Proclamation annulling ordinances in Renselaerwyck prohibiting the cutting and hauling of firewood for Fort Orange

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The director-general and council of New Netherland, to all who may read or hear this read aloud, send greetings: Whereas we have several times been informed by the former commissary, Charles van Brugge,[1] as well as by his successor, Johannes Dyckmann, and whereas other private complaints have been made about the impertinent, unbearable and unchristianlike tyranny of the present commander or, as he styles himself, director of the colony of Rensselaerswyck,[2] Brant Arissen van Slechtenhorst,[3] in refusing permission to and forbidding the officials of the honorable Company and their good and faithful servants at Fort Orange[4] to cut firewood in the free and open woods for their use and subsistence, except in a certain thicket where the wood is unsuitable and the roads are almost impassable during the winter, or at least very rough and difficult; and whereas we are further informed that the farmers and laborers who have wagons and horses have been prohibited and forbidden to haul firewood for the Company's servants and inhabitants of the aforesaid fort, so that both the officials and servants of the Company are compelled to carry the firewood, which they have begged from him, on their shoulders as slaves, through thick and thin, ice and snow, for the amusement of this overbearing commander and his merciless associates, to the disregard, indeed, contempt of the honorable Company, its officials and good servants; and whereas the aforesaid commander and some of his officers have so far forgotten the teachings of Christ and their neighborly duties by insolently responding on 11 January of this year to the last request[5] of our commissary and inhabitants of the aforesaid fort as follows:
"Nevertheless, desiring to show ourselves more accommodating and moderate than others, we shall allow the people of the aforesaid fort and the colonists the convenience of firewood, provided that everyone apply to the director of his magistrates according to the ordinance,[6] under the condition which his honor has proposed, that the people of the fort cut down the aforesaid thicket during the winter or have it cut down at their own expense. Signed: By order of the court of Rensselaerswyck, Anthony de Hooge, secretary."

This sufficiently proves both the prohibition against cutting firewood and the unbearable tyranny by compelling the inhabitants of the fort, who desire to cut firewood, which is as necessary to them during the winter as bread, to clear away the thicket and brush or have it done at their expense, which neither the officials nor the free and good subjects of the honorable Company are obligated to do.

THEREFORE, in order to obviate the many complaints against the afore said unchristianlike and unneighborly tyranny, and desiring to maintain the officials of the Company and the inhabitants of the fort as well as other free subjects in what the honorable Company and the privileges of New Netherland have granted them, which they heretofore have never been denied by other neighbors, we herewith annul and repeal, by this our proclamation, everything concerning this matter previously published by the commander, Brant Aris van Slechtenhorst, without our knowledge, indeed, against our orders and instructions; and we give permission to the officials of the honorable Company and the free inhabitants at Fort Orange that they, as well as the settlers in the Colony may cut, haul or have hauled and use for their benefit all the required firewood and building timber in the unfenced and public woods, except that they must avoid cutting the aforesaid firewood or timber within the bounds of any fenced-in farms, gardens or plantations unless they have permission from its owner or his representative; and we also herewith give permission and request that all farmers and laborers accommodate and serve the inhabitants of the fort, as well as the settlers in the Colony, in hauling firewood and building timber for reasonable wages, annulling and voiding all contracts, ordinances and oaths made or taken in this manner as unchristian, unneighborly and unlawful, promising by this proclamation, signed by us and sealed with our usual seal, to indemnify and keep free from persecution and damages all inhabitants and colonists against all attempts, intentions and executions which the commander, Slechtenhorst, or his associates may undertake to carry out in this matter; and we direct our aforesaid commissary to publish this proclamation in Fort Orange and to request that the commander and council of the colony of Rensselaerswyck publish it in the Colony, or, in case of refusal, to publish and affix it himself in the Colony so that no one may be able to plead ignorance. Thus done and resolved in council at New Amsterdam, 24 January 1652.

P. Stuyvesant
H. van Dyck
La Montagne
Brian Newton


Charles van Brugge was commissary at Fort Orange from 1648 to 1651. Also known as Carel van Brugge, his actual name was Charles Bridges, an Englishman from Canterbury. He had served the West India Company as commissary on Curacao and was commissary at Fort Orange from 1648 to 1651.
Rensselaerswyck was the patroonship of Kiliaen van Rensselaer who held the controlling interest in this colony. He was a diamond merchant in Amsterdam and a director of the West India Company. As a result of the passage of the "Freedoms and Exemptions" by the West India Company in 1629, private individuals (mostly directors or shareholders in the Company) were allowed to establish colonies within the jurisdiction of New Netherland, provided their interests did not conflict with those of the Company. Rensselaerswyck, which comprised the present counties of Albany and Rensselaer along the upper Hudson, proved to be the only successful patroonship in New Netherland.
Brant Artsz van Slechtenhorst was director of Rensselaerswyck from 1648 to 1652.
Fort Orange, the West India Company's trading post, was located in the middle of Rensselaerswyck on the west bank of the Hudson River. The description of the territory purchased by Kiliaen van Rensselaer from the Indians failed to indicate whether the ground upon which the Company's fort stood belonged to the patroonship or the West India Company. Ownership of this land remained in doubt until 1674 when the Company ruled in favor of the patroonship. See Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Volumes I-XI, edited by E. B. O’Callaghan; Volumes XII- XIV, edited by Berthold Fernow; Albany, 1865-1883., 2:558, 560 for documents resolving this jurisdictional dispute.
This request and the original of the response from the director of Rensselaerswyck have been lost.
This ordinance was published on 18 December 1651. See Minutes of the Court of Rensselaerswyck, 1648-1652, translated and edited by A. J. F. van Laer, Albany, 1922, 176 for a reference to this ordinance.


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.