Gateway to the Classics: Peter of Amsterdam by James Otis
Peter of Amsterdam by  James Otis

Punishing the Quaker

A godly man was this Quaker, and yet he was tied face down to the back end of a cart, in which were two women accused of giving him shelter, and this sorry spectacle was paraded through the streets in the midst of our merrymaking.

Even though the man had been accused of some crime, it would have been more to the credit of our Director had he been lodged in jail without first marching him up and down that all the people might look upon the disgrace.

That he had clone no more than preach the word of God in a manner such as was not set down by the rules of the Dutch Reformed Church, caused the arrest to seem much like wickedness, and there were many persons in New Amsterdam who in private cried out against it, for to speak in those days openly against whatsoever the Director commanded was cause for imprisonment in the dungeons, as in the case of Master Keller's raising his voice against the capture of the Swedish forts.

Nor was this punishment, severe though you will say it was, all that the Director imposed upon the God-fearing Quaker. He ordered that unless he could pay the sum of six hundred florins at once, he should be chained to a wheelbarrow by the side of a negro, who had been condemned to such labor for the good of the city because of having brutally beaten a Dutchman, and this for the term of two years.

The Quaker refused to move when they chained him to the black man, and it seemed to me well that he did so; but the refusal cost him dearly, for he was hung up by the thumbs and beaten with thirty lashes each morning for the space of four days, when a sister of Master Stuyvesant mercifully begged for, and succeeded in obtaining, the prisoner's release.

Now you may be certain that our people of New Amsterdam, although knowing what might be their punishment for speaking against such an act, did not hold their tongues.

Wherever two or three of the common people were gathered on the green, or in the streets, there could one hear harsh words spoken against the Director, and because of such tongue-wagging there were seventeen free nmen of Ncw Amsterdam at one time imprisoned in the jail by the orders of Master Stuyvesant.


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