Early American Architecture

Chapter XIII.
Church and Sunday in Old New York.

SUNDAY was not observed in New Netherland with any such rigidity as in New England. The followers of Cocceius would not willingly include Saturday night, and not even all of the Sabbath day, in their holy time. Madam Knight, writing in 1704 of a visit to New York, noted: “The Dutch are n’t strict in keeping the Sabbath as in Boston and other places where I have been.” This was, of course, in times of English rule in New York. Still, much respect to the day was required, especially under the governing hand of the rigid Calvinist Stuyvesant. He specially enjoined and enforced strict regard for seemly quiet during service time. The records of Stuyvesant’s government are full of injunctions and laws prohibiting “tavern-tapping” during the hours of church service. He would not tolerate fishing, gathering of berries or nuts, playing in the street, nor gaming at ball or bowls during church time. At a little later date the time of prohibition of noise and tapping and gaming was extended to include the entire Sabbath day, and the schout, was ordered to be active in searching out and punishing such offenders.

Occasionally his vigilance did discover some Sabbath disorders. He found the first Jew trader who came to the island of Manhattan serenely keeping open shop on Sunday, and selling during sermon time, knowing naught of any Sunday laws of New Amsterdam.

And Albert the Trumpeter was seen on the Sabbath in suspicious guise, with an axe on his shoulder, — but he was only going to cut a bat for his little son; and as for his neighbor who did cut wood, it was only kindling, since his children were cold.

And one Sunday evening in 1660 the schout triumphantly found three sailors round a tap-house table with a lighted candle and a backgammon-board thereon; and he surely had a right to draw an inference of gaming therefrom.


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