BERNARD SCHWARTZ [1923-1997] was professor of law and director of the Institute of Comparative Law, New York University. He was the author of over fifty books, including French Administrative Law and the Common-Law World (1954, reprinted 2006), the five-volume Commentary on the Constitution of the United States (1963-1968), Constitutional Law: A d104book (2d ed., 1979), Administrative Law: A Casebook (4th ed., 1994) and A History of the Supreme Court (1993).
In this book we meet Marretie Joris, a New Amsterdam entrepreneur who sues Gabriel de Haes for calling her a whore; peer cautiously at Christian Stevenson, a Bermudian witch as bad "as any in the world;" and learn that Hannah Dyre feared to be alone with her husband—and subsequently died after a beating. We travel with Comfort Taylor as she crosses Narragansett Bay with Cuff, an enslaved ferry captain, whom she accuses of attempted rape, and watch as Samuel Banister pulls the trigger of a gun that kills the sheriff's deputy who tried to evict Banister from his home. And finally, we consider the promiscuous Marylanders Thomas Harris and Ann Goldsborough, who parented four illegitimate children, ran afoul of inheritance laws, and resolved matters only with the assistance of a ghost. Through the six trials she skillfully reconstructs here, Crane offers a surprising new look at how early American society defined and punished aberrant behavior, even as it defined itself through its legal system.