Letter from the directors at Amsterdam to the Director General and Council

Scanned Document:

26th of April 1655.

Honorable, Prudent, Pious, Dear, Faithful.

Our last letters to you were sent by the ships the Swarte Arent and Groote Christoffel on 16 and 24 of November 1654[1], in which we give you full details. Since that time the ships the Schei and Beer arrived here on the 15th of December, by which we received your letters and packages of the 22nd and 25th of September 1654 and later by way of England your letter of the 27th of October, same year, all of which will be answered now as far as required, while we shall add what we consider necessary.[2]

We would have liked to agree to your wishes and request that the new territories should not be further invaded by people of the Jewish race, for we foresee from such immigration the same difficulties which you fear; but after having further weighed and considered this matter, we observe that it would be unreasonable and unfair, especially because of the considerable loss, sustained by the Jews in the taking of Brazil and also because of the large amount of capital, which they have invested in shares of this Company. After many consultations we have decided and resolved upon a certain petition made by said Portuguese Jews that they shall have permission to sail to and trade in New Netherland and to live and remain there, provided the poor among them shall not become a burden to the Company or the community, but be supported by their own nation. You will govern yourself accordingly.

We have been aware and now again learn with displeasure that the community there cannot be persuaded to raise subsidies; it seems very strange to us that people of intelligence and sound judgment, such as the municipal officers under you and others must be, continue to sustain such perverse opinions, contrary to all reason and justice and notoriously in contradiction to the maxims of every well-governed country and city. But what we have said at large, in our last letter, we repeat now: it is not necessary to wait for their consent and approbation. The measures to raise subsidies, which you now propose, are mostly the same as those proposed before and sufficiently approved by us, which approval we now repeat, to wit, that 10 stivers shall be paid for each morgen of land and for each head of cattle one guilder both annually; as to the 100th penny on houses and lots we have thought it to be more convenient and also less burdensome to direct and authorize you hereby, to levy in place of it the 20th penny on the rental of the houses, payable yearly, two thirds by the owner and one third by the lessee, as it is done in this city; provided however, that the houses to be built there hereafter shall be exempted from this tax for the time of ten consecutive years. We shall write to the burgomasters and schepens of New Amsterdam, also to all other inferior courts there and notify them hereof with such arguments and recommendations as are required; you will learn this by the said letter, which we intend to dispatch by the warship now ready to sail.

The difficulties, which you make and apprehend in regard to the collection of the tenths, have led us to order that it be suspended for this year; we shall give you our orders concerning it later.

We believe that the majority of the inhabitants there are dissatisfied with the general clause in the patents, because evil-minded and disaffected persons misinterpret willfully its meaning in order to deter the simple minded community from entering upon certain lands. Although it does not deserve of much consideration, yet to remove all obstacles, which might appear to impede and decrease agriculture, we have resolved to alter the said clause; however, not as you have proposed, because we find some difficulties in that, but as follows: On condition of submitting after the expiration of ten years from the date hereof (the date of issuing the patent) to the payment of the tenths for the use and behoof of the lords patroons and such other taxes, as according to the requirements and condition of the country all the other inhabitants shall have to pay.

We might now say something about the statements of expenses and revenues sent us, because the expenditures for monthly wages and boarding have for the last 7 or 8 years been as much as they have been last year, the contrary of which can be proved. The revenues for the last years have also amounted to considerably more than ƒ22 or 23,000 but as they are only given in total, we expect, in conformity to our last letter, a correct and pertinent statement and balance sheet from you, which you are to send every year, so that we may govern ourselves accordingly.

