Ordinance regulating the office and fees of notaries, secretaries and town clerks

Scanned Document:

Whereas the director general and council of New Netherland are sufficiently convinced, as well by their own experience, even, by several bills of costs, exhibited before them, as by the remonstrances and complaints of others presented to them, of the exactions of secretaries, notaries, clerks and other commissioned persons, in suing and prosecuting contending parties; of the excessively great fees and charges for writing of almost all sorts of instruments, to the serious, indeed nearly intolerable, onerousness of the judgment and costs of court; some being so far seized by avarice and greed that they are ashamed to tender a bill, or specification of the fee they demand, but ask, if not extort, the amount from parties in gross; the aforesaid director general and council, being desirous to provide therein for the better and more supportable promotion of justice, do hereby ordain, enact and command that from this time forward, no man shall undertake to draw up or to write any public instrument, unless he be commissioned or licensed thereto by the director general and council, as secretary, notary or clerk, which commissioned or licensed person is bound to content himself with such fee as is established for it by the director general and council, and to renew every year, on the 5th of February, the oath which he has taken, precisely to submit to and obey the ordinance enacted, or hereafter, according to circumstances, to be enacted, on the subject of secretaries, notaries, clerks and such like officers, in conformity to the following:

First, all secretaries, notaries, clerks, or such officers, shall keep a correct register or journal, in which people may see immediately, if necessary and when required, whatever has been executed before them, and for which they demand such fee and place it on their account.

Secondly, no secretary, notary, clerk, or any such officer, shall demand from any person any money in advance, or ask or take any present, or be at liberty to compound or agree with anyone about a fee and pay for writing yet to be earned, inasmuch as such composition and previous agreement, before final judgment, must redound to the injury of the succumbing party, in case he be condemned in the expenses and costs of court; but the aforesaid officers may receive their pay according to this ordinance, either at any time before the execution of the instrument, or at the end of the suit, on rendering proper account and specification of what they have written, what errands they have done, what they have performed or copied, without entering any extraordinary costs in gross, in such account or specification, but all according to the fee allowed for it; not being permitted either to demand or to exact anything else or more from their clients, on pain of forfeiture of office and fifty guilders fine, by such as may be found to have acted contrary hereunto.

Thirdly, the secretary, notary, clerk or officer shall sign with his own hand all instruments executed in his presence, and seal them, when required, with his signet, providing that he receive for his seal six stivers in addition to the legal fee.

Fourthly, secretaries, notaries, clerks and such like officers shall be bound, when required, to give a discharge or receipt for the earned and paid fee, to be made use of when necessary.

Finally and lastly, all secretaries, notaries and clerks shall be bound to serve the poor and indigent, who ask such as an alms, gratis and pro Deo; and may demand and receive from the following fees:

For a simple petition written on one side of the paper, 18 stivers.

If the petitioner desire to have it recorded or registered; for copying, 12 stivers.

For a simple summons, as above, 18 stivers.

For an answer, reply or rejoinder, 2 guilders.

For engrossing; for copying, 24 stivers.

But if the answer, reply rejoinder, summons or petition require more than one half sheet of paper, for each page of 25 to 30 lines, 30 to 36 letters in a line, 30 stivers.

For a deduction; each half sheet of 26 to 30 lines, 30 to 36 letters in the line, 2 guilders.

For a petition in appeal to be presented to the director general and council, 2 guilders 10 stivers.

For a petition of revision, review, purging, reduction, rehearing, complaint, pardon, or liberty to return to the country, to be presented to the director general and council, 2 guilders 10 stivers.

If it happens to exceed the second of third page (lines and letters as before), per page, 24 stivers.

For a petition of the same nature as above, to any inferior court, 36 to 40 stivers.

Or per page (lines and letters as before), 20 stivers.

For a judgment, 30 stivers.

For extracts from their books (lines and letters as before) per page, 20 stivers.

For a contract, obligation, assignment, attestation, lease, or bill of sale, 30 stivers.

For the copy, 20 stivers.

For a verbal consultation on a case depending before the director general and council, 20 stivers; but the notary is bound to enter in his journal the time and subject.

For an inventory of documents to be furnished by parties, 15 stivers.

For drawing up interrogatories and entering the questions, per half page, 10 stivers; provided that 7 to 8 interrogatories stand on one page.

For the answer to be entered on the opposite side, in like manner, 10 stivers.

For one day’s journey with or without their client, when required, exclusive of carriage hire and board, 4 guilders.

But within the city, village or place, accompanying their client, when required, 20 stivers.

For attending a term of court, with or without their client, 15 stivers; neglecting to attend it, to pay default and damages thereof.

No disbursements for drink, or any other extraordinary presents, gifts, or gratuities shall be brought into any account, or demanded or collected by the secretaries, notaries, clerks or such like officers.

And this and the foregoing articles shall not only be published, posted and observed in all places within this New Netherland province, where publication is usually made, but also read by the fiscal, schout and other inferior magistrates privately in their respective courts, before the secretaries, notaries, clerks and such like, now and on the 5th of February, not being Sunday, in every succeeding year, and thereupon the oath exacted from them to regulate themselves precisely in conformity thereto, and in case of refusal to be removed from their office and place, with express prohibition neither directly nor indirectly to write any instruments for any person under a penalty of 50 guilders for the first, twice as much for the second time, and an arbitrary correction at the discretion of the judge for the third offense.

Thus done at the session of the honorable director general and council of New Netherland held in Fort Amsterdam in New Netherland, the 25th of January 1658.[1]


Also in LO, 329-33.


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.