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


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland Prohibiting trade in Furs;
Regulating intercourse with Ships in Port; Enjoining due attention on the
part of Workmen; Establishing Court days, and prohibiting Immorality.
Passed 15 April, 1638.

[N. Y. Colonial MSS. IV. 2.]

Whereas the Honble Director and Council of New Netherland have ascertained that many persons, as well Indented Servants as Freemen, are pursuing a private trade in Furs and other irregular courses, in order to prevent any one at any time continuing therein and suffering damage, Therefore the aforesaid Honble Director and Council, wishing to provide there-for in time, Have interdicted and forbidden, and Do hereby interdict and forbid all persons, who are sworn Servants of the Company, be their State, Quality or Condition what it may, from this time forward to carry on any trade in Peltry in any manner whatsoever, on pain of forfeiting all their wages and the claims which the Contraveners have against the Company, together with the confiscation of the merchandize which will be found with them.

In like manner all Free persons not in the Company’s service, shall govern themselves according to the granted Charter,[1] and are hereby warned not to overstep the same on pain of forfeiting the goods and further of being arbitrarily punished.

Moreover, no person belonging to Ships, Yachts and Sloops shall be at liberty to remain on shore at night without the consent of the Hon. Director, but on the contrary shall return on board by Sundown; in like manner, no Boat, Craft or other Vessel shall go at night from any Ship to the shore, or from the Shore to shipboard; wherefore all Skippers and other Officers are expressly commanded to pay attention hereto, and if any person act to the contrary, he shall be punished according as the Hon. Director and Council shall think proper.

No person shall be at liberty to go on board of any Ships which may arrive from Sea, without express order from the Honble Director.

All Master carpenters, Overseers of Workmen and all others are expressly commanded to go to and from their work at the fixed hours, and particularly to attend to those under their charge, without any loss of time, under pain of forfeiture of their monthly wages.

Likewise, no Sailors shall refuse to perform any necessary work for the service of the Company; in case of default, they shall be punished as turbulent and seditious persons.

All persons are hereby, also, notified, in case any question arise, be it Civil or Criminal, that they shall come every Thursday, being the appointed Court day, to make their complaints and to solicit Justice.

Furthermore, each and every one must refrain from Fighting, Adulterous intercourse with Heathens, Blacks, or other persons, Mutiny, Theft, False Swearing, Calumny and other Immoralities, as in all this the Contraveners shall, according to the circumstance of the case, be corrected and punished, as an example to others.

Thus done, published and posted in Fort Amsterdam on the day and year above written.


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland Against Immoderate drinking,
and Harboring seamen on shore at night. Passed 17 May, 1638.

[N. Y. Colonial MSS. IV. 6.]

Whereas the Honble Director William Kieft and Council of New Netherland have observed that much mischief and perversity is daily occasioned by immoderate Drinking, therefore the said Honble Director and Council, wishing to provide against the same, have interdicted and forbidden, do hereby interdict and forbid all persons from now henceforth selling any Wine on pain of forfeiting five and twenty guilders and the Wines which will be found in their houses; Excepting only the Store[2] where Wine can be procured at a fair price and where it will be issued in moderate quantity.

Also no person shall be allowed to lodge at night or after Sundown any of the Company’s servants who are detailed to the Ships or Sloops, unless with the Consent of the Honble Director, under a penalty of a like 25gl. and all seafaring persons are Commanded to repair before Sunset on board the Ship or Sloop where they are detailed and not presume to remain on shore without permission. And whosoever shall act contrary, shall for the first time be fined two months’ wages, and for the second offense shall forfeit all his wages and be dismissed the Company’ s service.

Thus done at Fort Amsterdam and published the day and year aforesaid.


Of the West India Company against Clandestine Trade. Passed 7 June, 1638.

[N. Y. Colonial MSS. IV. 7.]

The Deputies to the Assembly of the XIX. of the Incorporated West India Company, by virtue of the Charter and the amplification thereof to the Company granted by the High and Mighty Lords States General, Make known:

Whereas it has been sufficiently evident, not only before this time but now recently it is publicly apparent to all the world, that divers self interested persons in New Netherland, indecently violating Our good Ordinances and Commands by their private and clandestine trade and traffic, have acquired and converted to their own private profit, and deprived the Company of, a large amount of Peltries and Skins and of better condition and quality than those purchased there and sent over for the Company’s own account, bartering them for Wares and Cargoes taken by and with themselves, or sent out, in the Company’s own ships clandestinely, secretly and without the knowledge of the Company, whereby, on the one hand, the ships are filled and rendered incapable of carrying the entered goods of the Company and others, of the Patroons and Colonists, and on the other hand, in addition, the Company is moreover defrauded in the freight thereof. Thus have they not only in that Country spoiled the Company’s trade by paying more for Skins and Peltries than the Company, which they could do, being free from all burthens and charges both of freight and crews, and not having to defray the dayly expence of maintaining so many people, fortifications, and other heavy charges which the Company have to bear there, who in consequence either have received only a few Furs or have been forced to a like advance in price, but also in this country brought the Furs and Peltries into disrepute and caused them to be sold at a lower price; the Muscovy and other traders having sold out of their hands better goods and at a lower figure. Besides this, the Company have reliable information that many have exchanged their poor Furs for the Company’s best Furs, or certainly bought up the best for themselves and not for the Company, all to the great and excessive damage and loss to the Company; not once considering the loss, the immense expense incurred by the Company as well for equipments and cargoes as for the support and payment of those very people, the returns wherefrom they have deprived the Company of, and thus placed the State of New Netherland in a considerable decay.

