Crimes and Punishments,
page 15 of 17
Later orders as to fences were given which appear eminently calculated to be mischief-making. “Persons thinking their neighbors’ fences not good, first to request them to repair; failing which to report to the overseers.” In 1674 all persons were forbidden to leave the city except by city-gate, under penalty of death; this was of course when war threatened.
The crime of suicide was not without punishment. Suicides were denied ordinary burial rites. In Dutch days when one Smitt of New York committed suicide, the schout asked that his body be drawn on a hurdle and buried with a stake in his heart. This order was not executed; he was buried at night and his estates confiscated. When Sir Danvers Osborne — the Governor for a day — was found dead by his own act, he was “decently interred in Trinity churchyard.”
Women in New York sometimes made their appearance in New York courts, as in those of other colonies, in another role than that of witness or criminal; they sometimes sat on juries. In the year 1701, six good Albany wives served on a jury: Tryntje Roseboom, Catheren Gysbertse, Angeneutt Jacobse, Marritje Dirkse, Elsje Lansing, and Susanna Bratt. They were, of course, empanelled for a special duty, not to serve on the entire evidence of the case for which they were engaged.
Many old records are found which employ quaint metaphors or legal expressions; I give one which refers to a custom which seems at one time to have been literally performed. It occurs in a commission granted to the trustees of an estate of which the debts exceeded the assets. Any widow in Holland or New Netherland could be relieved of all demands or claims of her husband’s creditors by relinquishing all right of inheritance. This widow took this privilege; it is recorded thus:—
“Whereas, Harman Jacobsen Bamboes has been lately shot dead, murdered by the Indians, and whereas the estate left by him has been kicked away with the foot by his wife who has laid the key on the coffin, it is therefore necessary to authorize and qualify some persons to regulate the same.”