Knitting from the Netherlands

Crimes and Punishments,
page 13 of 17

In the same place a thief was punished by being forced to stand all day under a gallows, a gallows-rope around his neck and empty sword-scabbard in his hand, a memorable figure.

And could any who saw it ever forget the punishment of Mesaack Martens, who stole six cabbages from his neighbor, and confessed and stood for days in the pillory with cabbages on his head, that “the punishment might fit the crime;” to us also memorable because the prisoner was bootlessly examined by torture to force confession of stealing fowls, butter, turkeys, etc.

He was not the only poor creature who suffered torture in New Amsterdam. It was frequently threatened and several times executed. The mate of a ship was accused of assaulting a sheriff’s officer, who could not identify positively his assailant. The poor mate was put to torture, and he was innocent of the offence. The assailant was proved to be another man from whom the officer had seized a keg of brandy. Still none in New Amsterdam were tortured or pressed to death. The blood of no Giles Corey stains the honor of New Netherland.

Sometimes the execution of justice seemed to “set a thief to catch a thief.” A letter written by an English officer from Fort James on Manhattan Island to Captain Silvester Salisbury in Fort Albany in 1672 contains this sentence:—

“We had like to have lost our Hang-man Ben Johnson, for he being taken in Divers Thefts and Robbings convicted and found guilty, escaped his neck through want of another Hangman to truss him up, soe that all the punishment that he received for his Three Years’ Roguery in thieving and stealing (which was never found out till now) was only 39 stripes at the Whipping Post, loss of an Ear and Banishment.”

We have the records of an attempt at capital punishment in 1641; and Mr. Gerard’s account of it in his paper “The Old Stadt-Huys” is so graphic, I wish to give it in full:—

“The court proceedings before the Council, urged by the Fiscal, were against Jan of Fort Orange, Manuel Gerrit the Giant, Anthony Portugese, Simon Congo, and five others, all negroes belonging to the Company, for killing Jan Premero, another negro. The prisoners having pleaded guilty, and it being rather a costly operation to hang nine able-bodied negroes belonging to the Company, the sentence was that they were to draw lots to determine who should be punished with the cord until death, praying the Almighty God,


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