched him to see her; that she refused his suit several times, but finally married him willingly enough, — in fact, eloped with him in a sail-boat.


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