The High Constable

Crimes and Punishments,
page 10 of 17

“In the evening a company of the chiefe women of the City, both English and Dutch, made earnest suite to the Governor for the Condemned man’s life. Monday in the morning the same women who came the last night with many others of the better sort, and a greater number of the ordinary Dutch women, did again very much importune the Governor to spare him.”

These tender-hearted colonists were indorsed and supplemented by the petition of Weale’s fellow-soldiers in the garrison, who pleaded the prisoner’s youth and his past usefulness, and who promised if he were pardoned never to steal nor to conceal theft. As a result of all this intercession, the Governor “graciously” granted pardon.

This promise and pardon seem to have accomplished much in army discipline, for thereafter arrests for crime among the soldiery were rare. Five years later a soldier was accused of pilfering.

“The Court Marshall doth adjudge that the said Melchoir Classen shall run the Gantlope once, the length of the fort: where according to the custome of that punishment, the souldiers shall have switches delivered to them, with which they shall strike him as he passes between them stript to the waist, and at the Fort-gate the Marshall is to receive him, and there to kick him out of the Garrison as a cashiered person, when he is no more to returne, and if any pay is due him it is to be forfeited.”

And that was the end of Melchoir Classen.

Gantlope was the earlier and more correct form of the word now commonly called gantlet. Running the gantlope was a military punishment in universal use.

Another common punishment for soldiers (usually for rioting or drinking) was riding the wooden horse. In New Amsterdam the wooden horse stood between Paerel Street and the Fort, and was twelve feet high. Garret Segersen, for stealing chickens, rode the wooden horse for three days from two o’clock to close of parade with a fifty-pound weight tied to each foot. At other times a musket was tied to each foot of the disgraced man. One culprit rode with an empty scabbard in one hand and a pitcher in the other to show his inordinate love for John Barleycorn. Jan Alleman, a Dutch officer, challenged Jan de Fries, who was bedridden; for this cruel and meaningless insult he too rode the wooden horse.


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