Ordinance for the fencing of private lands and authorizing the cutting of firewood and timber on unfenced lands

Scanned Document:

The director general and council of New Netherland, to all those who shall see or hear this read, greetings.

Let it be known that whereas many complaints have lately been presented to us of the chopping of firewood and cutting of timber on lands claimed by diverse of our inhabitants by virtue of patents, the principal reason and cause of which are that many land-grasping inhabitants of this province have received, several years ago, many and large tracts of land by letters patent from the director general and council, on the express condition to cultivate and improve diem, which lands many inhabitants have, for several years, allowed to lie, and which still lie unfenced, unimproved, indeed, wild and waste, without making any improvement or bestowing any labor upon them, merely claiming and retaining them by virtue of the obtained letters patent. Not only is the honorable company defrauded and curtailed in its revenue, and the settlement of the country delayed and postponed hereby, but some of our inhabitants who seek to earn an honest livelihood for themselves by chopping and cutting firewood and timber, are frequently prevented and hindered in their design by those who, by virtue of letters patent, lay claim to such lands without improving and cultivating them, whence many quarrels and disputes have, at diverse times and places arisen between inhabitants.

In order to prevent this as much as possible, the aforesaid director general and council do, therefore, again ordain and command that all those who, by virtue of patents or deeds, claim any lands, shall properly set off and fence them in, so that the director general and council as well as the inhabitants may know and see what lands have been granted and what remain still to be granted.

And the aforesaid director general and council do hereby declare and ordain that none of our good inhabitants shall be hindered or prevented to chop firewood or cut timber on unfenced lands, wherever it shall best suit the convenience of the inhabitants, on pain of legal proceedings being instituted against those who will have hindered or prevented the same.

Done at Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 16th of January 1657.[1]


Also in LO, 294-95.


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 theĀ New Netherland Institute website.