Remonstrance of the merchants of New Amsterdam against the ordinance fixing the rates at which certain imported articles of merchandise are to be sold

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To the highly esteemed gentlemen, the director-general and council of New Netherland.
Noble and highly esteemed gentlemen:
Your honors have been pleased to publish on the 20th of this month of November an ordinance containing regulations for the sale of and trade in goods imported from the fatherland or hereafter to be imported, which was similar to an ordinance passed and enacted last September.[1] Your honors have also been pleased to call together on the same day some of the principal merchants and traders of this city of New Amsterdam in order to communicate to them the aforesaid ordinance and to recommend its execution. The aforesaid merchants deemed it then advisable to deliberate with others and to submit their opinion on this matter in writing to your honors, after having first communicated the same to the honorable mayors and schepens, the lawful authority of this community. Thereupon the merchants and traders unanimously declare (with all due respect and obedience which they all acknowledge to owe to their superiors and will at all times prove when called upon in reason and justice) that, after having considered and examined the matter among themselves, they are of the opinion that the aforesaid ordinances and regulations can be introduced and carried out here only with very great loss, damage and decrease of commerce, which, with all due respect, should rather be supported and encouraged by favorable privileges, freedoms and exemptions than be burdened by constricting limitations. Because of the price fixed on some goods and the permission to ask 120 percent profit on others, upon which there are no fixed prices that the buyers can demand, the aforesaid merchants believe that they cannot conduct business in that way because the great and excessive leakage of liquid as well as the perishable nature of day goods has already notoriously caused and will always cause such losses to all merchants. Therefore, if they are compelled by the enforcement of the aforesaid ordinances to sell their stock accordingly, (which they hope will not be done) they would scarcely receive a return on their initial investment expense, much less a cent per cent profit, considering the heavy export and import duties paid here and in the fatherland, the charges for convoy and direction, the heavy freight bills and premiums for insurance, the interest on capital invested in merchandise, in addition to the dangers of leakage and decay, make the initial cost of goods delivered here more than 70 or 80 percent higher than abroad. Consequently the aforesaid merchants respectfully request that your honors will be pleased to suspend the enforcement of the aforesaid ordinances because they cannot conform to them without great loss to themselves or their superiors, and, according to practices in the fatherland and other countries where trade has a free course, to allow them to sell their goods at such prices as they think just and reasonable, considering the vicissitudes of the times, the initial cost and expenses. In case of refusal they are, with due respect, resolved to keep their goods until the return of better times rather than to sell them at a loss or, at most, a small profit. However, because they understand and are informed that the intention of your honors in and the motive for enacting and publishing the aforesaid ordinances were principally that the community and the citizens of this city might be properly supplied with such goods as are required for the needs of their bodies, namely, socks, shoes, linen and such other necessary articles, they herewith unanimously declare, each for himself, that it is by no means their intention to overcharge any citizen or inhabitant in the sale of necessary clothing or to demand unfair prices, but that they will act toward them in the sale and delivery of goods as honest traders and good fellow citizens so that no one of the community shall have cause to complain. Awaiting your honors favorable decision, we remain.

New Amsterdam,
22 November 1653

Your honors' obedient and. humble servants; and was signed:

Johannis van Beeck
Johannis Nevius
P. Cornelisz van der Veer
Jacob de Weert
Jan Lourensz Appel
Johannes van Brugge
Anthony van Hardenbergh
Jacob Visch
Jacob van Leeuwen
Abram Nickel
Pieter Schaffbanck
Jacob Jacobs
Dirck Claesz Boot
Jan Withart
Johannes de Peyster
Govert Loockermans
Reyneir Rycken
Robbert Vastrick
J.V. Twieller
Jacobus Backer
Hendr. vander Vin

The mayors and schepens of New Amsterdam having seen the foregoing petition of the merchants of this city addressed to the director-general and council, of New Netherland, suspend and postpone their decision on the same until they have conferred with their honors. Done in New Amsterdam, New Netherland, 24 November 1653. Was signed.

Arent van Hattem
Marten Krigier
P. L. vander Grift
W. Beeckman
P. Wolfersz


See Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, 1638-1674, compiled and translated by E. B. O’Callaghan, Albany, 1868, 149 for a note on the whereabouts of 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.