In order to provide against this, We, therefore, renewing our previously enacted Ordinances, Edicts and Commands promulgated both by Us here, and there by our Director and Council against the said private trade, have Resolved to Ordain and enact, as We do hereby Ordain and enact, that, from now henceforth, no persons, of what condition or quality they may be, residing either here or within the limits of New Netherland, shall be empowered, either in their own, or in the Company’s ships, openly or secretly, under any cover or pretext whatsoever, to convey any wares or merchandizes, in the smallest or largest quantity, thither without the cognizance or knowledge of the Company, on pain of the confiscation of the said Wares, Cargoes and Merchandizes to the Company’s profit; and therefore that none of the above described persons shall carry on, at any place, any private trade in Peltries, either by themselves or by others, in any manner either directly or indirectly, on pain of the confiscation of the traded Peltries and arbitrary correction at the discretion of the Company, or of the Director and Council there, and, in addition, of all their Wages and monthly moneys.

We charge and command, therefore, our Director and Council of New Netherland, and all other Officers, to regulate themselves accordingly, and strictly to execute the tenor hereof, without any connivance, dissimulation or agreement; And in order that no one may plead ignorance, to publish this at the accustomed places, and to cause it to be posted every where around there and, also, in the respective Colonies.

Thus done and published in Fort Amsterdam, this 7th of June, Anno 1638.


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland, authorising the issuing of
Patents to Freemen for their Lands. Passed 24 June, 1638.

[N. Y. Colonial MSS. IV. 11.]

The Free people having by petition requested Patents of the Lands which they are at present cultivating, the prayer of the Petitioners is granted, on condition that at the expiration of Ten years, after entering on their Plantation, they shall yearly to the Company the Tenth of all crops which God the Lord shall grant to the field; also, from this time forth one couple of Capons for a house and lot.


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland, for the Inspection of Tobacco,
and drawing up of Legal Instruments. Passed 19 August, 1638.

[N. Y. Colonial MSS. IV. 16.]

Whereas it is considered necessary by the Director and Council of New Netherland, to frame an Order respecting the planting of Tobacco, because many Tobacco planters seek only to raise a large crop of Tobacco, without caring much whether it be well cured or properly made, and the good reputation which our Tobacco possesses in other Countries is wholly destroyed thereby; And in order to provide against the same, all persons are, therefore, hereby notified, warned and commanded to make well conditioned Tobacco, carefully to remove all superfluous leaves, and to apply as little water as possible to well cured Tobacco, and even to that which is spun. Also, that all the Tobacco which shall be shipped or sent from New Netherland, shall be first brought to the appointed Warehouse to be there examined, marked and weighed, and in order, likewise, that the duties of the Company on all exported goods be paid, to wit: Five of every 100 lbs., according to the tenor of the granted Freedoms of the Company; For which purpose We have appointed Inspectors who shall make the examination thereof and receive the Duties thereon, and whosoever shall act contrary hereunto shall forfeit all his Tobacco, and shall be, furthermore, arbitrarily punished.

Likewise, that, from now henceforward, no Instruments, whether Contracts, Obligations, Leases or Bills of Sale, or such like Writings, of what nature soever they be, and concerning which any dispute may arise, shall be held valid by the Director and Council, unless they shall be written by the Secretary of this place. Let every one take warning and save himself from damage.

Thus done and published in Fort Amsterdam this 19th of August, 1638.


Of the Director and Council of New Netherland, for the recovery of Public
property; protection of private Gardens and Henroosts, and prohibiting
persons in the public service quitting the Island of Manhattan without
permission. Passed 25th November, 1638.

[N. Y. Colonial MSS. IV. 25.]

Whereas the Director and Council of New Netherland have ascertained that there are persons here who seek to enrich themselves with the Company’s property and effects, appropriating the same to themselves as if they were their own substance, and Whereas such tends to the prejudice of the Honble Company, all persons, therefore, who have yet any property in their hands belonging to the Company, be it great or small, are warned the same to return within the space of eight days, unless they have purchased it from the former Honble Directors, without which proof no excuse shall be admitted; And if it be hereafter found that any one is in possession of property belonging to the Company, such shall suffer the punishment usually administered to Thieves and Robbers who steal their Lords’ effects.

And whereas complaints are made that the Gardens of many persons have been robbed and their Poultry taken away, if there be any one who can give information of the Thieves, he shall be paid by the Honble Director five and twenty guilders as a reward, and be pardoned if an accomplice and his name concealed.

Likewise, every one of the Company’ s servants, of rank or quality soever he may be, is commanded not to quit the Island of Manhattan, without the express permission of the Honble Commander. Whosoever shall be found to have acted contrary hereunto shall forfeit three months’ Wages.

Thus done in Council and on this date, being the 25th 9ber, published and posted in Fort Amsterdam.

1 ^  The Charter of the Patroons. Supra, p. 1.

2 ^  The Company’s Store. - Tr.