Ordinance for the better inspection of tobacco

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Whereas the frauds committed in the sale and exportation of poor, bad, rotten or withered tobacco have, for a long time past, been publicly known, not only in this country, but diverse complaints have also been presented and made from the fatherland, namely, that now and again quantities of such poor, bad, rotten or mouldy tobacco have been sent over by diverse traders, factors and agents of good, respectable merchants, and charged in account to the principals at 6 to 7 stivers when it apparently cost here scarcely 2 to 3 stivers, and on arriving cannot realize the ship’s freight; to prevent this, then, as much as possible, the director general, the council, and their assistants, have, on the advice and instructions of the honorable directors, considered it right and necessary to subject the Virginia tobacco to inspection as well as that of New Netherland. But as experience has manifested and proved that inspected good tobacco, the hogsheads of which were, according to order, on the purchase and receipt, marked with the customary branding iron, has been subsequently, fraudulently, either changed or mixed with inferior tobacco, and this could again hereafter be done, and the absent merchant be, notwithstanding, defrauded and the inspection and inspector be suspected, the director general, council, and their assistants have for the better information and security of the absent merchant, and to save from censure the inspection and inspector, deemed it best to leave the purchase and receipt of the Virginia tobacco free and unrestrained, according to the custom of our fatherland, to the buyer and seller, as they shall agree together in regard to the quality of the tobacco and the value of the wares to be exchanged for it, the same rule to apply to the New Netherland tobacco, in case parties can agree together of the delivery thereof. But if they wish to export it to Holland, then the one as well the other will have to be examined and inspected by a proper, trustworthy and sworn person, in or in front of the company’s store, before it is embarked or shipped. And although the inspector cannot judge, much less know at what price the tobacco is bought or received, or at what price it is brought into account with the principals, yet he can judge of the comparative quality and grades of goodness. It is, therefore, as already stated, thought best and most proper, provisionally until further advised and instructed by the honorable directors, for the better information and security of the absent merchant, that three sorts, or distinctions of tobacco be made by the inspector, and inspected and marked in this manner, namely:

The best sorts or hogsheads:
V. G. which shall signify Virginia Good;
or N. G. New Netherland Good.

The next sorts:
V. M. or N. M. and shall signify Virginia or New Netherland Merchantable tobacco.

The third sort:
V. S. or N. S. and shall signify Virginia or New Netherland Poor tobacco.

The last sort, which may not even be considered poor, shall be marked with a 0 or [left blank], and shall not be embarked, or exported except on the shipper’s own account, on condition that, before shipping here, he give sufficient security for the ship’s freight and other charges, if it happen, as is reported, that such condemned tobacco might not realize in the fatherland the freight and other charges.

In order to prevent further loss to the skippers or merchants, and to protect the honorable company’s store from blame, also to give still more light both to the directors and merchants, it is further resolved and ordained that, as the shipped tobacco is inspected and marked according to the decision of the inspector, even so shall it be specified and designated in the bills of lading and invoices by the inspector’s brands, in addition to the merchant’s marks; and all this until further and better regulation, as circumstances and experience shall require.

Meanwhile, are all persons forewarned and cautioned not to ship any Virginia, or New Netherland tobacco before and until the same be examined, inspected and marked or branded, in accordance with the tenor hereof, by the inspector to be appointed and sworn for that purpose, on pain of forfeiting one pound Flemish for every hogshead, to be paid as well by the merchant who shipped it, as by the skipper who received it.

Thus done, in the session of the honorable director general and council held in Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 30th of March 1657.[1]


Also in LO, 307-9. The first ordinance regulating tobacco was issued on August 19, 1638; see LO, 16.


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.