Dutch colonial council minutes, 22 - 23 July 1647

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As to the slanderous letter, the defendants, Melyn and Jochim Pietersen Kuyter, are equally guilty. The accusation on that point is clearer and of greater consequence and from their own confession and the testimony of others it is as clear as the sun at midday that:

1. Both have been the principal authors and instigators who conceived, drafted and signed the said letter and, notwithstanding the probability that it was composed and put in final shape by Minister Bogardus, it is nevertheless true that they, as principals, had said letter copied, collated and authenticated by a subordinate and minor clerk or boy in the secretary's office, as appears by the transmitted copy of the original, the same being signed by both of them and certified as agreeing with the original. Which contains this falsehood that the original was not yet signed by all of the Eight Men when the copy thereof was dispatched according to the declaration of Melyn and Allerton and that it says: "Was signed, Jacob Stoffelsz, Barent Dircksz and Gerrit Wolphersz," whereas they can not write and therefore all had made their marks, instead of signing their names.

2. It is clearly enough shown and proved that this letter, written behind the director's back, is in most points and as regards the principal accusations false and untrue, according to the defense of the director and the declaration of the commonalty in general, the principal burghers being heard in turba, and also according to the voluntary confessions of the co-signers, who during the interrogatory answered that they did not know, nor had read or heard, that such complaints against the director were set forth in the letter; which falseness and untruthfulness can also be deducted from the substance of the confessions of the defendants and from their own unfounded arguments.

3. It is clearly enough proved by their own confessions and the confessions of the co-signers that the letter was not framed by the Eight Men in session, or that any orders thereto were given; also, that it was not signed in their board meeting, but by proxy, whereby the falsety becomes the more apparent and the probability may be presumed and inferred that the entire contents of the letter were not read to the co-signers, or that it was erased and altered after it had been read to them, or that the other plain and simple men, who can not read or write, were grossly misled by the defendants, for Tomas Hal declares that Jochim Pietersz said: "We shall be responsible for that," or "Leave that to us to attend to," while the letter was signed now by one and then by another.

Therefore, if the defendants remain in default of proving and making good the calumnious aspersions and defamations written behind the back of their lawful commander, who superabundantly proves the contrary, the defendants can, in my opinion, be accused and condemned:

In the penalty for false accusation by deed or in writing, the penalty for slander and defamation, and the penalty for conspiracy and sedition, which are provided by law and also mentioned in God's word.

Damhouder, in Criminalibus, fol. 270, says, "If any one accuse another of any crime which he can nor prove, he is to be condemned to make restitution and reparation of loss and damage, not only to the accused, but also to the treasury. The Articles of War punish by loss of limb or life whoever makes, dictates or copies fraudulent letters or statements, or commits any similar act whereby the truth is hidden. See fol. 51, where many legal authorities are cited.

Herein, however, jurists distinguish, as when no one suffers loss by the committed falsehood; in that case the punishment is not death, but extraordinem. Falsehood and bearing false witness are forbidden by the word of God, Exod. 20:16; Deut. 5:26, and in Deut. 19:19, 20, 21, it is commanded that the false witness shall be punished poena tallonis, that is, by such punishment as he sought to inflict on the innocent. Now, in case the accusation and testimony adduced in the letter against the honorable Director Kieft, in which he is accused of extortion, tyranny, murder, robbery, etc., were true and clear, he would run the risk of losing honor, life and property. This agrees also with other laws and statutes. A distinction, however, is made by Godefridus ] a [      ], in Tractatu rea tuum, question 7, to wit: "If the accused or innocent person be not condemned on the testimony of the witnesses, then the witnesses may not be punished by death either, the intention being that only in the first case poena tallonis may apply and that in the other case the falsehood be punished extraordinem." To which opinion I am inclined also.

To compose, draft or make a fair copy of false instruments, etc., this sort of forgery, Damhouder, fol. 270, says is punishable by perpetual and irrevocable banishment, not by cutting off the hand and confiscation of property. I have already commented on injuries by writing, etc. Damhouder says, that it is a capital offense and may be punished capitally and that the place, time and person increase the punishment.

Seditious and unlawful meetings are punished according to their nature. As a rule all seditious, illegal assemblies and conspiracies are forbidden and included under poena crimen laesae majestatis, but seeing that these at that time were of the Eight chosen men, it was lawful for them to hold a meeting, but not without the previous knowledge of their superior; therefore, in this case they are not wholly excusable.

Regardless, therefore, of the preceding, the defendants can be justly condemned in the confiscation of their properties and claims and be perpetually banished, provided they be declared infamous and as forgers unable to give further evidence to the truth; all who have signed the letter being likewise deserving with them of punishment, but of a less degree. However. as to the punishment that the defendants deserve it is to be observed that the writing of the letter jointly does not excuse Melyn from the judgment and decision rendered by me against him individually on the 18th of July, which is hereby still further confirmed. Done in Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 22d of July anno 1647.

Gentlemen, we have extended our decision and judgment to somewhat greater length and supported the same by authorities and law, but without partiality, simply to afford the council more light in case hereafter such arguments and accusations be brought against us, the more so as the fiscal in his conclusion did not introduce a single legal authority to prove that the defendants may be punished with death or banishment. However, we leave each of the honorable members of the council at liberty to use his own Judgment and the right to decide as in his conscience he shall see fit. The 22d of July anno 1647.

'Whereas for some years past all free traders here In New Netherland have paid duty on all peltries purchased and bartered by them here and exported to the fatherland by every opportunity of ships, the council have therefore considered it highly necessary to establish a fixed duty, in order that each person may know what impost he hes to pay. Therefore, it is resolved that the duty shall be computed as follows:

On every exported merchantable beaver skin shall be paid 15 stivers, two halves being counted as one whole and three drielings as two whole beavers; on each other and bear skin 15 stivers; on each elk hide 15 stivers, and on the other furs of less value according to circumstances. Thus done in council. Present: the honorable Director P. Stuyvesant, the honorable Willem Kieft, late director; Mr. Dincklagen, Mr. La Montagne, Lieutenant Nuton, Paulus Leenersz, commissary of naval stores, and Jan Claesz Bol. The 23d of July anno 1647.


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.