Letter from Brant van Slechtenhorst to the director-general and council

Scanned Document:

Copy of a certain letter[1] sent by Brant Arissen van Slechtenhorst to the honorable director-general and associated councillors.

To the honorable court of the colony of Rensselaerswyck:
Brant van Slechtenhorst, director of the aforesaid colony, respectfully makes known that a few days ago he received a judgment passed by the court at Manhattan against Jan Janssen St. Obyn which condemned him to pay a fine of two hundred and fifty guilders for having transported me from Manhattan to this Colony. This is unheard of for a harmless skipper, a regular freighter plying his trade for the honest support of himself and his family - a man who has never obstructed the authorities nor anyone else; and considering that the urgency of my departure was not only expressed by me but also in public petitions and letters by the gentlemen empowered and commissioned thereto.

Where has it ever been heard, seen or practised among Christians in a land of law, especially from Christian neighbors of the same religion and under the same sovereignty, that such proceedings are instituted against anyone, as against the aforesaid director, who in his position is not only commissioned and authorized, but also was called upon by General Stuyvesant in his letter of 18 February 1651[2] to offer advice on important affairs of state for the common good and welfare. I maintain that it is unheard of for such a person to be arrested and detained for a long period of time without examination or decision, as the director, in his official capacity, was detained from the first of May until August without once having received any justice; not withstanding the submitting of written protests and complaints about it, as well as the hopeless and useless attempts to gain release of him, he was not able to receive justice; all of which has been clearly shown and demonstrated before the court of the aforesaid Colony.

When the aforesaid van Slechtenhorst, in his stated capacity, arrived in Manhattan, they simply summoned him to appear on the first of May by the court messenger, without any notice or citation; and the gentlemen of the court then passed down the sentence of the aforesaid date which was a complete contradiction of everything, and held him so long as a prisoner that he has lost all legal claims to his person and position. In due time it shall also be proved, by impartial judges, that more of his goods were confiscated to pay for the fees of the arrest, which were very small, than was necessary. Would a person be punished in the fatherland, be he ferryman or skipper, for carrying a man, of whom theretofore he had no knowledge or of whom no one had told him that he was detained by order of the court contrary to the ordinances? ] But some receive impressions in their dreams which they seem to utter in their daily deeds, either with or against the laws of our country. Such unheard of and unbearable proceedings as against Slechtenhorst, in his official capacity, and against others, may well eventually ruin this blessed and fruitful country or bring it to a sorry condition and turn the laws into public nuisances, which God may forbid.

Therefore, the aforesaid director, ex officio, protests and appeals against all these aggravations and injuries inflicted upon the aforesaid Slechtenhorst, in his aforesaid capacity, also against what has been done to Jan Jansz, the skipper, and Jacob Jens Stol without law or right, and contrary to the privileges of the Colony. He protests before God Almighty, their High Mightinesses, the States-General, our merciful sovereigns and lieges, and the lords patroons and co-directors of the aforesaid Colony, against this public violence and compulsion; he protests further against the five soldiers and five sailors whom Mr. Stuyvesant sent in the Company's sloop in 1648 to the Colony and fort for fourteen days. With his own written authorization they threatened him, Slechtenhorst, several times not to continue the construction of buildings on the Patroon's land and in the village, otherwise he, Stuyvesant, would have the aforesaid buildings demolished; and then incited 13 or 14 ] brigands at the aforesaid fort to stand ready under arms for the aforesaid undertaking, which, however, Slechtenhorst and his people were able to prevent. Unable to accomplish their mission, they invented pretexts and had Slechtenhorst summoned three times to Manhattan with the following statement: "The complaint which we as officers and fiscal of New Netherland have against Brant van Slechtenhorst, officer in the colony of Rensselaerswyck, he shall hear and see when he appears before the court in obedience to this summons." Slechtenhorst's response to this summons was that if the officers and fiscal of New Netherland had any complaints against him as a private or public person, they could [      ] him, Slechtenhorst, in his [      ] , and make their complaint at his place of residence. These needless summonses and harassments of a similar nature were repeated daily; and the aforesaid director in his authorized capacity protests once again against all losses and injuries already suffered or which he may hereafter have to suffer; also, against all the harm and injury suffered by him personally and in his official capacity - everything cum expensis - and the aforesaid director, in his aforesaid capacity, offers as security for the foregoing action in appeal, all property belonging to and claimed by the patroons from the honorable Company; also, the horses and grain delivered to Mr. Peter Stuyvesant himself from the Colony, and requests to give a similar security in order to execute the sentence hereafter under the foregoing appeal. Done at the colony of Rensselaerswyck, 25 September 1651. B.V. Slechtenhorst, director of the aforesaid Colony. ]

Concerning the detention of the honorable director: whereas some members of this court, the principals of the colony of Rensselaerswyck, had been arrested in the time of the honorable director-general, Willem Kieft, which he not only maintained were not subject to arrest but also was followed by their release, stating that the Colony was accountable for them, the court of this Colony declares that the aforesaid decision should hold good now as before. Done in council, 25 September 1651.
Acknowledged by me,
A. de Hooges, secretary.


The original of this letter has been lost.
This letter has been lost.


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.