Eighteenth-Century Woodworking Tools

Crimes and Punishments,
page 11 of 17

In Revolutionary days we still find the soldiers of the Continental Army punished by riding the wooden horse, or, as it was sometimes called, “the timber mare;” but it was probably a modification of the cruel punishment of the seventeenth century.

A sailor, for drawing a knife on a companion, was dropped three times from the yard-arm and received a kick from every sailor on the ship, — a form of running the gantlope. And we read of a woman who enlisted as a seaman, and whose sex was detected, being dropped three times from the yard-arm and tarred and feathered.

These women petitioners for Soldier Weale of whom I have told, were not the only tender-hearted New Yorkers to petition for “mercy, that herb of grace, to flower.” During Stuyvesant’s rule his sister, Madam Bayard, successfully interceded for the release, and thereby saved the life, of an imprisoned Quaker; and in September, 1713, two counterfeiters were saved from the death penalty by the intervention of New York dames. We read “Most of the gentlewomen of the city waited on the Governor, and addressed him earnestly with prayers and tears for the lives of the culprits, who were accordingly pardoned.” When two sailors rioted through the town demanding food and drink, and used Carel Van Brugh so roughly that his face was cut, they were sentenced to be fastened to the whipping-post, and scourged, and have gashes cut in their faces; the wife of Van Brugh and her friends petitioned that the-sentence should not be carried out, or at any rate executed within a room. Doubtless other examples could be found.

The laws of New Netherland were naturally based upon the laws and customs of the Fatherland, which in turn were formed by the rules of the College of XIX. from the Imperial Statutes of Charles V. and the Roman civil law.

The punishments were the ordinary ones of the times, neither more nor less severe than those of the Fatherland or the other colonies. In 1691 it was ordered that a ducking-stool be erected in New York on the wharf in front of the City Hall. The following year an order was passed that a pillory, cage, and ducking-stool be built.


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