An analysis of Horsmanden’s work paints a picture of the social divisions present in the city. Race was a fairly obvious division, exemplified by Horsmanden’s statement that Peggy was the “worst sort” of prostitute because she was “a prostitute to negroes” (Zabin, p.49) and that blacks were much more prone to suspicion which can be seen in the fact that roughly 30 blacks were executed compared to four whites (Zabin, p.175). Economic status also shines through as a source of division. This is apparent by the fact that the Hughsons, who owned a disreputable public house (Zabin, p.48), were tried and executed largely on the testimony of Mary Burton. However, when Ms. Burton cast suspicion upon some people “in ruffles” (those of better means), the court quickly wrapped up the ca...
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...stered togetherness among the people.
Horsmanden’s journal provides a wealth of information about eighteenth century New York if one is willing to analyze it critically and ignore the bias present in it. If one does this they catch fascinating glimpses of a divided world, one where people are partitioned by race, economic status, homeland and religion. A world filled with fear and suspicion caused by the tension inherent within such societal division. The same tensions that either gave rise to a massive conspiracy to destroy the town of New York or gave credence to a nightmare constructed by the minds of the people and fed by individuals’ self-serving nature. Regardless, eighteenth century New York was a troubled place and Horsmanden’s Journal of the Proceedings gives us a partial but valuable insight to the lives and interactions of colonial New York’s peoples.
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