Remarks of the director-general and council on the remonstrance of the Convention

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Response of the Director-General and Council to the above-written remonstrance of 11 December signed by the mayors and schepens of this city and by some Englishmen .

The first word "translation" presupposes that it was drafted in another language, which is confirmed by its style and tenor; and the diligence of the mayors and schepens may be deduced from it when a foreigner or Englishman has to tell them what to remonstrate and demand.

In the preamble the remonstrants exclude the honorable lords-directors, but seem to have corrected this afterward when they say that they acknowledge them as their lords and masters. To what extent they do this can be gathered from what follows.

The superscription "Humble Remonstrance of the Colonies and Villages in this Province of New Netherland" is quite incorrect as used in these general terms. The first and oldest of the colonies, Manhattan Island, reserved as a special colony for the lords-directors, the colony of Rensselaerswyck, of Staten Island, as well as the jurisdictions of Beverwyck and the South River are unaware of such a remonstrance and should be considered too careful to sign what an Englishman has drafted, as if there was no one of Dutch origin intelligent enough and capable to draft a petition to the director-general and council.

In the preamble they acknowledge "a paternal government established by God in Nature." What the remonstrants or signatories mean by this, the director-general and council do not know; and it is doubtful whether the author, George Bacxter, understands it himself. However, leaving the preamble pro ut jacet, they go on to say, "we consider our freedoms to be one and the same and consistent with those of the Netherlands, being a member of the same and not a conquered land. We will let your honors and impartial parties decide whether the remonstrants are not being deceptive herein. If it were true, then they would without a doubt attempt and be able, as other provinces and cities of the Netherlands, to send representatives to the gatherings of their High Mightinesses and other assemblies. They themselves, however, contradict this proposition immediately in the following when they truthfully state that "they had settled here under a mutual contract or agreement between themselves and the lords-superiors." If the remonstrants live up to it and carry it out, as subjects are obliged to do, then there would be no differences or disputes.

They then add to this, "and with the consent of the natives, from whom we purchased the land at our own expense etc." which is an absolute falsehood. None of the signatories can say, much less prove, that he has bought a foot of land from the natives, much less paid for it, according to the orders and directions of the lords-directors and subsequent ordinances issued by the director-general and council; nor can any private party purchase land from the natives without the consent of the director-general and council.

"Awaiting increase of the same," namely, of the privileges; however, it should be remembered that the Englishmen, who are the authors of and leaders in these innovations, enjoy more privileges than the exemptions of New Netherland granted to any Netherlander.

Observe that the remonstrants once again completely exclude the lords-directors as their masters and patrons and forget the contract made with them; they claim to be of one body with the Netherlands under the administration of their High Mightinesses, rejecting all laws and ordinances not emanating from their High Mightinesses.

Concerning these points:

