Dutch colonial council minutes, 25 September 1647

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Ordinance establishing a board of Nine Men ] [i]

Petrus Stuyvesant, on behalf of the High and Mighty Lords the States General, his Serene Highness the Prince of Orange, and the honorable directors of the General Chartered West India Company of the United Netherlands, director general of New Netherland and the Curaçao islands, captain and commander in chief of the said Company’s ships and yachts in these northern part of America; together with the honorable council;

To all those who shall see or hear these presents read, Greeting!

Whereas in accordance with our commission and general instructions we have no other aim, with or desire but that this province of New Netherland entrusted to us and especially this our capital and residence of New Amsterdam may grow and increase in good order, justice, government, population, prosperity and mutual peace and improvement, and be provided with and aided in the upkeep of a strong and substantial fort, a school, church, sheet piling, pier and similar highly necessary public works and common buildings, whereto we according to the instructions given to us are ordered to solicit the cooperation of the commonalty, as this tends mostly to their own welfare and protection and is customary in all well administered government, colonies and places; yet, we are disinclined by virtue of our granted commission and instructions to burden and oppress the good and peaceable commonalty, our dear vassals and subjects by means of exactions, imposts and intolerable taxes, but wish in the most reasonable manner to request their consent thereto and to induce them to lend a helping hand in undertaking such honorable and most necessary works. And whereas it is difficult to bring so many heads under one capuche, or to reduce so many votes to one voice, we have, with the advice of our council, heretofore proposed and submitted to the commonalty that they, without passion, hatred or envy, select a double number of nine persons from the most notable, most reasonable, most honorable and most prominent of our subjects, in order that from them a single number of nine persons may be chosen and appointed as Selectmen to confer with us and our council about such consent and assistance and to the best of their knowledge and information to help forward and promote the welfare of the commonalty as well as of the commonwealth. For which purpose then, a double number having on the day aforesaid been selected by the good commonalty, our dear subjects, the following are chosen therefrom by us and our council, to wit:

From the merchants — Augustyn Heerman, Arnoldus van Hardenberch and Govert Loockemans;

From the burghers — Jan Jansz Damen, Jacob Wolphertsz and Hendrick Kip;

From the farmers — Machiel Jansz, Jan Evertsen Bout and Tomas Hall;

As spokesmen for the commonalty, who, having taken the oath of fidelity to us and the honorable council to regulate and govern themselves in conformity to the orders and instructions already given or yet to be given, are hereby confirmed in their aforesaid capacity, under the following rules:

First. That as good and faithful spokesmen and agents of the commonalty they shall strive for and as far as lies in their power help to promote the honor of God and the welfare of our dear fatherland, the greatest advantage of the Company and the prosperity of the worthy commonalty here, and the advancement of the pure Reformed religion, as taught at this day in the churches here and in the Netherlands.

Second. That they shall not set up and hold any private conventicles and meetings, much less hold any consultations and pass resolutions, without the knowledge and consent of the director general and council, or without his special and particular order, except only that, when legally convened and having heard the proposals of the honorable director general and council, they may adjourn and take a recess in order to confer with each other and consider such proposals and thereafter report thereon; provided, nevertheless, that the director general retains the power to appoint either himself or some one of the council to act as president at such consultations and deliberations, to collect the votes and to make a report to the council.

Third. Whereas in consequence of the increase of the population lawsuits and disputes which parties bring against each other are multiplied, as well as many questions and quarrels of trifling moment which can be determined and disposed of by arbitrators, whereby matters of greater importance are frequently held up and remain undecided, to the prejudice and injury of this place and the good inhabitants thereof and also to the great expense, loss of time and vexation of the contending parties, three of the delegates shall once a week, on Thursday, the usual civil court day, have access to our general council, as long as civil cases are being tried, in order to obtain a knowledge of the cases of parties who may be referred to them as arbitrators and referees, to wit, one from the merchants, one from the burghers and one from the farmers, who shall rotate in regular order once a month. And if any one of them be indisposed or absent, he may substitute another of the delegates in his place. Furthermore, the parties who by the council are referred to them as arbitrators and referees shall, upon being judged, remain bound to submit themselves without opposition to the pronounced decision, or, in default thereof, be fined one pound Flemish for the first time, to be paid before the complainant can appeal or obtain a hearing before our council from the decision of the referees.

Fourth. The number of the Nine elected Selectmen shall continue until further order and circumstances, provided that annually six shall retire and that 12 shall be nominated from the most qualified inhabitants, whose names shall be returned to us by the Nine Men in meeting assembled, without it being necessary hereafter to convene the entire commonalty for that purpose, which meeting shall take place on the last of December following the next New Year's day and so every year successively. Thus done and enacted in council, the 25th of September A°. 1647. Was signed: P. Stuyvesant, L. van Dincklaghe, La Montagne, Brian Newton, Poulus Leendersz van die Grift and A. Keyser.


Revised from Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, pp. 75-78.


Translation: Scott, K., & Stryker-Rodda, K. (Ed.). New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch, Vol. 4, Council Minutes, 1638-1649 (A. Van Laer, Trans.). Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.: 1974.A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.