Sheriffs

These regents appointed several among their number to paid, full-time jobs, the sherrif, pensionary, and city secretary. They conducted the city's business on a daily basis and supervised a stable group of adminstrators.

The sheriff (schout) is the the oldest of these offices. From well before 1246 when the office became part of the first set of city rights, the sheriff was the Count of Holland's representative among the people, still mostly living on farms and villages. The sheriff was responsible for keeping the city safe and peaceful.

The sheriff was like today's prosecutor for criminal behavior. Since confessions were the most important evidence, the sheriff had at his disposal a variety of tortures designed to elicit that confession. He then chaired the Vierschaar, where the magistrates announced sentences and punishments. Delft did not have a prison for punishment; it was important that punishments be public, and the sheriff carried them out. He received a portion of all fines.

Due to the fires, Boitet's Beschrijving does not have the names of any sheriffs before 1380. Louss vanden Eynden is "reported in a charter of Duke Albert." Four years later, Johan van Groenvelt, a knight, "is reported in certain manuscripts" as sheriff. Boitet lists Jan Clais de Heuiter in 1408, Jan Huygen Sterkensoon in 1411, Jan Willems van Egmont, Lord of Zoetermeer, in 1426, "according to the Chronyk van Holland," and Willeman Simons vander Burch the following year.

Boitet doesn't have complete records of the sheriff's office holders until Arent van der Meer took office in 1471 and kept it for 15 years. From then until 1725, fewer than two dozen men, all from regent families, served as sheriff, some of them for decades at a time. The image (right; click to enlarge) shows Christiaan van der Goes, sheriff from 1562 to 1567. Dirk Bruinsz van der Dussen, sheriff from 1610 to 1621, was the only one even distantly related to Leeuwenhoek.

During most of Leeuwenhoek's life, only three men served as sheriff:

  • Fran├žois van Santen from 1630 until he died in 1675
  • Gerard Jans Putmans from 1676 to 1680
  • Johan della Faille from 1681 until 1713, when Leeuwenhoek was 81

The sheriff does not have a separate archive. Most documents concerning him associate him with the magistrates. He did not seem to have any assistants, either.

The terracotta of the sheriff (right) comes from Pieter Xavery's 1673 set depicting the Leiden vierschaar.