A Primary Source History of the Colony of New York

Crimes and Punishments,
page 8 of 17

All classes in the community were parties in these petty slander suits; schoolmasters and parsons appear to have been specially active. Domine Bogardus and Domine Schaets had many a slander suit. The most famous and amusing of all these clerical suits is the one brought by Domine Bogardus and his wife, the posthumously famous Anneke Jans, against Grietje von Salee, a woman of very dingy reputation, who told in New Amsterdam that the domine’s wife, Mistress Anneke, had lifted her petticoats in unseemly and extreme fashion when crossing a muddy street. This was proved to be false, and the evidence adduced was so destructive of Grietje’s character that she stands disgraced forever in history as the worst woman in New Netherland.

Not only were slanderers punished, but they were disgraced with terrible names. William Bakker was called “a blasphemer, a street schold, a murderer as far as his intentions are concerned, a defamer, a disturber of public peace,” — the concentration of which must have made William Bakker hang his head in the place of his banishment. They were also rebuked from the pulpit, and admonished in private.

Perhaps the best rebuke given, as well as a unique one, was the one adopted by Domine Frelinghuysen, who had suffered somewhat from slander himself. He had this rhyme painted in large letters on the back of his sleigh, that he who followed might read:—

                    “Niemands tong; nog neimands pen,
                    Maakt my anders dan ik ben.
                    Spreek quaad-spreekers spreek yonder end,
                    Niemand en word van u geschend.”

Which, translated into English, reads:—

                    “No one’s tongue, and no one’s pen
                    Makes me other than I am.
                    Speak, evil-speakers, speak without end,
                    No one heeds a word you say.”

The original Court of the colony was composed of a Director and his Council. In 1656, in answer to complaints from the colonists, the States-General ordered the election of a board of magistrates, in name and function like those of the Fatherland; namely, a schout, two burgomasters, and five schepens. The duties of the burgomasters and schepens were twofold: they regulated municipal affairs like a board of aldermen, and they sat as a court of justice both in civil and criminal cases.


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