The director-general and council do not know what the remonstrants mean by an "arbitrary government." When the mayors and schepens and most of the signatories were summoned before the director-general and council and asked what they understood by an "arbitrary government," there was no response, much less could they state that the present government in charge here was arbitrary or absolute and why "it is contrary to the initial intentions and true principles of all well-regulated states." If the present government is arbitrary, as they fear, then the remonstrants have no cause to vilify, fear or blame the government or the directors on this account, because they themselves have admitted, as stated above, that by their mutual contract and agreement they voluntarily submitted to such a government, promising under oath to acknowledge and obey it. They must prove that it is different or more arbitrary now than at the time of Mr. Kieft when the English remonstrants came here; and they must prove as well that by virtue of some law or laws made by the present administration, which are contrary to the laws of our fatherland, someone has suffered with regard to his body or property. The director-general and council believe that by virtue of their commission it is their duty to make laws, that is to say, ordinances and regulations, regarding the police, commerce, military and the maintenance of the country which are suitable to the circumstances of this province, and that the remonstrants as subjects are bound to obey them. Bad behavior gives birth to good laws, according to the proverb. Thus it is not the desire, self-gratification or appetite of the director-general and council, but the disorder, bad will and disposition of many of the subjects which cause the issuing of new laws; and the director-general and council are unaware of having made laws contrary to the laws of our fatherland. Besides that, it is very well known that ordinances and regulations concerning the whole country have always been made with the advice and approval of qualified officials of the country. The freedoms enjoyed by the English remonstrants may be learned ] from their all too liberal patent which they make to cover more ] than its contents allow. The authority of the mayors and schepens can be seen in their instructions, and the privileges of the other signatories are stated in their land patents. Concerning the second point: May God grant that the English and those of Dutch nationality give no cause or inducement to a new and feared war with the natives, whether it be by showing too much fear of them or by cheating them or by telling them, among other things, what a morgen of land is worth to the English and Dutch, whereby the natives then conclude that they formerly had sold their land too cheaply. It could well happen that they might express dissatisfaction, claiming that they had not received full value. But the absolute assertion and allegation of the remonstrants that murders had been committed by the Indians, under the pretense of not having been paid for their land, is made entirely without foundation and in bad faith. If the remonstrants were inclined to tell the truth or to investigate, they would find that the three murders recently committed on Staten Island by the Indians were perpetrated because the Indians claim that Moolyn[1] is a sorcerer, that he has poisoned them, that he has sold bad powder and guns and so forth; consequently, the Indians from the south have all sworn to kill him and all the people on Staten Island. If we accept the assertion of the remonstrants that the murders were committed under the pretext of not having been paid for the land and compare it with their statement in the preamble that they themselves had bought the land from the Indians, would not the lack of payment then be their fault as buyers, and therefore would not they themselves be the cause of this claim by virtue of their default of payment?

To consider how and by what means to protect the inhabitants against such murders by the Indians and the robberies by English pirates was the purpose of the director-general in summoning some English representatives. However, by not replying to the last point and refusing to acknowledge the authority of the commissioners from the high council, the English sufficiently demonstrated that they were not inclined to do anything against their own nation or the authority of Parliament. Permission to protect themselves by lawful means does not need to be requested here.

Concerning the third point:

The English do not only enjoy the right of nominating their own magistrates, but some of them also usurp the election and appointment of such magistrates, as they please, without regard to their religion. Some, especially the people of Gravesande, elect libertines and Anabaptists, which absolutely contradicts the laws of the Netherlands.

The magistrates of New Amsterdam, only elected and appointed last year and not yet fully a year in office, for the present do not enjoy the right of nomination, the same having been withheld by the director-general and council for good and sufficient reasons, until the lords-directors order otherwise. The director-general and council hope to give, in due time, good and satisfactory reasons why they withheld the right of nomination and selection. However, if the rule is instituted that nomination and selection shall depend on the general public, whom it most concerns, then everyone would want for magistrate a man of his own stamp; for example, a thief would want a thief as magistrate and a dishonest man, a drunkard, a smuggler etc. their own kind, in order to commit crimes and frauds with so much more freedom. In addition, it is untrue that any magistrates have been appointed contrary to the laws of the Netherlands or against the wish of the people. Therefore this point requires proof. The magistrates of New Amsterdam, before being installed and taking the oath in the presence of the director-general, were each by name and surname and by his office proclaimed from the front of the council chamber, with a request for objection from anyone. The same is usually done by the director-general and council at the installation of other officers: a captain, lieutenant or ensign before the whole company; a sergeant or lesser officer before the platoon. Therefore the remonstrants make allegations on this point incorrectly and in bad faith.

It seems very strange that the remonstrants attempt to deprive the lords-directors, as absolute and general lords and masters of this province, of the right that private lords and masters claim on their manors in the fatherland and the subordinate patroons claim in this country; namely, the right to appoint their own schouts, secretaries, clerks and representatives, as for example in the colony of Rensselaerswyck, on Staten Island and even in the village of Gravesant.