The caution used by you in and concerning the detention and appraisement of the Swedish ship and her cargo meets with our approval and has been well received. We stated in our last letter to the Director, how you should live with the Swedes on the South River and we shall hereafter say more about it. But we cannot omit to inform you that while engaged in examining and proving the right of the Company to the said river, we have found that the transmitted documents and copies are not only valueless and bad, but also so villainously and miserably written, that in many instances it is impossible to comprehend their meaning. This is especially the case with the papers drawn up there and sent us containing the report of what happened between Director Stuyvesant and the Swedish Governor at the South River in 1650, so that when we were to make use of these papers on the main question, we would find ourselves completely at sea and unprepared. We were in the same condition, very much to the injury of the Company when treating with the English here, who upon our assertions regarding the boundaries between us and their people there, demanded and called for proofs and attestation of documents, principally the deeds and conveyances for the land bought by the Company and the provisional agreement concerning the boundaries made between us and them there at Hartford in 1650. As to our great astonishment none of these documents has ever reached us, this important matter has been delayed with little prospect of ever being settled here. We are therefore compelled to charge you most seriously, not only to send us authenticated copies of all these documents and papers concerning the English as well as the Swedes, but also to take henceforth better care in such cases that the Company may not suffer more losses through such carelessness.

Concerning the usurpation and invasion of Long Island and other places by the English we refer to our last general letter, in which we fully expressed our opinions and intentions. We must however urge you to be on your guard that in the purchase of land this nation does not outwit you, as according to report it is done frequently. We find it meanwhile not less required than formerly to determine our boundary there by erecting a fort towards the East, wherever you think it most advisable. For this purpose we intend to send you by the warship now ready to sail a quantity of ammunition, materials and soldiers; in order to take in hand and accomplish this work after the expedition against the Swedes has been made.

The reasons adduced by you, why you think it advisable to have rules made concerning homeward bound cargoes, do not appear to us sufficient or practical, considering that private skippers should have herein as perfect liberty, as the traders in their trade, and both would by such restrictions be more deterred from, than animated to engage in the New Netherland trade.

We have had some trouble and strife with the two house carpenters who have returned here, as they claim to have had an increase in their wages, done by your honors, from ƒ20 to ƒ30 per month, and such done within their contracted time and shortly after they had arrived in the country. Whereas this is absolutely contrary to the tenor of the articulbrieff, [3] we were not able to consent to the same; however, in consideration thereof we have consented to them that they shall sail over again with the Company with their family; likewise, also the one named Jan Jansen Westerhoven is coming over with his wife and five children aboard the ship the Bontekoe. In the meanwhile we hereby instruct your honors henceforth not to plan to increase anyone's wages within his contracted time, unless there is an exact directive to change and increase him in these sections set by the schedule of regulations, so that the Company may be freed of both damages and difficulties here. In the most recent and previous books of monthly wages we have found commission of various errors of which, among others, a few shall demonstrate what has been revealed to us, namely, in the account of Andries Cristman, he was not only credited with ƒ24 per month, being ƒ4 more than he was offered here but also his wages were calculated from the first of February 1651, when the same only went to sea from here aboard the Hoff van Kleeff on the following 8th of April; consequently two months and so many days too much was booked. Item, the account of Francoys Voerman van Veuren, soldier, we find closed and the wages and expenses credited to him until the end of June 1654, where the same was drowned a year before with Jeuriaen Evertsen van Northuysen, also a soldier, near Fort Orange, according to a deposition. All of which leads us to believe that such matters are poorly regarded, and as the Company should suffer significant losses, we have deemed it necessary seriously to order your honors to instruct the bookkeeper to prevent such in the future.

We send herewith an instruction drawn up by us for the schout of the city of New Amsterdam. You may examine it and give us your opinion by the first opportunity, letting the fiscal in the meantime take charge of the office. We have hesitated much to allow him to do so, on account of the serious and general complaints made here against him every day. We have therefore deemed it necessary to recommend to the said fiscal that he give, if possible, better satisfaction to the community there, or else we shall be compelled to take other measures.

