Laws and ordinances of New Netherland, 1638-1674/1648

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Of the Director and Council of New Netherland forbidding Brewers
to retail, and Tavern keepers to manufacture Beer. Passed 12 January, 1648.

[N. Y. Colonial MSS. IV. 356; XVI. 10.]

The Director and Council of New Netherland having observed that there are, in and around the city of New Amsterdam, Brewers who tap and sell by retail, whence it may arise and happen that the Beer when brewed and thus retailed is not duly entered nor the legal excise thereon paid, Therefore, the said Director General and Council, in conformity to the rule and customs of Holland, forbid, as they do hereby, all who brew in and around this city, from tapping, retailing or selling Beer by the can or glass, and all Tapsters from brewing or allowing others to brew for them, on pain of forfeiting all such Beer as shall be found on such Brewers’ or Tapsters’ premises, and in addition, of being excluded from trade during months.

Thus done the 12 January, A° 1648.


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland opening the Trade to
Brazil and Angola, and authorizing the Importation of Slaves into
New Netherland. Passed 20 January,

[N. Y. Col. Doc. I, 215.]

Resolved, that private Inhabitants of New Netherland shall be allowed to export their Country produce under suitable duty, in their own or chartered Ships, to Brazil and Angola, on these following conditions: First, that the aforesaid ships, when in Brazil, shall not be at liberty to return back with Sugars to New Netherland aforesaid, but shall let themselves be chartered directly hither. Secondly, that the permit to proceed to Angola abovementioned shall be granted only provisionally, and that for the time that the dispensation shall continue in regard to the transportation of Slaves, which was accorded on Thursday last. Thirdly, that those willing to go to Angola, shall, previous to their departure from New Netherland, take out a commission and permit from here, and also give security similar to all other private persons sailing from this country[1].


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland prohibiting Wooden
Chimneys, and appointing Firewardens in New Amsterdam. Passed 23-28 January, 1648.

[N. Y. Col. Doc. I, 215.]

The Honble Director General of New Netherland, Curacao and the Islands thereof, and the Honble Council having by experience seen and observed that some careless people neglect to keep their Chimneys clean by sweeping, and do not pay attention to their fires, whereby recently two Houses were burned and greater damage is to be expected in future from fire, the rather as the houses here in New Amsterdam are for the most part built of Wood and thatched with Reed, besides which the Chimneys of some of the houses are of wood, which also is most dangerous; Therefore the Honble General and Council aforesaid have considered it proper and most expedient to provide herein, wherefore the said Honble General and Council Ordain, enact and command as they hereby do, that from now henceforward no Chimneys shall be built of wood or [lath and] plaister in any houses between the Fort and the Fresh Water, but those already erected may remain until further order and pleasure of the Firewardens; and in order that the foregoing shall be well observed, to that end are appointed as Firewardens — from the Honble Council, Commissary Adriaen d’ Keyser; from the Commonalty, Thomas Hall, Marten Crigier and George Wolsey, with power at their pleasure to see if the Chimneys in all houses situate and standing within this city every where around, between this Fort and the Fresh Water, are kept well cleaned by sweeping, and if anyone be found negligent he shall, every time the Firewardens aforesaid examine and find the Chimneys foul, pay them forthwith, without any contradiction, a fine of three Guilders for every flue found on examination to be dirty, to be expended for Fire ladders, Hooks and Buckets which shall be procured and provided at the earliest and most convenient opportunity, and if any one’s house be burned, or be the cause of fire, either through negligence or by his own fire, he shall forfeit 25 florins to be applied as above.

Thus done and enacted in Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 23d January, A° 1648. Published[2].


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland further regulating
the Fur trade and imposing a Duty on Exported Furs. Passed 29 January, A° 1648.

[N. Y. Col. MSS. IV. 359.]

It is unanimously considered in Council proper and advantageous, most serviceable, expedient and profitable for the Hon. West India Company, and also for the better prevention of Smuggling, to mark the Beavers, Bearskins, Otters and Elkhides with the Company’s mark so soon as they will be brought here from other places; provided that whoever shall have the Beavers stamped, shall be responsible for the duty.

Likewise, all Merchants and Traders shall remain bound to enter all Peltries, bartered, trucked or purchased either from Heathens or Christians, with the Commissaries of the Company either at or about Fort Orange, Fort Nassau & the House the Hope, and to bring with them a certificate thereof signed by the Commissary. Further, all other Peltries which may be traded or bought on the way hither between [the Manhattans and] Fort Orange or the South river or at any other quarter where there are no Commissaries of the Company, must be entered by the Owner, immediately on arriving in the roadstead here before the Fort, or if anyone shall be fonnd to have acted otherwise, the Peltries which may then be discovered shall be held and declared confiscable. The Trader shall enter with the Receiver the Peltries which are procured on the Island of Manhattan or elsewhere in its vicinity from the Natives or others, three days after he has traded or bought them, on pain of confiscation.

