Dutch Bobbin Lace Patterns

Crimes and Punishments,
page 14 of 17

the Creator of Heaven and Earth, to direct that the lot may fall on the guiltiest, whereupon’ the record reads, the lot fell by God’s Providence on Manuel Gerrit, the Giant, who was accordingly sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead as an example to all such malefactors.’ Four days after the trial, and on the day of the sentence, all Nieuw Amsterdam left its accustomed work to gaze on the unwonted spectacle. Various Indians also gathered, wondering, to the scene. The giant negro is brought out by the black hangman, and placed on the ladder against the fort with two strong halters around his neck. After an exhortation from Domine Bogardus during which the negro chaunts barbaric invocations to his favorite Fetich, he is duly turned off the ladder into the air. Under the violent struggles and weight of the giant, however, both halters break. He falls to the ground. He utters piteous cries. Now on his knees, now twisting and groveling on the earth. The women shriek. The men join in his prayers for mercy to the stern Director. He is no trifler and the law must have its course. The hangman prepares a stronger rope. Finally the cry for mercy is so general that the Director relents, and the fortunate giant is led off the ground by his swarthy friends, somewhat disturbed in his intellect by his near view of the grim King of Terrors.”

Up to February 21, 1788, benefit of clergy existed; that is, the plea in capital felonies of being able to read. This was a monkish privilege first extended only to priestly persons. In England it was not abolished till 1827. The minutes of the Court of General Quarter Sessions in New York bear records of criminals who pleaded “the benefit” and were branded on the brawn of the left thumb with “T” in open court and then discharged.

As the punishments accorded for crimes were not severe for the notions of the times, it is almost amusing to read some fierce ordinances, — though there is no record of any executions in accordance with them. For instance, in January, 1659, by the Director-General and Council with the advice of the burgomasters and schepens it was enacted that “No person shall strip the fences of posts or rails under penalty for the first offence of being whipped and branded, and for the second, of punishment with the cord until death ensues.” It is really astonishing to think of these kindly Dutch gentlemen calmly ordering hanging for stealing fence-rails, though of course the matter reached further than at first appeared: there was danger of a scarcity of grain; and if the fences were stolen, the cattle would trample down and destroy the grain.


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