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May 11, 2018

Crime and Punishment in 17th Century New Netherland

Seal of New Netherland
In 17th century New Netherland (New York) the punishment for adultery was harsh, as Lauren Duyt's wife Ytie Jansen found out in November 1658 in New Amsterdam (present day New York City). This young Dutch woman had been sold to an Englishman, Jan Parcel, at the request of her husband. Laurens himself was accused of having had illicit intercourse with Geesje Jansen who he apparently preferred over his wife Ytie. Despite the mitigating circumstances of being sold the court sentenced Ytie to be whipped and banished.

In New Netherland -- unlike New England -- this sentence of whipping seldom got further than a symbolic flogging in the case of women, which meant that the offender was led to the stake, partly stripped, and given two rods on her hands, after which she was untied and banished." Source: "Sweet and Alien Land," by Van der Zee [New York.The Viking Press, 1978], Chapter, 'Law and Disorder,' p. 356.

The records reveal a great deal about this episode in Council Minutes Vol. VIII, Dutch Manuscripts (1658):

18 Nov. Order for the examination of Geesje Jansen, accused of having had illicit intercourse with Laurens Duyts  [ p. 1038 vol. VIII]

25 Nov. Sentence of whipping and banishment pronounced against Ytie Janse for living in adultery with Jan Parcel, alias Botcher [ p. 1049 vol. VIII]

25 Nov. Sentence. Laurens Duyts of Holstein, for selling his wife Ytie Jansen, and forcing her to live in adultery with another man, and for living himself also in adultery, to have a rope tied around his neck then to be severely flogged, to have his right ear cut off and to be banished for 50 years   [p. 1051 vol. VIII]

25 Nov. Sentence John Parcell, alias Botcher, of Huntingdonshire, England for living in adultery with Ytie Jans, to be placed at the whipping post with two rods in his arm, to be banished for 20 years, and pay a fine of 100 guilders with costs  [ p. 1053 vol. VIII]


When Ytie and Jan --"two sorrowful sinners" -- appeared two weeks later in court to ask for permission to marry, the magistrates were unrelenting and gave them three months to pack, telling them to "separate from each other at once."  

25 Nov. Sentence Geesie Jansen, for living in adultery with Laurens Duyts, to be conducted to the whipping post, and fastened thereto, the upper part of her body being stripped naked, and two rods placed in her hand, to be afterwards conducted, in that wise, outside the city gates, and banished from the province the term of 30 years, with costs [ p. 1055 vol. VIII]

30 Nov. Sentence. Iva Dircksen, for adultery, to be conducted to the place where justice is executed, and there to witness the punishments inflicted this day, and then be banished for the term of 50 years [p. 1057 vol. VIII]

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