The preacher Polhemius,[4] coming over from Brazil, has informed us by letter of his willingness to remain in New Netherland and take charge of the congregation at Midwout. If you think he is wanted there and the said Polhemius is found to lead an irreproachable life, we have no objections to his becoming minister there provisionally and until our further order at a salary already provided or to be provided for by the congregation, without becoming a burden to the Company. Although the condition of affairs is not favorable to diminish still further the revenues received by the Company here, we have nevertheless, out of consideration of the bad times and to encourage and assist both traders and inhabitants there, resolved to reduce the duties on outward bound cargoes, except Indian goods, as duffels and blankets, from 16 to 10 percent so that we have received from one only 12 and from the other only 6 percent duties, the remaining 4 percent being sent to you as formerly, until the negotiated loan is paid. You will govern yourselves accordingly.

In our last letter directed to Director Stuyvesant personally, and sent by the ships the Swarte Arentand the Grote Christofel we fully expressed our settled determination and intention concerning the manner, in which you must deal with the Swedes on the South River. In consequence of it we hoped that the expedition against them had already been made; but having since learned by a letter from the said director, dated at Barbados on the 22nd of January of this year that he had left New Netherland, we found ourselves disappointed in our hopes. It has properly astonished us and given very little satisfaction, especially because the director's voyage was made without our knowledge and consent; but we have nevertheless decided not only to take up the project again, but also to carry it out with so much more assurance of success. We have now chartered for this purpose from the burgomasters and council of this city one of their four largest and best ships, called the Waegh, armed with 36 pieces, which is now being made ready for sea and will sail from here with about 200 men in 12 or 14 days. As soon as it arrives there you are directed and authorized to undertake immediately and as quickly as possible, but with caution, this expedition and carry it out bravely, even though Director Stuyvesant might not have returned from his voyage. In that case you may open our said last letter to him personally, so that you too may be informed of our opinions and wishes and govern yourselves accordingly. However, we strictly command you to keep its contents a secret among you, as honor and your oath demand, and not to divulge them until with God's help the expedition shall have successfully been made. As we have said above no delay or lassitude must be permitted, for we understand that great preparations are being made in Sweden to assist their countrymen on the South River.

The enclosed letter directed to Director Stuyvesant privately is not to be read by anyone except himself.[5] We trust this injunction will be obeyed.

We have chartered here a ship, the Liefde, of about 180 lasts, which sailed from the Texel for Curacao on the 2nd of March last, to take in the cargo of wood and salt now ready there and convey it here. Copies of our letter to Vice Director Rodenburgh and the lists of necessaries sent out to the islandwill be forwarded to you by the next ship for your own governance.

We have already mentioned that by the first opportunity we expect to receive from you the original and authenticated documents and papers concerning the illegal proceedings of the Swedes on the South River. You will please to remember that we include among them attested depositions regarding the shameful and hostile capture ofthe Company's fort on said river and everything relating to it, which was fully explained in our last letter, to which we refer.

In our last letter we neglected to say that, upon the complaint and petition made to us, we have paid to a certain Jan Cinqs 5 pieces of jersey which was sent off to New Netherland in 1652 aboard the ship the Hoff van Kleeff. As we forgot to enter it in the manifest, it was confiscated there. This is for your honors' information.

Herewith we send the manifests of the private goods loaded in the ship the Bontekoe, upon the unloading of which the fiscal is advised to pay close attention.

Honorable, Prudent, Pious, Beloved, Faithful, we commend your honors to God's protection and remain,

H. Bontemantel
Eduard Man

In Amsterdam,
the 26th of April 1655.


To Director Stuyvesant and Council in New Netherland


The list of the passengers or free people going over with the aforesaid ship the Bontekoe is accompanying this,[6] from which your honors shall be able see in particular which persons must have their accounts debitted there or charged for the journey over of their respective wives and children aboard the aforesaid ship. Your honors are to take care therein.

Dated as above.

Ab. de Decker de Jonge


See 12:13 for this letter.
These letters do not survive.
A set of instructions for maintaining order on land and sea for soldiers, sailors, officers, and colonists. See Delaware Papers, 1648-1664, NYHM, 84-96.
Johannes Theodorus Polhemius served as domine at Midwout on Long Island from 1654-1676.
This letter does not survive.
List no longer exists.


A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.