There must be paid, from this day forward, and until further order and circumstances, at the Company’s counting house as duty, for every whole Beaver 15 stivers; for one Otter 15 stivers; for one Bearskin 15 stivers; an Elkhide 15 stivers; for each Deerskin 5 stivers; a coat of Raccoon, Wild Cat and of Fisher’s skins, 15 stivers each; 10 single skins counted for one coat also 15 stivers, and all that from the Peltries which are entered for exportation.

Thus done and enacted the 29th January, A° 1648, in New Amsterdam[3].


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland against Goats and
Hogs running at large in New Amsterdam. Passed 10 March, A° 1648.

[N. Y. Col. MSS. IV. 366; XVI. 14.]

Whereas the Honble Director General and Council of New Netherland have daily seen and remarked that the Goats and Hogs here around Fort Amsterdam daily commit great damage in Orchards, Gardens and other improvements, whereby it follows not only that the planting of beautiful Orchards and Gardens are prevented, but considerable damage is done to Individuals. Therefore the Honble Director General and Council, willing to provide herein, do, from this time forward, Ordain and Enact that no Goats nor Hogs shall be pastured or kept between the fortification of New Amsterdam (or its vicinity) and the Fresh Water, except within each its own inclosure, and that so well constructed that the Goats do not leap over it, and commit damage on any person; Also, Goats beyond the Fresh Water shall not be pastured without a Herdsman and Keeper, on pain of having the Goats found at large on this side of the Fresh Water, or without a Herdsman or Keeper beyond it, taken up by the Fiscal and declared forfeit beherded by the Honble Director General and Council. Let every one be warned hereby and take heed against loss.

This done in Council at Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 10th March, A° 1648[4].


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland for the regulation of
Trade and Navigation; the establishment of a weekly Market and
an annual Fair, and declaring the East river free to all nations.
Passed 10 March 1648.

[N. Y. Col. MSS. IV. 366.]

Petrus Stuyvesant on behalf of the High and Mighty Lords States General of the United Netherlands, his Highness of Orange and the Honble Directors of the Incorporated West India Company, Director General of New Netheriand, Caracao, and the Islands thereof, together with the Honble Council.

To all those who shall see these Presents, or hear them read, Greeting.

Whereas We, pursuant to the good intention and order of the aforesaid High and Mighty Lords States General, his Serene Highness and the Honble Directors, would not witness nor promote any thing more readily than the prosperous increase and peopling of this Province of New Netherland and the general good and welfare of the worthy Inhabitants thereof, whereunto first of all are required sound Laws and Ordinances as well in the matters of Trade, Navigation, Building, as of Municipal government and local regulations, Therefore, We having taken and still taking into more serious consideration and deliberation the Petition and written Remonstrance of the Nine elected Selectmen, our good and dear subjects, wherein they represent, and by sorrowful experience verify the daily decline and violation of Trade and Navigation, proceeding for the most part from the underselling, frauds, smuggling perpetrated by the one against the other, principally by such as take little or no interest in this new growing Province and feel little concern and care for its prosperity and welfare, and therefore, do not benefit it either by Bouweries or Buildings, but solely applying themselves, with small capital and cargoes, (for which they hire for a brief period only one room or house) to the Beaver and Fur trade, and having traded and trucked said peltries from the good Inhabitants, or the Natives sufficiently high beyond their value, have recourse to all sorts of means, by night and at unseasonable hours, to convey them secretly out of the Country, or to the North, without paying the proper duty thereon, and having enriched themselves by these and other illicit practices and means, they take their departure and go back home without conferring or bestowing any benefit on this Province or the Inhabitants thereof. By this underselling and fraudulent trade, the Wares and Merchandizes of others who, by means of Bouweries or with handsome Buildings in regard to this place, interest themselves in the Country, are depreciated and remain unsold to their great loss and damage. Wishing as far as in our power lies, to remedy and prevent the aforesaid, in order to the establishment of a more stable course of Commerce and mutual Trade, for the greater advantage of the oldest and interested Inhabitants and to promote the prosperity and increase of this place, New Amsterdam, We the abovementioned Director and Council do, Therefore, hereby Ordain and enact on the subject of Trade as follows:

