Ordinance imposing a tax on land and cattle

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The director general and council of New Netherland, to all those who see this or hear it read, greetings. Let it be known that during the tenure of their administration, now continued for seven consecutive years, they have constantly and at various times and occasions explained to the representatives of the commonalty of this province of New Netherland the great expenses and charges which the honorable directors have now for about 30 years borne and sustained in supporting various civil, ecclesiastical and military personnel, besides other heavy and excessive outlays in furnishing quantities of munitions, materials and other necessities required for construction and maintaining fortresses and other public works, which expenses have greatly increased from year to year; especially these last two years, for which the director general and council, as representatives of the lords patroons, have not been able to obtain any supplemental funds up to this time except the duties on merchandise which do not amount to a third part of the necessary expenses; consequently, their treasury is depleted and henceforth insufficient to meet any longer the charges growing annually by the increase of population. Although this has been demonstrated with valid and clear reasons to the representatives of the commonalty, up to this date still no subsidies have been obtained, not even the tenths for which all inhabitants of this province have been in arrears for a long time, pursuant to the exemptions and freedoms of New Netherland. Whereas these tenths, with regard both to those of the honorable Company and those inhabitants in the countryside, are difficult to collect and deliver, the honorable director general and council have, pursuant their resolution, adopted on 2 June and revised on 28 August, resolved and concluded to levy in place thereof an equitable tax on land and homed cattle in the following manner: every morgen of land that anyone claims or is entitled to by virtue of a patent shall pay once annually twenty stivers; and for every head of homed cattle (goats and sheep excepted) above three years of age or thereabouts, twenty stivers; for every head of two years, twelve stivers; for houses and lots granted for building purposes, located in the city of New Amsterdam, the village of Beverwijck, near the ferry and elsewhere, belonging to persons who do not claim or own any land, shall be paid to the General Treasury, once annually, the hundredth penny of the real value. The assessment thereof shall be made and done by a commissioner from the high council and two impartial persons from the respective courts of the aforesaid city and villages, each in his jurisdiction, according to which assessment the vacant lots also shall be conveyed and sold if the present owners and proprietors either neglect or are disinclined to build on the aforesaid vacant lots, in accordance with the printed ordinances.[1]

Thus done at the session of the honorable director general and high council held in New Amsterdam in New Netherland, 24 August 1654 and revised on 28 August.[2]


In response to Stuyvesant’s suggestion of a tax on unimproved lands in 1652, the directors of Amsterdam responded in a letter dated June 6, 1653, that, after deliberation and correction, they had had such ordinances printed and were sending them for publication and posting in the colony. See NYCD, 11:83; translated extract in LO, 182. Neither Stuyvesant’s draft copies nor the printed ordinances remain among the records.
Also in LO, 180-81 and in NYHM, Council Minutes, 5: 170-71.


Translation: Gehring, C., trans./ed., New Netherland Documents Series: Vol. 16, part 1, Laws and Writs of Appeal, 1647-1663 (Syracuse: 1991).A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.