Ordinance against harboring pirates or vagabonds; for arresting the same, and providing for the public safety

Scanned Document:

The director general and council of New Netherland, to all who hear or see this read, greetings.[1]

Let it be known that whereas we have been reliably informed and have actually experienced that some pirates and looters, whose commission and pretext is unknown to the director general and council, have been frequenting Long Island and the mainland between this province and the province of our neighbors; the aforesaid pirates being also, so we have been informed, declared pirates and looters by the neighboring governors and magistrates of New England, thus being denied any shelter, asylum, haven and sanctuary within their jurisdiction, and are accordingly to be considered as fugitives and outlaws from New England; which pirates and looters have not failed to molest and plunder the good inhabitants of this province in the countryside, of which diverse evidence can be seen and heard, both now as well as last year, that such has been committed on various subjects; and whereas the director general and council have been reliably informed that such pirates and looters have been sheltered, accommodated, harbored, aided, and abetted by subjects and inhabitants who have established residences within this province, and are consequently so encouraged and emboldened that some of them have dared not only to frequent, spy and keep watch on the outer villages but even on this city under the guise of travelers; therefore, the director general and council, wishing to provide for the inhabitants to the best of their ability, have considered it highly necessary to enact against the aforesaid the following ordinance and regulation:

The director general and council of New Netherland order and command all their subjects, regardless of what nation they may be, none excepted, not to communicate with such pirates and looters, much less harbor, conceal or hide them, or to accommodate or provide them with any necessaries; however, if anyone may receive any information, or knowledge of the whereabouts of such pirates and looters or where they may reside or shelter themselves, they are to report the same to the magistrates of the nearest village and court immediately, on pain of confiscation of all one’s goods and of being declared an enemy of the state and banished from the country.

Secondly, all magistrates of the respective villages within this province are hereby recommended, each within his jurisdiction, to establish and to maintain such order, watch and place of assembly as they think necessary for the security of the good inhabitants of the aforesaid place, according to the circumstances of the locality; and all inhabitants are hereby ordered and charged promptly and without objection to comply with and obey such orders of the magistrates, and at their command promptly and immediately to pursue, attack and capture, if possible, such pirates and looters, on penalty as written above. In order to encourage the good inhabitants in this their duty, the director general and council promise the sum of one hundred daalders for every pirate or looter delivered into the hands of the director general and council or their fiscal.

Thirdly, in order that the preceding may be better practised and observed by the good inhabitants of this province, the director general and council order and command that all persons who have no residence within this province of New Netherland and come for shelter in any village or house in this country shall be obliged, when required by the magistrate, officer of the law or any citizen or inhabitant, to show an entry and exit pass from the governor or magistrate from where he comes and where he resides, and if anyone be found without a pass, he shall be examined and heard by the magistrate regarding from where he came and for what purpose and business he has come into the aforesaid province of New Netherland, in order, according to the circumstances and facts of the case, to be so disposed of as shall be found proper; and so that the aforesaid may be better obeyed, all inhabitants are ordered not to lodge any unknown foreigners without first making known to the magistrates or officers of the place the name of such arriving travelers or foreigners, under penalty of ƒ24.

Furthermore, in order that everyone may be better, and with more certainty, forewarned of any raid and impending danger, the director general and council order and command that no person shall fire a gun within this province at night between sunset and sunrise on pain of forfeiting one Flemish pound for each shot, unless there is some appearance of danger, in which case everyone is not only permitted but hereby commanded to give an alarm of the perceived danger by firing his gun three times in succession, as quickly as possible. When this alarm, is heard by the nearest watch, village or household, such watch, village or household is hereby commanded to do the same in order, by such means, to make the danger known to all watches, villages and households so that everyone may be on his guard and appear under his authorized officer at the appointed place of assembly.

And, in order that no one may plead ignorance, the director general and council order that this general order shall be sent everywhere throughout this province of New Netherland, so that it may be published, posted and enforced by the magistrates of the respective colonies and villages, and so that the opponents there and elsewhere may be properly proceeded against according to the tenor of this ordinance.

Done at the session of the honorable director general and high council held in New Amsterdam, the 8th of April 1654.[2]


Other copies of this ordinance appear in NYCD, 4:448 and 5:235; for a translation of the latter, see NYHM, Council Minutes, 5:126. The unrest and turmoil expressed in this ordinance is a result of the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-54), whose effects were just then being felt in North America.
Also in LO, 155-58.


Translation: Gehring, C., trans./ed., New Netherland Documents Series: Vol. 16, part 1, Laws and Writs of Appeal, 1647-1663 (Syracuse: 1991).A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.