That no person shall henceforward be allowed to keep a public or private Shop on shore, in cellar or garret, or to carry on any Trade by the small weight and measure within our Government in the Province of New Netherland, except our good and dear Inhabitants who, before they have taken the Oath of Allegiance, own real estate (syn gehuysten gehooft) at least to the amount of two to three thousand guilders and have promised to reside, or at least to keep fire and light in their own House, here in the land within this Province during four consecutive years; With this exception and reserve however, that those who are already sworn and faithful subjects may, although not interested to the above amount in the country, nor Proprietors of real estate, continue their undertaken trade and business for the support of their house and family, and purchase Wares and Merchandizes in large and small quantities, each according to his circumstances and means, from the wholesale Merchants and Traders, in order to retail them again by the pound and small measure, provided they promise and engage to remain four consecutive years within this government, or not to depart out of it without the knowledge and special consent of the Director General in loco, also not to make use, in buying and selling, of any other Ell, Weight or Measure than the legal Ell, Weight and Measure of our name-giver, Old Amsterdam, hitherto in general use here, on pain of suspension of business and, in Penalty, addition, a fine of twenty-five Guilders.

Item. In order to preserve and maintain trade and commerce with all new comers, whether Merchants, Factors or Scotch from Fatherland and elsewhere; also, with our neighbors of Virginia and New England, &c. and to prevent all Monopoly, and the better to accomodate the Inhabitant, it is permitted and allowed to those persons to supply daily, Sundays excepted, the Burgher, Inhabitant and Stranger, with goods in large and small quantities from their Ships, Yachts and Sloops, provided that the Goods and Merchandizes are in the first instance properly entered, and the previously enacted and customary Duties on what is sold correctly paid at the office of the Receiver, and in the buying and selling no other Weight, Measure nor Ell be used than that in use here, on the penalty aforesaid.

In like manner, also, are hereby given and granted to the Stranger and innabitant a Weekly Marketday, to wit Monday, and annually a Free Market for ten consecutive days, which shall begin on the first Monday after Bartholemew's day[5] New style, corresponding to the legal Amsterdam Fair, on which weekly and annual days the Neighbor and Stranger, as well as the Inhabitant, are allowed and permitted to supply the purchaser from a Booth, by the ell, weight and measure, wholesale and retail, according to the demand and circumstances of each, in conformity to the weight, ell and measure as aforesaid, and no other.

With regard to the navigation which is the chief means whereby commerce, trade and traffic are preserved and sustained, the Director General and Council are informed and see by experience, that considerable Fraud, Smuggling, abuses and illegalities have for sometime past crept in and are taking deeper root daily, through the illicit gain by which many, being misled, abandon their usual business, occupation, employment and trade, and invest all their means in one or another vessel, in which they not only lodge and board, without conferring any benefit on this place, or country, but, under pretext of procuring Maize or other Grain, corrupt, defraud and ruin the trade both in Wampum and Peltries with the Natives, to the great loss and damage of the honest Traders, Merchants and Inhabitants of this place, for the redress and prevention whereof the Honble Director General and Council do hereby Ordain and Enact, that no person shall henceforth be at liberty to frequent, navigate, or trade at the South or the North River, or in any Bays, Kills and Creeks situate up and between them, except only Burghers and Inhabitants of this City who possess real estate therein to the aforesaid amount of Two @ Three thousand guilders, whereunto, however, they, pursuant to an old Ordinance and Custom, shall previously seek and obtain from the Director General an act and commission and at each voyage a clearance, to be exhibited to the Commissary and Officer there, and apply to him again for another to be shown to us or our deputy here, on which shall appear and be entered the correct quantity and quality of the freighted wares and Merchandizes and returns, without concealing any thing in the least thereof, on pain of confiscation of all concealed Merchandizes and Peltries in said Ship, Yacht or Sloop whether they be shipped and conveyed on private account or on freight. We likewise order our Fiscal here, and Commissaries, Officers and Servants residing at Forts Orange, Nassau and elsewhere, to pay strict and close attention to drawing up, examining and exacting of such clearances, on pain of dismissal.

Item. To the intent that these presents be the better understood and cleared of all cavil and obscurities, the Director and Council aforesaid reserve unto themselves the power to grant at their will and pleasure, for a few months, Commission to trade at said Rivers, Streams and trading posts, but only to such as are actually sworn Inhabitants and Vassals in this place, having taken the Oath of Allegiance and entered into bonds to continue under our government four consecutive years, although they have not in fact invested the aforesaid sum nor own a domicile in the Country; provided that they promise and engage, in the meantime, to adorn this place with a decent and burgherlike building and invest in the Country according to their rank and means; but no other person shall be permitted or allowed to have built or to buy new Yachts, Sloops or Vessels, unless he own real estate in the aforesaid city of New Amsterdam, below the Fresh Water.

Item. They reserve unto themselves, in order to promote greater intercourse and mutual commerce between the Colonie Renselaerswyck and other places annexed and subject to this Government, to admit such Colonie into this civil Exemption and Privilege, for one, two or three Vessels according to circumstances and the exigencies of affairs, provided that the persons own real estate there or here to the amount aforesaid, and remain subject to the regulations previously and herein made and hereafter to be enacted.

