Administrative History

The government of the New Netherland colony was comprised of a director-general assisted by a council and a provincial secretary. This administration carried out executive, legislative, and judicial activities within its jurisdiction.

In 1647, a court of arbitrators, consisting of nine men, was established. This court dealt with increased legal activity in the form of lawsuits, petty squabbles, and other nuisances. The court decided cases referred to it by the council in New Amsterdam; however, its judgments were subject to appeal before the council.

In 1653, when New Amsterdam received its charter as a municipality, the court of arbitrators was replaced by a court schout, burgomasters (chief magistrates), and schepenen (elected officials of municipalities with administrative and judicial authority). The council then served as a court of appeal for New Amsterdam and other jurisdictions and concentrated on executive matters such as making appointments, issuing proclamations, passing ordinances, replying to petitions, and corresponding with governments of neighboring colonies.