Records of the Reformed Dutch Church in New Amsterdam and New York

Church and Sunday in Old New York,
page 2 of 16

And in another public-house ninepins were visible, and a can and glass, during preaching-time. The landlady had her excuse, — some came to her house and said church was out, and one chanced to have a bowl in his hand and another a pin, but there was no playing at bowls.

Still, though he snooped and fined, in 1656 the burgomasters learned “by daily and painful experience” that the profanation of “the Lord’s day of Rest by the dangerous, Yes, damnable Sale or Dealing out of Wines Beers and Brandy-Waters” still went on; and fresh Sunday Laws were issued forbidding “the ordinary and customary Labors of callings, such as Sowing, Mowing, Building, Sawing wood, Smithing, Bleeching, Hunting, Fishing.” All idle sports were banned and named: “Dancing, Card-playing, Tick-tacking, Playing at ball, at bowls, at ninepins; taking Jaunts in Boats, Wagons, or Carriages.”

In 1673, again, the magistrates “experienced to our great grief” that rolling ninepins was more in vogue on Sunday than on any other day. And we learn that there were social clubs that “Set on the Sabbath,” which must speedily be put an end to. Thirty men were found by the schout in one tap-huys; but as they were playing ninepins and backgammon two hours after the church-doors had closed, prosecution was most reluctantly abandoned.

Of course scores of “tappers” were prosecuted, both in taverns and private houses. Piety and regard for an orderly Sabbath were not the only guiding thoughts in the burgomasters’ minds in framing these Sunday liquor laws and enforcing them; for some tapsters had “tapped beer during divine service and used a small kind of measure which is in contempt of our religion and must ruin our state,” — and the state was sacred. In the country, as for instance on Long Island, the carting of grain, travelling for pleasure, and shooting of wild-fowl on Sunday were duly punished in the local courts.

I do not think that children were as rigid church attendants in New York as in New England. In 1696, in Albany, we find this injunction: “ye Constables in eache warde to take thought in attending at ye church to hender such children as Profane ye Sabbath;” and we know that Albany boys and girls were complained of for coasting down hill on Sunday, —which enormity would have been simply impossible in New England, except in an isolated outburst of Adamic depravity.


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