The navigation of the East River as well toward this place as toward our allies and neighbors and English Virginia, is left open and free as heretofore, to all persons of what quality or nation soever they may be, on condition that all our Inhabitants, whether of this or of other places under our Government, shall apply for and obtain a new Commission and Permit and correctly enter with the Fiscal, or in his absence at the Office of the Receiver, the Goods and Merchandizes which they transport hither and thither; be entered; and such persons are hereby warned that all Merchandizes, Wares and Returns, without any exception but Firewood, Clapboards, Lime and Stone, which are not entered shall be liable to confiscation together with the Boats, Barks, Lighters and Canoes in which the same may be found.

We ordain and enact that the previous Ordinance and Regulation respecting the anchoring of Large and Small Vessels[6] being published and posted anew, shall be strictly observed, respected and obeyed; to Vessels to wit, that no Yachts shall anchor except at the appointed anchorage, and not remove thence until being visited by the Fiscal, they afterwards have receive from the Director, or, in his absence, from the Fiscal, a written Permit to discharge elsewhere.

We do again Ordain and enact, for the prevention of scandalous Smuggling, that no Boats, Barges, Yawls nor Canoes shall, in the evening after sunset and in the morning before sunrise, go on board of, or leave any Vessel, or discharge or land any Goods or Merchandizes, under a penalty of one pound Flemish, and all Goods and Merchandizes found therein, unless a special permit on account of some pressing haste and necessity and circumstance, be previously asked for and obtained from the Honble Director, or, in his absence, from the Vice Director or Fiscal.

We also command our Fiscal strictly to enforce and execute this our Regulation and Ordinance together with the other, after the publication and posting thereof, and to proceed against the Contraveners thereof without any exception, according to the tenor of these presents.

Thus done in Council, the 10 March, A° 1648, in New Amsterdam in New Netherland[7].


  1. . The Directors at Amsterdam communicating the above resolution to Director Stuyvesant on the 7 April, 1648, wrote as follows:
    "It is provisionally resolved (by the States General) that all Colonists of the country there, shall be at liberty to convey from thence in their own, or chartered Ships, their produce of Flour, Fish, Beef, Peas and Beans, and all other articles, to Brazil and Angola, that said ships shall be privileged to receive freight again for these countries; but that such as have completed their trade in Angola, may carry Negroes to your place to be employed in the cultivation of the Soil. By this Resolution you will perceive that you are at liberty to send one ship with all sorts of provisions to Angola, to convey, in return, Negroes thither. Please, therefore, seize on this opportunity as soon as possible, with the provisions which, you say you will have remaining." N. Y. Col. MSS. XI. 12.
    I do not find any minute of such a ship, or of any vessel having been sent to Africa from New Netherland, in consequence of the above resolution and instruction. Tr.
  2. In the copy of this Ordinance in Vol. 16, the date is 28 January, 1648.
  3. 1649, January 22. The Directors at Amsterdam in a dispatch to Director Stuyvesant of this date, express their "surprise that he has somewhat altered the Duty on Exported Peltries; receiving for the Beavers, Otters, Bearskins and Elkhides each piece, 15 stivers; and for the Deerskins 5 stivers, for which 5 per cent was received before. It is our opinion," they add, "that it had been better not to have done so. No good can come of changing all those Resolutions without the knowledge of the Assembly of the XIX. Circumstances do not warrant the taxing of these Goods higher than before, tho rather as Beaver which people were accustomed to buy for 5 @ 9 florins, are now sold for 6, 7 and 5 florins, according to quality." N. Y. Col. MSS. XI. 14. See Ordinance of 4 September, 1652, in which the Duty is reduced. Tr.
  4. Another copy of the above Ordinance is in Vol. 4: 372, dated 16 March, 1648. Tr.
  5. 24th of August — Tr.
  6. See Ordinance of 4 July, 1647
  7. The Directors at Amsterdam disapproved of some of the clauses contained in the preceding Ordinance, which eventually led to the establishment of the law of Burgherright:
    "Your Honor proposes that no person ought to carry on any business there, except those who are willing to oblige themselves to continue to reside there 3@4 years, and that no person should sell any thing there by the small measure, except on the same conditions. Also, that no person shall navigate the river with any vessel except Burghers who have permanent residences there, and have real estate to the amount of 3@4 thousand guilders.
    "We will observe thereon, that we should greatly desire that the Company were in such a position as to be able to prevent, according to your good intention, all these private extortioners; but We find it for the present impracticable. Therefore, your Honor must, in the first place, temporize on all these points, until more favorable circumstances." Directors to Stuyvesant, 27 January, 1649. N. Y. Col. MSS. XI, 14. — Tr.