Ordinance declaring who may be admitted to great and small citizenship in New Amsterdam

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

Let it be known that they out of consideration of the good and voluntary services, expeditions, watches and other burdens, which the burghers have hitherto done and borne, and in the hope and confidence, which the director general and council still indulge, of their continuance and perseverance therein, have, on the humble petition of the burgomasters and schepenen, privileged and favored the burghers and good inhabitants of this city, with a great and small burgher right, as can be more fully seen by the grant of privilege made to the burgomasters and schepenen, in amplification of that already bestowed; and whereas, in all beginnings, something or somebody must be the first, so that thereafter a distinction and difference may be made, therefore, also, the necessity of such distinction being founded on reason, in the establishment of the great and small burgher right, whereof the burgomasters and schepenen have, by petition to the director general and council, requested further explanation, specification and distinction as to who, and what class are, for the present, to be included in the great, as well as in the small, burgher right, the director general and council of New Netherland, invest, qualify, and favor the great burgher right.

First, those who have been and at present are in the high or upper administration of the country, and their descendants in the male line.

Secondly, all former and actual burgomasters and schepenen of this city, their descendants in the male line.

Thirdly, the servants of the God’s word, formerly and at present in office, and their descendants in the male line.

Fourthly, the commissioned officers of the militia to the ensign inclusive, and their descendants in the male line. All with this understanding, that the above-mentioned gentlemen and persons, for themselves or their descendants in the male line, have not lost nor forfeited burgher right by absence from the city and by not keeping fire and light; agreeably to the laudable custom of the city of Amsterdam in Europe.

Further, all others who desire and are inclined, or hereafter may be desirous and inclined, to be enrolled in the great burgher right, and to enjoy the privileges and benefits thereof, shall, according to the foregoing grant, apply for the same to the burgomasters and receive it, on paying for it the sum of fifty guilders, Dutch money, or the equivalent thereof.

With the small burgher right are invested and favored,

First, all those who have resided and kept fire and light within the city one year and six weeks.

Secondly, all bom within this city.

Thirdly, all who have married, or may hereafter marry native bom daughters of burghers, provided that the burgher right be not lost or forfeited by absence from this city, or by not keeping fire and light in conformity as aforesaid.

Further, all others who either now or hereafter will keep any shop, however it may be called, and carry on business within this city or the jurisdiction thereof, shall be bound to apply to the burgomasters for the small burgher right, and pay for it twenty guilders Dutch money, or the equivalent thereof.

All servants of the honorable company under wages, also passengers and newcomers who will settle elsewhere, provided they do so within six weeks, remain alone exempt from applying for burgher right, for the exercise of all sorts of handicraft and the practice thereof.

The moneys arising from the receipt of the burgher right shall be received by the burgomasters, and by them expended principally in the strengthening and fortification of this city.

In order that all this may be the better and more regularly practiced, observed and obeyed, the burgomasters are ordered and authorized to make out, or cause to be made out on the first, and all following occasions, correct lists of those who, according to the tenor hereof, are invested, qualified and favored, either with the great or small burgher right, and of those hereafter who obtain and receive the same, and have a true register made of it, and when done, deliver a copy thereof into the office of the secretary of the director general and council.

Thus done, resolved, resumed and enacted in the session of the director general and council of New Netherland held in Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 2d of February 1657.[1]


Also in LO, 301-3. See NYCM, 8:436 for the ordinance establishing the great and small burgher right; translated in LO, 298-300.


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.