Concerning the fourth point: Whether the ordinances, rules and orders previously made by the director-general and council ought to have any force or authority, the English remonstrants can learn from their patents, and the mayors and schepens from their instructions, by which they are directed to maintain and observe, according to their oath, all ordinances of the director-general and council. In addition, they and all newcomers are by their contract and agreement with the directors compelled and bound to obey the director-general and council as representatives of the Company and to submit to all orders and laws already made or hereafter to be made, as expressly stipulated in the patents.

Concerning the fifth point:

The fifth point is absolutely denied. The contrary is proved by an ordinance passed by the director-general and council last year with the knowledge of the lords-directors, by which the inhabitants are expressly admonished and warned not to buy lands from the natives nor to settle thereon without a patent and conveyance from the director-general and council; and if someone was in possession of such land, he was to ask for and obtain a deed within a half a year under penalty of forfeiting his claim. Concerning this matter the signers and remonstrants from Amesfoort, namely, Elbert Elbertsz and Thomas Spyser must be charged with willful contempt for having usurped their lands for some years without having a conveyance or patent, and continue their usurpation without paying any tenths, although they and others in the aforesaid villages have held the land for 15 to 20 years.

It is a distortion that general patents were promised to the inhabitants of Middelburgh and Midwout. The contrary can be proved by living witnesses and by the written conditions kept by the secretary, under which lands were allotted and possessed in the aforesaid villages. For those who do not have their own patents, they can come and petition for them. No one is going to deliver them to anyone's house.

Concerning the sixth point:

"Large quantities of land have been given away to some person or persons" in the form of colonies: to Messrs. Nederhorst, Renselaer, Capelle, Werckhoven, de Hulter, Melyn and others.[2] The director-general and council do not know whom the remonstrants mean by "some person or persons," as nothing has been granted except upon the order or with the consent of our lords-directors, who, we think, are not obligated to explain their reasons to their subjects. If these lands are not populated and improved by the aforesaid patentees in conformity with the granted exemptions, then it depends upon the discretion of the lords-directors to dispose of them as they please. However, in this matter the remonstrants have forgotten to examine their own position and to consider that Heemstede, Vlissingen and Gravesande lay claim to a much larger territory which they let lie uncultivated and undeveloped to the prejudice of the commonalty, and that they have been of little benefit to the commonalty in the last ten years. Now that the time is at hand for that which is due the Company to be exacted from them, they throw the cat into the yarn, as the proverb goes. It is clearly evident from their claims and circumlocutions that they do not owe anything to the Company because the directors could not or would not protect them; consequently, they propose a union with some malignant opponents, and project a new form of government, as may be seen by the report of the mayors and schepens. The same tendency is clearly evident by their remonstrance, and time will tell what else is behind it. It seems extremely odd that the mayors and schepens of this city should at this precarious time join in a plot with a nation which they and everyone else suspect and which only a short time ago they called untrustworthy, and that their intentions were no good, and if anything happened they would immediately declare themselves for the north,[3] and to which other still more villainous deeds were imputed but passed over for the sake of brevity, and conclude: quid magis mutabile vulgo. What they say in the conclusion requires an explanation. "Satisfaction to the country" can neither be demanded nor given unless it is proven beforehand that the country in general or the inhabitants in particular have suffered; and secret claims and losses cannot be remedied as long as they remain secret.


Cornelis Melyn.
Godert van Reede, Lord of Nederhorst; Hendrick van der Capellen toe Ryssel and Cornelis Melyn all received land grants on Staten Island. Kiliaen van Rensselaer was the majority investor in the patroonship of Rensselaerswyck on the upper Hudson. Cornelis van Werckhooven had land on Long Island. Johan de Hulter owned land at the Esopus, near present-day Kingston, New York.
i.e.. New England.


Translation: Gehring, C., trans./ed., New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch, Vol. 5, Council Minutes, 1652-1654 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.: 1983).A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.